If your work involves precarious situations for mobile phones, tradies working on tall buildings, plumbers, water-park dolphin wranglers; the Acro S with its rugged construction, could be for you. It joins a small group of handsets distinguished by rugged exteriors and a minimal amount of waterproofing, and it compares well to the rest with a strong range of power and features.

What we liked

As it is with all of the Sony Xperia family, it is the little things that we like the best. The Facebook integration sprinkled through the system, the cheerful animations and transitions you find across the UI.

The quality of the camera for a phone in the price range is also worth mentioning. When we compare the Acro S to other similarly priced phones, the resolution of this camera, and its software features really stands out.

Apps

Broadly, the Acro S is nice to use. The dual-core processor is enough to power a slick, zippy user experience, and it is uncommon to find yourself waiting for the phone to catch up with your commands.

We also love that Sony includes a charging dock for the phone in the box, and isn't selling it as an optional extra. Admittedly, this dock does feel pretty cheap and plastic-ky, but it is essentially a freebie, and better than no dock at all.

What we didn't like

For all of the cool little extras in the Acro S, the Sony NXT UI isn't the most intuitive of systems. Pressing the Menu button on the home screen offers very little in the way of a Menu, for example, and figuring out how to uninstall apps took us some time. Perhaps we are now too used to how other OEMs handle Android customisations, but there is a learning curve here which may turn off those new to smartphones.

Chunky Monkey

The handset itself is rather large and a bit too heavy for our now-refined smartphone tastes, even if this keeps the handset safe from water and dust. Anyone who remembers the Nokia N95 will large at this statement, but when everyone else is making feather-weight phones, the Acro S doesn't feel like a chunky monkey by comparison. In the same vein, cover the ports is important for keeping out the elements, but it is such a pain to have to pick open the USB port each day in order to charge the phone.

Not to sound too wishy-washy, but there is just something about the Xperia Acro S that fails to capture our imagination. For as much as you can list the many things about this phone that Sony does right, there just isn't anything exciting about it. It's glossy black mono-block design is so nondescript, so uninspiring. Logically we know that this phone does mostly everything that the competition can, yet it lacks the desirability that makes phones like the Galaxy S3 so popular.

Verdict

Sony certainly hit its stride in 2012, hitting on a solid and unique looking design ID for its smartphone products. The Acro S falls in line with the rest of the family in this regard, but fails to really stand out from the pack, too.

Having a rugged option is good, but there are trade-offs in size and weight to make, and if you don't feel like you're at risk of destroying your phone, then you'd be better off choosing an Xperia S, or something from Samsung or HTC instead.

There's no questioning this is a generous package from Sony, though. From the camera, to the software to the included desk dock; there are things in this kit that you won't get from the competition. But then, with the exception of the dock, you will get all these things in other Sony phones, and we have to say that we probably like these other phones better.