Sonyís Xperia range offers a wide choice of smartphones for all needs and budgets, including the high-end Sony Xperia S and the sleek and affordable Sony Xperia U.
The Sony Xperia P sits in the middle and proves an impressively feature-packed handset that offers good value for money.
Available in a choice of eye-catching black, silver or red colour schemes the design packs plenty of Sonyís trademark style.
Itís clear that the Sony Xperia P is a smartphone aimed firmly at a more discerning audience, as its elegant look packs none of the gaudy flourishes of the Sony Xperia U.
The stylish design mirrors other devices in Sonyís range, with its sharp lines, curved rear panel and subtly textured finish creating a refined and understated look. The Sony Xperia P’s chassis is also well-built thanks to its full aluminium unibody design, so scratches are kept to a minimum.
Unfortunately the Sony Xperia P’s unibody means the unit is completely sealed, so you cannot remove the battery. There is also no MicroSD card slot for upgrading internal storage. A Micro SIM card slot sits beneath a panel on the chassisí left side, though, for quick and easy SIM card switching.
At 120g and measuring 11mm thin the Sony Xperia P is a comfortably light device to carry and use. It sits nicely in the hand whether youíre making a call or navigating the interface, but we found the sharp edges dig into the palm slightly during use.
The first stand-out feature of the Sony Xperia P is its gorgeous 4-inch screen. Sony markets it as the brightest smartphone display on the market and it certainly dazzles with its vibrancy. Whether browsing the interface or viewing photos and videos, colours pop from the screen beautifully.
The Sony Xperia P’s screen is also the first in the Xperia range to use Sonyís WhiteMagic technology. This works on a pixel-level to help the screen appear as bright and sharp outdoors as indoors. We found it suitably effective and images lose little of their punch, even when viewed in direct sunlight.
At 4-inches the Sony Xperia P’s touchscreen is a good size for enjoying multimedia content. While the 540 x 960 pixel resolution isnít sharp enough to enjoy high-definition 1080p videos in all their glory, it still shows photos and videos off to striking effect.
HD usability isnít sacrificed, however, as the Sony Xperia P is one of the few handsets that features an HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV. An HDMI cable is even included in the box to get you connected.
This is a particularly nice feature, as the rear-facing 8-Megapixel camera lets you record video in 1080p Full HD. The cameraís interface is one of the more confusing weíve used, due to its vague icons, but its HD video quality canít be faulted.
Video is recorded at 30 frames per second and motion is captured with minimal blur. Colours are reproduced well and the Full HD capture ensures consistently high-quality results.
Photo quality is just as strong on the Sony Xperia P. Images are sharp, bright and packed with natural looking colours. There is also a 0.3-Megapixel front-facing camera for capturing portrait shots and making video calls, but quality is inevitably basic, with images appearing blurry and pixelated.
A minor flaw we noted is the functionality of the hardware camera button. Pressing and holding the button while the phone is locked not only launches the camera app but also immediately takes a photo, which can easily result in accidental photos in your bag or pocket.
While Sony has announced that the Sony Xperia P will be upgraded to the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, the model we saw ran the dated Android 2.3 Gingerbread iteration.
The OS functions well in daily use, though, so anyone that hasnít tried Android 4.0 should be more than happy with whatís on offer. And with easy shortcuts for accessing your media content, browsing apps, making calls and messaging, itís a suitably comfortable interface to work with.
The responsive capacitive touchscreen adds to the user experience. Taps, swipes and pinch-to-zoom functionality all work well, and we noticed no delays or glitches during our time with the Sony Xperia P. But itís the unique hardware navigation buttons that really managed to catch our eye.
While the array of Back, Home and Menu buttons are common for Android phones, it’s Sonyís implementation that really stands out. The touch-sensitive buttons sit on a transparent plastic panel, so you can see through the device to the other side. When you touch a button, the panel is illuminated for a truly unique look.
Usability is further enhanced by the Sony Xperia Pís capable performance. The 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM ensures the phone runs swiftly and handles all tasks quickly and efficiently. Even multi-tasking is handled well, adding to the high-quality user experience.
Storage isnít quite as impressive, but will be more than acceptable for most needs. The 16GB of internal file storage will hold small collections of songs, photos and videos. But as mentioned earlier there is no MicroSD card slot for adding extra storage to the Sony Xperia P, so you cannot make any upgrades.
Despite this and its other minor shortcomings, the Sony Xperia Pís strengths effortlessly outweigh its flaws. Packing great usability, ample power, strong features and an excellent camera into its stylishly designed chassis, it has a lot to offer for new smartphone buyers at a reasonable price.
The unique, almost-retro style may not suit all tastes, but we loved its one-of-a-kind look. Weíd have preferred to have seen Android 4.0 installed out of the box, but an update is on the way.
So for the price the Sony Xperia P easily matches up to the competition. And it provides a great choice for anyone looking to grab themselves a powerful and attractive smartphone at a mid-level price.