Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4 stars 21 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Gorgeous design; Fantastic 4.2-inch screen; Fast 1.4GHz CPU.

The Bad Not a radical change from the Arc; CPU is single-core; Case feels a little cheap.

The Bottom Line While the Xperia Arc S doesn't qualify as a massive improvement over its direct predecessor, the Arc, it is nonetheless a solid choice. Its eye-catching design is backed up by a great screen and a surprisingly powerful 8.1-megapixel digital camera.

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The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S is a minor upgrade of the original Arc, which is barely half a year old. It boasts the same super-thin case design, 4.2-inch screen and Android 2.3 . The big difference is that the phone is now powered by a 1.4GHz processor.

The Xperia Arc S is available SIM-free for around £350.

Should I buy the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S?

If you were one of the many people who dashed out to purchase the original Xperia Arc a few months ago then you're probably feeling slightly annoyed by the release of the Arc S.

Certainly, if you're already an Arc owner, there's little reason to fork out more cash for this augmented edition of the handset. While it boasts a quicker processor and has a few neat software embellishments under its bonnet, it doesn't represent a big enough advancement to justify an upgrade from the first model.

If, however, you held back on picking up Sony Ericsson's Android flagship phone then the Arc S could tempt you. We'd have liked a slightly beefier CPU, but in practically every other regard, this phone remains a front-line challenger and one of the most appealing smart phones we've seen all year.

Interface

Aside from the boost in processing power, the other most significant difference between the original Arc and this updated unit is the firmware. The Arc S is running Android 2.3.4, with the very latest version of Sony Ericsson's Timescape UI sitting neatly on top of it.

Timescape Trace to Type
Sony Ericsson's latest Timescape UI now has a trace-to-type keyboard.

Some genuinely useful improvements have been factored in since the launch of the first Arc. Our personal favourite is the ability to take screen grabs by holding down the power button and selecting the 'Take Screenshot' option from the pop-up menu.

As fans of trace-to-type input option Swype , we're also very pleased to see that Sony Ericsson has upgraded its touchscreen keyboard to include a similar system. It's not enabled by default, though, so you'll need to dig into the settings to switch it on. We also noticed that it's not quite as accurate as Swype, but it's thoroughly welcome all the same.

Timescape Widget
The Timescape widget pulls together all your messages, calls and social networking data, but aside from looking pretty it's not massively useful.

Sony Ericsson's sound-boosting xLOUD tech has also been included in this updated firmware. This basically pumps up the volume of the phone's external speaker, which is handy if you struggle to hear your notifications or ringer when you're out and about. An undesirable side-effect is that some ringtones and sounds distort due to the enhanced volume, but you can switch off xLOUD altogether if this becomes an annoyance.

Other introductions in the firmware are less welcome. Facebook integration runs deeper, with music sharing and notification alerts being baked-into the user interface. The trouble is, even when you turn off the occasionally obnoxious notifications system and disable Facebook for Xperia syncing, messages continue to clog up your lock screen.

Video Unlimited
Access to Sony Ericsson's Video Unlimited is possible through the Arc S, and the selection of downloads will be enough to keep popcorn addicts happy.

Access to Sony Ericsson's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited online stores is also included on the Arc S. From here you can download albums and movies to watch on your phone, and the selection is surprisingly decent.

Screen

The Xperia Arc S' screen really is a stunner. Although it's slightly smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S2 's 4.3-inch display, it still looks suitably imposing. While we're comparing screens, it should be pointed out that Sony Ericsson has retained the LED-backlit TFT LCD that was used in the original Arc.

BRAVIA for mobile
The Arc S has a fantastic 4.2-inch LCD display which boasts Sony Ericsson's exclusive Bravia for mobile wizardry.

It's put to shame by the bright and bold Super AMOLED Plus variant that is found on the aforementioned Galaxy S2, but it still manages to out-perform pretty much every other Android mobile display you could mention.

The 480x854-pixel resolution has a density of 233 pixels per inch, which means razor-sharpness and colours that look natural and striking. That's actually higher than the 217ppi found on the Galaxy S2 but some way off the market-leading 330ppi on the iPhone 4S . The brightness is impressive, although this has a detrimental impact on the phone's stamina. Unlike AMOLED tech screens -- which turn off black pixels to save power -- LCD displays are considerably thirstier when it comes to power demands.

Design

To be perfectly blunt, the Xperia Arc S is identical to the original Arc in terms of physical design. In fact, if you placed the two phones side by side you wouldn't be able to tell them apart, as the Arc S features no unique markings, branding or logos to suggest it's an upgrade of the hardware.

Xperia Arc S back
The plastic back panel looks and feels cheap, but it can't sully the overall attractiveness of the phone.

While those of you who like to swagger about town with the latest tech in your hands may feel dissatisfied, we doubt many will be overly troubled. The Xperia Arc was -- and still is -- a smart-looking phone, and we're very much of the opinion that when something isn't broke, you sure as hell don't try to fix it.

As its name suggests, the Arc S has a unique design where the back of the phone curves inwards. This means that the ends of the phone are thicker than the middle -- an odd situation to say the least, but one that takes just seconds to become accustomed to.

Xperia Arc S Side view
The Arc S gets its name from the curve in the back of the phone. It's an unusual design choice, but it works.

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Where to Buy

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

Part Number: CNETSony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

Typical Price: £350.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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