Sony Xperia S review

Reviews Ben Griffin 13:29, 5 Mar 2012

We review the Sony Xperia S, the first Xperia smartphone that comes without Ericsson in the name

Rating: 
4.5
Pros: 
Fantastic display, Excellent build quality, HDMI connectivity works flawlessly, great camera
Cons: 
Some may dislike the lack of Ice Cream Sandwich, lacks the coloured lights of the Xperia U
Verdict: 
The Xperia S may have lost the Ericsson name but it's found itself in the process. It's a fantastic device that has reinvigorated our appreciation of Android

They say one man's loss is another man's gain. In the case of brands, Sony Ericsson's death has paved the way for a Sony branded range of smartphones, the first of which is the Xperia S.

We're not entirely sure what the S in Xperia S stands for, but we do know that you're onto a winner with this handset. Why? Because, if you'll forgive our guesses as to what the S is about, it's a sizzling slice of smartphone supremacy. Here's why.

Although the Xperia Arc S was a little on the cheap-looking side, it was very capable, and the same applies here, only Sony has sent its designers to drawing classes. Encased in a rubbery white or black plastic, the Xperia S feels a bit like the Lumia. It's sturdy, comfortable and grippy to hold, and a lot more appealing.

Coming from a device like the Samsung Galaxy S2, it does feel a bit chunky but the extra weight and width makes it feel like a high-quality smartphone and not some Chinese rip-off that fell of the back of a lorry. Our only negative in this area is backplate feels the need to show up smudges, but it isn't too bad. And if you opt for the white version, you probably won't even notice.

Sony knows a thing or two about displays, and it clearly shows here. A 4.3-inch 720p screen ends up giving a higher pixels per inch (ppi) density than the iPhone 4S, which really is something. What does that actually mean, though, besides bragging rights? Simply put, everything is bright, detailed and incredibly clear. Impressed really is an understatement, especially when you watch a film or the supplied test video.

Sony also knows a lot about cameras too - the very images in this review are taken on a Sony Nex 5 camera - and, once again, Sony's expertise in imaging shows with the Xperia S.

Thanks to a 12-megapixel camera with Exmor technology, photos look fantastic. Even when zooming in quite heavily, the level of pixels and noise wasn't too bad, which is unusual for a smartphone. Low-light photography proved great too, showcasing a clear understanding of what makes a good camera on Sony's part.

Video, which is of 1080p quality, isn't far behind the photography. Focusing was fast, the colours are good and you really have to shake to give it trouble in the autofocusing department. We did notice a moment where it focused on a particular part of a scene and wouldn't re-adjust, but it only happened once. Overall, then, the Xperia S scores very well for photography and video enthusiasts alike.

Sony Xperia S

An area where you might think the Xperia S comes down is processing, particularly if you've got your eyes on a quad core smartphone. After all, it's only got a dual core Snapdragon and not even the shiny new S4 processor. Luckily for Sony, the Xperia S has clearly been optimised quite heavily and it comes with 1GB of RAM, which is why it glides along, performing tasks with plenty of enthusiasm.

This is even more the case if you opt to use something like ADW.Launcher but we weren't disappointed with the Xperia user-interface Sony has overlaid. There is a bit of jumpiness when using the latter, but only if you opt to keep up the TimeScape-type social networking widgets.

It's also here where many would pick a fault with the Xperia S. This isn't an Android Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone - you will have to make do with Gingerbread 2.3 until it gets the upgrade. Sony has said the wait won't be long but it's enough to put off Android fanatics who didn't jump on the Galaxy Nexus.

If we're brutally honest, minus the multitasking and the slightly cleaner layout, we think most people would be hard-pressed to know the difference between the two. Once customised, our Xperia S looked and operated like a dream, largely because of its fantastic display.

Sony has included a number of features in its Xperia range. Near-field communication technology means you can use Sony's SmartTags. These tags can be swiped to adjust settings, so in theory you could have one in the car that enables Bluetooth, turns location services on and lowers screen brightness quickly and easily. Depending on where you buy the device, you should get at least one or two of these tags to use as you see fit, which is a nice extra.

Specifications

Typical Price £430
UK Launch February, 2012
Frequency GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
Phone Style Candy bar
Thickness 10.6mm
Length 128mm
Width 64mm
Weight 144g
Built-in Memory 32GB
Additional Memory N/A, no microSD card slot
High-speed Data HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 - LT26i
Connectivity HDMI, Bluetooth, DLNA, NFC
Screen Size 4.3-inches, 720x1280 pixels display (~342 ppi pixel density)
Screen Colours 16 million
Camera 12-megapixel Exmor camera with autofocus
Designer Lens No
Camera Resolution 4000x3000 pixels
Zoom Yes
Flash LED flash
Video Resolution 1080p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light, video stabilizer
Ringtones Yes
Music Player Yes
Music Formats MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
Song Storage 32GB
Radio Stereo FM with RDS
Speaker Yes, with xLoud technology
Video Calling Yes, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera (720p@30fps)
Internet Yes
Browser HTML5, Adobe Flash
Games Yes, and downloadable from Android Market

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