Last year when we reviewed the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, we weren’t very impressed by it. It was too little, too late, and the price didn’t justify the product. However, it’s a new year, and the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc S has something to prove.
The question is: does it prove anything, or is it stuck in circular logic? Read on to find out!
Design and build quality
The exterior of the Xperia arc S is near identical to the original Xperia arc. While it is a good looking exterior, it does bring all its many flaws with it.
On top is the power/wake button and a micro-HDMI port covered by a flap. The power button is still hard to find and press and the flap over the micro-HDMI port feels like it wouldn’t last a month.
On the left is the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is still a very awkward position for it. The right holds (from top to bottom) a notification LED, micro-USB port, volume rocker, and way down at the bottom is the two-phase camera button.
The notification LED is positioned in such a way that you’ll probably never see it, and the camera button remains devilishly hard to press.
The hardware buttons on the front (Back, Home, and Menu) still aren’t back-lit. The actual “arc” for which the device is named is still a very impractical shape for something that is meant to be held in your hand.
I’ve heard that looks can be deceiving, and the Xperia arc S does indeed have some minor changes to the internals compared with its predecessor.
It features an updated Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255T with a Scorpion CPU clocked at 1.4GHz and an Adreno 205 GPU.
As with its predecessor, internal storage is at 1GB (320MB user accessible) and RAM at 512MB. Storage is expandable via micro-SD up to an additional 32GB.
It has WiFi b/g/n, HSPA (up to 21Mbps down and 5.76 Mbps up), and Bluetooth 2.1.
AnTuTu Benchmarks gave it a score of 3675.4, which on our chart ranks it at eighth, well behind our top ranked Samsung Galaxy Note (6394.2) and fairly far behind its closest competitor, the HTC Sensation (4435.6).
Screen and responsiveness
Like its predecessor, the Xperia arc S features a 4.2-inch 854 x 480 display with Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA engine included.
As before it’s not particularly amazing, and when put against the 720p displays of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and particularly the Super AMOLED of the Samsung Galaxy Note, the Xperia arc S looks almost dull.
According to our tests, the screen supports up to 4 simultaneous touch points. Adding a fifth disables all previous touches until one is removed.
Touch response was generally good, though the keyboard still lacked some precision.
Sound and call quality
There was little to complain about in terms of call quality, and the built-in speaker could hold its own.
The packaged headphones felt cheap and distinctly lacked volume.
The camera on the Xperia arc S is one of its strongest points. It’s capable of taking highly-detailed 8 megapixel shots at a rapid rate.
Quality isn’t as good as that of the iPhone 4S, and the speed isn’t as good as the Galaxy Nexus, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a bad camera.
There are some new features in the camera app including a 3D panorama mode (which requires a 3D TV in order to view them). Unfortunately, the panorama mode doesn’t handle quite as fluidly as what’s available by default in Android 4.0. Pan too fast or too slow and you’ll receive an error forcing you to restart the procedure.
Battery life was excellent. With normal use (browsing, e-mailing, calls, texts, and a whiff of gaming) we managed to get 2 to 3 days of use out of the Xperia Arc S.
Opening up the app drawer, you’ll find quite a few extras.
“3D Album” and “3D Camera” are basically just shortcuts to your 3D Gallery and Camera respectively.
There’s a “Connected devices” app which allows you to share content from your device to others on the same Wi-Fi network.
A “Data Usage” app is a nice addition to Android 2.3, but doesn’t compete with what Android 4.0 has to offer by default.
Next are additions like “Games and Apps”, “Get games”, and “Get apps”. The first requires a Facebook link and allows you to see what games and apps your friends might be using. The last two are lists of apps and games that redirect to the Google Play store when you tap on them, so they’re actually just wasting space.
“Music and Videos” also requires a Facebook link and lets you see what music and videos friends have shared on Facebook.
“NeoReader” is a barcode scanner application, while “PlayNow” is another app/media store that will most likely confuse new users between itself and the usual Google Play Store.
“Office Suite” is included, though it is notably not the Pro version, along with McAffee Security.
“Timescape” and “TrackID” make another appearance. “Timescape” is a unified social networking/messaging client, though the interface still doesn’t lend itself well to the busy individual. “TrackID” managed to identify tracks quite fast, though users will still find SoundHound or Shazam more fully featured.
Other crapware (thankfully removable), includes UEFA Champions League edition and Xperia Hot Shots.
Overall, there’s not a lot of useful additional software installed on the Xperia arc S.
At the end of it all, what you’re left with is an Xperia arc with a very minor spec bump. Original Xperia arc owners needn’t fret, as they’re not missing out on much.
The indicative recommended retail price (RRP) of the Xperia arc S is a whopping R6,799. Considering that the Galaxy Nexus is selling for around R6,600, the Xperia arc S does not fare well in terms of value for money.
The Xperia arc didn’t impress us and the Xperia arc S does little more than its predecessor.
There are much better smartphones available at present that retail for a lot less.