Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc

I’ve spent a couple of weeks with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, on loan from Three, and here are my thoughts on this stylish, super slim handset.

Looks

The Sony Ericsson Arc is an extremely stylish handset – named the Arc because of the super thin curved back it has, it’s ergonomically great in the end and even better to look at. The phone is a good size with dimensions of 125.0 x 63.0 x 8.7 mm but its this thinnest 8.7mm measurement that makes it a joy to hold and the 117.0 gm weight is nice and light.

The phone is black with a chrome bezel, every edge is smooth curved plastic so the phone has an all round soft finish.

Hardware

The front of the phone houses the gorgeous 4.2″ 16m colour TFT display with a resolution of 854×480 pixels which is a perfect size for landscape wide-screen videos! The screen features Reality Display with Sony Mobile BRAVIA® Engine giving you great sharpness and realistic colours and brightness.

At the base of the phone are the 3 standard Android buttons – Back, Home and Menu. The Arc has physical buttons which I definitely prefer to the non-tactile touch sensitive ‘soft’ buttons.

The top has the power button and HDMI out connector. On the right is the micro-USB connector, volume keys and camera shutter buttons. The bottom has nothing save the microphone and loudspeaker grill and the left side just has the 3.5mm headphone out jack.

Camera

The Arc has a gorgeous 8.1 megapixel camera on the back with a Sony Exmor R™ for mobile CMOS sensor that lets you capture high-quality movies and stills with improved quality in low light. You can shoot 720p HD video and then display it back on your hi-definition TV via the supplied HDMI cable. The HDMI connection works for more than just photos, you can use it to display anything on the phone screen.

The camera shutter button on the right side of the phone is a bit small, and placed at the extreme bottom (or right) which can make it hard to hold and press. The iPhone iOS5 update to use the volume up key as the camera shutter has better placement a few cm in from the edge of the phone. Also the button is dual stage, with a half press providing focus lock and the complete press taking the picture – again this is hard to get right and can lead to some unwanted vertical movement just as you are taking the picture.

Android

Three have Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) available for the Arc and the first thing I did was to upgrade it which was as seamless as it should be.

Sony Ericsson have provided their Timescape interface as usual, and its pleasant enough to use with Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook integration, however I soon switched over to my favourite Launcher Pro for the home-screen as the card-wheel interface annoys me. Its definitely not the worst home-screen skin I’ve had to use, but it’s not up there with the Sense interface either.

Battery

This is probably the weakest element of the Arc, the 1500 mah battery will just about make a day if you’re careful, but get too carried away with browsing email and streaming audio/video and you’ll need to top the Arc up before you finish your working day! Luckily mobile micro-USB charging options are plentiful and you’ll need a cable at work and home to keep the Arc running.

Verdict

Overall the Arc is a great, sexy Android handset, with great specs and a quality camera with enhanced performance in low-light situations where other cameras often produce blurry overly dark shots. If you primarily use your phone on the way to and from work this is fine, but if you are a heavy user who needs their phone to work hard throughout the day then avoid or make sure you’re carrying a spare battery/charger with you.

The Xperia Arc is available on Three‘s leading data friendly ‘The One Plan’ for free at £35/month for 24 months.

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