Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc review
In the past Sony Ericsson has been criticised for slow updates and performance issues. With the Arc and their new line of XPERIA smartphones such as the XPERIA Play, Sony Ericsson has promised that they will be one of the first to update their phones whenever a new Android version is released. Sony has even posted a website dedicated at rooting the device's bootloader.
Just above the display you will find the earpiece, proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor that does not work. Three hardware buttons (back, home and menu) can be found below the display. In an age where almost every manufacturers have moved to capacitive touch sensitive buttons, it is reassuring that Sony Ericsson has designers who still recognise the appeal of hardware keys. Dear HTC, Motorola et. al, some people actually prefer devices that were built with usability and function in mind rather than form.
Over on the backside you will find the 8 megapixel Exmor-R camera with a single LED flash that sits a little too close to the edge, the loudspeaker as well as a small microphone for active noise cancellation and audio recording. Removing the large battery cover will allow access to the 1500mAh BA750 battery, microSDHC slot and SIM card slot. Unfortunately both the microSDHC and SIM card slots are not how-swappable. A 8GB microSD card is included.
The Arc felt great in my palms due to the curved design. The light weight is all thanks to Sony Ericsson’s decision to use plastic. Despite that I can’t help think that the XPERIA Arc would be better off being made of metal. Still, at least the built quality is good and the device felt solid at all times. The tiny shutter key isn’t optimally placed, but at least there’s one. Users may find issues with the placement of the camera near the top edge of the back. There isn’t a front camera so forget about video calling.
As I mentioned earlier, the XPERIA Arc runs on Google’s latest Android Gingerbread optimised for smartphones (Honeycomb was made for tablet), more specifically, version 2.3.2. Like every Android manufacturers, Sony Ericsson has customised the Android launcher in order to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers. The launcher here looks almost like Launcher Pro. Four application shortcuts can be found on the dock of the homescreen and in between them a shortcut that takes you to the app drawer. Shortcuts and folders can be dragged from the dock to the homescreen and vice versa. There is a total of five homescreen panes to swipe around, which is plenty for most users.
Most Android power users will prefer if the XPERIA Arc runs on vanilla (uncustomised) Android, but for the majority of users the Arc works well. Despite the use of an outdated single core processor, the device feels snappy and quick. In fact it feels far quicker than any other similar Android devices I have used like the similarly spec’ed Motorola Milestone 2. The only other device that I thought felt faster was the Google Nexus S, and that runs on vanilla Android. What Sony Ericsson are doing is similar to what the other manufacturers are already doing. Personally I like this far more than Motorola’s BLUR UI and HTC’s Sense. Being an Android phone you can always hack it. Sony Ericsson has even published a guide on how to root the XPERIA Arc, though they have warned that this may invalidate the warranty of the device.
LiveView application) and a handful of third party applications.
Being an Android Gingerbread phone, the XPERIA Arc works as you would expect it to. Messaging is a breeze thanks to the built-in support for threaded conversations. A dedicated Gmail app is available for email, and unsurprisingly is one of the best email clients you can find on any smartphone ecosystem today. A more generic email application is also available to handle POP and IMAP email accounts. The phonebook is very social friendly as you can link each contacts with their own Twitter and Facebook accounts, thus giving you an easy way to view any of your contact’s latest social updates. Linking the contacts is easy and painless, though isn’t as straight forward as Microsoft’s approach with Windows Phone 7.
Equipped with an eight megapixel Exmor-R backlit sensor and f/2.4 lens, the XPERIA Arc is more than capable of capturing fast action even in areas with very little ambient light. I recently attended a gig and the Arc outclass the Nokia N8 when it came to capturing the action. The Arc does excel in low light no flash photography, for a smartphone. While the images were usable, the image quality were still no match for a decent digital compact like the fast-lens equipped Canon S90 and S95.
I genuinely like the XPERIA Arc. Sony Ericsson has made a device that works great, is fast for a device with single-core and has a great camera that works decently in low-light situations. With the XPERIA Arc, Sony Ericsson has made big changes in the way they market their Android devices. Against the trends, they’ve not locked the boot loader, and have made big promises regarding future firmware updates.
To top it all, it features a design that looks just darn gorgeous.There is little doubt that the Arc is a great device, but with the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II due to be released soon, it isn’t quite as future proof as those devices.
The XPERIA Arc is available now sim-free from around £399.99.