Trying to get back a piece of the limelight in the smartphone market, Sony Ericsson has come up with a unique design quite unlike what the others have in the form of the Xperia arc. When the Xperia X10 was launched a couple of years ago, it made a lot of people take a long look at its beautiful design. Sadly a few months later, other manufacturers followed suit not really with better designs but with better performance and experience relegating the X10 as a “has-been” phone.
Now, SE is trying to recapture that glory in the form of the Xperia Arc. Learning their lesson from the X10, they incorporated a beautiful design along better specs and technology on the Xperia Arc. But just how good is the Arc really? Read on to find out.
When you lay your eyes on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, you will see something different. Not a refresh of an old design and most certainly not a design copy of other phones. Although the front looks like a bigger X10, it’s the arched back and slim profile that made all the design difference for this phone. It may feel fragile when handling with its 8.7mm thin and 117g light body so if you want your phone with more heft, the Arc will disappoint you.
The front of the Xperia Arc sports a huge 4.2-inch scratch-resistant screen. Not really Gorilla Glass like other phones but you can still live without a protective film on this one. On top of the display is the proximity sensor. What’s missing? A front-facing camera and ambient light sensor. While some smartphones out there can adjust brightness automatically depending on ambient light, the Arc could not.
Below the display are three buttons Xperia X10 users should be familiar with: the Back, Home and Menu buttons. Something to note here which slightly annoyed me is the reverse placement of the Back and Menu key. Most Android phones, including the X10, has the Back key on the rightmost part. It’s a widely-used key and it would annoy me to always reach for it with my right thumb on Arc’s wide body.
Most of the buttons and ports on the side are placed on the thick parts of the phone. On the left side is the 3.5mm earphone jack near the top corner. On top of the phone is the tiny, slightly-embedded Power/Sleep button and the covered microHDMI port (HDMI cable is included). The right side has the exposed microUSB port, the tiny zoom/volume control buttons and the tiny shutter button near the bottom corner which is tricky to use without jiggling the phone as you press it to take a picture.
We have the silver unit here and the back of phone is made of a smooth, matte, silver finish that doesn’t attract fingerprints and smudges unlike the black one. The 8-megapixel camera is placed near the top edge which can be easily covered with your fingers when taking pictures. Beside it is the LED flash.
Display and UI
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc has a 4.2-inch multi-touch capacitive screen display with a 480 x 854 resolution. It also boasts of what they call Reality Display using Sony Mobile Bravia engine to bring more sharpness and contrast when viewing your photos and videos. It’s not as bright and vibrant as the iPhone’s Retina Display nor Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology but you won’t notice much on its own. It also doesn’t give the widest viewing angle unlike IPS displays but the one here is still acceptable. I won’t feel bad about the display on the Arc not being the best out there because on actual usage, you would still definitely be impressed.
The Xperia Arc runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with Timescape UI. They removed the Mediascape UI which is not really missed and we hope that with this move, it will faster for SE to roll out updates in the future. There’s also a Timescape widget that aggregates your messages, Twitter and Facebook updates, e-mail and call log in a rolodex type of view. Frankly, I’m not fond of using it but you can select which updates you want to view so as not to crowd your widget with a lot of things.
The phone with the new Android presents some small transition animations making the user experience more enjoyable. There’s also the four docked apps in the homescreen that you can change for your quick-access apps. And you can also store apps in their own folder like what you can do on the iPhone.
The music player on the Xperia Arc is similar to that of the Xperia X10 and it includes some equalizer presets which is a nice-to-have feature if you’re high on using your phone as an mp3 player. Audio quality is good and the sound coming from the phone is above average.
Unfortunately for videos, it does not support DivX files but can only do 3GP and MP4. You can download free media players from the market to play all sorts of files but I noticed a bit of sync issues when playing HD videos. To test, I played a 1080p MP4 on a couple of downloaded media player (Arc and Summer) and both outputted sluggishness at some point which gets corrected eventually. On the Arc’s native player though, playback was very smooth. I suggest converting your HD videos to MP4 if you want to view it on the Arc then use the native video player.
I also enjoyed hooking the phone to an HD TV and watch videos from it. You wouldn’t know that the video is playing from a phone. You can also do this for your games especially which is like playing a console game without any console whatsoever. Now if only the phone can be charged by the TV while it’s connected to it.
Aside from the Mobile Bravia engine, another feature this phone boasts of is the mobile version of Exmor R backlit sensor on its 8-megapixel autofocus camera. For those not familiar with Exmor R, it’s the same technology Sony use in their Cyber-shot cameras that takes better than average shots under low-light conditions.
The camera interface is quite intuitive with features normally found in digital cameras such as face detection and smile shot. What’s lacking are the effects and filters that you can apply when taking photos. It can easily be remedied by free camera apps found in the Android Market though.
Here are some sample shots taken with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc.
Frankly, I was expecting more from the camera but the results were not bad at all especially under natural light.
Video recording is limited to 720p @ 30fps which can be attributed to the single-core processor. Upcoming dual-core processors can do 1080p already.
I enjoyed surfing the net with the huge display on this phone. Pages load fast and scrolling up and down is smooth. Flash elements and videos are supported and you will be viewing full web sites as you would on your desktop.
Even though the Xperia Arc has a single core 1GHz processor (Qualcomm MSM8255), it feels faster and lasts longer than other 1GHz-ers out there thanks to Gingerbread. The new Android update is more optimized than its predecessor and has a smarter brain to handle background apps to reduce power consumption. Navigating through the phone is really smooth even with the animations and launching apps feel quick to the draw.
With internal storage being limited to a measly 320MB, you need to be careful in what you install. Be sure to look for apps with App2SD feature so you won’t be using up the limited internal storage of the Xperia Arc.
Here is the result (1331) using Quadrant which is an Android app that can be used to benchmark CPU, I/O and 3D Graphics.
It’s pretty decent but dual-core phones out there such as the Motorola Atrix, LG Optimus 2X and Samsung Galaxy S 2 are ranging well above the 2000 mark. If you can root your Android, you can get a higher (as much as 1800+) from the this phone.
Battery life (1500 mAh) is normal for an Android phone. It will go past a whole day with WiFi on, medium texting and calling as well as a few games and videos here and there. Will be shorter when 3G data is always on or if you play games continuously.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc has a lot of things going for it making it a smartphone to covet at this point. There’s the beautiful, unique arc design, Android 2.3, the Reality Display and the Mobile Exmor R sensor on its camera to name a few. It doesn’t look like any of your 4-inch phones out there with the typical features everybody’s used to.
The main reason why you won’t get the Xperia Arc is that its specs are not future-proof, due to the use of an old Qualcomm 1GHz processor. Last year’s HTC Desire HD uses the same processor. You won’t feel the need for dual-core at the moment but when mobile games start to get more complex, you would be wishing for that extra core. But if you’re not into gaming much then dual-core won’t matter. There’s also the issue of its low internal storage that some people just can’t live with despite support for expandable storage.
With the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S 2 or the LG Optimus 2X imminent, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice high performance for a premium design with above average performance. If you are then the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is a no-brainer choice. It’s shaping to be one of the most exciting phones this year and the competitive price of Php29,990 makes it a compelling choice for buyers.
|Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Specs:|
|Qualcomm MSM8250 Snapdragon 1 GHz CPU; Adreno 205 GPU|
|4.2″³ capacitive display @ 480Ã—854 pixels|
|Sony Mobile Bravia Engine|
|320MB internal memory; 8GB microSD included|
|WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA|
|Bluetooth 2.1 w/ A2DP|
|8MP autofocus camera w/ LED flash; Exmor R sensor|
|720p@30fps HD video recording|
|GPS w/ aGPS support|
|Li-Po 1500mAh battery|
|Android 2.3 Gingerbread|
|SRP: Php29,990 (other shops are selling it cheaper)|