Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Review

In a nutshell: The Sony Ericsson Arc is a contender for the best Sony Ericsson phone ever, and best Android phone too. It's a stunningly beautiful device with a gracefully curved back and is the slimmest smartphone on the market. Its specs are a match for any other phone in existence too - the latest version of Android (2.3), 4.2 inch screen with Sony's BRAVIA TV technology for perfect video playback, 8.1 megapixel camera with Sony's brand new Exmor R™ CMOS sensor, HD video recording, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, HDMI output. It's an incredible phone that can't fail to impress. Available in Midnight Blue (Black) or Misty Silver.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc
We've been looking forward to reviewing the Arc ever since it was first announced, so please excuse us for a moment as we shout "Wooooooooow!" Thank you, that's better. The Arc is a stunner. It's a beaut. It's gorgeous. It's like the Sony Ericsson X10 after Gok Wan has given it a makeover. It's easily Sony Ericsson's best Android phone. Wait ... is it Sony Ericsson's best phone ever? It could be.

OK, let's calm down, get some facts. The starting point for the Arc is of course the X10 Android phone from 2010. Sony Ericsson have taken what was a very powerful phone, learnt some hard lessons and rebuilt the thing from scratch, keeping what was good, throwing away what was bad, and giving their design department free reign to go mad. So at first glance the Arc looks quite like the X10, but it's been given a curved back and slimmed down to an incredible 8.7mm at its thinnest point. That's slimmer than the Google Nexus S. Slimmer than the Samsung Galaxy S. Slimmer even than the iPhone 4. It's the slimmest smartphone on the market. And it's curvy too. Hence its name. Arc.

Slim, curvy, sexy. It's a gorgeous phone to look at and to hold. But maybe there's more. Let's turn it on now and see what happens. The screen is incredible. At 4.2 inches, it's the second largest screen currently available, just a whisker behind the 4.3 inch display of the HTC Desire HD and with an even higher 480 x 854 pixel resolution. It's been upgraded to 16 million colours too. Sony's BRAVIA TV technology has been added too, but we won't see the difference that makes until we watch some video.

The user interface is great. It's Android plus Sony Ericsson's Timescape enhancement. Timescape has evolved since it first appeared on the Xperia X10 and for the better, with more customisation available, and much less intrusive behaviour. And unlike previous Android phones from Sony Ericsson, the Arc is bang up to date with the latest Gingerbread 2.3 release of Android. We can't rave about this enough. Not only is it a supremely responsive and intuitive user interface, but it's both simple to use and incredibly powerful, with seamless integration of facebook, twitter, email, calendars and contacts, plus over 100,000 apps available to download from Android Market.

The camera has been upgraded and is now one of the very best cameras available on a mobile phone, probably second only to the Nokia N8. With a resolution of 8.1 megapixels, an enhanced CMOS sensor with improved low-lighting sensitivity, touch-operated autofocus, LED flash, plus a host of added extras such as face recognition, smile detection, image stabiliser and red-eye reduction, it uses the best of Sony's digital camera technology. We honestly don't know how they've fitted a camera of this quality into such a slim device. The camera can also record video at HD 720p resolution, with a video light and video stabilisation.

One of the highlights on any Android phone is GPS with Google Maps, and it's here on the Arc with Google Latitude (share your location with your friends) and Street View. And it works brilliantly.

The media player is fully featured and plays video very smoothly indeed, thanks in part to the super-fast processor powering the device, but also to Sony's BRAVIA television magic. There's also an FM radio with RDS. Sound quality through the stereo speakers is good and a 3.5mm audio jack lets you plug in your own choice of headphones.

When it comes to connectivity, the Arc has the lot. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB and even HDMI for connecting to a HD-Ready TV. It also has a new technology called ANT+ which lets you connect wirelessly to a variety of health and fitness products. The phone has fast 3G data access too, and you can easily sync it with your Google account, facebook, twitter and your Microsoft Exchange email server.

The web browser is very ease to use. It's nice and responsive thanks to the fast processor and the HSDPA / Wi-Fi data access, and you can use pinch-and-zoom to view your web pages better. Flash video is supported and you can watch youtube clips.

Battery life is often a challenge for smartphones, especially ones with large TFT screens. The Arc is equipped with a monster 1500mAh battery and seems to manage pretty well however. Heavy users will probably have to charge every other day - lighter users should get quite a few days between charges.

Another bonus feature for the Arc is the Noise Shield. This uses a secondary microphone on the back of the phone to pick up and cancel ambient noise, so the person you're talking to can hear you better.

So far the Arc has ticked every possible box, so it's irritating that Sony Ericsson have only given the phone a paltry 320MB of onboard memory. Sure, there's an 8GB card included and this can be expanded up to 32GB, but that onboard memory is going to be an annoyance.

We think that this could prove to be a huge hit for Sony Ericsson. It's up there with the HTC Desire HD, Google Nexus S and the Samsung Galaxy S as top Android phone so far, and it ticks virtually every box as well as looking absolutely stunning. It's priced the same as those other phones too. It looks to us like Sony Ericsson have turned a corner with the Arc. For the first time they've released an Android phone with the current version of Android (Gingerbread) with a promise to update to Honeycomb when that is released. They've put cutting edge technology into a gorgeous wrapper and delivered it at a competitive price. The Arc is one of the very best phones to be released so far in 2011.


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