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First look: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc

After a disappointing first attempt at Android, Sony Ericsson has returned in 2011 with a cracking first release, the Xperia Arc. We take a close look at CES 2011 in Las Vegas.

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Joseph Hanlon

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If we're honest, last year's Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 was one of last year's biggest disappointments. Not that the phone was that bad, but it fell vastly short of our, and many of your, expectations.

Sony Ericsson is starting 2011 with a big leap in the right direction. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011, it unveiled the new Xperia Arc, the first in the Xperia family since the X10 to feature top-line specs. From our first hands-on time with the Arc, it's easy to say it is a far superior phone to its predecessor.

The Arc is refined across the board; its design is sleeker, it offers better connectivity and, most importantly, it runs the latest version of Android.

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Sony Ericsson is claiming the title of "world's slimmest smartphone", pinching the honour from the iPhone 4. At its slimmest point in the centre of the concave arc design, the phone is just 8.7mm thick.

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Like almost all the new phones we've seen at CES 2011, the Arc sports HDMI out alongside the standard micro USB and 3.5mm headphone inputs.

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The build of Android we saw on the demonstration units at CES was a pretty basic Gingerbread build, completed with Sony Ericsson's familiar UX colour scheme.

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A subtle change, but the new Arc has a reversed hard-key layout compared with the X10.

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Fans of Timescape needn't despair, the social-networking and messaging aggregate is still installed, it just doesn't play as central a role as it did on the X10. It also seems to be more lightweight, but we'll have to wait and see how it copes with a few dozen Twitter updates each hour.

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Interestingly, Mediascape has been given the flick, replaced now by the standard Android media gallery.

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The Xperia Arc can playback 1080p video files, though its 4.2-inch screen sports FWVGA resolution (480x854).

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The Arc's 8-megapixel camera (hidden under that enormous CES security device) can also shoot 1080p video. Sony Ericsson has created a new smartphone-size Exmor R image sensor, borrowing from the technology used in Sony Cyber-shot cameras.

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To make the most of the images shot with this new sensor, the Arc can be connected directly to a flat-panel TV.

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It is also capable of mirroring the phone's display, meaning you can web browse on your TV or play games you've downloaded from the Android Market.

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Another first for the Arc is Sony Ericsson's new Reality display featuring the Mobile Bravia engine. This engine is similar to the upscaling algorithm used in Bravia TVs, which reduces noise from images, supposedly making them cleaner and sharper.

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