Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Review
- Stunningly slim and a nice contoured design
- A radical upgrade over its predecessor
- Keys and buttons are well laid out
- Pricing on the high side for a single core Android phone
- Interface and menus have their quirks
- Battery life isn't as good as we'd expected
The Arc is a benchmark for slimness, and a sexy looker that packs decent hardware. However, the pricing is on the high side and with the whole future proofing angle looming over single core devices and niggles specific to this handset, the Arc doesn't get the nod from us. 5 thousand cheaper, and we might reconsider...
To call the Xperia Arc sleek and slim would be an understatement. One look and exclamations about its classic profile burst forth. An impossibly slim, tapering waistline and the winning combination of curves and angles that make devices like the HTC Desire HD (reviewed here) and the original Xperia X10i look like failed attempts. Sony Ericsson has evidently pulled all stops to give us something we've been waiting for - a truly sensous looking device, although this comes at the cost of their design ethos. For forgotten is the concave human curve design on the battery cover for a convex shape that makes the phone appear slimmer at the center. When queried about the death of this marketing gimmick, SE replied that the phone is still based on the concept of "human curvature"; though the specifics are left to your imagination!
The Xperia Arc is clearly intended as a replacement for the Xperia X10i, that is one of the oldest/first Android-based phones around depending on the way you look at it. Given that competitors were busy releasing newer models SE seems to have been left behind. Some will also question a flagship device being single core, but SE quashes such queries with a simple "Android is not optimised for multi-core"; no arguments there. Still, on paper the Arc is quite ahead of the X10i in some aspects and marginally ahead in others. Personally we'd have liked to see 768 MB of RAM, and perhaps a 1,650 mAh battery. One can never have too much juice with such large touchscreens, although a larger powerplant would probably spell doom for the Arc's slim waistline.
Look and feel
Viewed from the front, there is also a slight bulge towards the centre down the sides. And it is this quarter that captivates – a wonderful blend of large glass expanse that includes the display and bezel, and three distinct chromed buttons sitting beneath it, on the cusp of a downward slope. Even the top bezel, though wide, is stylishly so and seems integral to the design. Strangely enough, some of our blokes didn't like the look, but we're going to put that down to jealousy! A tapering chrome time runs around the sides of the phone but thankfully it's not overdone. Once again Kudos to SE for creating one of the most attractive looking touchscreen phones we've seen, and also for shoehorning relatively powerful hardware into such a compact chassis. We got our hands on 2 pieces of the Arc, one black and one silver, and while you can buy it in blue too, the silver finish seems to look the classiest, as the other two have a two-tone finish on the battery lid that makes the plastic surface look more reflective and err plasticy.
So she's devilishly slim, and lightweight too at 116 grams, but an airhead she is not, for the Arc houses Qualcomm's MSM 8255 SoC with 512 MB of RAM, enough to keep Gingerbread running smoothly, with the odd recalcitrant hiccup. And no, unlike the Galaxy S, the rear doesn’t get warm after prolonged use. The three designer-esque buttons we spoke of are soft, and exude good feedback – much better than the X10i and while they’re not backlit, LEDs placed between them are a good enough visual cue in the wee hours – it would be nice to have the functions of these keys backlit though. The power button located on the top is delineated and easy to use, as is the small but intuitive volume rocker. The 3.5mm jack is located to the left side, while the charging port is located on the right, with a useful LED indicator that glows orange or green to indicate charging/charged respectively. The camera is located too close to the top of the phone for our liking as it's likely to get covered by your finger while using. The camera button works quite well, with an intuitive half click autofocus. There is a micro HDMI port housed beneath a flap – useful for streaming content to your HDTV, although the Arc lacks the necessary connector - you'll need to buy one.
The 4.2-inch display offers good colour and contrast, and boasts of the Sony "Bravia Engine", although to be honest, this makes a difference only when viewing movies as far as we can tell, improving contrast and skin tones a bit. On the topic of movies, what’s with missing out on DivX/Xvid playback? Text is super sharp – tiny font sizes are also very readable, but we must say, we found the text on the HTC Desire HD that had a slightly lower resolution equally sharp. HTCs own desktop icons somehow look a lot better designed, and the Arc doesn't really boast of a radically different interface than the older X10i. The capacitive touch is sensitive, but we figure the HTC Desire HD was even more sensitive. The onscreen keypad on the Arc is decent, definitely not good as the one on the Desire HD, and we found ourselves making quite a few mistakes with a lot of wrong key presses in portrait mode. Additionally, their autocorrect and dictionary is not up to the HTC phones we used, and we were surprised at the dictionary not memorising a couple of new words even though they were added.
Human curvature...say what?
The interface has also seen reworking – there are 5 home screens and a bar that can contain desktop shortcuts in addition to four persistent shortcuts, although rather surprisingly removing a persistent shortcut like the media folder from this bar prompts for a delete of all stored media, instead of removing the shortcut, while others like shortcuts like messaging can be deleted, and replaced from the main menu. This is both odd and unacceptable.
While browsing using EDGE we had a couple of hiccups when our server connection was inexplicably lost, while two other phones had no problems on the same network. Once, the menus became inexplicably unresponsive although the Arc recovered sans a restart. The Arc came with no Office suite installed, which is not good, we’d like a separate Twitter client like HTC provides, although Timescape does include Facebook and Twitter, we find the interface lags, even when scrolling through locally stored SMS’. In the photos and videos folder, we found quite a lot of content mixed up. For example, downloaded videos appeared along with a couple of MMS images, although to be honest this content was downloaded on another phone and we were using its memory card in the Arc.
Overall, the Arc has a strictly decent menu - it's far from perfect. The phone is reasonably responsive, no more. Its interface seems to lack that extra bit of polish that separates the good ones from the outstanding ones. We also don't like the fact that there seem to be some niggles with responsiveness, although these appear sporadic, we feel a year should have been ample time to get such stuff sorted out.
Click next to read about the Arcs performance and our final verdict
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