The Xperia S builds on Sony’s existing, impressive design standards that were set when it was working with Ericsson. The S feels like a pleasingly solid block in the hand, with a curved back and a distinctive plastic strip separating its buttons from the main screen.

The 4.3” LED-backlit LCD screen running on the Sony Mobile Bravia Engine is probably the single best feature of the phone, offering 720p HD resolution and looking as impressive playing movies as any phone elsewhere on the market. A 12MP camera is an excellent complement, and Sony is trumpeting its fast response times. In use, they seemed much better than many rival smartphones, but not class-leading.

The Adreno 220 GPU boasts enhanced level of 3D graphics performance, allowing for high-end, immersive gaming experiences previously limited to PCs and game consoles;  compared to the  Adreno 200,it  runs five times faster than its predecessor.

The 1.5GHz Dual Core processor partnered  with a 1 GB RAM  resting on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S3 chipset feels particularly fast, and 32GB of storage should be plenty for most users. This is a nicely designed, well specced device.

Where the S disappoints, however, is in its operating system – it will launch in March with Android 2.3, Sony says, but an update to 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, will follow shortly. Until then, Sony’s opinion-polarising proprietary skin will add some modern feel to the device. It’s worth pointing out, to be fair to Sony, that they are not alone in using the older version of Android, and only a few users will actually miss the additional features.

An HDMI-out port and NFC support complete the package – there’s nothing here that’s radical, but the Xperia S is a handset that is premium without being ostentatious, and it marks the beginning of a new era for Sony. With access to the Sony Entertainment Network, it has a focus on music and films that other devices lack – this decent phone bodes well for Sony’s future as a major mobile phone player.