Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc Android phone
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc review: The XPERIA Arc Android phone features a unique concaved design and boasts a quality camera
- Super-thin and concave design
- Excellent camera
- Fantastic display
- Tiny buttons
- Disappointing battery life
- Poor default keyboard
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has a few minor flaws, but these are easily overlooked thanks to its exquisite design. The XPERIA Arc is fast, super-thin and combines a great camera with an excellent display.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc Android phone is as much a fashion statement as it is smartphone. It is just 8.7mm thick at the thinnest part of its body, features a unique concave design, and has a new display technology dubbed the Mobile Bravia Engine that Sony Ericsson claims will offer better video performance and image quality.
Read our detailed preview of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc, and check out our Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc vs. Apple iPhone 4 smartphone showdown.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc: Design and display
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc is constructed from a combination of attractive glossy and matte plastic. It features a design that curves inwards, making it comfortable to hold and distinguishing itself from the crowd of other top-end Android phones. The XPERIA Arc may be larger than Apple's iPhone 4, but Sony Ericsson deserves a lot of credit for making it thinner and lighter.
While we love the design of the XPERIA Arc, its build quality could have been improved with the use of higher quality plastics. Along with its toy-like feel, the XPERIA Arc's Android shortcut buttons on the front of the handset (back, home and menu) are thin and lack a backlight, its rear cover feels flimsy and often creaks when pressed, and the power, camera shutter, and volume keys are too small and feel awkward to press. The glossy finish of the XPERIA Arc also attracts a wealth of fingerprints.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has a 4.2in screen that the company has dubbed a 'Reality display'. This sits alongside other fancy display names including the iPhone 4's 'Retina display', the Samsung Galaxy S II's Super AMOLED Plus' display and the 'Nova display' of the LG Optimus Black. Sony Ericsson claims the Reality display increases contrast and sharpness for image viewing and video playback, and we can confirm it is one of the best screens we've seen on an Android phone. Colours are bright, contrast is outstanding and its performance in direct sunlight is impressive. The only downsides are its poor viewing angles and the lack of an automatic brightness setting.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc Android phone has a 4.2in 'Reality display'.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc: Software
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc runs the latest 2.3 Gingerbread version of Google's Android platform. Gingerbread offers a revamped keyboard, better copy and paste, improved power management, and a slicker user interface as improvements over previous versions of Android.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc is slick and relatively fast during day-to-day use. We really like Sony Ericsson's minimalist UI overlay — though it doesn't offer the same deep customisation of HTC's Sense (seen on the Desire and Desire HD Android phones), it has five home screens for live widgets, handy folders that enhance shortcuts and a main menu that can quickly arrange apps in various orders, including most used. Disappointingly, the on-screen keyboard is small and cramped, and there is no option to revert to the more spacious, standard Gingerbread keyboard, though this is easily downloadable from the Android Market.
The XPERIA Arc also includes Sony Ericsson's Timescape application, which first appeared on the XPERIA X10 Android phone. Timescape groups social networking and phone communications into a single, graphically intense interface; each communication event on the phone forms a 3D box that you simply flick your finger up and down the "spine" to scroll through. Thankfully, Sony Ericsson has included Timescape as a regular app rather than integrate it into the XPERIA Arc's UI. This makes it unlikely to suffer the same Android software update delays as the XPERIA X10 did, and easily removable should you not wish to use it, which we didn't. We don't feel Timescape offers anything compelling besides an attractive look.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc: Other features
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has an 8-megapixel camera that boasts Sony's 'Exmor R' image sensor. The company claims this gives higher sensitivity with less image noise, therefore performing better in dim lighting than traditional mobile phone cameras. While it performed slightly better in low light than other phone cameras, the XPERIA Arc still won't replace a stand alone digital camera when it comes to night-time photography. That being said, the XPERIA Arc's camera captures photos with excellent levels of detail, and good colour reproduction, while it also records great quality 720p HD video. The XPERIA Arc camera is a little light on settings, but the camera app is intuitively laid out with options on the right, and recently taken photographs on the left. However, the camera lens is impractically positioned, and is too easily covered by your hand when you hold the phone to take a photo.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc's 8-megapixel camera also boasts Sony's 'Exmor R' image sensor, claiming better performance in low-light conditions.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc comes with an HDMI-out port, meaning you can connect it directly to a high definition television — Sony Ericsson includes a HDMI cable in the sales package. Along with DLNA connectivity for wirelessly sharing media content, the XPERIA Arc is well equipped for multimedia sharing.
The XPERIA Arc has a microSD card slot, but Sony Ericsson has only included a paltry 320MB of internal storage. Sony Ericsson includes an 8GB card in the sales package. Like the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play, the XPERIA Arc also has a 1GHz processor with Adreno 205 GPU, and 512MB of RAM.
Unfortunately, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has below average battery life. Most users will get around 24 hours of life out of the XPERIA Arc's 1600mAh battery before it needs a recharge, but heavy users may need an injection of power before then. Our review unit often ran out of juice before the end of the day during testing.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc Android smartphone will launch in Australia in early April on the Optus and Vodafone networks. Pricing has yet to be announced.
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