Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc review: Android de Triumph

GSMArena team, 1 April 2011.

Retail package a cable short of perfection

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc comes in a compact box accommodating the handset itself as well as a few standard-issue accessories. Those include a USB charger, a microUSB-to-USB cable (used for charging and computer connections) and a set of earphones.

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The XPERIA Arc box

A socket charger is included too which is to be used with the microUSB cable.

Finally, there are a couple of user guides and an 8GB microSD card in the box. The only thing missing is an HDMI cable Ė microHDMI to HDMI ones arenít so widespread and you might not have one at home. And for the price you pay for the Arc, Sony Ericsson could have saved you the effort (and extra cash) of getting one yourselves.

Update 04 April: Of course, the contents of the box are strictly market dependent and as many of you pointed out the Arc does come with an HDMI cable in some regions. And some are also getting a 16GB microSD card and even a carrying case.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc 360-degree spin

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc measures 125 x 63 x 8.7 mm, which is pretty good for a smartphone with a 4.2-inch screen. Weíve seen thinner screen bezels, but the waistlines donít usually get much slimmer.

Of course, you should keep in mind that those 8.7mm are measured at the handsetís slimmest part Ė in the middle. At the top and bottom the Arc thickens up to 10mm, but thatís not too bad either.

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The XPERIA Arc sized up against the I9000 Galaxy S and iPhone 4

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc weighs in at the remarkably low 117 grams. It has none of the muscular clout of some metal-clad smartphones but is no less impressive with the sophisticated elegance of a subtly curved super slim body.

Design

Design is one of the Arcís key assets. The slim, inward curved back carries a high-tech vibe that we really appreciate and we do find the gradient color finish at the back quite attractive.

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The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc is quite the looker

Unfortunately, the glossy materials are easily covered in smudges and the phone quickly loses its appeal. Your Arc will require daily care to keep its great looks.

Reality display is pretty good

The 4.2Ē 16M-color LCD screen of the XPERIA Arc has FWVGA resolution (854 x 480 pixels). Itís a capacitive touchscreen and we had no issues with its sensitivity and response. As you would expect from a modern day smartphone, multi-touch input is enabled too so as far as touch control is concerned, thereís nothing to worry about.

Dubbed Reality display, the most interesting thing about the the Arcís screen, is the Sony Bravia Mobile Engine, which is expected to improve the image quality by boosting contrast and sharpness when viewing images or watching videos. We are pleased to report that itís actually doing a good job, rather than just sound good in a press release.

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The Reality display boasts excellent picture quality

In fact, when looked at from the proper angle the XPERIA Arc display is certainly among the best screens on the market. Itís got more vibrant reds and greens than the iPhone 4 Retina display and in case you arenít into much saturation you will probably prefer it over the Samsung SuperAMOLED screens too (though we still find Nokiaís ClearBlack screens to be the champion in color rendering).

Those observations were confirmed by our new contrast test, which the Arc passed with flying colors. The contrast of its 4.2Ē screen topped our charts, even though its brightness fell slightly short of the iPhone 4 result.

Of course, an LCD unit is unable to match the deep black contrast of an AMOLED screen, but given that limitation Sony Ericsson has done an excellent job.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc 0.03 34 1078 0.33 394 1207
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242
iPhone 3GS 0.84 134 160 2.51 504 201
Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo 0.05 68 1324 0.10 134 1295
Samsung Galaxy Ace 0.23 160 701 0.34 234 683
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001

In our test we did observe a pretty strange behavior of the Arc brightness setting. As you drag the slider to the middle, the Arc loses about 90% of its brightness instead of the 50% you would expect. Fortunately, the black levels deepen with lowering the backlight so the loss of contrast isnít too significant, but we would suggest sticking to a higher setting to avoid problems with sunlight legibility. Unfortunately, the XPERIA Arc doesnít have auto-brightness control.

Update 04 April: Many of you confirmed that they actually do have automatic brightness control on their XPERIA Arcs. However hard as we tried (pointing flashlights at the spot where the ambient light sensor is supposed to be or covering it) we couldn't manage to make our unit to adjust its brightness. We suppose it's some kind of unit-specific issue that we had. We'll try to get another unit so we can double-check that.

Update 05 April: We were able to confirm that all retail XPERIA Arc units will indeed have auto-brightness control.

The Reality screenís Achillesí heel is viewing angles. The advantage it holds against the competition quickly disappears as you tilt to wider viewing angles. The text on screen might remain visible but contrast degrades very quickly and colors get vastly distorted. Itís an unpleasant effect that you cannot see with the IPS matrix of the iPhone 4 or the two current best AMOLED technologies (ClearBlack and SuperAMOLED).

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The Reality display advantage quickly disappears as you increase the viewing angle

To get a better idea of what we are talking about check out the following video comparing the XPERIA Arc display with the Galaxy S and the iPhone 4. Notice how quickly the Arc screen contrast degrades as the viewing angle widens.

In general, we see the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc display as a major update over its X10 predecessor and all upgraders will certainly be happy with it. The inadequate viewing angles are the only thing to question about it.

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