Sony Ericsson hasn’t had the best of times lately, with handsets often falling short of the mark. It has hit the ground running in 2011 though, with the Xperia Play and the handset we are reviewing here, the Xperia Arc, both offering interesting and novel features.
Where the Xperia Arc is concerned the interest lies in a very neat physical design, large screen, good video playback, an 8 mpegapixel camera, HDMI, and a genuine all round attention to detail that we like. Plus this is one of few handsets at present to run Android 2.3.
The first thing you’ll spot with the Xperia Arc is that it is large and thin. The 8.7mm thickness quoted in the official specifications is the thinnest point measurement. It is very slightly thicker than this at the top and bottom edges, and a clever design of the sliver side panels and midnight blue backplate make the curve look more accentuated than it is.
The second thing you’ll spot is probably the weight. At just 117g this is a featherweight handset considering its size. The plastic chassis is responsible, and thankfully all but the large and somewhat flimsy backplate feels solid.
The 4.2 inch screen delivers 854 x 480 pixels putting it slightly above the average in terms of coverage. It is really sharp and clear, its size making it great for things like video viewing and web browsing. It benefits from the Mobile Bravia Engine, technology designed to reduce noise and increase picture clarity. We certainly felt video looked clear and sharp, but we did experience some jerky rendition through the BBC news web site in particular. This was possibly down to our Wi-Fi connection or other factors rather than the Sony Ericsson Arc itself, though. It is hard to make direct comparisons, but we felt video playback and screen quality on the Xperia Arc were at the higher end.
There are only three buttons under the screen, for Android Back, Home and Menu functions. Search, which often gets its own button, is catered for by a widget on one of the five home screens. They are physical buttons too, not the more common touch sensitive ones, and they feel responsive under the fingers.
Sony Ericsson has skinned Android 2.3 and the look is not dissimilar to what we’ve seen in the past on other Xperia handsets. So the social networking app Timescape makes an appearance bringing together Twitter and Facebook updates in one place. HTC fans will rue the absence of a weather widget, and many widgets are just on/off controls. Sony Ericsson needs to be more inventive on this front.
There are tweaks to apps all over the place, though. For example the music player will pop online to find content relating to the currently playing artist, including oodles of YouTube videos.
If you are the kind of person that likes to manage media manually and hotswap microSD cards you’ll like the 8GB card that’s provided. But you’ll be irritated that the microSD card can’t be removed with the battery in situ. You need to power down to swap out a card.
The 8 megapixel camera is, not surprisingly, better than average, and we’ve no real complaints. But we would have liked a front camera too. Android 2.3 will cater for two way video calling, if and when apps other than Fring decide to offer it, but you will not be invited to the party if you buy the Xperia Arc.
The large screen ought to be ideal for text and email fans, but the keyboard disappoints. It lacks secondary functions which slows down typing speed greatly.