Sony Xperia S Review
The Xperia S is not just an ordinary device for Sony, it’s more like a milestone. Not only it is the first phone to be released after the company’s divorce from Ericsson, but it also sets a whole new direction for the Xperia line-up.
The new NXT series, which has debuted with the Xperia S, represents a pretty radical change in design. The curved, streamlined design of the old phones is replaced with a much more angular, minimalistic approach, and to this date it’s hard to find someone who dislikes the new design, while the older Xperia models have often been blamed for being too boring to look at. The Xperia S is not short on technology, either. The magnificent HD screen and 12-megapixel camera are some of the highlights in the spec-sheet.
However, you just can’t get rid of the feeling that Sony was a bit slow releasing the Xperia S. With powerful quad-core contenders already in the market, and Ice Cream Sandwich already rolling out on many smartphones, the Xperia S might have a hard time keeping up. It’s priced accordingly though – the phone can be found for around 420 pounds SIM-free, but of course there are many deals that should be considered as well. Now let’s see whether the device is worth your money.
You’re in for a surprise the moment you open the box – apart from the rudimentary charger, headset and USB cable, you’ll also find two strange round pieces of plastic. These are the SmartTags which have been presented alongside the Xperia S that make use of the phone’s NFC features. They come with sticky tape for easy placement just about anywhere you want. More on that later though. The phone is also included in the box obviously, and it’s a rather heavy one at 144 grams, even for its size. It’s not what you’d call thin, either, being more than 10 mm thick. The design, as already noted, is very fresh. Although you could possibly mistake the phone for an older model looking from the back, the rest is a whole new direction for Sony. One of the interesting bits is the transparent plastic strip that runs below the screen and is illuminated with different colours that the user can choose from. The front is dominated by the large 4.3-inch screen, which has an outstanding resolution of 720×1280 pixels; pixel density is very high. The display runs on the BRAVIA engine and is based on LCD technology, but being a LED-backlit unit, it performs pretty well, even compared to AMOLED units.The viewing angles aren’t that great though, which is disappointing.
On the sides you’ll find two ports – microUSB and microHDMI, while the standard 3.5 mm audio jack is at the top. There is also a volume rocker and a shutter key for the camera, which look great but aren’t very comfortable to use. On the back panel there’s the 12-megapixel camera lens, with a LED flash below it. The back panel is made from matte plastic which is quite resistant to fingerprints. The camera, as you’d expect, performs really well. The Exmor R sensor is specially designed to produce good results in low-light conditions, and it shows. Regular still pictures are almost without fault – noise is kept to a minimum, there’s plenty of detail and colours are reproduced naturally. The camera also has a few other modes, ranging from panoramic photos to 3D photos that can be viewed on a compatible TV.
It’s quite obvious that Sony is positioning the Xperia S as a camera-phone – the dedicated shutter key works even when the phone is locked, and the camera loads much faster than on other smartphones, which means you’ll rarely miss an interesting shot. With its huge resolution, 1080p videos are no problem for the camera. The videos have a constant 30 frame-rate and very low noise; very few phones come close in terms of video quality.
The Sony Xperia S doesn’t have a microSD card slot, but since there’s 32 gigs of internal memory, you’re not likely to need more space anyway. Inside the classy shell there’s a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor coupled with 1GB of RAM. Doesn’t sound very impressive compared to current quad-core flagships, but it’s yet to be seen whether a quad-core architecture provides real benefits over a dual-core one in real life, besides, the Xperia S does have a price advantage. Sony did a good job at optimizing the hardware, so in most tests the Xperia performs very close to the Samsung Galaxy S2. For now the phone is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Sony’s Timescape UI on top, but an Ice Cream Sandwich update has been promised at the launch and should arrive within a few months.
The Xperia S provides one of the best browsing experiences available. The whole HD screen may be used for viewing the pages, and Flash 11 support means you can comfortably watch videos on YouTube with any resolution available. The phone comes with all the connectivity options available, including NFC, although Bluetooth is only of v2.1 for some reason. NFC is already an important feature thanks to the introduction of the SmartTags, and will get even more support after the ICS update. The SmartTags might seem like an unnecessary gimmick, but in reality the idea is not half-bad. The tags can change profiles on the phone, activate the alarm, toggle Wi-Fi and many other things, so ideally if you place one at each important location (office, home, bedroom, car etc.), you’ll never need to toggle any settings.
The Sony Xperia S would be a real hit if it came out a year earlier, yet even now it stacks up pretty well. If you need the latest and the best, you’re better off waiting for the Galaxy S3 and the rest of the quad-core monsters, but if you want a well-built, smooth smartphone with a HD screen, great camera and more than decent multimedia capabilities, the Xperia S might just be what you need.