Xperia Arc S – slim, stylish and faster than ever

The Xperia Arc was a highlight in Sony Ericsson’s portfolio this year: a super-slim, über-stylish handset with a high-resolution display. So, the news that it’s now available in a version with a faster processor should be welcome, even if the new chip is the only upgrade.

The new Arc S model comes in a fetching, fashion-forward white gloss livery, though in all other ways it’s cosmetically identical to the Arc. Well, almost: the power button on the original Xperia Arc drew criticisms because it was too flush with the case to be easily pressed.

That power button issue has been addressed and it’s now easy to turn the phone on and off, which is something you want from any gadget. Note that the sleek Xperia Arc S’s edge-mounted camera button also attracted criticism and this still requires a firmer press than is properly comfortable.

Sony Bravia display – on a phone

That dazzling high-resolution display is intact, and continues to use a version of the image-processing Bravia engine found in Sony TVs. As before, the display sits right up at the surface, not recessed underneath it, adding to the Xperia Arc S’s brightness and sharpness.

Sony Ericsson has mounted an impressive 8MP camera on the Arc S and though shutter lag wasn’t entirely absent, that slightly finicky dedicated camera shutter will take a shot near-instantly given a full press. As a bonus, the Arc S has the half-press autofocus familiar from most dedicated cameras. A nice, ahem, touch. Image results are strong, though at the full 8MP resolution you can’t shoot widescreen.

Video recording remains as impressive as it was on the first Arc, with autofocus active as you film, which is cool. It includes image stabilisation among its features, which is always handy.

Arc S power and performance

But what does that extra-fast processor the Sony Ericsson’s packing really mean? Well, for one thing, it enables you to shoot 3D images on the camera using Sony’s Sweep Panorama function. You can’t play the images back in 3D on the phone – it’s not lenticular like those of the HTC Evo 3D or LG’s Optimus 3D – but a 3DTV will do it, or you can see them in 2D on the blower.

The Arc S also has Sony’s new video and music download services built in, so you can watch movies on the handset. Of course, a service is only as good as its offering but it’s a great feature to have.

Xperia Arc S magic button for screenshots

And there’s one more feature, though it’s not something everyone will want. A long press on the power button gives an extra option: to take a screenshot. Journalists and bloggers love the ability to capture what’s on screen, and maybe you’ll be glad of this too, occasionally.

There’s no doubt the Xperia Arc S is one of the best-looking Sony Ericsson has yet delivered, and the bonus of the sprightlier chip means an already accomplished handset now has more strings to its bow. If you admired the first one, you’ll like this even more.

UPDATE Star rating adjusted to reflect age and new competitors

Promotional link: Click here for the latest Xperia Arc S deals

Stuff says... 

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S review

The sleek Xperia Arc is now slick as well, though it’s the S's screen that still dazzles