By Daniel Webster | April 8, 2011 10:57 AM
Xperia: the brand synonymous with Sony Ericsson’s smartphones for the past few years now. In this review of the Xperia Arc we go through what makes this smartphone innovative, fast, fun, and the next must-have device for any photography or movie connoisseur. The Xperia Arc is the first Android cellphone to implement Sony’s Bravia and Exmor R technology from their popular television and digital camera lines. Read on for our review to find out if the Xperia Arc is the next smartphone you will be selecting.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc comes bundled with all of the essential items to get started. The unlocked international version comes with a wall charger, a microUSB charging/sync cable, a Sony Ericsson-branded stereo headset, and an 8GB microSD card preinstalled. One item not included which would make the Arc experience even better would have been a microHDMI cable. There is minimal documentation to help keep everything eco-friendly.
Sony Ericsson has integrated some very innovative features usually only found in Sony’s high-end electronics. The newest advancements come from the Mobile Bravia Engine and Sony’s Exmor R CMOS camera sensor. Derived from the Sony television brand, the Mobile Bravia Engine delivers superior image quality while playing games or watching videos. The Exmor R CMOS sensor allows the 8.1-megapixel camera to capture phenomenal still photos and video in normal and low-light situations.
The Xperia Arc gets it name from the concave rear design. The weight and dimensions of the Xperia Arc are 63x125x8.7 millimeters (2.5×4.9×0.34 inches) and a mere 117 grams (4.1 ounces). The exterior of the Xperia Arc is constructed almost exclusively out of glossy metal-flake-textured plastic, with accents of chrome.
While the Xperia Arc may not win any top awards for groundbreaking processing power, the smartphone is still capable of handling a vigorous load of applications and tasks. The computing muscle comes from a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 processor. This second generation processor also has the ability to render demanding graphics thanks to the Adreno 205 GPU. The Xperia Arc combines the processor with 512MB of ROM (~300MB accessible) and 512MB of RAM. The secondary memory comes from a 8GB microSD card, which is upgradable to 32GB.
The most impressive feature of the Xperia Arc is the 4.2-inch (106.7mm) glass capacitive multi-touch LCD. Being the first Mobile Bravia Engine smartphone, the Xperia Arc produces true-to-life colors and imagery on its FWVGA (480×854 pixels) resolution screen. The Xperia Arc is even able to playback high definition video files up to 720p (downscaling them, of course).
The cellular radios keeping the Xperia Arc connected include quad-band GSM, along with dual-band UMTS 900/2100 (LT15i model). Other radios include Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, an FM radio, and aGPS. The sensors involve the usual Android necessary digital compass, light sensor, proximity sensor, and accelerometer. The ports are comprised of a 3.5mm headphone jack (also used as the FM radio antenna), a microUSB, and a microHDMI. The camera is capable of capturing still photos at 8.1 megapixel and video at 720p HD resolution (a bit lower than other flagship handsets early this year, which feature full 1080p video capture). The battery is a 1500mAh lithium polymer.
Sony Ericsson has enriched the user experience of the Xperia Arc by blending Android 2.3 Gingerbread with its proprietary Xperia user interface.
Many default Android applications have been skinned to mimic the XPERIA UI. The included Timescape app makes it easy to view status updates and messages by just swiping a finger up or down on the panels. The Xperia Arc’s video playback is optimized with the assistance of the Mobile Bravia Engine that not only displays clear and crisp video but also allows the playback of 720p HD video files. Other software titles include Asphalt 5, Let’s Golf, LiveWare Manager, Media server, a lite version of OfficeSuite, the Sony Ericsson PlayNow app, Postcard, and TrackID. The unit we reviewed is the Chinese Xperia Arc and has a few other Chinese apps likely unfamiliar to many.
Seeing that there are some applications reminiscent of the Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson may incorporate the PlayStation Suite onto the Arc in the near future.
Having incorporated Sony’s Exmor R CMOS sensor, which is normally found in its digital cameras, the Xperia Arc captures phenomenal still photographs along with excellent 720p HD videos.
The Exmor R CMOS sensor is larger than most smartphone cameras, thus more light is able to be absorbed producing higher quality photos, particularly in low-light situations. The Xperia Arc’s camera also has a single LED flash.
The Xperia Arc is both robust at opening applications and managing tasks with little lag. Video playback is especially smooth even while playing rapid movement or screen transitions. The Xperia Arc scored higher than other comparable Android 2.3 smartphones. The benchmark results yielded average scores of; Quadrant Standard 1658, Linpack for Android 38.5 MFLOPS, and Smartbench 2011 1340.
Sony Ericsson must have taken a cue from the Energizer Bunny for Arc, as the battery just keeps going and going. On average the Arc was able to provide enough power for a couple of days with normal application, talk, email, message, and game use. The phone gets all this power from a capacious 1500mAh lithium polymer. Sony Ericsson claims that the battery should provide around 7 hours of talk and 400 hours of standby time.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
Operating on AT&T’s network in the Seattle metropolitan area, the Xperia Arc provided excellent call quality and coverage, even in areas that sometimes drop calls on other smartphones. The noise cancellation technology worked so well that the individual on the other side of the call was oblivious to the highway sounds. Audio was clear and concise with the earphone speaker, speakerphone, and wired stereo headset.
To test the network speed would be unfair because this particular Xperia Arc is the international unlocked version (LT15i), which is unable to utilize any North American 3G/4G bands.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is available in the international unlocked version (LT15i) from Negri Electronics for $689.50. The North American variant, which will have 850/1900/2100 3G bands should be available in the coming months. Stay tuned for more information about release dates.
+ Screen Quality
+ Battery Life
+ Thin and Light
+ Noise Cancellation
- Mostly Made of Plastic
- No microHDMI Cable Included
- Some Apps Cannot Be Uninstalled
- MicroSD Card Position
As the first Sony Ericsson smartphone to employ Sony’s television and digital camera technologies, the Xperia Arc is rather charming. Anyone who places photography and video playback at the top of their must-have smartphone criteria will be delighted with the Xperia Arc.
Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, many would agree that the Arc is both attractive in appearance and performance. That being said, it would have been nice if Sony Ericsson had manufactured the Arc with a bit less plastic.
We rate the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc a 4/5.