The panorama capture setting didn't like it when we scrolled too slow, but speed up too much, and it didn't like that either. Keeping up with the phone also means that you'll often get undulations on straight edges like buildings and roads - the only solution for this is a tripod. If you haven't bought into the three-dimensional revolution just, you may find the panorama sweep for 2D images just as useful - it's pre-installed, though it suffers the same juddering motions. We're skeptical that the feature will see much use outside of its first showing, and its arrival on all 2011 Xperia devices in a firmware update very soon -- not to mention the high chances of inclusion within Ice Cream Sandwich -- means its chance to differentiate the Arc S from its forebear is all but non-existent.
Whilst the newer phone consistently scored higher than the first, we were hard-pressed to notice any meaningful difference.
The improved processor makes itself known in several benchmark tests. Its Qudrant score bested the original Arc's by 200 points, while it notched an average score of 14.2 in Nenamark 2, up from 13.3 with the first-gen Arc. Whilst the newer phone consistently scored higher than the first, we were hard-pressed to notice any meaningful difference. As we noted, if you're prone to visiting graphically intense sites, or have an itchy scrolling finger, the Arc S is generally more than capable of keeping up with you. For media-streaming apps, the Arc S was also several seconds ahead of its ancestor, as were start-up times from off. Within the curved silhouette, Sony Ericsson have crammed in the same 1,500mAh battery found on the original Arc, and (despite the minor hardware and software changes), battery life seemed roughly equivalent. We managed to push six hours of non-stop video playback, and the phone also managed to last a day of standard use which included connecting several times to WiFi networks, occasional web browsing about two hours of music playback alongside push email and a medley of social network notifications. Using the phone's built-in battery monitor, we found that it was that rich Reality Display that was drawing on most of the battery and that toying with the brightness settings helped eke out a little more life from the dying cell. Call quality was superb, with due praise going to the secondary mic, which was able to cancel out a good chunk of ambient noise when making calls.
The Xperia Arc S is a very capable single-core smartphone and debuts alongside Sony Ericsson's latest Gingerbread retweaks. Sadly these don't add enough to recommend it much beyond the original Xperia Arc. The 3D Panorama Sweep may get an obligatory party-trick showing a handful of times, but it's difficult to imagine it'll be a regularly-used feature. In comparison to its predecessor, the upgraded CPU doesn't seem to give much of a boost to day-to-day use, aside from ever-so-slightly reduced (but by no means instant) start-up times and load times for streaming media. There's really not much here to push the Xperia Arc S beyond what we've seen on its predecessor-- this is even more true once that software upgrade hits the eight-month-old original. (Even rival phones that get upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade look likely to pick up a panoramic sweep option too.) Both the screen and camera remain the strongest weapons in the Xperia Arc S' arsenal, and priced beneath more powerful headliner smartphones, both the Arc and Arc S are very capable, attractive offerings. Yet, they can't stand toe-to-toe with the likes of rival flagship handsets like Samsung's Galaxy S II
, which offers up a stronger combination of power, screen technology and build quality. The Xperia Arc S is now available in Europe, priced off-contract at £340 ($529). If Sony Ericsson are holding back on their own dual-core wonder
, we'd advise they got around to getting it out here -- everyone's doing it.