Video: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc review - Noah would be proud

Sony Ericsson Xperia ArcSony Ericsson continue to produce handsets that they hope will rock the smartphone world and the Arc is their top of the range.

Is this the best Sony Ericsson yet?

Hardware

Like most of the new Xperia smartphones, the Arc has a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 512 RAM.

For me this is the Arc’s biggest problem. As things stand, this is powerful enough to compete with the best phones around and certainly sizes up to the HTC Desire HD but the fact that Nvidia Tegra 2 chipsets are going to be all the rage in Q2/Q3 2011 means that while the Arc looks like a beast at the moment, it will fall behind very soon.

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The fact the LG Optimus 2X looks ready for launch sporting the Tegra 2 may completely steal the Arc’s thunder sooner rather than later.

An improvement the Arc has over the Desire HD is the battery where they’ve managed to fit a 1500mAh inside this wafer thin phone.

The 1230mAh battery in the Desire HD meant that the phone struggled to make it through a day of heavy-ish usage. Something that isn’t a problem on the Arc.

Like the Neo and Pro, the Arc has an 8.1 MP camera with LED flash and the great set of photo settings that comes with most Sony Ericsson phones such as face detection and image stabilisation.

I have to say that all three phones (Arc, Neo and Pro) take fantastic pictures, probably the best I’ve seen on a smartphone which might be due to the Exmor R CMOS sensor that is being packed into the new SE phones.

The Arc also has a microSD slot which is expandable up to 32GB.

Software

With regards to software the Arc runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread which is the latest version of Android (getting the latest Android was something Sony Ericsson struggled with last year).

Gingerbread runs smoothly and, as you’d expect of Android, is full of wonder but the burning question for most is what have Sony Ericsson done with their skin?

As many of you will know, their version of Android failed miserably last year as Timescape was by far the most annoying addition to Android in 2010.

For those of you that don’t know what Timescape is, it’s a social-networking add-on that compiles your Facebook and Twitter updates together for your contacts. Sounds good right? The problem was that the frequency of the updates made it messy and clicking through an update takes you to Twitter/Facebook and not the update so you’d need to log in and be really annoyed.

I was happy to see that extensive work has been done on the skin. Timescape is now an annoying widget that you can quite easily bin.

Mediascape has also had a makeover as it now runs much smoother with the music widget working extremely well and is now a much more pleasant experience offering a far better alternative to the default Android player.

Design

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is thin, 8.7 mm in fact. That is the first thing you’ll notice about it. It’s the thinnest smartphone on the planet, so those iPhone 4 commercials will have a limited run.

While the phone looks slick, it feels a bit plasticky. Mainly because it’s made of plastic :oP

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that the lack of metal makes the phone lighter but my personal preference is to have a solid and heavier phone, like the Desire HD.

The 4.2-inch (854×480-pixel resolution) screen is TFT LCD which I found clear and colourful. Pictures looked crisp and it was a truly a joy to use. It’s not as good the iPhone 4 but then, there isn’t much that is at the moment.

In addition to the Exmor R CMOS sensor, Sony Ericsson have also added the Mobile Bravia Engine to improve image processing to deliver amazing colours and picture quality.

This works amazingly well. I watched How to Train Your Dragon and was really impressed with the clarity and sharpness on the screen. However the Bravia engine only kicks in when powering up a video but it’s a welcome addition all the same.

The Arc records 720p video and has a mini-HDMI port to not only watch video on your TV but the phone can also double up as a remote as well as allowing you to do everything on the big screen. So 42 inch Angry Birds here I come!

Conclusion

This is a fantastic phone. It will get envious glances and genuinely does everything very well.

I cannot fault it and, for me, takes the Android Beast Crown away from the HTC Desire HD. Things like the Exmor R CMOS sensor and the Mobile Bravia Engine in addition to a 4.2 inch screen and 8MP camera mean you will be hard pushed to find a phone that has both impressive hard and software like this…

BUT the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor means that while it holds that crown for the time being it will be a matter of months before it will fall behind the next generation of phones that will pack the Tegra 2 and be capable of so much more.

Whether they will be able to match any of the Arc’s other features remains to be seen, if not doubtful.

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