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First Impressions: Sony Xperia S

UPDATE: Check out our full Xperia S review.

The Sony Xperia S is finally revealed in Asia at their Shanghai event. Previously known as the Sony Ericsson Nozomi, the Xperia S is the first device from its Sony Xperia NXT (Next Generation smart phone) line up. It also marks the first ever Xperia Smart Phone from Sony however at present time, the name change is still subject to regulatory approval.

In terms of specification, Sony Ericsson has finally jumped onto the dual-core bandwagon as the Xperia S is running on a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor. It has 1GB of RAM and generous 32GB of internal storage. The Xperia S will be available in 2 colours – black & white.

A key highlight is the 4.3″ TFT Reality Display which pushes a high resolution of 1280×720 pixels. While 720p HD display isn’t exactly new for Android smart phones, the screen size of 4.3″ means higher screen pixel density at 338ppi. As comparison, the 3.5″ iPhone 4/4S has a density of 326ppi while the 4.65″ Galaxy Nexus is at 316ppi.

So how’s the Xperia S? Head after the break for our first impressions and hands-on video.

In terms of design, the Xperia S went for a simplicity route. Sony describes their design approach as “Iconic Identity” where it has a simple strong look that’s easily recognisable. With so many Android devices out there which looked roughly the same, Sony has added more emphasis on design in order to stand out.

In the hands, the Xperia S feels great and the soft matte finish gives it a premium feel. One benefit for going matte is that it doesn’t leave fingerprint smudges, a common problem with glossy surfaces. The build quality on the Xperia S feels much more studier than the Xperia arc. Despite not having ultra slim profile as the Xperia arc, the Xperia S has a unique curved back that’s comfortable to hold.

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The “transparent belt” located at the footer gives it a unique look and it illuminates when a button is pressed. However it not just for good looks as it’s also an integral component for antenna reception. Initially we expected the translucent icons on the transparent belt to be touch sensitive but we later discovered that the capacitive buttons are actually located right below the screen that are marked with 3 dots.

The screen appears to be crisp and clear thanks to its high resolution display. On full websites, the 720p display becomes more apparent where text are still readable even without zooming in too much. We didn’t managed to evaluate the screen extensively and hopefully we can compare this once we get our hands on a long term review unit.

In terms of imaging, the Xperia S has a 12MP camera with Sony’s Exmor R and claims to have fast response time of just 1.5 seconds from standby. This is probably the fastest, beating previous camera phone speed claims. We tried it ourselves by pressing and holding the dedicated camera button while the screen was off and it was able to switch on and take the shot almost immediately. You can watch this in action in our hands-on video below.

The main camera is assisted with an LED flash light and is capable of shooting HD 1080p videos. Over at the front, there’s a 1.3MP camera which is capable of doing HD 720p videos. As mentioned in our photo sample post, it wasn’t as good as we expected. It could be due to unfinalised software but we will revisit this again once it is officially released in Malaysia.

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The Xperia S has a removable back cover but unfortunately it only houses a micro-SIM slot. The 1,750mAh battery is non-removable and there’s no micro-SD slot. The rest of the expansion ports – micro USB and HDMI are located at the sides with flush designed covers. It is surprising that the Xperia S didn’t go for a uni-body design since they could have place the micro-SIM slot at the sides.

At present time, it runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread with upgradability to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in Q2 2012. Despite not running on the latest OS, the Xperia S just works well and we can’t find anything to fault in our short hands-on. Also new on the Xperia S is its NFC support where contacts, photos and files can be shared by tapping 2 devices together.

So far Sony Ericsson hasn’t release any availability dates but it is expected to hit majority of global markets within Q1 this year. As the first smart phone under the Sony’s branding, the Xperia S is a testament that they are striving to make a difference in 2012. Their design centric approach sets them apart from typical Android trend of boasting mere specs numbers. This year is going to be an exciting year and Sony is definitely a brand to watch out for.

Hands-on Video

Hands-on Photo Gallery