The top of the range Xperia handset provides a top of the class multimedia experience.
Launched to much fanfare, the new Xperia range of handsets was expected to represent the perfect opportunity for Sony Mobile to gain a foothold in the increasingly competitive smartphone market. With a nationwide marketing campaign supporting a beautiful looking handset, the chances of the Xperia range breaking into the big leagues are looking good. Here, we take a closer look at the Xperia S, the top-of-the-range model, which ships with all of Sony’s multimedia bells and whistles. With deals starting from as little as £20 a month, we’re looking at a high-end handset with a mid-range price point.
Out of the Box
Out of the box, the first thing to note about the Xperia S is its size. We’re looking at a 128mm x 64mm slab of smartphone, which is head and shoulders above the likes of the iPhone but in reality, is the way many modern smartphones are going.
Here’s the Xperia S alongside the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the iPhone 4S for comparison. It’s certainly the biggest here, however with the newly released HTC One X measuring in a further 6.4 millimetres long and 5.9 millimetres wide, it’s not the biggest on the market.
Sony Xperia S
128 x 64 x 10.6 mm
Samsung Galaxy S2
125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm
115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm
The handset is dominated by its 4.3-inch HD screen, which delivers a sharp display backed up by Sony’s Bravia technology. Sony tech features heavily in this handset, which we’ll explore throughout this review.
Despite its size, the handset isn’t heavy and feels comfortable in my hand, with a smooth, slightly curved back. The wake-up switch is on the top left hand corner and as I’m used to waking up phones in the top right or from a central button on the face of the handset, I found wrapping my finger around to it a bit awkward.
At the bottom of the phone is a see-through band that highlights a home button in the centre and then a back button on the left and menu button to the right. It’s lit with a backlight and looks quite neat when switched on, however the buttons are actually above the strip, not encased within it. So picture me, on first attempt, thumbing away at the strip, only to find that I’m meant to press the little white dot above it.
Sony has shunned the idea of loading your micro-sim via a slot and instead encased it in the back of phone, which is accessed by removing the plastic back. This felt a little flimsy in operation but doesn’t really detract from the build. Aside from this, I found the phone sturdy, responsive and the interface intuitive. Let’s look at that in more detail.
Phone Set up
The phone comes with a 1.5GHz dual core processor and ships with Android’s 2.3 Gingerbread release, although will be upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). Although ICS is designed to give users more intuitive navigation and faster access with a refined user interface, the Xperia S doesn’t disappoint in this department. Its responsive, customisable trays give you easy access to your favourite apps in a flash.
Now we’re getting into Sony’s comfort zone. Packing 12MP on the back and a 1.3MP forward facing camera, we’re beginning to experience the Xperia’s strengths. The camera has touch-focus, geo-tagging, face and smile detection as well as 3D sweep panorama and image stabilisation. It’s also incredibly quick to start up. Simply press the camera button on the phone’s side and you can be taking a picture in little over a second.
This is all well and good, but what about the quality of the images it takes?
We put the Xperia S camera to the test against two of its rivals, the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the iPhone 4. As the S2 and 4S have 8MP cameras, we decided to test with the iPhone 4, which has a 5MP.
Here are three images, taken on a dreary Thursday morning in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, with the three cameras. Can you identify which photograph was taken by the Sony Xperia S?
The first one here was the iPhone 4’s 5MP camera, followed by 12MP might of the Sony Xperia S and finally the 8MP Samsung Galaxy S2. There’s a noticeable quality gap between the Samsung and the Xperia cameras, whereas the step-up in quality between the iPhone’s 5MP and the Samsung’s 8MP is tiny.
In terms of quality, there’s no competition with the Sony Xperia S from these three.
Again, Sony Mobile has been pushing the quality of the Xperia S’ HD 1080p video, both in terms of playback and recording. The handset comes pre-loaded with videos that show-off its range of sharp colours, which gives it great depth of field. For a true understanding of its quality, I’ve put the handset up against the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S2 in a field test.
When viewed through the handsets, the Xperia S wins hands down, however once uploaded to YouTube, there’s little to choose from, when viewed in similar size windows. That’s because I’m viewing them through a non-HD screen. Even though the videos are named here, it’s not an easy job telling the difference between the three, is it?
Once you’ve recorded your video, you can hook your Sony Xperia S up to your HD TV via its HDMI port on the side of the phone. You can also download movies from the Sony Entertainment Network to watch on the phone, or again, plug it into your TV and watch through a bigger screen. This effectively turns the phone into a versatile multimedia centre and gives it a real USP over its rivals in the smartphone market.
Again, Sony is taking advantage of its position as a giant in the games industry by offering one of the best gaming experiences with the Xperia S. As with video, you can download games to the handset, plug it into your TV and then play using a controller.
This is actually a PlayStation Certified smartphone however I’m not actually convinced that this is what a smartphone is for though. Serious gamers will have the PS3 whereas smartphone gamers want Angry Birds or Draw Something – something that you can pick up for five minutes and then put down.
I found battery life to be fine – or as you expect from a smartphone these days. If you use it heavily through the day, you’ll need to recharge it again that night. Over the course of a few days, I had heavy usage days, which saw the battery go down to around 30%, and then light usage, which ended the day on around 80% of its capacity. Charge is nice and quick and comes with USB and foldaway plug in the box.
I liked the Sony Xperia S a lot more than I was expecting. I don’t think it’s an iPhone 4S (or 5) competitor, but it’s up there with being the best of the Android rest. I liked the sharp colours and HD screen, its fast and easy to use interface, its 12MP camera and you know what, I actually like its size; my iPhone 4 is looking quite slight as it sits next to the Xperia S on my desk.
With Sony Xperia S deals starting at as little as £20, it’s temptingly priced to capture Android lovers and maybe, just maybe, attract the glances of the iPhone 4 crowd.
Sony Xperia S Deals
Tesco Phone Shop have some market leading deals on the Sony Xperia S and other smartphones on all networks.
Compare the Stats
Sony Xperia S
Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X
|Size||128 x 64 x 10.6 mm||125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm||115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm||134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm|
|Memory||32 GB storage, 1 GB RAM||16GB/32GB storage, 1 GB RAM||16/32/64 GB storage, 512 MB RAM||32 GB (26 GB user-available) storage, 1 GB RAM|
|Camera||12 MP, 4000×3000 pixels, autofocus, LED flash||8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash||8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash||8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash|
|OS||Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) with upgrade to v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) due||Android version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), and is upgradable to v4.x (Ice Cream Sandwich)||iOS 5, upgradable to iOS 5.1||Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)|
|Processor||Dual-core 1.5 GHz||Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9||Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9||Quad-core 1.5 GHz|