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Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc

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The Xperia line up by Sony Ericsson has been doing well, and that doesn’t leave the super slim and super sharp Xperia Arc behind. It somehow reminds me of the X10, only bigger and slimmer. Giving a curved back which is the ‘ARC’, some very handsome looks and a nice list of hardware and software capabilities, Sony Ericsson has put in a respectable effort in the production of the handset.

Android Gingerbread, 8MP camera, 1GHz processor, a large 4.2 inch display, sleek and slim, sounds like a perfect package. On a daily basis, the handset is a sheer joy to use and it is capable of doing what every other smartphone in the same range can do. So why buy the Arc? Why not some other device? Well, let me guide you through.

Packaging

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The handset comes bundled with a 1500mAh battery, a nice pair of in-ear headphones, some manual and booklets, a USB data cable and a charger with a USB port at its end.

Design

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Looks are the priority of this handset, a high recommendation for the fashion society people in your University. The device doesn’t try hard to be a good looker, your eyes just seem to catch it even if its lying in a corner.

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It has flat 4.2 inch capacitive touchscreen which is quite responsive and there are 3 physical android buttons below the display, all chromed up. There are some sensors and the speaker above the display, but no front facing camera, so yeah, no video calling. The sides also have chrome lining which do tend to act like a finger-print magnet, but I don’t mind that much. The top has a nice little round power/sleep button and the mini-HDMI port with a cover. On the right side the micro-USB port for charging and data connecting, a small LED that indicates charging and notifications, a volume rocker key and right down is the camera key with auto-focussing function. The bottom part just has a tiny hole for the mic and a little slot to attach a lanyard.

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The back is all glossy plastic and it is curved in the middle, giving it its oh-so-awesome slim look (just 8.7mm). There is also an 8MP camera lens on the top with an LED flash, a small hole for the mic when you are making videos and the speaker at the bottom. The back cover is made up of all flimsy plastic material (finger-print alert!). Inside the back, is a slim 1500mAH battery, a micro-SD card slot and a SIM card slot.

Android and UI

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I used Android 2.3.2 and then upgraded to 2.3.3 which somehow didn’t feel very smooth. It was a great experience with UI, but I wasn’t fully satisfied as it does tend to be a little laggy at times. Other than the small little glitches here are there, Sony Ericsson layer of the UI over the Android Gingerbread is appealing. The usual 5 homescreens with loads of widgets available and you can even download off the Android Market. You can add shortcuts and even organize everything by making folders with your favourite apps in them. Adding and removing stiff from your homescreen is pretty easy by just long pressing the particular item. There is also dock at the bottom which has permanent 4 icons that you can choose and it also has the main menu icon where you can find all your apps installed. You can see your apps in your own order or you can also re-arrange them according to alphabetical, most-used and recently installed.

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Sony Ericsson has their trademark Timescape Widget onboard which is a true delight. I did mention about it in my Xperia Play review that it acts like an all in one app for your Twitter, Facebook, text messages, call logs, etc. And the flip animation interface of the app is also good, when it doesn’t lag that is.

Camera

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The Exmor R image sensor for the 8MP camera is a true delight. It allows the camera to take excellent pictures in 16:9 and 4:3 ratios. The images are sharp and the colours also come out to be decent. The performance in low light conditions is also good as the camera manages to adjust itself quickly and the single LED flash isn’t all that. The processing time of the images is a tiny bit slow but I am sure it will be fixed or has been fixed in the 2.3.4 update.

The UI of the camera app is simple and covers almost everything you need in a camera phone. You can slide out a menu from the left to change your settings and if you want to see your images, just slide out the picture tray on the right. There is a physical button to capture the images, or you just tap on the screen to click away some amazing shots.
The only thing that I didn’t like was that you cannot zoom when you are in high resolutions. I agree it most of the camera phones do not provide or are not capable of zooming at high resolutions, but then the N8 can do that effortlessly.

Video making is as simple as taking a picture, just change into video mode, push the button and there you go.  The video mode also has settings that you can fiddle with and you can also use the flash as a video light in case you are making a video in low light conditions. The quality of videos is great @720p and viewing them on a bigger LCD will make you wonder that how a slim little thing can like this make such amazing detailed videos.

Ok I’ll agree this has been one of the best cameras I’ve seen on a handset.

Multimedia

I wanted to quickly go through the multimedia features the Arc offers as I personally love the way how Sony Ericsson always manages to provide some nice and intuitive features on their gallery and music apps.

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The image gallery has a nice animated feel to it and uses the accelerometer when you open the gallery or the folders inside. The images are arranged in stacked animated folders and the UI is pretty neat. Videos look great on its large 4.2 inch display with the Bravia Engine. The colours and quality are just truly brilliant. There is also an HDMI out port which lets you see images and videos on your LCD in HD quality which is a sheer pleasure.

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The music app has a very minimalistic yet a catchy design with a huge space for the album-art, library functions, and an infinity icon that links and takes you directly to YouTube with the song that you are currently playing (pretty neat feature). The music player also offers some equalizer settings and the audio quality is crisp and sharp.

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The FM radio app is also a nice addition with a nice scrolling UI which lets you scroll through the frequencies. The FM radio app also has a track-ID feature which connects to the internet and gives you the information of the song playing on your FM station. I really liked the feature as it provided correct information for almost every song that I heard.

Conclusion

Let’s start with the negatives, I found the UI unresponsive at times but probably that will be or is already fixed in the updates. The handset has a smooth plastic back which makes the handset slip between your fingers if you have sweaty hands like me. The battery backup (like all androids) is not up to the mark. You will be charging the handset at least once in a day or two days.

On the positive side, the display, the camera and the multimedia experience is all 10 on 10 from my side. The looks are eye-catching and the slim and light body makes you want to buy one.

The handset is NOT a super-phone, probably a dual-core would have sufficed it for the title. However, I would recommend this handset if you really love your smartphone to stand out from all of the rest and if you have a big budget. Currently priced at Rs. 27,000, I think that it is over-priced just because of its slim-ness. You can get all the same features in the upcoming Xperia Ray in a smaller packed body and offcourse cheaper rate.

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