HANDS ON: Sony Xperia S

We got a preview of the Sony Xperia S, the 12-megapixel HD superphone launched at CES, the first product of the Sony monolith since it bought out long time telecoms partner, Ericsson. As we've come to expect from Sony, it's a powerhouse for multimedia, with the company's HDTV tech making for a brilliant display, and its Cyber-shot pedigree showing in the 12-megapixel camera.

The sample we saw wasn't running the final software, so we can't give a verdict on some aspects, in particular the camera. For now, here are some of our first impressions.


The Xperia S is made of plastic but in classic Sony fashion, the build quality is high with a reassuring heft in the hand. A 4.3-inch LED-backlit LCD screen stretches across the front face, with the BRAVIA graphics engine delivering crisp visuals to a piquant 342 ppi density. For comparison's sake, the Reality display of the iPhone 4S squeezes in 330 ppi.


Sony Xperia S

Multimedia powerhouse, yo


Below it sits a slim, translucent bar housing three glowing icons for Home, Back and All Programs. Slightly unnaturally, these icons don't actually do anything – it's the tiny dots of light directly above each that you press for action.


The fonts and icons have been spruced up since the last Xperia phone – larger but more minimalist, there's a hint of Windows Phone 7 freshness about it, particularly in the clock widget.


Sony Xperia S back

You can see the glowing menu icons from

behind in that translucent bar


While fellow Android manufacturer HTC has already been confirmed to launch quad-core phones next month, Sony is only just arriving to the dual-core party. The Xperia S packs a 1.5GHz two-cored chip, with 1GB of RAM for multitasking and 32GB of built-in storage. No microSD slot, though.

Speaking of micro, the Xperia S is just the latest in a string of new launches that will come with a MicroSIM slot, a la Nokia Lumia 800, iPhone 4(S), Motorola RAZR, and the new crop of HTC phones.


Sony Xperia S

Not too slim, not too fat at 10.6mm


The Xperia S is all kinds of hyper-clear, with a ‘true HD' screen packing in a resolution of 1280x720 pixels. Its home screen displayed in vivid colour and clarity, which bodes well for all those Blu-ray movies you'll be loading on.

There's also a 12-megapixel camera – not the first time Sony's tried it on a phone, either – with 1080p video capture capabilities, but as the software wasn't final on the models we saw, we can't comment on its quality.

The capacitive touch-screen is the best Sony has produced, speedier and more responsive than previous efforts like the Xperia Arc. A preloaded ‘gesture keyboard' gives you Swype-like skills for faster texting – just drag your finger from letter to letter to spell a word in (if you practice) double time. We were far more impressed with its auto-correct and general accuracy than we've been with any other Sony keyboard.

Android Gingerbread

The Xperia S features five home screens to customise as you please – but as with previous Xperia Android phones, the ‘S' sports a distinctive Sony skin. The Timescape widget is still around, and there are still the Rolodex-like widgets for showing album art in the music player, for example.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that the Xperia S is launching on Android Gingerbread at all, when many other phones will sprint out of the gates with its more powerful Ice Cream Sandwich update. Sony confirms that the Xperia S will be upgradeable, but considering the high level of customisation on the stock Android interface, we're expecting that upgrade to be down a rather long road.

The Xperia S is available SIM-free from 5 March, with networks to confirm tariffs and shelf dates. It'll come in black and white, the latter of which will launch exclusively at Phones 4u.

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