Look past the flaws and you’ll see something beautiful.
The screen on the Xperia arc S would have been its best feature had it not been beaten ever so slightly by the 8 megapixel camera. The screen is beautiful to look at with colors that are deep and rich while remaining realistic. The touch is extremely responsive to every gesture thus making it a joy to play games on such a large and colorful screen. I played some videos on YouTube and looking at them head on, I couldn’t fault the screen at all until I moved the phone. This is where the screen falters, viewing angles. The viewing angles are extremely narrow, veer slightly away from looking at the screen directly the contrast degrades and the colors start to become indistinguishable.
It’s rather unfortunate that Sony Ericsson have made such an amazing screen and this isn’t an IPS or AMOLED, only to ruin it this way. I still like the screen but I only like it when I look at it in front of me. If I was watching a video clip on it with friends, I have to be the guy in the middle. Sunlight legibility was average- the moment I stepped out into the Sun I could see the numerous smudges on the screen. I had to turn up the brightness to 100% to adequately see any text on the phone. One thing I found rather curious was the lack of an Automatic Brightness feature for the display. I have to manually adjust the screen’s brightness so I’m not sure if the arc S does not have this feature or SE simply omitted it from the phone I reviewed.
The camera is one of the best cameras I have seen on a mobile phone. Capable of taking pictures at 3264×2448 pixels, the 8 megapixel clicker is feature packed with scene modes and the usual assortment of adjustments. You can choose between Auto or Manual mode where you can select the type of scenes you will be taking but I found the Auto mode good enough. The camera’s two stage shutter button can be annoying when trying to take a quick picture but you get used to it quite quickly. You can take multiple pictures, one after the other within seconds of each other and the camera does not suffer from excessive lag times between taking a picture, processing it and taking another.
Where it does slightly suffer is in the camera’s startup time, it does take a little bit longer than I am used to from clicking on the button to getting ready for the first shot. Colors are represented accurately by the camera and Sony’s Bravia Engine makes sure the pictures look their best when viewed on the screen. I found in some cameras the pictures look terrible on the phone but great on a larger screen and vice versa but with Xperia arc S’s camera, the pictures look amazing on the phone and great on a larger LCD screen.
Taking a 3D sweeping panorama shot was easy once you get used to the right speed in which you need to move the camera. I couldn’t evaluate how well the 3D photos were on a 3D screen but I have included some samples to be tried out by those who can. The LED flash was strong, above average and managed to brighten my room when it was pitch black however much like many point and click cameras out there, night shots weren’t as impressive. The images seemed grainy especially when the camera is trying illuminate too much in front of it and at a great distance. A great camera during the day, acceptable when the lights go down.
I found call quality to be excellent while using it as a handset and using the speaker. The calls were clear and I could hear the other side even when reception degraded slightly. The speaker is very loud and that loudness is noticeable when playing music. I have yet to hear a speaker that offers this much clarity at high volumes. Come to the think of it, I don’t think I have heard a louder speaker on a phone.
Coming to music, at no point did the music seem garbled or distorted but like all small speakers, it had a tinny sound to it. The music player includes an equalizer and you can notice the differences when selecting a preset. The sound settings include a feature called XLoud which amplifies the speaker’s volume but you might only notice it when playing loud music such as heavy metal. The bundled earphones are quite good- unlike earphones you find included with most mobile phones. When plugged in I did notice the volume was lower and you had to increase the volume near maximum for some songs.