Xperia arc – our hands on impressions

by XB on 8th January 2011

in Featured Content, Hands On, Videos, Xperia arc

Xperia arcWe managed to get hands-on with the newly announced Sony Ericsson Xperia arc earlier this week and wanted to share our initial thoughts. When we first saw the press photos and promotional videos, we were awe struck by the design. This is something of a Sony Ericsson heritage and we still feel that the current Xperia X10 and X10 mini exhibit some of the nicest designs seen on any handset.

In the flesh, the Xperia arc does not disappoint. The curves and concave back feel great in the hand, however the phone doesn’t feel very expensive, probably due to its lightweight chassis (117g) and glossy plastic back. Despite this, the phone is gorgeous and the screen is a big improvement over the X10. Click through for further impressions on the Xperia arc.

Xperia arc

The phone will come in two colours, Midnight Blue and Misty Silver. We only got hands-on with the Midnight Blue version, which looks classy. However, we would like to see the Misty Silver in the flesh. From the pictures we’ve seen, the Misty Silver would get our preference. The plastic back easily attracts finger marks, but these can easily be swiped clean.

Xperia arc

The side of the handset comes with a microUSB charging port. We were told that the final version will have a flap cover for this port (much like the X10) so it won’t be bare. Next to this is the volume up/down buttons, whilst the buttons have a good amount of travel, we would have liked to have seen the rocker being a bit bigger. On the far end of the handset, there is a (small) dedicated camera button. The side of the phone is clad in faux-chrome plastic that makes it look pretty.

Xperia arc

The main component on the left side of the phone is the 3.5mm jack which is located at the top of the phone.

Xperia arc

The top of the handset houses the power button and mini-HDMI port. We were told that all UK and Irish SKUs of this handset will come with a HDMI cable included in the box.

Interestingly, when the phone is connected via HDMI, you can mirror what is on your phone on a TV. Going forward, you will also be able to use the phone as a remote.

Xperia arc

The bottom of the handset doesn’t have much, although you can see the nail groove that is used to lift off the plastic cover.

Xperia arc

We were shown a number of different types of video content on the handset and came away very impressed with the quality of the TFT Reality display. Viewing angles were very good and text legibility was impressive.

Despite having a 4.2-inch screen the handset does not feel much bigger than the Xperia X10. The Xperia arc is certainly no wider than the X10, but it is slightly taller. Part of the reason for this is that the bezel in the Xperia arc is much thinner than the X10. The company have also minimised the space between the glass and display, which we try to illustrate below.

Xperia arc

One of the big features of the handset is the use of Sony’s Bravia Engine technology algorithms in the display. The Bravia Engine helps to improve a number of factors including noise reduction, sharpness, colour management and contrast enhancement. One particular Xperia arc demo unit was rigged to turn off the Bravia Engine at the touch of a volume button to showcase what difference it makes when turning it on/off. We filmed this below, but whilst you can see the difference, it is much more pronounced in the flesh.

The Bravia Engine can be switched on/off within the menu settings. But the Sony Ericsson reps didn’t understand why anybody would turn this off, especially as its function has no detriment to battery life.

Xperia arc

Whilst some Xperia arc handsets may have been running mystery Android 2.4 firmware, the handset we tried was running Android 2.3.1 (Gingerbread). The handset will ship with Gingerbread on launch and the company promised that it will update the handset to the mobile version of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) later in the year.

The Sony Ericsson executives reiterated many times that the UI had been slimmed down from previous phones. This was in part to make it quicker to port to new versions of Android and also to make it easier to use for consumers. The decoupling of Android has started with the Xperia arc, which is why the company said that the X10 family will be stuck with Android 2.1.

Xperia arc

As can be seen from the pictures, Sony Ericsson has still kept Timescape but Mediascape is no longer an app but is instead a widget. The four icons at the bottom can be customised to any app that you use the most.

The hardware buttons have been reversed compared to Sony Ericsson’s current Android range and this is expected to be the same on all future handsets.

Xperia arc

The Xperia arc does not include a front-facing camera. Whilst this may disappoint some, it’s not something we’ve personally ever used so we’re not moaning by its absence. You can probably make out in the picture below that there is a LED notification light next to the light sensor. The version we played with had five home screens.

Xperia arc

On the back of the phone you can see the solitary speaker located on the left side. Xperia X10 owners will be glad to hear that this speaker is very powerful and could be easily heard in a reasonably crowded room when watching video content.
The 8MP camera lens can be seen on the other side along with the single LED flash. Towards the left of this you can seen the secondary mic that will help with noise cancellation.

Xperia arc

The main function we didn’t really get a good chance to test was the camera and HD video recording parts of the phone. We were told that the handset should be able to record 720p video at a solid 30fps, so video quality should be very good. Plus the use of the ExmorR sensor should mean very good low light shooting. A comparison picture against the iPhone 4 showed a much clearer pic from the arc, despite the fact that the iPhone 4 was using HDR. We look forward to testing this ourselves once we get the handset into our labs for further testing.

Xperia arc

Overall, we were very impressed with the time that we spent with the Xperia arc. The handset is a stunning piece of kit and the 4.2-inch display is one of the nicest we’ve seen. Sony Ericsson will no doubt be pushing the arc heavily, we were told that the arc will hit all of the major UK operators on release and will be the company’s next flagship handset. When pressing Sony Ericsson further, they didn’t confirm that it would be their only flagship for 2011. Obviously we’ll hear more at MWC in February on other handsets in its 2011 Xperia range.

For now though, putting all issues of the X10 roadmap to one side, the Xperia arc is the culmination of lessons learned from its first generation of Android products. The arc is launching with the latest version of Android and is being promised much more timely updates in the future. It also comes with a gorgeous display (now with multitouch in tow), a stunning design and one of the best cameras in the Android ecosystem. One thing we don’t know is the price point, as long as this remains competitive we have no doubt that Sony Ericsson is onto a winner.

  • George The Guest

    I want one. I’m addicted to SE and this is too beautiful to pass up!

  • Too little, too late.

    It’s all fine and dandy for SE to say they’ve learned their lessons and will improve support on the Arc, when they’re in the process of all but killing the X10’s support only 9 months after it’s release.

  • AssafK

    Yes, killing the X10 support and promising some thing about future generations does not go hand to

  • Nilsepils94

    were not killed out! we will get smaller updates for bugs and stuff just not the full android package! :D

  • Nice preview, thanks! The phone is definitely in a league of its own with its killer looks. I just cant wait for this to come out!

  • Holyshit

    “””handset will ship with Gingerbread on launch and the company promised that it will update the handset to the mobile version of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) later in the year. “” this the statment which change my maind I even started liking this phone but now not at all

  • Maro

    “One thing we don’t know is the price point, as long as this remains competitive we have no doubt that Sony Ericsson is onto a winner” Personally I just dont agree!! with

    more 2011 than 2011 because

    1 ghz one core ??? why
    2.1 bluethoot why not 3.0; 3.0 has a 24mbps transfer
    512mb is just a -joke
    led is also a -joke
    no support for avi -joke
    and graphic card -joke

    the biggest joke 1500 battery psss I suggest 2000 at least

  • Marco

    more 2011 than 2011 because

    i meant more 2010 than 2011

  • Guru

    agree with MAro
    why there is hdmi and nobody ask about dlna ?
    if it is wifi N why no bother to put Dlna ?????????????????????????????????

  • Seus

    ok i like the style! equalizer ?? if there is a equalizer I going to buy if not no way

  • Paul

    Argh!! you used the evil phrase “Going Forward” no no no.. :)

    Phone looks good. My contract not up till October. Should be out of the first version of the OS by then! :)

  • Johnkont65

    so we the users of x10 we are punished for buying and supporting SE.

    thank you much for your respect SE.

  • Asad

    People who complain about 3.0, Its not even out yet so what are SE meant to say “were gonna ship the phone starting 1 March 2011 with 3.0”?… there shiping with the latest firmware what more do you want. Not only that, but 2.3 just came out clearly SE have learnd there lesson. Stop bi…ing if you dont like the phone then dont buy it. Simples

  • fact is fact

    First of all I would like to congratulate the owner of this blog for such great progress and I must say that I’m really impressed to keep the good work going on. I totally enjoyed the review and thanks for pointing out the good and the bad in this phone.

    This is my opinion about the phone :

    This is indeed the best looking device I have ever seen! But this is not strange since it’s a Sony. What’s even better is that the 8 mp camera with the new sensor will keep the X10 successor the best android camera the same way the current X10 is.

    So this device will have a brilliant camera, stunning display, the latest version of android plus the sexiest design you could ever get!! I don’t think it could get better than this, but wait let’s not forget it’s a Sony which means you will still get the premium and classy feeling while holding it.

    The Xperia Arc is a beauty! Also, we will get the play station phone along with the X10 mini pro successor. All handsets will have gingerbread along with very impressive features. It’s good to know that the future is brighter and that SE truly learned from their mistakes.

    Well Done SE!

  • Jan

    This is great thing, i want it so badly!! relase in 1Q but how much to pay?

  • Mezm

    great review phone looks amazing im glad to see it running on 2.3 with what looks like they have started development on 2.4 to stop the mindless operating system seethings moaning

  • Leah

    Later in the year = December 2011

    Just before the new flagship with 3.3 is about to come out in Feb 2012.

  • MK
  • I feel guilty for wanting to boycott SE since they screwed me with the X10, and at the same time, I really want an xperia arc…

  • Anon

    DLNA is mentioned in the phone’s whitepaper.

  • Pingback: Xperia X10 reaches EOL on AT&T in early March? | Xperia X10 Blog()

  • zvirus

    You are wrong about front-facing camera. I always use it, and now when nexus s has it, SE have to add it!!! I have wireless camera (with SIM card) at home and always use video call. so when google nexus s added front-facing camera and other brands too SE must add it!!!!!

  • x10<3

    SonyEricsson does build gorgeous looking phones, sure, but Arc specs aren’t as impressive at this point as the x10 was a year ago, other companies are releasing beastly devices with dual-core, 4G, poweful GPUs and stuff like that. But maybe they’re holding their cards for later, like the already leaked Xperia hallon (with front face camera) and Xperia Play. We’ll see.

  • Fuckse

    Blue color?!
    No front camera

    NO sale

  • Bandit


  • Nice, that’s helpful for me!

  • Steven Harker

    The arc looks awesome, can’t wait to see it in the flesh and more than likely buy one. i have an X10, Se have clearly said they will support it, just not update Android platform. Does that bother me? No! Get your facts right haters, how can a phone company “screw you?” its a phone, get over it and get a life. Hopefully sim free price is good!

  • Munishluther

    totally agreed wid u,,,,

  • Munishluther

    no more sony’s now,,,,repenting after i preffered x10 over iphone 4 and galaxy s,,,,samsung’s support and updates r gr8 so is apple,,,,,,,whatevr the features sony introduce in new phones,,now one’s gonna believe it especially people like me who were tricked by x10,,,,,once ma fav. sony ericcson is a M.F liar,,,,,,why shud is believe thm again,,,,,not in a mood to spend 1000+ dollars again on shit SE……

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