Sony Xperia S review

26 Apr 2012

A decent all-rounder with a fantastic screen and a very reasonable price tag undermined by unacceptable battery life

Price when reviewed: 
379(£380 inc VAT)more
4

The Xperia range of smartphones has proved a little hit and miss for Sony, but the latest makes a superb first impression. The Xperia S’s curved, matte-black rear looks classy and feels comfortable in the palm, and it has a unique feature: near the foot of the device a translucent plastic bar lights up with the three Back, Home and Menu icons.

Seeing your hand through the phone is odd at first, but it makes the phone eye-catching. They’re not actual buttons, though; instead you have to tap three tiny touch-sensitive dots black directly above the bar, which lessens the effect somewhat.

Sony Xperia S

Above the bar sits a screen with the same 720 x 1,280 resolution as the HTC One X, but on a smaller 4.3in panel, which makes for a stunning pixel density of 342ppi – the highest we’ve yet seen. Text and images look tremendously sharp, and colours are also superb. The contrast ratio of 688:1 can’t match the HTC’s 1,138:1, but with a maximum brightness from the LED backlight of 461cd/m2, the Xperia S is clear and bright and handles sunlight better than the AMOLED panel of the Samsung Galaxy S II.

Take a closer look, though, and cracks appear. The seam between screen and phone collects dust and dirt at an alarming rate, as well as looking old hat when rivals are milled from single blocks of polycarbonate, and the same applies to the recessed speaker. There’s a definite creak around the join at the bottom of the device, and the back panel isn’t exactly sturdy either. Plus, it’s a bigger device than its rivals, at 10.6mm thick and 144g.

The back of the Xperia S houses the 12-megapixel camera, which also shoots 1080p, 30fps video recording, with autofocus and an LED flash. It’s easy to use, with a good variety of options, from a panorama mode that also takes 3D images, to smile detection that works quickly and accurately.

Sony Xperia S

Images were generally sharp, but colours were more washed out next to the 8-megapixel camera on the HTC One X. Pictures showed a little more grain when zoomed in, and close-ups were a little blurrier than those on the HTC. Video quality was fine, although with the same washed-out colours.

Inside, there’s nothing as powerful as the HTC’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip; here you get a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon CPU, with graphical power via an Adreno 220. There’s the standard 1GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage, which can’t be upgraded, and 802.11n Wi-Fi is included alongside NFC.

The Sony managed a Quadrant benchmark score of 3,205, which is good but nowhere near the One X’s 4,927, and it lagged behind in the SunSpider test, too, completing it in 2,611ms compared to only 2,071ms from the HTC.

Details

Price ex VAT £316
Price inc VAT £379
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £21.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider Phones4u
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 64 x 10 x 128mm (WDH)
Weight 144g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 1.00GB
Camera megapixel rating 12.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.3in
Resolution 720 x 1280
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android