Newly single Sony, fresh after divorcing its erstwhile partner Erricsson is in a hurry to flaunt itself in the very competitve smartphone market with its new Xperia range with Xperia S being on the top end of the showcase. Did I hear you say “ah… yet another Xperia?” Hold on. Its not anything like those previous generation Xperia we are talking about here.
A 4.3″ screen, Bravia HD technology (that the Sony’s TV’s boast around), 12 MP camera, a neat looking form factor and much more does tilt the scale for Sony this time that we will find it out here in this review.
When most smartphones start looking similar in form factor, Xperia sports a premium look. Available in black and white (with white being my pick of the two) and gleaming with a thin transparent strip on the bottom (btw, it also acts as an antenna) it is a clear winner on a visual count but not without few shortcomings that we shall discuss next. Weighing 144 gram, Xperia S definitely cannot claim a perfect BMI score and it brackets into the league of Lumia 800 in the body weight category. And add to that a bit of fat all around with a dimension of 128 x 64 x 10.6mm. Its bit bulky compared to its rivals from HTC and Samsung.
Notice the illuminated logos for back, home and menu on the transparent clear strip. Don’t get petrified when nothing happens when you touch them because the real touch-sensitive buttons are just above the logos highlighted by tiny dots and just below the display. I began with a bit disappointing note struggling with the buttons. The touch sensitive buttons lags a bit for some reasons. I assume its due to the fact intuitively we hit upon the clear strip and not the right area where the touch-sensitive buttons nests.
On top you got a power/unlock button and the 3.5mm headphone jack and on the top portion of the back panel is an impressive 12 MP camera lens and LED light.
On the bottom of the front and down the strip is etched Xperia and on the bottom you have the microphone and tag hook.
Again on the bottom of the back panel the strip continues and below the strip is Xperia etched in and above is the familiar old Sony logo. But hey, isn’t it the Sony Ericsson logo? May be it is too irresistable for Sony to part with it! No complaints, I like the logo.
The charging/sync cable port is on the left hand side top and is covered by a delicate plastic cap that hinges precariously.
On the right hand side of the phone, you find the volume buttons, a HDMI out socket and a dedicated camera button. Ah, yes! Camera button that some of the makers forget easily to fit in. Especially when you pack in a good camera, you definitely need it.
Remove the plastic back panel and it reveals the battery and the SIM slot. Nested inside is a 1750 mAh Li-Ion battery enough for a talktime up to 7 h 30 min (2G) / Up to 8 h 30 min (3G) and a standby time of up to 450 h (2G) / Up to 420 h (3G)
And hey don’t try to pull out the battery, its not user accessible. What you can do opening the back panel is limited to just slapping your microSIM into its slot. Yes, you heard it right – microSIM , so all those of you bestowed with those regular SIM take a ride to your network operator for a microSIM replacement. FYI, there is no microSD slot even. Xperia S comes with a built-in internal memory of 32 GB. Now that makes me wonder, why Sony did not go for a fused body case with just a slot for the SIM card. It would have made a better style statement!
Timescape UI , Apps and Bravia Screen
If you are on a mood for so me Ice cream and Sandwich, hold on your appetite! Xperia still runs on Gingerbread version of Android as on date. But don’t shrug, the promised ICS update is due very soon and mostly this June. So you can breathe easy. Samsung has its TouchWiz and HTC talks ‘Sense’ and for Sony its their Timescape UI skin that dresses the android. While some might vouch for the stock Android UI, big companies believe in their own UI to keep their device stand out. I am biased for Samsung’s TouchWiz (I know the pure Android geek in you might look at me with horror!) and find this Timescape UI bit clumsy but neverthless in Xperia S, Sony has tried a lot and it almost works well in this avatar.
The Bravia engine driven screen lives up to its mark and gives the likes of Amoled, Super Amoled and the retina a good fight. The screen is pretty crisp, sharp and wonderful. Full marks here to Sony.
For your idea here is the screen shot that gives you an idea of the pre-loaded android apps and Sony’s app picks. Along with the familiar Android apps like gmail, youtube, Maps, browser, Gtalk, Navigation, Places, google search, google+ etc, Sony also has included its own highlights such as PlayNow music app, Timescape with social networking integration that pulls all the social updates into one place, and TrackID for identifying music, appXtra, Recommender etc.
Messaging in Xperia S
Messaging is quiet a pleasant affair and the large screen does bode well. It also presents a number of options for predictive text to accommodate your typing style.
Camera of Xperia S
The number that Xperia S would proudly flaunt to its competitors like HTC One X and Samsung S3 is its 12 MP camera. (Hey we are not including Nokia 808 PureView and its mammoth 41 MP camera here, its a different league and lets keep it aside!) Xperia S sports a 12-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, f/2.4 aperture and LED flash.
You can set a resolution at a max of 12 MP at which point you get an image saved in 4:3 format. You also have other options as shown in the first far left screenshot image.
The right screenshot shows the setting screen for the camera button, where you can have it “launch and capture” to open the camera app and instantly take a photo when you hold down the physical camera button or launch only or off the quick launch.
As the bottom left screenshot image shows you have options for single auto focus, multi auto focus, face detection, infinity and touch focus. You also has the option for capturing method either by on-screen button, touch capture or camera key only.
There are also various metering options, exposure compensation and various flash settings, but then lets not forget at the end, it is an LED unit and cannot replace a real camera with all these fancy settings.
Unfortunately there is no filters to play around. Especially when you are used to Instagrams, lack of fun filters to fiddle with your images makes it all serious no play with this camera. Neverthless the images are crisp and sharp and produces good results.
The following screenshot gives the video options. 1080 pixel video is quiet sharp and good. The camera’s fast to focus, allows you to zoom in while recording and produces very clean results at maximum resolution.
Music, video and browsing in Xperia S
Think Sony, think entertainment. After all we identify music and gaming with Sony. So obviously its natural to expect a good music and video enabled device from Sony and you would not be disappointed. Xperia S comes armed to entertain you. To begin with it comes with Music and Video Unlimited offering from where you can sign-up to Sony’s streaming entertainment hub. With a 4.3″ screen and a bravia engine screen display, it offers a fantastic video playback. Xperia S comes ready to stream content from and to your connected DLNA devices. So if you have a DLNA TV, you can throw the content directly from your phone to the TV effortlessly.
Audio quality as expected from Sony is brilliant and you have an equaliser and various surround-sound settings to fiddle with. Unfortunately DNLA features aren’t included in the music player.
Naturally with a large screen and a good resolution, browsing is a pleasure and a breeze. Thanks to Dual-core 1.5 GHz, Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon processor the web-browsing is faster and a delight.
Tech Specification of Xperia S
- 4.3″ LED backlit LCD display
- 720 x 1280 pixels resolution with 342 ppi pixel density
- 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm dimension and weights 144 grams
- Dual-core 1.5 GHz, Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon processor
- Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine for display
- Sony’s Timescape UI
- 1 GB RAM
- 32 GB internal storage
- 12 MP rear camera with autofocus, LED flash and a 1.3 MP rear camera
- camera features: Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, 3D sweep panorama, image stabilization
- Video: 1080p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light, video stabilizer
- Li-Ion 1750 mAh battery
- Available colors: White and Black
What I like in Xperia S
- The display is stunning
- Very good audio, video and camera functionality
- Good browsing experience
- Though it lacks expandable microSD card, it thankfully has a 32 GB internal memory
- Looks premium and good inspite of the fatness
- Good pricing viz a viz its competing models like HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3
What I did not like in Xperia S
- The touch navigation keys below the screen is not very responsive
- Lack of expandable microSD card
- Bulky form factor at the age of sleek smartphones
- Though the ICS update is due as of now still its Gingerbread Android, being a flagship model Sony could very well pushed it with ICS