Sony Ericsson Xperia arc Review by Darren

Darren Humphries
Columnist from Oshawa, ON Canada
Published: May 14, 2011

For the last week I have been using Sony Ericsson’s new Xperia arc (yes, it’s lower case “arc”),  sent to me by Rogers Wireless in Canada.  The arc is a slim and sleek Android phone with one of the best cameras you are going to find on any smartphone.  I had already figured that the camera was going to be decent, but I wanted to know if the rest of the phone would impress.

Design & Features

As mentioned, the Xperia arc is quite sleek.  At it’s narrowest it is tapered down to just 8.7mm thick and it certainly feels slim!  While the top and bottom of the arc may not be quite that thin it doesn’t matter one bit and it ends up giving the arc it’s...arc.  Honestly, I can’t imagine phones getting thinner and still being able to withstand daily trials...until we get flexible screens, of course.  The result is pleasing on the eye and along with it’s curved edges a very comfortable feel in hand.

When you look at the Xperia arc straight-on you are seeing almost all screen, and it is quite a nice one!  It’s a TFT screen that is 4.2 inches with a resolution of 854x480, a true 16.9 ratio, which means movies will fill the screen completely, with no black bands.  The most significant thing about the screen is that it uses Sony’s mobile BRAVIA engine to enhance what you see in pictures and video.  Basically, it increases vibrancy, and contrast and reduces noise.  Pictures really do look fantastic on the screen, to the point that you may not be as happy to view them on your ‘regular’ monitor...unless it’s a Sony as well, I suppose.

The form of the Xperia arc is fantastic for daily use.  It’s hard to believe it’s actually a 4.2 inch screen because it just doesn’t feel like it.  The arc is slim and with the screen going almost right to the edge it’s quite easy to hold and use one-handed.  I really don’t have monster hands at all but am able to reach my thumb anywhere around the screen I may need.

Not everything is perfect on the Xperia arc and while it may not be a big deal for some I have found the buttons to be rather annoying.  Specifically, the power and camera buttons seems to be needlessly stiff to press and are quite small.  I suppose it is a small thing, but I noticed it and thought I would share it.

Usability & Performance

If any of you had the chance to try out Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 you will know that it was a nice phone but just didn’t quite perform as smoothly and quickly as it should.  I don’t really know what has changed with the Xperia arc, but performance for me has been quite good.  The arc has a 1GHz processor, which does a fine job but it is a little surprising Sony didn’t opt for a more marketing-worthy dual core or 1+GHz processor.  It really doesn’t seem to need more than it has but bragging rights do seem to be a marketing currency.  Even with ‘only’ a 1GHz Snapdragon processor the arc opens apps quickly and handled whatever I threw at it.

The Xperia arc is an Android 2.3.2 device and while Sony did add some of it’s own design to the phone it is minimal and works well.  Timescape is there, but it’s an app, not part of the UI itself.  If you are a fan of Timescape, you will certainly like how well it performs on the arc; very smooth!

I mentioned about the camera being good and it certainly is.  First off, it is 8.1MP but more importantly, it uses Sony ‘Exmor R’ technology.  Without getting too technical (or not at all technical) Exmor R allows for light to hit the CMOS sensor more quickly, so it doesn’t gather as much ‘noise’, especially with lower light shots.  The result is shots that may challenge for some smartphones come out quite nicely on the Xperia arc.  That, combined with a higher resolution than most means clear shots with less blurring and noise.The camera is a joy to use!  I’ve mentioned the specs but should also mention that there are a lot of settings you can change, allowing for a lot of flexibility.  There are settings for timers, exposure, white balance, metering, image stabilizing and more.  One very useful feature; touch to focus will also snap the picture once focused.  The camera adjusts for lighting quite well and snaps pictures quickly.  I get so frustrated when phone cameras take a second to respond to the shutter button but the arc snaps right away and is ready for the next shot quickly.

Video capture is fantastic!  Like most smartphones now, the Xperia arc can record in 720p HD.  There are some phones I have used that, while technically able to shoot 720p they don’t do a good job; movement can be choppy and you will see stuttering.  Not so with the arc.  You can move the phone around all you want (and probably nauseate your viewers) and video is still smooth and clear.  Very nice!

I almost forgot to mention call quality!  That’s probably because I mainly use my phones for data but I can tell you the Xperia arc actually does phone calls!  Yep. Call quality was very good and I never had a problem with hearing the speaker.

The one last thing I will mention is the battery.  While the Xperia arc packs an impressive 1500mAh battery I just have not been getting decent results from it.  That is most likely due to how much I am using it but I am running out of juice by about 2 or 3pm.  It will probably do just fine in normal use but I thought I would mention it just to be a stick-in-the-mud.  It’s what I do.

Conclusion

Probably the biggest compliment I can give a phone is whether or not I want to keep it.  The Xperia arc has so much going for it with very little to complain about.  The pricing is reasonable ($549.99 from Rogers without a plan) given that it is a higher end phone and you certainly are getting a lot for it.  Sony Ericsson has a phone they can be proud of and I have a phone...that has to go back to them.  Yep, this is one I would most definitely want to keep.

Overview

What’s Good: The slim form, cool looks, great screen, excellent camera, good performance, and slim form (ya, I said it twice).

What’s Bad: Battery may be an issue, 1GHz processor is fine now, but how well will it hold up over 2 years, rather a lot of plastic, buttons.

The Verdict: The negative things with the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc are easy to overlook when you see all the other goodness.  If you want a sleek phone with a large screen and great camera, buy it!