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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.

Benchmarking

The Xperia S stacks up impressively against some of the best devices out there, including the iPhone 4S.

Xperia S Benchmarks

Quadrant Standard 3127

Geekbench 941

Sunspider 2681

Battery test 6hr 15mins

A score of 3127 in the Quadrant Standard synthetic Android benchmark makes it fastest Android smartphone we've seen so far. A score of 941 on the Geek Bench multi-platform processor benchmark is also some way ahead of the iPhone 4S's 626. However, the Apple device still has the edge in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark though, where its faster web browser gives a rendering time of 2245ms, compared to the Xperia S's 2681ms.

Smart Tags offer some differentiation

That interesting feature we mentioned at the start is NFC (Near-Field Communication) support or Sony's particular exploitation of it. Although now standard issue on many smartphones, NFC has yet to be much use in the UK. Thankfully, Sony's dog tag-like Smart Tags' make use of it to trigger various Android functions just by touching a tag to the case.

Sony Xperia S smart tags

For example, a smart tag kept by the bed could be used to activate the silent sound profile and disable Wi-Fi to save battery power, while one kept in the car could launch a GPS app and enable Bluetooth for use with a hands-free kit.

Smart Tag actions are configured using a simple interface and the system is not unlike the Motorola RAZR's Smart actions'.

Just like that smartphone's GPS-based system though, the usefulness of Sony's Smart Tags is limited by their inability to trigger a specific function within an app so that bedroom tag can't activate a wake-up alarm, for example. The Xperia S comes with two Smart Tags and a pack of four costs 14.40.

Overall

At 450 for an unlocked handset, the Xperia S is one of the more expensive Android smartphones and it doesn't knock the year-old Samsung Galaxy S II from our Android top spot.

We found the Xperia to have so-so battery life, awkward button arrangement and outdated version of the operating system that largely negated the great screen and clever NFC Smart Tag feature.

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.

OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread Processor: Qualcomm SnapDragon MSM8260 dual-core (1.5GHz) Storage: 1GB RAM; 32GB user Screen: 4.3” (720 x 1280) TFT capacitive multi-touch Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, microUSB; micro-HDMI, DLNA, NFC, 3.5mm headphone socket Other: Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, digital compass, AGPS, FM tuner Bands: GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900Mhz; UMTS HSPA 850/900/1900/2100MHz Camera: 12MP rear with LED flash and autofocus; 1.3MP front Battery: 1750mAh (8h30m talk time; 450h standby time) Size: 128 x 64 x 10.6mm Weight: 144g

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