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Thread: Our review of the Sony Xperia S

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    Our review of the Sony Xperia S

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    The Xperia S sports Sony’s new design-language. It’s got very sharp lines - the person who designed it must have been using a lot of graph paper.

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    The bottom part of the phone is transparent just like some older Sony TV’s. The hardware buttons are just dots with their icons below in the clear part. It’s a poorly thought out design because your thumb covers the icons when you’re pressing them so you can’t see their function. If you’ve used other Android phones, you’ll notice that Sony flips the location so that the menu button is on the left and the back on the right. Still, it’s a relatively minor complaint since there are only 3 buttons to memorize. A real complaint about the buttons is that they don’t always respond. Sometimes I had to press them more than once. I wonder if Sony will simply disable them once they release their Ice Cream Sandwich update (ICS has soft menu keys).

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    The body is plastic with a very flat finish. It feels kind of cheap because there’s no glossy or rubberized coating. It kind of looks and feels like someone painted it with liquid paper. To stick a SIM card in the Xperia you have to remove the back cover. Oddly enough, while the back cover comes off I was blown away that the battery is not removable and there’s no micro SDHC card slot. The Xperia could have been so much more solid had Sony just used a side mounted SIM card slot like the iPhone, RAZR, Galaxy Tab, Lumia 800 and ditched the removable back cover.

    The bottom part of the Xperia below the softkeys flexes a little if you try to move it back and forth. While no one’s going to try this normally it does cause me to worry about its durability. The back cover has a bit of play to it but aside from that and the bottom part the Xperia doesn’t creak or twist when you squeeze it.

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    Power button, headphone jack

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    Micro USB port

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    HDMI port, volume buttons, camera button

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    camera, speaker, flash.

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    Like most similar phones the Xperia S is more or less the same thickness as the iPhone 4s.

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    Its larger display means it's longer and wider than the 4s.

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    I also had a chance to compare the Xperia with the HTC One S and One V. While the HTC's target a different segment of the market it's still interesting to see them all next to each other.

    While the Xperia has higher specs the HTC's felt more solid and I couldn't help noticing their screens had less colour shift.

    The display is a 4.3” LCD with a resolution of 1280x720. In terms of pixel density it weighs in at 342ppi - higher than the iPhone 4s/Galaxy Nexus. The display is as sharp as a tack. It’s very bright - I made the mistake of forgetting to turn the brightness down before I went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and was temporarily blinded by how bright it was. Speaking of blinding me, for whatever reason Sony removes the auto brightness feature. They’ve been doing this on their Android phones for a while.

    Colours are really saturated - it’s very pleasing to the eye but at the same time it makes everything kind of fake looking. Ironically, Sony calls it a ‘Reality display’. It reminds me of a TV you’d find at the store where everything is turned up to 11. There is a very noticeable off angle colour shift - more so than other high-end phone LCD’s. Black levels are very average - you won’t mistake this for a AMOLED display in these 2 respects.

    Sometimes I accidentally touch the bottom right of the screen when I’m holding the Xperia with one hand and reach across the screen with my thumb. I was using Trillian - an instant messaging client with a send button in the bottom right - and sent a lot of incomplete messages by accident.

    While I appreciate that Sony includes an HDMI port, I question how many people actually use it. It would be easier to just use DLNA. I would have rather they skipped the HDMI port, added HDMI via USB (MHL) support and used that space for a MicroSIM slot so that they could eliminate the battery cover.

    Besides the 1280x720 display, the Xperia’s big feature is its 12.1MP camera sensor. The image quality doesn’t disappoint, but I wasn’t blown away either - it felt like an evolution of the 8MP camera you’d find on many, many other higher-end devices.

    The first thing I noticed is that the lens doesn’t feel too wide. It didn’t occur to me to check this but my seat-of-the-pants feel is that is no wider than 35mm. This isn’t a good or a bad thing - wider angle lenses are more flexible in that you can always go closer to a subject but you can’t always go further. The problem with wider angle lenses is that sometimes they capture too much background which makes for busy looking photos.

    You’ll love the Xperia if you take a lot of candid photos. All you do is take it out, press and hold the camera button and it will take a picture. You don’t even have to hit the power button first to wake it up! I love this feature, nothing is worse than want to take a picture and then having to navigate through the menus to start up the camera app. Although, the Xperia doesn’t always focus properly when you use this feature.

    It focuses fairly quickly and the shot-to-shot speeds are excellent.

    There is an awkward pause from when you press the shutter button to when the image shows up on the screen. It’s not a big deal but it makes it feel less intuitive.

    Video quality is excellent, my only issue is that the Xperia is really susceptible to shake because the camera is too close to the side - it makes it awkward to hold. I was impressed that the Xperia’s microphone doesn’t pick up any handling noise plus it records really clean audio.

    I hate how the Xperia crops its center pixels when capturing video. This means video is much more ‘zoomed in’ than when you’re taking photos. So you end up having to move further from your subject which isn’t always possible - especially indoors. The iPhone 4s and Galaxy S II also do this too and it drives me crazy. They should learn a thing or two from the HTC Raider, Amaze and Motorola RAZR which capture video with their entire sensor. What companies should do is capture video with the entire sensor and then offer a zoom feature which uses just the center pixels. Then they’d be able to offer a digital zoom which doesn’t really degrade quality.

    Software-wise the S is running Gingerbread (Android 2.3) with an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich around the corner in Q2 2012. It’s more or less the same software that was found on last year’s Sony Ericsson phones like the Xperia Ray, Pro and Arc. I’ve noticed that Sony has updated their theme. The biggest change is that they no longer use the idiotic check boxes in their menus which looks like they’re filled in when they’re not checked.

    On last year’s phones, I thought the Sony Ericsson customizations didn’t slow their phones down too much. In the past, Sony Ericsson was criticized for shipping their phones with outdated software and taking too long to bring updates to market. To address this problem SE changed their approach to their customizations. They try to write their software so it’s less dependant on a specific version of Android. While it’s true the Xperia S is shipping with Gingerbread you likely won’t have to wait over a year for an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade.

    Sony’s customizations center around their Timescape widget, which is a social media aggregator. As far as social media goes, there’s also a program that lets you keep dibs on music and videos your friends have shared on Facebook.

    There’s DLNA support so you can play media or send media to and from compatible devices that are connected to the same WiFi/ethernet network.

    I was pleasantly surprised that ASTRO file manager was preinstalled.

    The Xperia is Playstation certified. While I admit that I forgot to test this feature, I wonder whether it means anything since the S lacks the extra buttons that the Xperia Play has.

    Other included programs are MobiSystems OfficeSuite 5 which allows you to view Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDFs. There’s a Power saver program which lets you specify which features you want turned on/off depending on the battery level. Things you can turn on/off include: WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, screen brightness level, background data and auto sync. It’s too bad they don’t also have an easy way to lock the orientation of the screen like Samsung and Apple have.

    The Xperia uses a dual core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon processor. It’s similar to what you’d get on an HTC Amaze, LG Optimus LTE and Galaxy Note LTE so I’d expect the Xperia’s benchmark scores to be similar to those phones.

    Sunspider:

    Sunspider is a browser based benchmark so we can use it to compare device across various platforms. Lower scores are better.

    Samsung Galaxy Nexus 1990.5
    Apple iPhone 4s 2222.8
    LG Optimus LTE 2361.2
    Sony Xperia S 2492.9
    Blackberry Bold 9900 2700.8
    Samsung Galaxy Note 2811.7

    It will be interesting to see if the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade will improve the Xperia's Sunspider score.

    GL Benchmark 2.1.2:

    The S wasn’t able to run the off-screen GL Benchmark test so I’m only comparing it with other Android phones with similar resolutions. I’ve also noticed that GL Benchmark is up to version 2.1.2 which from my tests results in higher scores compared with 2.1.1 so I won’t be including results from older phones.

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 2874
    Samsung Galaxy Note 3152
    Sony Xperia S 3188

    All 3 of these devices share the same processor so I’m not surprised that the Note and S are virtually identical. The Tab is running Honeycomb so perhaps that’s why it gets lower scores.

    Basemark:

    Sony Xperia S 18.34
    Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 16.97
    Samsung Galaxy Nexus 8.81
    Samsung Galaxy Note 16.56
    Asus Transformer Prime 13.44

    For the Basemark comparisons I chose these devices because they all have similar screen resolutions (either 1280x720 or 1280x800). The Xperia does quite well here, outscoring all the other devices I listed including the Tegra 3 powered Asus Transformer Prime.

    To test the battery life I turned off all wireless settings, maxed out the screen brightness and played a video until the battery died. The Xperia has a non-removable 1750mAh battery.

    Samsung Galaxy Nexus 222 mins
    Sony Xperia S 240
    Motorola RAZR 242
    LG Optimus LTE 242
    Samsung Galaxy S II 250
    HTC Amaze 4G 283
    HTC Raider 303
    Samsung Galaxy Note 329
    Blackberry Bold 9900 358
    Apple iPhone 4s 422

    While not as loud as the iPhone 4s’ speaker the Xperia’s is still really loud. Compared to the 4s, the Xperia’s is more tinny/AM radio sounding.

    While I thought the incoming sound quality was very good there was a constant buzzing sound that pulsed - “zzz, zzz, zzz”. Outgoing sound quality is pretty good.

    Maximum earpiece volume is also good, it’s about as loud as my iPhone 4s in this regard. RF performance is also very similar to the iPhone 4s which makes it better than last year’s batch of Xperia’s and overall an above average phone in this respect.

    While the built-in speaker is very loud for music, it’s merely adequate when used as a speaker phone.

    As I mentioned earlier, there’s no MicroSDHC card slot. In this case, it’s not so bad because there is 32GB of storage built in of which 25.8GB is available so it’s much more tolerable than the HSPA Galaxy Nexus in this regard.

    Overall, I have mixed feelings about the Xperia S. It’s bland looking with a bland finish. I appreciate that Sony is trying to give the S a distinctive ‘Sony’ look but they need to send it back to the sketch book for more tweaking.

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    On paper, the Xperia S is easily a high end phone. 12 megapixel camera, 4.3” 1280x720 display, 32GB storage, dual core 1.5Ghz processor. The problem with it is that it doesn’t feel like a high end phone. Phones like the iPhone 4s, HTC Amaze/Raider/Sensation, Blackberry Bold 9900 all have a substantial feel to them. The Xperia has monster specs but it doesn’t feel any different from a zero dollar phone. It’s like they gave it specs to compete with HTC and Samsung’s upcoming high-end phones but the body to undercut them on price.

    Highs:
    screen looks great
    camera
    lots of built-in storage
    RF performance

    Lows:
    looks and feels cheap (maybe the black version feels better)
    buttons don’t always respond

    Interestingly:
    back cover comes off but the battery is built-in!

  2. #2
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    Fellow HC,

    To me, the eye-pleasing screen and the camera performance are the selling points...



    A little comparison...

    Captured by the Sony XPERIA S:


    Original


    Original

    Captured by the Samsung Galaxy S II:


    Original


    Original
    Last edited by HC - NO "i"; 03-28-2012 at 03:17 PM.
    --

    HC - NO "i"
    I am NOT "the" HC, we are TWO different individuals!


    "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing!" - Jon Stewart, Comedian

  3. #3
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    nice post and strong phone

  4. #4
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    i having one!! love it!!

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