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Sony Xperia S - Screen, Performance and Interface

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Probably the biggest headline feature of this phone is its 720p HD screen. With a resolution of 720 x 1,280 pixels, it's a notable step up from most 480 x 800 screens of last year, and although not quite as sharp as the iPhone 4S's 326 pixels per inch (ppi), the overall resolution is higher and it's still a very sharp panel.

There is a very sound argument that more pixels in less space is of limited benefit but the sort of step up seen here feels like a marked move forward. Pictures, video, games, websites and much more simply look more realistic, smoother and just plain nicer, while you can actually fit more information on screen without compromising readability. Websites in particular benefit from the extra screen width, making it almost possible to read full desktop websites fully zoomed out.

Sony Xperia S Screen

There is a slight problem, though; viewing angles aren't all that great. It doesn't take much of an angle to either left or right to notice a drop off in colour accuracy and contrast. Is this a catastrophe? No, not at all, as the general quality of the LCD screen is good with vivid yet accurate colours, high brightness and deep blacks. However, some other premium handsets are that bit better in this regard.

Sony Xperia S 5

The Sony Xperia S currently runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) but an update to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is on the horizon. It's a bit of a shame to have to wait as ICS does have some fairly significant improvements but at least you know it'll arrive at some point. Sony hasn't tweaked the interface too much but there is a light sprinkling of Sony flavouring.

Starting from the top, the lock screen lets you either unlock the phone or switch between silent mode and normal mode. Hold down the power button and you can also take a screen shot as well as switch to airplane mode and turn off the device.

Sony Xperia S Screenshot Sony Xperia S Screenshot 1 Sony Xperia S Screenshot 4

Sony Xperia S Screenshot 2 Sony Xperia S Screenshot 3

Once on the homescreen, you have access to five screens to fill with apps and widgets. Sony has loaded a decent number of widgets onto the phone, including a weather viewer, an apps/games/films recommender, a handy hints and tips viewer, a best buddies grid, a social network feed, a media player, a music & videos posted by your friends viewer, picture and video preview, a Shazam-like music identifying app, and links to Sony's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services.

Most feel a bit pointless – you're better off using the space more efficiently and just putting an app there – but the quick switches, music player, clock and Google search bar are always useful. One thing that's notable on this handset is just how little impact widgets seem to have on the performance of the device.

There's no slow down when moving between pages crammed full of them, and when rearranging them the fancy 3D animations don't stutter a bit. In fact, in general this phone is lightning fast thanks to its 1.5GHz dual-core processor (Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon). We put it to the test with our usual range of benchmarks and although it trails both the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Apple iPhone 4S, it's clear there's still plenty of oomph on offer.

Sony Xperia S PerformanceSony Xperia S Performance 1Sony Xperia S Performance 2

The iPhone 4S still dominates for gaming grunt.

Along the bottom of the screen Sony has added its Media folder to the usual selection of icons, giving you quick access to the Gallery, Music Player, FM Radio and Camera, as well as the Google Play Shop (previously known as Android Marketplace), main app launcher, Messaging and Phone. You can of course change these to whatever you like.

Sony Xperia S Screenshot 11

Open the app launcher and Sony has made its familiar customisation whereby you can select to have apps shown in alphabetical, most used, recently installed or your own custom order (potentially useful though we always opt for the Android standard of alphabetical).

Drag down from the top edge of the screen and there are no customisations to the notifications area – there's no quick access to a media player or quick switches for turning on Aeroplane mode or turning off WiFi, as is quite common on other Android smartphones.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


January 12, 2012, 1:56 am

Are you trying to make me feel ancient? "The first phone in the UK to bear the Sony brand"
I don't think so, not unless alzheimer's is kicking in.


January 12, 2012, 4:05 am

True, I remember Sony handsets being sold in the UK over a decade ago. The J5 with its natty jog-wheel interface was a highlight.

"The first SMARTphone in the UK to bear the Sony brand", perhaps?


March 16, 2012, 10:07 pm

" (instant TV playback is go.. once you buy a microHDMI cable)"
Mine came with one in the box (& a screen protector).

Luan Bach

March 17, 2012, 2:45 pm

Drop in price already ? Wasn't it £450 on release ?


March 17, 2012, 6:46 pm

I have to echo some the conclusions of the review with regards to the screen - The viewing angles are very poor. Colour and contrast shift dramatically if viewed even slightly off centre.

However, I believe that it actually has a sharper screen than the 4S in terms of DPI (342 vs 326 of the IPhone)

Mark Etheridge

April 20, 2012, 5:24 pm

Don't really understand why not having expandable storage is such an issue? This seems to be a recurring theme with TR's smartphone reviews.

This phone has 32Gb RAM internally, connectivity and syncing to Googles cloud services + third party cloud sources. Would someone with a phone as advanced as this one, really miss the use use memory cards or am I missing something?

Jonathon Trot

May 20, 2012, 2:39 am

Sony Xperia S seems nice to me overall.Except some silly problems.its light and handy but now its time to watch out samsung galaxy s3 nothing is gonna compare with this.You should check out all updates about this.Thank you.


May 24, 2012, 10:14 pm

hiya, i just got my Sony Xperia S as an upgrade on Tmobile. have been using the phone the last couple of days. i know it was mentioned in the review about the fit and finish of the phone and there were slight panel gaps. to be honest they arent that bad and it doesnt detract from the quality feel of the handset. the screen is outstanding and even though the review claims the Xperia is slightly on the heavy side i actually feel it has a nice weight to it and sits comfortably in the hand. mine also came with a bundled HDMI cable and a screen protector. so far the phone is very responsive and doesnt lag running multiple apps or playing HD content. 32GB is plenty of space and i am not missing the micro SDHC slot at all. the touch screen responsiveness is very good and the colour reproduction of the screen is lovely. photos and videos really pop on this screen. ill need to use it for more time to find out if it has any quirks but so far its a solid 9/10 from me. a great handset and you wont regret getting it. :)


September 4, 2013, 10:34 pm

At first you will be impressed by this phone, however after
having it just a short while I started to find problems arising everywhere. Let
me categorise -

- The Camera, although being 12MP is awful at taking a
picture with a lot of depth/distance. The detail quality lacks significantly.
It is brilliant however for close-up shots. They advertise a quick start up for
the camera, though I never experienced such a luxury, it takes more around a
minute. Focussing this camera is a huge pain.

- The battery, due to the immense power all the buggy
features consume, this phone will not even last a day. Even if left in standby
in your pocket, the battery will drain far too quickly. Another HUGE drawback
is that the battery is not replaceable… At least not without removing half the
phone and exposing all its inner workings.

- The design is uncomfortably big. Texting is awkward and although
the corners are rounded they still poke into your hands and eventually that can
start to hurt. There are very VERY few cases available for this phone so in
terms of extra protection to save one breaking the massive screen, it’s quite
difficult. Plus the addition of a case makes the phone even bigger than it
needs to be.

- The touch screen sensitivity is poorly calibrated. Before
you think it, it’s not because I’m trying to use it wrong, it’s just very
uneven and doesn’t respond well, especially at certain angles I’ve found with

- Phone often cuts of mid-call. Sometimes refuses to let me
call someone.

- The gallery and the text messages often open saying there
is nothing in them, and take around a minute (depending on how much is in
there) to actually make your pictures or messages appear.

- A REALLY ANNOYING ISSUE is the back of the phone
CONSTANTLY falls off. Considering there is nothing you can do under that cover
except put your sim card in, it comes of stupidly easily. I can simply pick the
phone up off the table and the back will fall off etc.

- Certain apps and a lot of games overload this phone. The
Dual-Core is nothing special at all and almost everything that requires any
type of decent graphical processing crashes or lags badly. Often the simplest
programs crash such as internet, Instagram. IT WILL OFTEN CLOSE SOMETHING MID

- With headphones, the phone sometimes decides to play music
from the speaker instead which is awkward if you are in a public place. And
then you’ll rush to silence it and it’ll freeze up so you’ll end up sitting on
it or snapping it in half with rage.

OVERALL I would highly recommend you look elsewhere for a
phone regardless of what you may think, this phone will cause more problems for
you than you could imagine. There are more problems I could name right now but
I think I’ve said enough for you to realise the truth about the performance of
this phone.

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