Sony Xperia S review

Sony’s first smartphone since its split with Ericsson has an impressive screen and makes clever use of NFC technology, but are these features enough to make up for its year-old version of Android and a few other shortcomings? Julian Prokaza goes hands on with the Xperia S to find out.

IT Pro Verdict

The Xperia S is a solid ‘first’ Android smartphone from Sony, but there are a few too many foibles for us to recommend it — particularly at this price. Shipping with Android 4.0 ICS would certainly lift our opinion, but we doubt the imminent upgrade will improve the weak battery life, or sort out those unresponsive buttons.

The Xperia S is one of three new models that all run Android and whilst this is a high-end handset with a specification to match, the lower-end Xperia P and U devices also share one interesting new feature that we'll come to a little later.

Superb display and curvy design

With a 4.3" size and a resolution of 720 x 1280, the screen is one of the clearest we've ever seen and its 341ppi is actually higher than the iPhone 4/4S's benchmark-setting 326ppi.

Unlike the same-resolution Galaxy Nexus, there's no PenTile matrix trickery to degrade the image, and Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine technology gives rich, well-saturated colours with good contrast.

Sony Xperia S

Although its case is made from plastic, the Xperia S feels solid in the hand and there's no give or flex anywhere along its length. The rectangular shape and matte black finish make it look a little like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey', but it is rather stylish in an understated sort of way.

The thin back cover slides off for access to the micro-SIM card slot, but the non-removable battery is buried deep inside the smartphone and there's no memory card slot to expand the 32GB of storage. Although the Xperia S is a large smartphone, its curved back means it sits comfortably in the hand. However, this design also means that the device rocks from side to side when used on a flat surface.

A micro-HDMI port sits on the right side of the Xperia S and a micro-USB port on the left. Both are covered with a small plastic flap that's attached to the case with a slender rubbery strip.

The right side also has low-profile buttons for volume and camera shutter, while the power button is on the top edge. This is positioned right next to the 3.5mm headphone socket and headphones with a right-angled connector may hinder access, but we don't think this is a big deal.