Unlike a lot of Sony Xperia handsets we have used in the past the Sony Xperia S has got to have the best build quality we have ever seen from the manufacturer. However while the specs are top draw on paper (NFC, dual-core 1.5Ghz CPU, 12MP camera), in use the screen and battery life could have been better.
Mind you the Sony Xperia S's build quality could be attributed to its weight (144g) rather than anything else. However there are some nice design touches to go with it.
For example below the 4.3” screen you have a clear see-through plastic bar which showcases the function of each of the Android buttons above. The only negative to say about this is the touch sensitive buttons themselves, in that they are a little fiddly to press without more pressure applied.
You could argue that the premium feel is somewhat let down by the flimsy microUSB and miniHDMI covers which you have to remove in order to gain access to the ports, but at least these prevent dust/debris from getting inside.
As for the screen, this is adorned with an impressive 720P HD resolution (720 x 1280 pixels) and while this is good on-paper, our feelings to the quality were mixed. For example the screen does suffer from slight overexposure (at higher brightness) - but only when the screen is looked at from certain viewing angles. It also lacks the vibrancy of a Super AMOLED screen, but the colours do have a more natural tone to compensate.
However in terms of on-screen icons, fonts, YouTube videos (in HD) and standard video playback the screen certainly revealed superb detail and the films we watched were definitely enhanced by the propriety BRAVIA Engine.
Our review model only came with Android 2.3 (as Sony had not released the ICS update at the time of testing), so we can’t really go into too much detail about the UI as this will have changed by the time you read this.
However on our review sample Sony did provides a nice batch of software including a music player that has a series of great sound profiles which brought the music to life.
Like a lot of manufactures these days, namely HTC, Sony have omitted the standard microSD card slot, so you will have to rely on the internal storage. Luckily this is pretty reasonable as you get 32GB as standard.
Performance wise the device was also respectable, but despite the dual-core 1.5Ghz CPU Sony have utilised an older Snapdragon chipset. Compare this to the HTC One S (which we reviewed earlier) the Sony’s Vellamo score (a free benchmark program) was 1232, compared to HTC’s 2409. Of course the phone is still no slouch, but what you are getting from this handset is technically out-of-date technology.
Outdoors we have to admit the screen/12MP camera functioned reasonably well. Mind you while the camera shots were good at times there were certainly no outstanding pics (considering this is a 12MP camera), as some of the images could have been more vibrant.
However the camera does have a range of on-board features for enhancing the camera shots, including 3D capturing support.
This option is handled like a panorama shot, so you have to move the camera in a pre-set fashion around your position to take photos. It’s just a pity that you can only view the results back on a 3D compatible TV and not the handset itself.
In terms of battery tests we always leave the phone antenna (plus data) running while setting the backlight to Max.
We then run a video for 2 hours and 15 minutes to gain an idea of how much battery life is left from a full charge.
Unfortunately the Sony's battery life is pretty poor and there was only 52% remaining from the above tests.
For general heavy use involving WiFi streaming, Games and Web Browsing, the phone will certainly require a daily charge. Hopefully the new ICS update will have improved the Battery life but with a 1750mAh battery and such a powerful CPU/hi-res screen you are always going to get a bigger hit.
Spec Link: http://www.clove.co.uk/sony-xperia-s