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CES 2012. New Sony Products: Detailed Review of Android Solutions
The Sony pavillion was traditionally bustling with congested traffic inside. I was only interested in the new Android player and phones together with accessories. Tablets and other products were ignored by me as they are well known and you can read their reviews on our website. Let's start from the most interesting offerings. After all Sony can be proud of themselves.
Sony Xperia S
In real life the model impresses from the first glance. If Arc was just nice this handset evoked stronger emotions due to balanced dimensions. The phone fits the hand perfectly well with its perfect size of 128 mm x 64 mm x 10.6 mm and weight of 144 g. It oozes the style throughout.
Thankfully Sony opted out of using the glossy plastic and now we can benefit from more professional soft touch material with stain resistant features. You cannot feel the difference in exhibition samples touched by hundreds of palms. If you test a new phone you will see that traces are not so clear and the new surface clearly outperforms the glossy plastic in terms of soil resistance. Moreover, even after several months the body has almost no scratches.
Two colors (black and white) are available and I liked both.
The transparent stripe is a fine designer decision, though initially you feel confused when you try to press the controls shown there, but the actual buttons are located above. The stripe is completely transparent. Underneath we have an antenna, so it is not a useless appendix. Technologically, the model happens to be more sophisticated than it first seems.
The philosophy behind the model was thoroughly changed in comparison with current Sony Ericsson handsets, which may scare some. Instead of memory cards you are offered a 32 GB inbuilt module, which should keep you going for years. I see no issues here. We should also mention that the phone requires microSIM, which should be fine too. The battery cannot be detached, which ensures the solid feeling of the phone. There is no squeaking or gaps between elements. The build is on par with Apple iPhone 4/4s.
Another break with tradition lies in the screen. Sony decided not to compete with Samsung and others in brightness and saturation of colors by concentrating on the natural palette of colors instead. In the majority of cases if you don't need bright colors everything will look pretty lifelike. It does not mean that the screen cannot yield brighter colors. After all, Bravia Engine was created especially for this purpose. The phone is nice to use, but will probably lose out in a head-to-head comparison with rival flagships. Its guiding philosophy is just different, which can be attractive for many users.
A 4.3" screen boats an HD resolution of 720х1280 with high quality picture. It is covered with a plastic protection layer resisting the scratches. The screen is still easily soiled and you can notice dirt. Nevertheless, the screen of this model is not so outdated in the field of other Android flagships in 2012. The parameters are clearly above average.
The handset has a Qualcomm chipset under the hood featuring a dual core 1.5 GHz processor, which feels fast, though it is not the reference solution these days. The model cannot be considered slow by any means.
The camera is one of the key elements of the model as it is one of the first Android smartphones equipped with a 12 MP camera. Sony thought that the speed of camera activation is crucial and the dedicated button appeared on the side, which is a rare feat these days. Even the locked phone can focus on an object within 1.5 seconds and make a shot. Then you will see the shot. It sounds simple, but this camera indeed helps you make a shot without unlocking the phone, which can be cumbersome otherwise.
Apart from the quick camera launch we have a 12 MP Exmor-R module capable of decent shots indoors (I could not try it out outside). I will show you the pictures later on. The quality is decent and competes well with other Android smartphones. I definitely liked the camera, which is on par with other OS too (e.g. from Nokia).
The interface was thoroughly reworked to give as much information about any shot as possible. Settings can be accessed from the screen too. I did not test the LED flash, so I cannot comment on it so far.
The music player received additional equalizers, while traditional settings were left unchanged. At the same time you can now select the sound mode for headphones: club, concert, etc. The sound is really affected in this case.
Unlike the Walkman player on Android in this model we did not get a music amplifier. The sound is good, but not the best. I would also like to mention the Facebook integrated in several standard apps. For example, a photo from the gallery can be sent to friends. Alternatively, you can view comments to it, which is definitely convenient.
There is an HDMI jack on the body to connect the phone to TV. Sony adopted a different strategy here by changing the menu from the phone. You can add your own elements (apps), and what impressed me most of all is the chance to control phone apps by a TV remote. Browse the menu or enter lists. It is clearly an advantage of the phone.
Finally, pay attention how NFC was implemented in the phone. In the box you will find two tags and each of them can be associated with a particular activity. In a couple of short videos you can see different scenarios proposed by Sony. Everything works very simply. Move a smartphone across the tag and on screen you will get a message that changes are underway. Then your handset will carry out all programmed steps (it is not a solitary move, but a sequence of events – mute the speaker, open the browser and start the playback). Motorola Actions is capable of similar things with the only, but key difference – here everything can be started with touching the tag. If you watch the video you will have all possible questions answered. The first video shows scenarios in the brochure, while the second highlights their implementation.
Unfortunately, Sony is not ready to reveal the price of its newest handset. As a flagship Xperia S will not come cheaply, but the price will be crucial here. During the last years wrong pricing killed prospects of many handsets from SE and I will be gutted if something similar happens to this phone. It will not be a bestseller (there are no such ambitions anyway), but can serve as a decent alternative to those who does not want to buy Samsung Galaxy S2/S3 or Apple iPhone 4/4s. The latest offering from the struggling manufacturer emerged balanced and can be recommended for purchase.
In March the phone will appear in stores with Android 2.3.5 inside with the upgrade until Android 4.0 slated for the second quarter. In the German office of Sony Ericsson I was unofficially informed that the retail price will be 499 Euros, which is 100 Euros less than Sony Ericsson Arc at the start of sales. This price is quite balanced.
In the Sony pavillion I saw only a handful of samples with the Sony label as the rest of prototypes had a SE brand name.
Finally, look at the photo of Sony Ion for AT&T. It has a slightly bigger screen and supports LTE. Apart from design everything else is the same. To my mind Xperia S looks better.
Smart Wireless Headset pro
I liked accessories offered alongside the phone. For example, Smart Wireless Headset pro is a wireless Bluetooth headset with inbuilt memory (microSD card) and FM radio. When disconnected from the phone it can play saved music or allow you to listen to the radio. This nice looking device has two features combined.
A tiny black and white screen displays calls, helps you select music for playback (names of musicians, genres and other parameters are shown too), which can be played from the phone too. Similarly to the new watch we have a phone search option here. Select this menu item and the phone responds with vibro and sound.
We are offered around 500 hours on standby and 10 hours of active operation, which is good for this type of headset. The body is easily soiled, but the design is spot on.
SmartWatch can be used with any Android smartphone to display weather or time, control music and so on. You can search for the phone lying somewhere. Developers can create their apps for the watch. I was always wondering how to wake the watch up. Sony has three possible approaches: double tap on the screen, shaking or simply press the side button. Choose what you like.
Silicone bracelets come in many colors. They are pleasant to feel and can be washed. For those who want more fancy options Sony provides a special adaptor looking like a metal plate to connect to any bracelet. The photo shows a Fossil bracelet.
We can review the calls list and social networks messages among other things. On the body there is a clip to use the screen differently. As far as iPod with the bracelet proved popular we can expect this combination to be attractive as well. Despite the failure of the first product from Liveview this time around the watch can become more successful. This small video gives the overall description of the accessory.
For the first time the prototype of this player was shown in September during IFA in Berlin. By January the player received a code name and its features were made public. Remembering my sarcasm that a player on Android makes no sense due to the lack of hardware support I have to admit that Sony engineers made wonders. Apart from Tegra2 the player comes equipped for the first time (among Android solutions) with a separate amplifier for music playback (S-Master MX). We can judge the performance only if we try the player in real life. I have been missing the quality sound similar to Sony Walkman players and many advanced settings.
These are not simple equalizers, which surprise no one today, but additional settings. For example, Clear Stereo neutralizes the impact of right or left channel by balancing them. DSEE restores upper tones in mp3, which is helpful for compressed sound files. Sound can be also balanced for all tracks. Several technologies improve the sound of inbuilt stereo speakers. I can continue on end, but will only mention that the player enchanted me with an exhaustive list settings for its class. The bottom line is that it sounds well.
Android 2.3 is inside, but we are not promised an upgrade to 4.0 so far. It is not really necessary here. The player will be offered in several brights colors and 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB of memory.
The music player was considerably altered an boasts SenseMe technology (tracks selected according to the rhythm or mood). The same applies to the gallery. There is also an inbuilt FM radio, but the main point is excellent sound. In the era of iPod, which is fine for all this player will not be too popular, but it is a true Walkman. A real thoroughbred.
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Published 22 January 2012
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