Sony Xperia Arc review - Ahead of its curve?

CHENNAI, 07/05/2011: Sony Ericson Xperia Arc. Photo: S_S_Kumar   -  THE HINDU

CHENNAI, 07/05/2011: Sony Ericson Xperia Arc. Photo: S_S_Kumar   -  THE HINDU

Starting with the Xperia X10 last year, Sony Ericsson has been unleashing products that deliver the much-adored Android experience in sassy, sleek handsets – a design trait that every Xperia product since has carried a distinguishable trace of. So what sets the new Xperia Arc apart from its predecessors? …its sheer classiness!

Feature loaded

Despite a 4.2-inch display, the Arc manages to feel unusually light in your hand with a graceful, if barely discernible curve at the rear. The handset, big, yet sleek exudes oodles of oomph. Sony Ericsson is clearly targeting an audience that wants to flaunt its best. Yes, it's a looker, but the Arc isn't exactly lagging behind in ‘brawn' either! More than a couple of features it boasts of are well worth the price tag it comes with.

The 8.1-meg clicker is easily one of the best ones adorning high-end smartphones available right now. Under bright sunlight, from a moving vehicle, the cityscape at night and portraits shot indoors – under varied conditions, the camera gave us really nice results with excellent colour tones and crisp picture quality. Augmenting the abilities of the powerful camera is a feature that Sony Ericsson has never endowed any of its smartphones with – the Exmor R technology. This CMOS sensor, a feature previously included only in Sony's Cyber-shot digicams and Handycams, is a proprietary back-illuminated structure that helps expose photographs correctly under low-light conditions. The Arc has a physical shutter button (you can otherwise shoot a pic by clicking on the live view camera screen), lodged on the bottom corner of the bezel. Sometimes while clicking the shutter (a double-press one) it felt like it'd result in a shake or blur but almost all pictures we took were crisp.

We loved the fact that the handset has been designed in a way that almost 95 per cent of the fascia is the TFT multi-touch screen. This indicates a clear emphasis on delivering an improved multimedia and browsing experience. The HD videos - animations, car racing videos and games - we watched on the Arc looked brilliant. We would have loved a small kickstand to prop up the handset and enjoy the videos or a full-length movie considering the display has more than enough potential to make it an enjoyable experience. The ‘Reality Display' with Mobile BRAVIA Engine lends to excellent visibility under bright sunlight, just slightly marred by the user's fingerprints. We wish the shatter-proof cover on top of the scratch-resistant mineral glass display helped keep grease away!

The Arc features the latest Android OS – Gingerbread – that offers a neater user interface. You'll also find the familiar Timescape interface on the Xperia Arc - cascading tiles that congregate all communication you have had on your handset – voice calls, SMSes, Facebook updates and Tweets. Although it's a decent integration of most of your smartphone activity, we would have liked to see some novelty in the interface. The tiny infinity symbol on each tile in Timescape pops up all communication you've had with any contact on your list.

The virtual full-QWERTY keypad on the Arc was a breeze to type on and turned out to be much less typo-prone than most other virtual keyboards. Gingerbread allows you some easy tricks while typing an SMS or email on the Arc. For example, you have multi-touch key-chording that lets you quickly enter numbers and symbols while holding down the ‘Shift' button. Long-press a word and it enters a free-selection mode thus letting you copy-paste it or the entire sentence by just expanding the brackets.

Android 2.3 also lets you independently monitor and curb activities/apps that might be taking a toll on the battery. The battery life (1500 mAh) of the Arc is not worth writing home about. After powering it up fully, the Arc can easily drop down to half-capacity in half a day with the regular amount of voice calls, SMSes and Web browsing. But, it charges up pretty quickly, with a 0 to 100 per cent charging time being just over 70 minutes. Despite the 1GHz processor that powers the Xperia Arc, we had a couple of freezes while using simple applications. Another issue we faced was with the Wi-Fi on or during gaming, the handset gets uncomfortably warm after about 15-20 minutes of use. The voice relayed during calls was quite clear. We had no dropped calls but the reception wasn't the best we have experienced while we were on the move.

Our verdict

The Xperia Arc is designed to be a head-turner and an object of envy. Add to this the latest Android OS (2.3), an extremely flattering camera and a great, almost mini tablet-sized multi-touch display to watch movies, play games or browse the internet on and you have a graceful winner of sorts albeit some compromises in battery life and the occasional screen freeze.

Love: Sleek design, excellent camera, great display

Hate: Poor battery life, freezes up occasionally

Rs 32,000

Published on May 11, 2011

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