Smartphone Review: Sony Xperia P [Video]

After the release of the Xperia S earlier this year, Sony Mobile is pushing its Xperia range with the release of two new smartphones, the Xperia P, a mid range smartphone and the Xperia U, the budget smartphone

While the Xperia S didn’t live up to its promise, Sony has had a few months to tweak their smartphone and provide a better experience, but considering that this phone is a somewhat scaled down version of the S, does the Xperia P do enough to warrant your attention?

Specs

Weight & Dimensions: 120g (122 x 59.5 x 10.5mm)
Screen & Display: 4.0 inches (275 pip pixel density)
Resolution: 960 x 540 pixels (16M colors)
CPU: Duel-Core 1 GHz Cortex-A9
Camera: 8MP
Memory: 16GB (13GB user-available), 1GB Ram
Battery: Standard battery, Li-ion 1305 mAh
OS: Gingerbread (Android 2.3)

Hardware

If you’ve ever seen the Xperia S before, you will notice that the Xperia P is quite similar in style, but it makes a few changes to the formula. For one it’s a little bit smaller and on first glance, it does look like it has a bigger screen, but that’s only because the shell is smaller and lighter when compared to the S. However, it does bring out the 4.0 inch screen when you’re using it and as a bonus, it feels nicer to hold.

One of the things that really annoyed me about the Xepria S was its button placement. If you may recall, the Xperia S decided to have touch sensitive buttons just located above the back, home and options buttons. The problem was that the phone would rarely recognise the times you tap them, meaning a lot of frustration as you try to go back to the home screen.  Now they’re located on the transparent strip, where the icons are themselves which not only makes far more sense, but makes the phone much easier to use. Buttons and slots are easily located as well so you’re not left confused as you search for the camera button or the USB slot.

The battery is the standard smartphone feature, good enough to last for a day, but regular use will see it being drained faster than you would expect. If you’re a gamer, the problem you face isn’t whether the Xperia P will run it, but how long of a game you will get with just one charge.

Software

The Xperia series seem to be focused on providing a multimedia experience and the P is no different. Despite the slight downgrade in hardware (it’s powered by a duel-core 1Ghz processor instead of the Xperia S’ 1.5Ghz), the Xperia P performs quite well and we didn’t notice any real difference when operating it. The screen is crisp, viewing photos and videos is as sharp as ever and toggling through apps and games is smooth, although the more intensive games might experience a bit of lag.

Depending on whether you’ve used the latest version or not, you may be annoyed to hear that the Xperia P still runs on Gingerbread and not Ice Cream Sandwich, despite the promise of an update from Sony. Considering that it’s been around for the good part of six months now, Sony users will be left frustrated by this news.

One thing that Sony keep insisting on is filling their phones with numerous apps before you even get started. Now we understand that there will be certain Sony apps that they would want you to use, but when your apps page consists of three pages before you even get started, you know something is amiss.

Some apps like Facebook you will definitely use, but they’re already out of date since your first Facebook action is to download the update. The same can be said of Google’s app store, which is entitled Android Market instead of Google Play. It’s not like Sony Mobile hadn’t the time to update these apps before releasing it so it’s just strange to see that it’s not only the OS is out of date.

Camera

Downgrading from the Xperia S’ 12MP camera to 8MP, you would expect that the quality to drop somewhat, but instead, it feels like the Xperia P makes better use of its camera. Instead of having one general mode where you can mess around with a number of features, you now have access to six different modes, three of which are panoramas. The instant photo feature boots up pretty quickly and the quality of photos you can take from the different modes available is pretty good.
Overall, the quality of photos is pretty good and despite the drop from 12MP to 8MP, the Xperia P makes the most of it. Picture quality is quite share and under natural lighting, it looks really well. When you’re not taking photos under natural light, the colors can look a little washed out, but with all things considered, it does its job well.

An example of the quality of photos the Xperia P can take.

Conclusion

It feels like Sony Mobile had understood the criticism directed at the S and made the necessary changes. It’s by no means perfect, but in a strange way, the Xperia P feels like the better phone out of the two. For the hardware it’s running on, it feels like it makes far better use of it as a whole and provides the better experience.

In our Xperia S review, we said that Sony had the foundation for a good smartphone in place, but needed to improve if it was to keep up. While some of the problems that dogged the Xperia S are still there, some of the smaller issues  if you’re looking for a solid middle of the range smartphone and you don’t mind the pricing (most places in Ireland have it ranging around €300 – €350), then the Xperia P is worth keeping in mind when you’re looking for a new smartphone.

Pros
Smaller size & vibrant screen
High-quality camera
Good, practical design

Cons
Bloatware still an issue
Out of date OS and apps
Average battery life

Summary
A great middle-of-the-range smartphone that, despite its flaws, punches above its weight.
Score: 7/10

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