Possibly the best looking Android based Mobile Phone.
I first saw the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc at CES a couple of months ago and it was almost love at first sight. The handset is one the most beautifully designed Android phones that I have come across and considering that Android is competing with the iPhone, a device like the Xperia is very much needed by Android to attract the market where looks are important. The Xperia Arc finally landed on our office desks last week and I’ve been playing around with it ever since. Lets find out how I feel about it now that I had a few days with it.
Packaged in a nice little blue box that is slightly larger than than ones by HTC or Apple, the Xperia Arc comes bundled with a USB cable and a plug along with a headset that is definitely above average than the ones we see bundled with most Smartphones. A small startup guide is also available. All the applications that are needed to sync the phone are present on the 8GB MicroSD card that, at least on our unit, was already installed. Sadly, like most Smartphones, you need to remove the battery to insert or remove the MicroSD card. Also, it would’ve been nice if Sony Ericsson had bundled a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable along with the Arc as one of its highlighting features is HDMI output.
Looks-wise, you’d be hard-pressed to find a handset as beautiful as the Xperia Arc when it comes to Android devices. The beautiful and incredibly sleek handset gets its name from the concave design on the back making it as thin as 8.7mm at it’s thinnest point. That certainly turns a few heads. Sadly, form takes over function on the Arc and as beautiful as it is to look at, the concave design doesn’t provide the grip that a convex or straight one does. Nevertheless, it wasn’t uncomfortable to hold.
The front of the unit is taken over by the gigantic 4.2” screen and we’ll talk more about that later but below the screen you have three regular buttons for back, home and menu. Fans of Android will notice that the search button is missing which made me smirk as Android is made by Google and search is the primary thing you associate Google with. These buttons don’t have a backlight however the space between these buttons lights up and since there are only three buttons, you can easily select the one you want. Thankfully, the home button is in center so its very easy to get do, even in pitch black.
Above the screen is the proximity sensor while on top of the device you have the lock/power button on the left and a micro-HDMI connector on right. The lock/power button is a bit too recessed which makes it harder to press- frustrating at times when you simply want to lock or unlock the device quickly. The left side has a 3.5mm audio output jack while the right has the mini-USB connector, volume keys and a two-step camera button. Above the USB connector, Sony Ericsson places a nice green notification LED which sadly goes unnoticed most of the time because of its location. Finally, the back features an 8MP camera along with an LED flash and a secondary mic.
Specs-wise, the Xperia Arc is pretty much like the HTC Desire S that we reviewed recently. It has the same 1GHz Scorpion processor along with the Adreno 205 GPU, that together, form the refreshed Snapdragon SoC platform. Keep in mind that this is what Sony is also using in their Xperia Play handset so technically, it’s capable of handling all the games that the Xperia Play can. Sony Ericsson has also increased the RAM of the unit to 512MB which makes it pretty zippy. The Xperia Arc took 6548ms to complete the Sun Spider benchmark which is slightly longer than the HTC Desire S that completed it in 5840ms. On the radio side, you get HSDPA, 802.11n Wireless Networking and Bluetooth 2.1 along with A-GPS. Speaking of GPS, I just want to point out quickly that the Xperia Arc provides an insanely fast lock on the GPS signal- faster than any other phone I’ve used.
Moving on, let’s talk about the massive 4.2” screen on the Xperia Arc- it has a resolution of 480×854 pixels and supports 16M colors. It’s not an AMOLED or Super AMOLED screen like the ones we’ve seen on earlier models of HTC Desire or the Samsung Galaxy S but instead, its LED-backlit LCD. The screen is reasonably readable in the bright UAE sunlight- definitely more so than the HTC Desire S that we reviewed last week. Where the screen really shines is when the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine kicks in, which sadly only happens when you’re watching videos or pictures. However, I must say that videos look pretty amazing on the Xperia Arc, probably better than any other mobile device I’ve tested. Would’ve been nice to play Angry Birds with the BRAVIA engine enabled.
The second star on the the Xperia Arc is it’s camera- also borrowing technology from Sony’s camera line-up. The 8 MegaPixel camera on the Arc has an Exmor R sensor and takes amazing still shots with colors popping out. Sony Ericsson has also added a bit exra functionality in the camera app with slide-out menus and quick access to settings. While still shots are captured beautifully, I did have some issues with videos. At one time, I noticed that a recorded video was out of sync with the voice. Also, the mic is located at a somewhat weird angle making it very easy to block it while taking videos.