Xperia Arc S

The Xperia Arc is one of our favorite phones of 2011. Sony Ericsson really knocked it out of the park earlier this year, bringing to market a device with stunning aesthetics, solid specs and the best camera on any Android smartphone. So when they announced the Xperia Arc S -- a beefed-up Arc with a faster 1.4GHz CPU and updated software -- we were eager to put it through its paces. And that's exactly what we did yesterday, at the manufacturer's Xperia Party event in London.

Join us after the break to find out what we thought...

The Xperia Arc S represents a minor upgrade over the original Xperia Arc, which we saw back in April. The design is identical to the original, although the Arc S is available in a host of additional colors, including the "pure white" version on show at the event. Internals, too, are the same, save for the CPU, which has received a boost up to 1.4 GHz. Same 4.2-inch "Reality Display" LCD, same 512MB of RAM, same excellent 8.1-megapixel Exmor R camera.

The Arc S ships with Android 2.3.4 alongside the latest version of the Sony Ericsson UX, which we've seen evolve over the past year. Everything we've seen patched into phones like the original Arc was present, from the re-vamped launcher with direct app uninstalling, to Facebook Inside Xperia, which ties the contacts and messaging system together with social networking.

3D panoramic sweep shots are also new on the Arc S. This is a feature found on many Sony digital cameras, and works by stitching together 2D images from the rear camera as you slowly turn through 180 degrees. The result, if done correctly (and if someone doesn't walk through your shot) is a 3D image that you can play back on a 3DTV using the Arc S's HDMI connector.

Sony Ericsson also promises improved battery life, camera start-up times and web rendering speeds on the Arc S, and while we didn't have an original Arc with us to compare, the phone seemed speedy enough. We look forward to putting the final Arc S hardware and software through its paces over the next few weeks.

The Xperia Arc S will go on sale in Europe in early October, with SIM-free prices of around £350.

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