on 27 March 2013
This review was for the black model. See updates 24 Jun 13 at the bottom.
Background for comparison: I am an avid BlackBerry user currently also using the Bold 9900 which is excellent but it is glitchy, the battery is rubbish and I fancied a change with outdoor use also on my shopping list of requirements. Apps or gaming were not my main concern. I have owned the outdoor Motorola Defy in the past which was good but very slow and the battery was even worse.
Released initially only in Asia as the Sony Ericsson Xperia Acro HD (a mouth-full), Sony then went their own way in 2012 and renamed the handset. The Sony Xperia Acro S is another iteration of Sony's ruggedised Xperia range which was not sold to UK networks and therefore did not get the same press coverage as it's latest flagship Xperia Z. If you're looking for others there are also the much cheaper UK networked Xperia Go and the imported, more expensive, slightly higher end Xperia V with LTE; both also waterproof and dust resistant. The Xperia Z is just way too expensive at the moment and isn't that far ahead of the V or Acro S imports, plus it is way too big for me; a so called ridiculously named 'Phablet'. It is furnished with Dragontrail glass however, which is very tough; the others aren't.
The Acro S seemed like the best value and although released in August 2012, it remains a very high spec phone. I ordered it from another online website from overseas at £100 cheaper with free (but very slow) UK delivery from China and for just £260 it is excellent value. Here are the basic hardware specs found online as the details above are minimal.
- 4.3 Inch 720p Display (720 x 1280 pixels ~342 ppi pixel)
- Reality display with Mobile BRAVIA® Engine
- 1.5 GHz Dual Core Scorpion Processor
- 1 GB RAM
- PlayStation Certified
- Wet Finger Tracking
- Dust protected and water resistant (IP55 / IP57)
- 12MP Camera With autofocus, LED flash, Exmor R Sensor, 1080p Video Recording
- 1.3MP front facing camera with 720p HD video.
- Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, upgradeable to Jelly Bean
- 11 GB On-Board Storage usable (total 16gb)
- Micro-SD Slot expandable to 32gb
- 1910 MAh Battery, 290 hrs standby, 400 minutes talk time
- Network - 3G HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
I have used it now for 3 weeks and I'm very impressed. My international unlocked version worked straight away with a Tesco PAYG SIM (takes a standard sized card)but with Giffgaff, the phone features worked but the 3G data initially wouldn't. After a little research I found the right settings and I'm off, all perfect.
The handset is a familiar Xperia design; similar to the Xperia S but without the pointless transparent piece at the bottom. This also makes it slightly shorter but with a bigger sealed battery, it is also slightly thicker. The black model looks like a sleek monolithic single block with a curved back and it looks very stylish. It also comes in white and pink.
The non-removable back is hard plastic but feels rubberized and the whole thing fits nicely in your hand and I can reach all points of the screen with my freakishly short fingers. The power button is also conveniently on the side where it is easy to press.
As a phone, it is brilliant with clear voice at both ends and good 3g reception. The battery lasts me easily a full day and I'm a moderate user. The huge touch screen keypad also allows you to make Skype calls from your phone's contact list. Everything is easily accessible, ergonomic and it just works well as a phone.
Web browsing, e-mail and social networking are great but as with most Android phones, email and messaging are not as seamless as a BlackBerry which is purpose built for them. This phone does so much more though and the Android experience seems optimized on this handset with no glitches whatsoever. Wifi is good but not quite as good a reception as my BB.
Sharing many features with the Xperia S, the screen is stunning (higher ppi than any Iphone), the processor is zippy and the camera is Sony fantastic with loads of features including sweep panorama, good low light performance and lots of manual settings. There is a dedicated camera button which responds within 2 seconds. Better than the Xperia S though, it runs Android ICS and will be upgraded to JB. I have also read that the soft keys at the bottom of the screen are more responsive than fiddly ones on the S.
There are 3 flush fitting flaps on top which hide the earphone jack, micro usb port (for charging and data transfer) and the Micro HDMI port. Two more on the side hide the Micro SD card slot and SIM tray. These flaps obviously maintain the integrity of water and dust resistance, I have tested them and they worked in the sink and (clearly while drunk) also in a large glass of white wine. After initial installation, you won't necessarily have to open any of the flaps as the phone comes with an excellent charging dock that uses separate charging points on the other side (simple but very useful idea by Sony). It comes with a UK plug but any USB plug will fit into the charger (e.g when traveling) but the charging contact points on the phone will not transfer data. There is also Bluetooth, DNLA, Ant+, wifi hotspot and NFC connectivity for integration of other devices. A hands free headset is included and works fine although they are a bit cheap and won't impress audiophiles, but at least they are there.
It also comes with an almost unnoticeable screen protector already fitted (a recent Sony idea that is also on the V and Z). This will scratch if badly abused but provides some shatter-proof resistance although underneath it, the resin glass screen itself is scratch resistant but is not Gorilla or Dragontrail glass. I have seen a Youtube video of someone hammering in a nail into wood with the screen of an Acro S with no damage at all, so it must be pretty tough; not sure I'd try that myself even if inebriated. Strangely, there are many cases and screen protectors on the UK market for this phone if you want extra protection for it.
I have not tested the PlayStation feature, 3D or hard-core gaming (not my bag) but tennis works brilliantly and is very smooth. The reviews are good though.
Android in general has taken me some getting used to but it is totally customizable and Sony's integration of its own Timescape social networking app and it's brilliant media support, especially the beautiful Walkman player make this an all round excellent phone at a bargain price. The Jelly Bean upgrade has still not been released for this phone but it is coming and will improve the experience and battery life further. The fact that it is also waterproof and dust resistant as well makes this a steal and for me is much more practical than its big fat ugly brother, the Z or the similarly specked V which costs about £100 more, but doesn't include a charging dock or HDMI port and has only a VGA front facing camera.
Sony have dropped the ball in recent months, but why they didn't release this excellent handset to European and US networks is beyond me? Fortunately it means there are grey imports available at very good prices from overseas and this one works fine in the UK. Thanks Sony.......I'm a WINNER!
Don't think about it, just go for it.
Updates 24 Jun 13. I have had the phone 3 months now and have just downloaded Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean through the Sony website and via connection to a Mac. This can also obviously be done via, via wifi connection or through some mobile networks. jelly Bean gives mainly aesthetic enhancements but also makes it zippier, smoother and improves the drop down menu options and media support plus more I'm sure. Battery life seems similar (see above).
I have also used the Acro S as a temporary computer by harnessing its powerful processor and excellent connectivity: I connected a Logitech bluetooth keyboard to the handset and then the handset to a 40" Samsung TV with a HDMI cable which has allowed me to do limited computing on my TV. The phone automatically formats the screen to landscape and switches to arcing/sweeping (applesque) widgets for TV/monitor output when you connect the HDMI cable. Its very nice, as is the social netwok support and customisation of this homepage and widgets. This has been brilliant as I travel light normally and can connect to TV's anywhere to get work done, especially for writing documents, ppt, excel etc, writing emails as I do miss the physical keyboard of a BB. This is still an amazing bargain phone that keeps giving (yes that was cheesy). :-)
on 4 June 2013
I agree with the above review, no point repeating all the Pros.
In addition, I'll add it is a very solid phone, very fast with the Duo core and unbeatable (for the next 2 years i reckon) HD graphics.
Recommended for people who prefer Very High Specs, not just Brand names and for showing off.
Ow, one other PRO, the dock station and the Software companion that comes with it are easy to use and very practical.