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Hands On with Sony’s New Xperia S Smartphone

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Sony’s new Xperia S smartphone has just landed on the UK market, and it’s a thing of beauty.

The phone marks several firsts: It’s Sony’s first smartphone since buying out the Ericsson side of the business and dropping that half of the name, the first in its 2012 lineup of Xperia NXT smartphones, and it’s technically the first ever smartphone to bear the Sony brand name.

With four Xperia NXT phones announced so far (S, U, P and Sola), the Xperia S finds itself at the top of the pile as Sony’s flagship smartphone for the year. It’s got a whole host of features that you’d expect to find on a top-end phone these days, and a few tricks up its sleeve, not to mention a beautiful design to boot.

Looking at the front of the handset we’re drawn in to the gloss black fascia, behind which sits a 4.3-inch LED backlit LCD screen. The screen boasts an incredibly crisp HD resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, with a high pixel density of 342ppi. A sheet of scratchproof glass covers most of the phone’s front, with only an earpiece and 1.3-Megapixel front-facing camera breaking the sleek finish. The classic Sony logo is emblazoned just above the earpiece to finish things off.

Beneath the screen, the phone’s matte white body wraps its way around, showing an engraved XPERIA logo. The gloss black of the screen area and the matte white of the base are separated by a thin section of completely transparent plastic, which features the Back, Home and Menu buttons, and illuminates when you activate the screen.

The device’s HDMI-out and Micro USB ports are neatly housed behind pop-out flaps that match the matte white finish, while the three buttons – power, volume rocker and dedicated camera key – are all finished in silver. The dedicated camera key and volume rocker sit on the right edge of the phone along with the HDMI-out port, while only the Micro USB port features on the left edge, with the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack placed on the top edge of the phone.

Although unfortunately we can’t really picture them, beneath the stylish casing the phone packs a punch in the specs department. A Dual-Core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM provide the power, 32GB of flash memory provides the storage (unfortunately there’s no Micro SD slot), and Google’s Android 2.3.6 software runs the show, along with Sony’s Timescape user interface. Connectivity is plentiful in the form of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC and DLNA, and to top it off the Xperia S takes a Micro SD card.

The rear cover slides off to reveal a completely closed-off inner area, with only the Micro SIM slot visible and accessible – you can’t remove the battery from this phone, unless it’s taken to a repair agent of course.

Sitting pretty at the top of the phone’s rear cover is a wide-angle 12-Megapixel camera with LED flash, and beneath that a small speaker grille. The camera packs a punch with autofocus, touch to focus, smile and face recognition, geotagging, Full HD 1080p video recording at 30fps with continuous autofocus, 3D sweep panorama and auto stabilisation. Suffice to say, it’s up there with the best of them when it comes to a smartphone to rival a compact digital camera.

The Sony Xperia S is available now to buy outright for £430, or free on contracts from £26 per month on all UK networks. If white isn’t too your taste, you can opt for the matte black model instead. Stay tuned for a video review of the Xperia S in action, coming very soon to our YouTube channel.

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