Last year was pretty bad for Sony Ericsson. The company launched its Xperia branded Android handsets including the X10, but all the models failed to generate user interests and revenue. The X10 was criticized for its outdated Android OS (v1.6) and lack of multi-touch. Later on, Sony Ericsson was also criticized for delaying the Android 2.1 update for its flagship handset.
Nevertheless, Sony Ericsson has learnt a lesson or two from last year, and is trying to change it this year. The company announced a bunch of Xperia branded handsets, running on the latest version of Android OS, and each standing apart from the crowd.
The Xperia Arc is Sony Ericsson’s flagship phone for this year. The handset is slim, stylish, packs an awesome camera and runs on the latest version of Android OS.
However, 2011 is all about dual-core Android handsets, and will the Xperia Arc be able to compete with its upcoming competition. Read our review to find out!
Build Quality And Screen
Right out of the box, anyone will be surprised by how thin and how long the Arc is. True to its name, the Arc has an Arc shaped design. At its thinnest point, the Arc measures only 8.79mm, which is… insanely thin!
The Arc is mainly made up of glossy plastics, but has a premium fit and finish. There is a metallic ring covering the sides of the phone. Sadly, all that glossy plastic is a fingerprint and smudge magnet.
Like the X10, the Arc only has 3 hardware buttons – Back, Home and Menu button – in the same order. The keys are not backlit. There are two small LEDs between the three buttons, but they are of hardly any help.
The top of the Arc houses a mini-HDMI port, while the top right houses the notification light, microUSB port and a tiny volume button. Oh! There is also a camera button at the bottom right of the handset, which will definitely go un-noticed by most people. The left side of the handset is pretty empty, and only has a 3.5mm jack.
The front of the handset is dominated by a 4.2-inch LCD screen, with a resolution of 854×480 (FWVGA). The LCD of the Arc has decent contrast and brightness. The Arc does have automatic brightness control, but there is no option to turn it on or off in the Display settings.
The Arc also features Sony Ericsson’s new ‘BRAVIA Mobile Engine’. This new technology boosts the screen’s color contrast, and sharpness whenever a user is watching images or videos on his handsets. The technology definitely helps improve the image quality of the display. Images and videos look mind-blowing on the Arc’s display. The Bravia engine does not impact the screen performance in any other aspect except when viewing images and videos.
Sadly, the biggest problem with the Arc’s display is its viewing angles. The display looks washed out, if viewed from anywhere except its perfect viewing angle.
User Interface And Performance
The Arc runs on Android 2.3.2 Gingerbread, with Sony Ericsson’s proprietary UI on top of it. Unlike the X10, Sony Ericsson’s UI changes do not run right into the OS core, and are merely cosmetic changes. Sony Ericsson has replaced the black theme, which Google introduced with Gingerbread, and is using a blue theme instead.
The changes made by Sony Ericsson are positive in all aspects. Sadly, the Gingerbread screen-off animation as seen on the Nexus S, is not found on the Arc.
By default, the phone ships with 5 home screens. Users cannot add or delete home screens if they want. The app launcher dock can incorporate up to 4 icons, excluding the ‘menu’ button in the center. The application grid offers users with a nifty feature to sort apps alphabetically, in order of their use, manually or recently installed.
The MediaScape UI, found in the original X10, has been merely reduced to a desktop widget now. The music player of the Arc looks gorgeous, and even has a few equalizer presets. However, there is no option to manually create a new equalizer preset.
The Timescape UI looked good in the X10, and it still does. Basically, the Timescape UI aggregates all the social updates of your friends from Twitter and Facebook in a 3D view. Sadly, the dialer on the Arc does not feature smart dialing. The back of the handset also features a secondary mic. for noise cancellation purposes.
During the trial period, I had no issues with the performance of the Arc. The handset totally flies, and users will hardly feel the lack of a second core, on a day-to-day basis. The phone scores around ~1400points in the Quadrant benchmark, which is pretty decent.
Camera And Video Recording
This is very where the Xperia Arc truly excels. The 8MP camera at the back of the Arc is a truly mind-blowing. In proper lighting, the images came out crisp and sharp, with more than enough details.
Below is an image sample clicked at the default camera settings 6MP, 16:9 aspect ratio – from the Arc :
The rest of the images below, were clicked at 8MP resolution with auto scene detection :
Sony Ericsson also touts that the Xperia Arc has an Exmor R sensor, which allows users to click some stunning low-light pictures. I clicked some pictures in complete darkness, and the results are truly stunning.
The Arc is also able to record videos in 720p HD resolution at 30fps. The phone also features continuous auto-focus while recording videos. The back of the handset features a second microphone, to cut down on background noise while recording videos.
The camera interface of the Arc is very clean and smooth. However, the phone only offers very limited scene modes including Smile detection, scene recognition and normal mode. The camera also has touch-to-focus while clicking still pictures.
The videos taken from the phone came out clear and sharp, with no choppiness and duplicated frames were rare as well.
Web Browsing And Battery Life
The web browser on the Arc, like any other Android phone, absolutely rocks! The general web browsing performance is smooth, with no troubles. Scrolling around through web pages was smooth as well. Things did get a little jerky when browsing heavy flash based web sites like Espnstar.com. The Arc was able to playback Flash videos embedded in webpages without a hitch, as well.
Even though the Arc is insanely thin, it packs in a 1500mAh capacity battery. The handset will easily last a day on moderate to heavy usage on a single charge. Compared to most other Android handsets, especially HTC branded ones; the battery life of the Arc is a major plus!
The Xperia Arc is a decent all-round phone. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the phone. The camera, looks, battery life, and the performance of the Arc are its major plus points. The dated internal hardware of the handset can be a problem 2-3 months down the line, when nearly every phone will launch with a dual-core processor.
For the general users out there, the Arc is more than enough. They will be highly satisfied with it. However, for the Andro-geeks out there, the Arc is nothing but an outdated phone with an awesome camera.
At the moment, the Arc retails for Rs 28,000, which is quite steep for the features and out-dated hardware it offers. The phone will be a hot seller if priced below the 25k mark. Once the Arc’s price settles below the 25k mark, it will be a true VFM phone.