Sony Ericsson Xperia arc Preview

Camera and Multimedia:

The 8MP camera on the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc is with the new Exmor R sensor we wrote about. It is back-illuminated, like the one on the iPhone 4. This feature, combined with a novel arrangement of the photo diodes, tailored to the fine pixel structure, should bring high sensitivity and less noise in low-light situations. Its 1/3.2" size is a far cry from the 1/1.83” on the Nokia N8, but we have to tell you the pictures are still very good.

The color representation is extremely accurate, detail is plenty, and the only issue we saw is a tad harsh noise suppression, which slightly smeared the details when light was scarce, but there is still time to fine-tune the camera algorithms. Otherwise the low-light snaps came out above average, probably thanks to the back-illuminated sensor, and the yellowish hue that we observed in all indoor photos with the iPhone 4 was present here only in one of four snaps. The LED flash is no Xenon, but does the job up to about ten feet, without casting weird shadows on the objects.



It also does a good job illuminating night video scenes, especially in Night Scene mode. Video is smooth at 30 fps, and the same good looking colors and fine detail are observed as in the stills, but the camera skipped a frame here and there, maybe because it was cloudy, or because the software needs some more fine-tuning. The 16MP version of this sensor, present in the Sony Ericsson Cybershot S006, allows for full HD video at 60 fps, so this 8MP shooter might also be able to do 1080p, the way Xperia X10 was hacked to do HD. For now, it is clocked at 720p and 30fps on the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, which is the current norm for single-core phones.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc Sample Video:



The camera interface is unobtrusive, but touch-friendly, with big enough buttons for finger operation. There are six focusing modes – single autofocus, multi autofocus, macro, face detection, infinity and touch focus. Center, spot and average metering modes are covered as well, and for manual white balance setup incandescent, fluorescent, daylight and cloudy options are available. There are also an image stabilizer mode and four flash modes – auto, fill flash, no flash, and red eye reduction. The extensive capabilities of the 8MP shooter are rounded up with a bunch of scene modes such as Landscape, Portrait, Night Portrait, Sports, Beach and Snow, Night Scene, Party and Document. The smile detection algorithm can even be set to track a faint or a big smile.


Obviously a lot of Sony’s Cybershot expertise has gone into the camera interface, but a notable exception is the lack of any effects on the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc. No Negative or Sepia, nothing, which is puzzling, considering the wide range of other capabilities, but they might very well appear in the final software build. There is a vertical strip with the latest pictures and videos captured on the right, and you can pull it left to reveal the rest in thumbnail view, which resembles the concept in WP7.

The music player is the same as in the other iterations of this UI, with flashy, but minimalistic interface, ten equalizers, the song recognition service Track ID, and the option to show related YouTube videos. There is no Dolby Mobile or SRS surround sound, but we have to tell you the loudspeaker is outstanding. Strong, with deep base sounds and very clean and pure output, even at the highest volume. The last time we heard such a speaker was in the Sony Ericsson Xperia mini, and it is great that Sony has managed to fit a similar experience in the slim body of the Xperia arc.


The video player and the gallery are of the stock Android flavor, and the handset doesn’t support DivX/Xvid, so we had to download a free player from Android Market to watch our ripped TV shows with subtitles. The Mobile BRAVIA Engine can be turned on and off manually from the Display settings, but we can’t imagine a reason for it to be off, as it adds color and sharpness to the pictures and videos on the handset.



Expectations:

We had a prototype unit, so we will abstain from final conclusions, but from what we tried, the in-call performance of the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc was pretty good. The earpiece is punchy, and produces no audible voice distortion, even at the highest volume. The phone has dual mics for noise suppression, so the other party said they could hear us distinctively with no background noise, despite that we were in the street. The loudspeaker performed great here as well, and thus the phone can be used successfully for impromptu teleconferencing.

The 1500mAh battery is rated for 7 hours of talk time in 3G mode, which is slightly above average for a high-end Android phone with a large screen. We can only vouch that the handset got us through the day with our moderate review usage in its prototype form.

Wrapping up our preview of the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc we have to say that the company seems to have nailed it this time. The thin arched profile makes you forget that you are holding a gadget with a huge 4.2” screen. On top of that it is very light thanks to its plastic build, and still the tasteful design with gradient colors and chromed rim remains sleek and classy.

Having the latest version of Android, powered by a powerful second generation 1GHz Snapdragon chipset, vindicates Sony Ericsson’s Xperia line to an extent. We like that the company simplified its Android skinning efforts in the Timescape UI, since this should speed up the eventual OS updates.

When we add the nice 8MP camera with back-illuminated sensor, which produced very good results and the outstanding loudspeaker, we can say that Sony Ericsson is off to a great start in 2011, and we are impatiently waiting to review a final unit. Things that can kill this phone are the “Sony premium” on the price tag, or a delayed release. If it goes out in the first quarter and is competitively priced, it has every chance to sell well.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc Video Preview:



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