Video playback support on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S is only decent compared to other Androids, with only our MP4 files playing back in the default media player, and divx, mkv and mov all failing to play – you can of course download other players but hardware support for these is variable. In contrast the Samsung Galaxy S 2 will play most video file types straight out of the box. Those that do play do look amazing, though, thanks to Sony Ericsson's Bravia video playback enhancements – colours pop, dark detailing is good, and motion is smooth.
If you want to shoot your own video, the camera will oblige with 720p HD Ready footage running at 30fps. This is a step down from the 1080p offered by some of the most high-end phones but it's plenty enough resolution to capture the moment. In terms of quality it's a little better than average with a decent level of detail and steady smooth action. It does, however, lack dynamic range and can get pretty noisy pretty quickly, though both these are typical problems with phone cameras and the Arc S copes better than most with no really distracting artefacts.
Likewise the camera is good but not amazing. With 8 megapixels on offer, it's on par with all but the Nokia N8 in terms of raw detail level, and shots are generally well exposed with vivid colours. However, we're not talking about a revolution in quality – shots are still very compressed looking with even modest pixel peeping revealing inadequacies as compared to proper compact cameras. These are just particularly good for a phone.
Also, thanks to an excellent camera app that includes options for exposure metering, white balance, self timer and various scenes, it's easy to get a good shot in most situations (we do wish more phones would offer the ISO control that Windows Phone does, though). There's also a really easy panorama mode where you just pan the camera around and the phone automatically stitches the image together. You can also do 3D panoramas, though you can only view the resultant images on a 3D TV via the HDMI output.
Also good in most situations is battery life. Well, more like adequate actually. You should get a day and a half to two days of average use. As per usual, you can extend this greatly if you reduce much of your data usage or you can zap it in a day if you play games all day.
Call quality, meanwhile, is excellent. Noise reduction is employed to keep noise around you from overpowering your voice while the earpiece delivers powerful, natural sounding vocals. The loudspeaker, though, is rather weedy.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S isn't a phone that blows us away. In fact, considering it's Sony Ericsson's current top of the line, it's a bit disappointing. There's no dual-core processor and the build is underwhelming. However, just as with the original Arc, the Arc S packs in the essential features, has a nice screen and a great camera. What's more it's available for a decent price, making it a sound investment if you're not after the absolute biggest and best.