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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc review




Our Score:


User Score:


  • Super slim
  • Brilliant screen
  • Camera has shutter button


  • Doesn't have a dual-core CPU
  • Almost too slim
  • Battery life still not great

Key Features

  • 4.2in LCD screen
  • Android 2.3 Operating System
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • 8.7mm slimness
  • Manufacturer: Sony Ericsson
  • Review Price: free/subscription

Choosing what you want from a smartphone is almost more important than actually picking out the exact device you want. Do you want one with a particularly good camera or one that's sleek and stylish? Do you want one that's pocket friendly or has a movie ready large screen? Should it be a power house with the fastest CPU going or is just enough speed to provide ease of use all that matters? It's precisely the potential mind-melting muddle all these decisions cause that makes the Xperia Arc a tempting proposition for many: you don't have to choose – you can have it all. Sort of.

Here's how it stacks up. It doesn't have a new super-fast dual-core processor but it does have a very nippy single-core 1GHz model that keeps it zipping along nicely. It doesn't have the best camera in the world but it does have one that's better than many and crucially has a shutter button for more easily taking shots. It doesn't have either the smallest or largest screen, but it has one that manages to remain small enough to easily touch yet is large enough for comfortable viewing. And finally, its design is sleek and slim, so those more fashion conscious among you won't be put out either.

Starting with that sleek design, the Arc is a mere 8.7mm thick, making it one of the slimmest available. Helping to emphasise this sleekness is the eponymous arced-back that tapers in towards the middle. This curvature also helps handling of the phone with it sitting snug in the hand. That said, the slimness does make the phone a tad difficult to hold securely – sometimes you want the assurance of thick sides you can get a firm grip on.

Most of the body is built from plastic but it feels solidly put together and thanks to the glass screen, it maintains a premium feel. Only the battery cover lets things down as it's thin enough to flex easily – the sightly cheap looking two tone, silver to black, colour scheme on our review sample doesn’t help the phone in this regard. We'd suggest a solid colour, preferably of the matt/soft touch variety, would be best, if you can find one.

Most striking after noting the slimness or the Arc is its screen. The 4.2in LCD panel fills almost the entire of the front of the phone with its inky blackness. As noted before, its glass finish adds a premium quality and the true black (rather than grey) background it reveals when off adds further to this. Turn it on and the 480 x 854 pixels look splendiferous. Colours really leap out while overall brightness is impressive and the strong contrast adds real depth, especially to video. There is a bit of contrast and colour shift when you view from more acute angles but this is never a distraction in normal use.

In truth, we were exaggerating slightly earlier on, as this phone's large screen does make the device itself a little large and unwieldy, but not enough that it's a major concern. What's more it strikes a good balance between being large enough for comfortable viewing and small enough to remain looking sharp (even bigger screens of the same resolution can start to look a bit grainy) in general use.

Sony Ericsson hasn't slipped up when it comes to connectivity, at least not majorly. The headphone socket being on the side is a bit of an oddity as it will more often cause headphone jacks to snag on pockets but otherwise the standard microUSB socket for charging is welcome, and the real bonus is miniHDMI for piping out video straight to your TV. You do need a none-included cable to make this work but it's otherwise a plug and play process, and given Sony Ericsson's reputation it's a somewhat unexpected addition.

Also to be found lurking on the edges are a volume rocker and shutter button for the camera, and the power button up top. All are a little small and fiddly at first but you do get the hang of them. Just three buttons sit below the screen, with the standard Android search button being omitted. Otherwise the three slim, slivers or silver are responsive and easy to use. Tap the home button, swipe the onscreen slider or input your unlock code and the phone's ready to roll. Sadly locking the screen is rather more of a stretch thanks to the power button being so high up.

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April 28, 2011, 10:38 pm

I've had my Arc for a month now, having received it on the day of release. My favourite aspect of the phone is how it manages to pack such a large screen into a relatively small frame. The 16:9 aspect ratio also makes the phone easier to handle, as it cuts down on the phone's width. The camera button is a bonus, but frankly I don't take photos often enough to care that much.

Personally, I would have swapped the camera button for a search button any day. If I had a search button, I wouldn't need Google's search widget on the home screen as a button would make the widget redundant.

And why is the power/sleep button on the top of the phone? It's used constantly, it should be more accessible. The Galaxy S2 appears to have gotten this right by placing this button on the side of the phone, right where your thumb would be.

On the whole though, I'm rather chuffed with this phone.

P.S. @Ed: 'Exmor' is a technology used by Sony in their CMOS sensors. 'Exmoor' is a national park in Somerset and Devon. Just saying :)


April 28, 2011, 11:51 pm

now that phones are being used as mp3 players more and more, I was wondering if you would consider mentioning the sound quality from the headphone jack, like you already do with the built in speaker.
It doesn't have to be anything fancy only a sentance or two, what would be important though is to use some dedicated decent quality earphones (ie not the headset that comes free with the phone), then the overall sound quality from the phone, ie is there any 'white noise' from the phone (like the n95 has),
and finally is it better or worse sound quality than an ipod/iphone (a well known yard stick).

as I say with phones being used as a persons sole mp3 player and the industry actively moving people away from a dedicated mp3 player to a mobile phone mp3 player (apple switching the iphone to the ipod event?) this information would be vastly useful to the review,
then in future you can look to putting a dedicated headphone jack sound quality score exaclty like you do with a mp3 player review.


April 29, 2011, 2:13 am

I've occasionally plugged my SE530s into the Arc. The sound quality is better than I expected from a smartphone, and comparable to my iPod Classic. The equaliser options do a pretty good job of shaping the sound to your tastes. There may be a little more background noise present than what I would expect from a dedicated player, but it shouldn't ruin the experience. By comparison, the background noise generated by my HTC Hero effectively rendered the thing useless as a media player.


May 4, 2011, 2:14 pm

I've had the Arc for about a week now, to replace my HTC Desire. What I like the most about the Arc is the available screen estate vs the phone size. The phone is by no means bulky, and the screen size is awesome. Surfing and typing on the bigger screen is a much better experience than the HTC Desire.

The camera + battery life are other strong points. The decent camera actually makes the phone an excellent pocket camera, if you have good lightning. Battery life is quite good as well, it can last a full day of heavy usage.

The HDMI output is an excellent idea as well. My phone package in France has an included HDMI cable, and it makes the phone a media player in a pinch.

Now, the points of concern:
- The Bravia engine *eats your battery alive*. Turn it off if you care at all about battery life. The engine does make pictures more vibrant and less edgy, but the battery cost makes it hard to justify.
- Wifi reception is weaker than the HTC Desire. My access point's wifi power is on low (less radiation, blah blah); and the Arc has trouble connecting in my bedroom (distance = 15m, through 3 plaster wall). The HTC Desire and my laptop has no trouble connecting, while the Arc occationally loses wifi signal.
- Shiny plastic body means that wiping finger prints off the phone would be part of your usage pattern.

Voila. For me, the phone is a satisfying package, a worthy replacement for my "aging" HTC Desire.


May 4, 2011, 9:58 pm

Screen looks a bit wishy washy, or is that just me?
And does anyone understand what I'm talking about? ...

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