Sony Xperia S Review, Sony’s first smartphone
Sony finally purged itself from the Sony Ericsson brand and to kick things off, they introduced the Sony Xperia S. It’s the flagship model of their NXT or next-generation line of smartphones which is characterized by a transparent strip at the bottom of each device.
The Sony Xperia S feels underpowered compared to other 2012 flagship phones from other brands with its dual-core processor but let’s take a look if it still has some tricks to propel itself into the top of the class of smartphones arriving this first half.
Sony really knows how to design eye-catching devices and the Sony Xperia S is no different. We have the white version of the phone and first thing you’ll notice is the almost edge-to-edge glass display in front with the Sony logo proudly presented on top beside the 1.3 megapixel front facing camera.
At the bottom of the display are three tiny dots which are actually the touch points for the Back, Home, and Menu buttons shown in the transparent piece of strip just above the Xperia logo near the base. It’s confusing for first-timers who will be pressing the icons themselves on the transparent strip instead of the dots.
Top side you’ll see the 3.5mm audio jack and the tiny sliver of a power button. On the left is the covered microUSB port and on the right are the covered miniHDMI port, the volume rocker and a dedicated camera button. The buttons look really nice against its body but it might be to small for some people.
At the back you’ll see the lens of its 12-megapixel camera near the top edge, along with the LED flash, and speakers. Sony retained the Sony Ericsson green sphere logo which is a nice touch in my opinion. The back panel by the way is made of a flimsy plastic with a matte finish which easily attracts smudge and dirt. It got really dirty after spending a few days inside my backpack but good thing I was able to remove it with an eraser.
Removing the flimsy back panel is done by sliding it upwards. Inside you will find the microSIM card slot and the non-removable battery. There’s no microSD card slot here but you’ll get a generous 32GB built-in storage.
So how does it handle? The slightly curved back and matte finish provides ample grip on the phone. It’s not as thin as the Sony Xperia Arc but that’s a good thing for those looking for a phone with heft. My gripes here are the gaps all over the phone (back panel, display, transparent strip) which might trap dirt and doesn’t look premium-like to me.
Display and UI
If there’s one thing Sony can be proud at with their Xperia S, it definitely has to be its 4.3-inch display. It boasts of an industry leading 342 ppi pixel density (iPhone 4S has 326ppi) thanks to its 1280 x 720 resolution. So what does that mean? You’ll get sharper, brighter, better contrast with vivid colors on its display. Thanks also in part to Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine which is turned on by default and further enhances the display of videos and photos.
I definitely love the display on this one especially when watching HD videos or even just reading text on web sites. Its sharpness and brightness make it really easy on the eyes. I definitely urge you to try it out when you see one in stores.
The lockscreen of the Xperia S is quite simple with no option for unlocking to frequently used apps unlike other phones. I hope the ICS update will change this.
There are 5 homescreens you can play with and Sony revamped their widgets which I like. Their own Timescape widgets looks useful on such a big screen, and there’s also the more complete power setting widget.
There are four stationary buttons for Media, Play Store (previously Market), Messaging and Phone at the bottom of the homescreen surrounding the Apps drawer button. Their app drawer still looks basic with no tabs for frequently used apps, or downloaded apps.
The Sony Xperia S is powered by a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor with an Adreno 220 GPU which is the same as that of the HTC Sensation XE. The processor by itself is already among the top-end dual-cores from Qualcomm and it’s no surprise that navigating through the UI and opening apps is very quick and responsive.
Here’s its Quadrant score (3046) which is surprisingly high for a dual-core phone.
The phone runs on Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread by the way with the Ice Cream Sandwich update looming on the horizon.
I can attest that this phone is one excellent multimedia device. We’ve covered the uber-gorgeous display, the Mobile Bravia Engine and the very capable GPU to handle your videos and gaming visuals. The phone is also PlayStation certified (like the Xperia Play) where you can also download games straight from Sony.
The Xperia S comes with Sony’s xLoud technology which enhances the volume of the phone. Whether you’re watching a video or listening to MP3s, the loudness on this phone is above average without getting distorted. I’m impressed. And if you’re not satisfied, it also has a built-in equalizer which you can use or customize.
The music player is also powered by Gracenote which I find really useful for automatically managing the missing track info and album art of my tunes (requires internet connection and may not work with all your MP3s).
And if you’re familiar with current Sony Walkmans, the Xperia S also features SensMe Channels which determines which track goes to which mood. Unfortunately, this replaced the Genre option on its music player which I really find useful.
Web browsing is a no-frills affair. Pages load fast and true to its intended look including Flash and HTML5 banner ads. Flash video streaming is also supported on this device.
One of the things I like about this phone is the impressive performance of its 12-megapixel camera. Like other Sony Xperia phones, the Xperia S has Sony’s Exmor R mobile sensor and an f/2.4 aperture for better low light performance.
The camera on this phone is really fast for a mobile device, quick to focus and capture. Pressing and holding the dedicated camera button, you can immediately take photos even when in standby mode in just a few seconds.
It doesn’t have some artsy effects but all the popular mobile camera features are present such as Scene Recognition, Focus point options including touch to focus, Geotagging, Smile detection, and Sony’s famous 2D/3D Sweep Panorama.
Here are a few shots we took with the Sony Xperia S:
The photos are quite good actually for a mobile phone with its auto white balance leaning towards the warm side. Zooming shows a lot of noise which is probably due to extra processing made by the camera’s software. What I really like here is the effective image stabilization, fast-focusing lens and shutter.
Sony is bundling two NFC tokens they call Smart Tags with this phone which is not really necessary but shows you what NFC or near-field-communication can do in a basic way. What you do here is program a token using the NFC tag application to tell your phone to change various settings.
So if you have specific settings you adjust when you arrive at the office, you program it into a token and leave it on your desk. When you get to your office, once the phone goes near the token, it will automatically change the settings for you. It’s a simple and novel idea but I doubt if people will be using it a lot.
The battery on the Sony Xperia S is rated at 1750mAh which is quite high for its class. However, it is very much needed to offset the power required to light up its gorgeous display. I could get only a day’s worth (or less) upon normal usage with average WiFi, taking photos, and watching short videos. What’s odd is that even on standby (WiFi and 3G off), it still consumes battery like it’s turned on.
The Sony Xperia S by itself is already a very capable phone having the best display we’ve seen and a really good 12-megapixel camera to work with. However, Sony needs some catching up to do to compete with the quad-core phones other brands will be unleashing soon. For a dual-core phone though, the Xperia S can really get the job done.
The design on the Xperia S is quite so-so when you’ve already seen what they did with the Xperia Arc. The transparent strip at the bottom is a love it or hate it design aspect and the back panel is just too prone for dirt that you’ll want to immediately hide it behind a case.
Overall, the reason why you will be getting the Sony Xperia S is because of its brilliant display that we never grew tired of. Switching back to my HTC Sensation made it look like I’m downgrading a lot.
The Sony Xperia retails for Php27,999 which puts it on the top-bin of dual-core phones out today. The only dual-core phone having a higher price is the LG Prada 3.0. It also comes bundled with 2 Smart Tags (NFC tokens), a screen protector, a fast charger that can give you an hour’s worth of talk time in just 10 minutes of charging, and an HDMI cable.
|Sony Xperia S Specs:|
|1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon MSM8260|
|Adreno 220 GPU|
|4.3″ Reality display with the Mobile Bravia Engine (1280 x 720 resolution)|
|Android 2.3 Gingerbread|
|1GB of RAM, 1 to 1.5GB internal storage, 32GB external storage (non-removable)|
|12-megapixel Exmor-R camera, f/2.4|
|1080 Full HD video recording at 30fps|
|1.3-megapixel front camera (720p)|
|WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, NFC|
|Bluetooth w/ A2DP|
|GPS w/ aGPS support|
|Li-Ion 1750 mAh battery|
|128.0 × 64.0 × 10.6 mm|