Monday, April 2, 2012

Google Android 2012 News: Sony Xperia S Review

In staging their grand return, Sony Mobile could've done a lot worse than the Xperia S. The fresh divorcees are back on the market, their new Xperia flagship kindly supplying the bang. And while the HD screen and dual-core processor are not exactly breaking news, there's an extensive set of features to make a geek's heart flutter.

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Sony Xperia S official photos

The Sony Xperia S aims for camera excellence with 12MP still photography and 1080p video recording. It has an HD screen and a microHDMI port, not to mention a dedicated TV Launcher that lets you control the phone with your TV remote.

The Xperia S is a high-performance phone too - while quad-core phones will soon hit the shelves, the dual-core 1.5GHz processor and Adreno 220 GPU show good results in early benchmarks.

We'll do a first round of benchmarks later, but let's have a closer look at the specs of the Sony Xperia S first.

Sony Xperia S at a glance:

  • General: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS 850/900/1900/2100 MHz, 14.4 Mbps HSDPA, 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
  • Form factor: Touchscreen bar phone
  • Dimensions: 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm, 144 g
  • Display: 4.3" 16M-color TFT capacitive touchscreen, 720 x 1280 pixels
  • CPU: Qualcomm MSM8260 chipset, dual-core 1.5 GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 220 GPU
  • OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), planned 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update
  • Memory: 32GB of storage, 1GB of RAM
  • Camera: 12 megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash, face detection and touch focus; 1080p video recording at 30fps; 1.3MP front-facing camera with 720p video recording, sweep multi-angle shots for lenticular print effect
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA; Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, standard microUSB port, GPS receiver with A-GPS, 3.5mm audio jack, microHDMI port
  • Misc: Sony Timescape UI, TV launcher, built-in accelerometer, proximity sensor, Sony Mobile Bravia engine, multi-touch input, scratch-resistant surface, microSIM only

Not quite like the Sony Ericsson Xperia arcs, is it? The Xperia S is better in almost every respect, save for thickness. Still, considering how thick those old 12MP shooters were (especially around the camera), 10.6mm sounds great.

The screen on the Xperia S deserves praise too. The 4.3" BRAVIA LCD of 720p resolution is up there with the best screens on the market. At 342ppi, it's definitely one of the sharpest.

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Sony Xperia S live pictures

Standard accessories in the box

The Sony Xperia S came in a large box with the standard set of accessories - a charger, a microUSB cable and an in-ear headset.

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The Xperia S box

A microHDMI cable would've been most welcome, but no luck on this one.

Sony Xperia S 360-degree spin

The Sony Xperia S measures 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm and is a bit on the heavy side at 144 g, even for a phone with a 4.3" screen.

Design and build quality

The Xperia S design is a combination of square angles and curves. A strip of transparent plastic at the bottom, which lights up when the display is on, is a prominent accent. A fusion of form and function, this element also holds the antenna.

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The Sony Xperia S is quite the looker

The screen on the Sony Xperia S promises great things and it delivers - it's mesmerizingly sharp, with punchy colors and very good contrast. It's backed by BRAVIA engine which, as we've seen before, does very well on screens with high pixel-density - and the Xperia S display is one of the most pixel-rich at 342ppi.

Its only downside (and it's not a minor one) is the poor viewing angles.

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The Reality display boasts excellent picture quality

Above the screen is the SONY logo styled with their instantly recognizable font (unlike the "Sony" in "Sony Ericsson"). The earpiece is below it along with other bits of gadgetry.

There's a 1.3MP front-facing camera that can record 720p video, along with proximity and ambient light sensors and a charge indicator.

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The earpiece and its companions

Below the screen, there are three tiny dots marking the three capacitive keys (Back, Home and Menu). The actual icons are within the transparent strip, so you might try to push those instead (like we did). It takes a while to get used to that.

The transparent strip has a cool white backlight, which makes it an attractive design element in the dark.

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The three dots are the standard Android keys

The two wired ports - microUSB and microHDMI - are on the sides of the phone. Both are hidden under plastic flaps to protect them from dust.

The right side of the Sony Xperia S holds several other elements too - a not-so-comfortable volume rocker and a shutter key.

The Xperia arc S had a rather unpleasant shutter key and while this one is better, it's still not perfect. It's thin and has a low profile, but at least it's easy to press (stiff keys like on the arc S can lead to camera shake). The stop between half-press and full-press can be hard to feel sometimes though.

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microUSB port on the left • microHDMI port, volume rocker and shutter key on the right

The Power/Lock key and the 3.5mm audio jack are on the top. The audio jack is left uncovered, but that makes sense since it will probably see plenty of use.

There's nothing of interest at the bottom besides the lanyard eyelet.

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The Power/Lock key and the 3.5mm audio jack are on top • Lanyard eyelet on the bottom

The back of the Xperia S features the star of the show - the 12MP camera. It's located very near the top edge, which means you'll have to be very careful not to put a finger over it when taking a photo.

The camera is accompanied by a single-LED flash and the secondary microphone used when shooting video. The loudspeaker grille is also here.

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You should mind your fingers when shooting

The back cover is made of soft matte plastic, which feels good and hides fingerprints well.

Removing the back cover doesn't reveal much - you'll find the microSIM card here, but you don't get to see the battery. What you would find is an aluminum frame painted black, similar to the Xperia ray.

The battery is a 1750 mAh unit, which is said to provide about 450 hours of 2G stand-by (420 hours in 3G) or up to 7 hours and 30 minutes of talk time in 2G (8 hours and 30 minutes in 3G).

We liked the clean design of the Sony Xperia S. The transparent strip is a unique accent and subtle enough (the Xperia pureness must be glad a small part of it lives on).

The curved back fits nicely in the hand, but again doesn't overdo it and make the phone thick (like some of those Human Curvature designs). It's fairly compact and pocketable, you can take it anywhere - much more portable than a point-and-shoot camera, so it's always with you (they say that's the best possible feature on a camera).

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Handling the Sony Xperia S