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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S review

27 Apr 2013

 

The original Sony Ericsson Xperiaarc impressed us with its slim design and latest version of Android, but we were worried that its single-core processor might be underpowered compared to the slew of dual-core smartphones appearing on the market. The follow-up to the Arc goes some way to addressing the power deficit, but instead of doubling the cores Sony Ericsson has fitted a faster 1.4GHz single-core processor.

Current Xperia arc owners don't need to feel they're missing out, though, as the Arc S isn't hugely different from the original. It still runs Android 2.3 and has the same 4.2in screen, and despite the 40% faster CPU the S doesn't feel any quicker than the original Xperia Arc - Android runs smoothly, but we didn’t see any particular improvement when multitasking.

 

We were expecting the faster processor to reduce battery life, especially as the Arc S has the same battery as the Arc. However, in our light usage test where we play an MP3 file on a loop, the phone lasted for almost 40 hours - a seven hour improvement on the Arc. Depending on your use of 3G, GPS and Bluetooth, the Arc S should last a full day or even two without charging. Installing apps such as Advanced Task Killer and Juice Defender should help reduce the need for charging too.

As we went to press, Sony Ericsson's website still mentions USB Host support on the Arc S page, which is rather misleading. The phone itself doesn't support USB OTG (On-The-Go) - the official name for USB host support. Instead, you have to buy an optional LiveDock (part code: DK10, £30), and it only supports keyboards, mice or gamepads, so you won't be able to use it to attach storage devices, for example.

 

The phone has a sparkly plastic rather than metal casing, which may put some people off, but it also helps keep the weight down - at only 114g it's one of the lightest big-screen smartphones we've used. Sony Ericsson has generously included an 8GB microSD card, and there's 1GB of internal memory.

 

 

The Arc S's camera hasn't changed from the original Arc's which is no bad thing. Shots are crisp and colours are natural, but some light areas were over-exposed. We were impressed by the dark and noise-free black areas, though. Video was less impressive, with obvious blurry artefacts from compression.

Our Vodafone sample came with Vodafone's own shop apps for music, apps and games, but these can be uninstalled if you don't want them. You can also delete some of the trial games and other preinstalled apps, to free up space for your own choices. Sony Ericsson claims there's only 320MB of the 1GB of user memory left for apps, once we'd uninstalled a few of the pre-installed apps and moved others to the SD card, we ended up with 420MB of total app storage. This is more than enough for most users, and it'll be a while before you run out of app space.

While the Arc S isn't a worthwhile upgrade for Arc owners, it's a great Android phone with a clear, bright screen and a good camera, with enough power to run apps and games, decent battery life and plenty of storage. It's now cheaper SIM-free than the original Arc and has better battery life, so it picks up and extra star and a Best Buy award.

 

The camera has a new 3D panorama feature, where you take a panorama shot by panning the camera while shooting, and the Arc S then compresses this into a 3D side-by-side image. You then plug into a 3D TV via HDMI and use the TV's remote control to browse the phone's photo gallery. When displayed on a 3D monitor, the 3D panoramic images were fuzzy, and we found we needed to be careful with our viewing position and force our eyes to focus on infinity to see the 3D effect. It feels like a gimmick, and isn’t a reason to buy the Arc S on its own.

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