Sony Xperia S Review
Positive:1280 x 720 LCD is perfect for movies Decent performance and battery life Brings Sony vibes (and media) to your phone NFC Tag
Negative:Chunky with weak build quality No Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) Camera output is only superficially good
Stripped off of the Ericsson tag, Sony is rolling solo and is all set to launch their NXT series of Android smart phones. Heading the pack is the Sony Xperia S (codenamed “Nozomi”), a 4.3-inch beauty with a massive 1280 x 720 resolution.
Sony Xperia S
Stripped off of the Ericsson tag, Sony is rolling solo and is all set to launch their NXT series of Android smart phones. Heading the pack is the Sony Xperia S (codenamed “Nozomi“), a 4.3-inch beauty with a massive 1280 x 720 resolution. Despite the plastic body, the Xperia S looks and feels premium. There aren’t any creaking parts or badly cut-out holes in the chassis for the ports. Some may find the design a bit blocky, due to the squared off corners, but it’s not ugly by any means. There’s quite a bit of bezel around the screen and at the bottom, since the capacitive buttons are placed there. The little transparent strip at the bottom aren’t buttons, but they do light up to tell you which buttons do what. It’s not the slimmest phone around the block, but Sony has done a good job in distributing the weight, so it feels really light. We also get a dedicated shutter button on the side, which many Android phones lack, these days. Rounding it off, you get features like NFC and a distinctive, Bravia-like physical design. But not everything here is so fresh and spring-like: other aspects of the device are still the same as that of its older versions.
[flagallery gid=19 name="Xperia S"]
- 3G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network HSDPA 900 / 2100 – LT26i, HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 -LT26a
- OS Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
- Chipset Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon
- CPU Dual-core 1.5 GHz
- GPU Adreno 220
- 1 GB RAM
- 4.3” display size ppi count of 342.
- 16/32 GB of storage space.
- Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
- Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
- Browser HTML5, Adobe Flash
- Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
- GPRS Up to 86 kbps
- EDGE Up to 237 kbps
- Speed HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
- WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth Yes, v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
- NFC Enabled
- 1,750mAh battery
- USB Yes, microUSB v2.0, HS, USB On-the-go support
- Camera 12 MP, 4000×3000 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, 3D sweep panorama, image stabilizer.
- Full HD video recorder.
The highlight of the design is obviously the clear bar running through the bottom of the phone. It is mostly decorative, illuminating to display the three touch controls back, home and menu, but it also acts as the antenna and is certainly distinctive. The inclusion of such a decoration means the phone is longer than others with a 4.3-inch display. The Xperia S measures 128 x 64 x 10.6mm and weighs 144g, so it isn’t the most compact either. If you’re interested in packing the slimmest or lightest device, then the Sony Xperia S isn’t it. Unfortunately the bodywork attracts dust, so you’ll be forever wiping it clean.
The distinctive LED lit plastic bar that appears to segment the Xperia S into two parts. The three Android navigation buttons are etched into the bar and look nice when it lights up. There are reasons to enjoy it, but there are equally as many reasons not to. For a start, it makes the device feel longer than it needs to be, and considering it’s already a lot thicker than previous Xperias (e.g., the Xperia Arc), that’s a big sacrifice.
One more problem with the Xperia S is the way it is built. There are seams everywhere, where plastic meets plastic around the translucent bar, around the port covers, around the scratch resistant screen and around the rear cover. These gaps attract dust, make the device feel unfairly cheap considering the high quality materials, and occasionally cause the port covers to pop open if they catch on your finger or pocket. Considering that the 1,750mAh battery isn’t removable and the 16 to 32GB of onboard storage isn’t expandable via microSD, the rear cover seems unnecessary.
There’s an issue with the navigation buttons too. The touch-sensitive spots for Back, Home and Options are nowhere near their corresponding icons in the translucent bar, and they’re unmarked, save for three barely visible silver dots. Not knowing where precisely to aim your finger initially results in a lot of miss-hits, and the buttons themselves aren’t particularly responsive, but you do get used to them after three or four days. Virtual buttons might be preferable, but there’s no way they could come with the promised upgrade to Android 4.0 — that would make the design of the lower part of the phone completely redundant.
Just when the Xperia S’ build quality loses, the wonderful display picks us up again. It may be plain old TFT LCD rather than AMOLED, but at least there’s no PenTile pixel arrangement here and the 342ppi pixel density renders everything with perfect stability and smoothness. The display’s strength is also readily apparent when you compare it side-by-side with an older, LCD-packing Xperia like the Arc. You won’t see it on a photo unless you look closely enough to notice the matrix of pixels on the Arc, but load up the Kindle app and things become more obvious: text looks blocky at 854 x 480 resolutions but immaculate at 1280 x 720.
The screen performs admirably outdoors and proves just what LCD is capable when it’s implemented properly. While some other LCD displays can be quickly obscured by excessive reflections outdoors, the Xperia S’ panel retains its contrast much better. There’s a consistent yellow tinge to all white areas, especially compared to the more neutral Retina Display on the iPhone 4, but the Mobile BRAVIA Engine seems to make up for that when watching movies and stills. Overall, it’s clear that Sony has invested a lot of time and money in getting this new panel just right.
Calling and reception
There is no problems with calling, which come across loud and clear at both ends. The external speaker is loud and offers plenty of clarity for speakerphone calls or music sharing. On busy days, you’ll find the battery will start looking worried mid-afternoon, so average for this type of device. In normal use it will get you through a day, taking the normal precautionary measures. The battery is sealed within the handset, so you can’t carry a spare.
The 12-megapixel shooter on the Xperia S is a world away from last year’s Xperias. You get fuller controls, including Exposure Value, ISO, Focus Mode, Metering Mode and White Balance (manual or presets). Even better, you can position up to four controls of your choosing on the main viewfinder screen, which provides quicker access to the settings you adjust most frequently.
You also get much faster operation, with the ability to hold the dedicated camera button down while the phone is still in standby mode and snap off a shot within 1.4 seconds, by our measure. This way of shooting doesn’t produce great results, because it gives you no time to frame or focus accurately, but it does prove what the camera module is capable, and it may come in a handy on the odd occasion. During regular operation, taking shots as normal within the camera app, the Xperia S was extremely responsive.
As for the pictures themselves, they testify to good automatic exposure, white balance and flash control, and they’re sumptuous on the phone’s display: sharp, bright, colorful. The combination of the hi-resolution sensor and HD display also helps low-light shots, because the camera is able to pump up gain while hiding noise among the abundance of pixels.
It was a similar story with 1080p video, which was compressed to around 100MB per minute. Despite of the over-zealous compression, Xperia S’ delivers clear and nice video. Autofocus is slow but dependable. There is not too many sudden switches in exposure or white balance. Also the audio levels are consistent.
Performance and battery life
Sony Xperia S contains one of the better processors from last year: the dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8260.It is same as that of HTC Sensation XE, and it’s certainly powerful enough to handle the functions the Xperia S is designed for. There are no lags or stutters to note, browsing is fluid, and there’s no nasty mismatch between the battery and processor either. You can use it for about two full days with light use, involving a maximum of two hours spent out of standby each day and careful connection settings. Even heavy usage patterns, such as leaving Wi-Fi on (as in the 15-hour day below) and watching movie trailers (an addiction with a screen like this), left the Xperia S with plenty of reserve. A standard battery test with looped video yielded over five hours, which is around the same as the Sensation XE despite the Xperia’s higher resolution screen.
It’s perhaps too simplistic to slam Sony Mobile’s flagship handset because it isn’t running on the latest processor hardware. Device performance isn’t governed simply by hardware, there’s a huge dollop of software in there too. The real judge of a phone should be suitability to task. The Sony Xperia S performs well on a number of levels. General performance is good, it has been stable for daily use Overall. With every pro there is a con with the Xperia S. The design may be distinctive, but it lacks grip. The screen is wonderfully high resolution, but the lack of microSD is annoying. Sony’s interface isn’t too oppressive, but launching with a promised Android update is annoying. The Sony Xperia S is possibly the most compelling Xperia handset yet, but it could do more. It’s a good phone, a pleasure to use and live with, but there is some space for improvement.
- 1280 x 720 LCD is perfect for movies
- Decent performance and battery life
- Brings Sony vibes (and media) to your phone
- Chunky with weak build quality
- No Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
- Camera output is only superficially good