Sony Ericsson Xperia arc S: size zero model


Thinner, faster and going for the Android featherweight title, this friendly upgrade is a fashionista’s dream

It’s the season for marginal upgrades. Just as HTC has tweaked the Sensation smartphone with a new processor to create the Sensation XE, Apple has just done likewise to give us the iPhone 4S, pimping it out with a new A5 chip, eight megapixel camera, and most importantly, iOS 5.

So perhaps we shouldn’t curl up our lips at the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc S, which on paper is almost identical to the well-received Xperia arc from earlier this year.

Certainly, if you’re prepared to forgo that sense of déjà vu, its spacious 4.1-inch capacitive touchscreen and WVGA 480×854 resolution is stunning. And that frame is as stupendously slim as ever: measuring just 8.7mm at its thinnest point, it’s one of the skinniest smartphones you can buy in the UK today.

But in the past six months, smartphones have been upgrading themselves at speed. Dual-core silicon chips are commonplace, qHD 960×540 screens and even sharper ones are on the way, and with the advent of Siri voice control on the iPhone 4S, smartphone software takes centre stage more than ever before. So is the Xperia arc S ticking all the right boxes at this point in time?

Super-thin chassis
The Xperia arc S may lack the premium polish of a glass iPhone or aluminium HTC phone, but at 117g, and measuring just 125x63x8.7mm, it’s still an impressive feat of engineering. The front face is almost all screen, with three tiny tactile buttons beneath the screen (Back, Home and Menu, though no dedicated search key). They don’t ooze minimalist chic like capacitive soft keys do, but they get the job done.

The left-hand edge houses the 3.5mm audio jack, while the right side accommodates the micro USB charging port, a small volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter button (which sadly proves a bit too tough to trigger easily). The top trim sports the power and lock button and the HDMI connection behind a closed flap.

Your only lasting impression of the Xperia arc’s design is its ergonomics. The back tapers inwards in a smooth, if plasticky, curve, which rests neatly on your fingertips when held with one hand, adding to the sensation that it really is all screen.

We were bowled over by the powerful and slender Samsung Galaxy S II, but there’s no denying its corners can sometimes be difficult to get a grip of compared to the Xperia arc S.

As for that screen, it’s wonderfully sharp and a pleasure to use. Though viewing angles leave something to be desired, the TFT-LCD display is bright and visible outdoors in direct sunlight.

Like the original arc, it lays claim to Sony’s Mobile Bravia engine, which uses some of the same image-processing techniques as the company’s TVs to reduce noise and increase picture clarity. Truth be told, it’s hard to say where breakthrough technology ends and marketing buzzwords begin, but there’s no denying that videos are a joy to watch on it.

Full article in Mobile News issue 502 (November 21, 2011).

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