Sony Xperia P

Feature set summary for Sony Xperia P review
The 8-megapixel snapper produces top daylight images, as well as offering a panoramic facility and shooting 1080p HD video. The display shows off photos and films well, and is good for surfing the net too. Plus the in-built NFC offers a degree of future-proofing.
Sony Xperia P

Style and handling summary for Sony Xperia P review
The Sony Xperia P wins with its unusual looks, including the classy silver back and see-through shortcut bar. It is resistant to scuffs but the lip does add some width.

Battery power summary for Sony Xperia P review
Battery life is disappointing – less than 24 hours in general use, and you can cut that down to four or five hours if you’re streaming media – keep a charger handy.

Performance summary for Sony Xperia P review
The dual-core chip ensures the Xperia P runs apps and games smoothly – and offers a degree of future-proofing for future titles.

User friendliness summary for Sony Xperia P review
The display is responsive, and with the added benefit of Android’s user-friendly interface this is a smooth, easy-to-use device. An Ice Cream Sandwich update in the near future would be the icing on the cake.

Full Review and Specification for the Sony Xperia P
Here comes Sony’s second solo effort after it was estranged from Ericsson – the Sony Xperia P, which is a smaller version of the impressive Sony Xperia S, which we loved for its incredibly sharp display and smooth design. While the Xperia P may look like its older sibling, has it managed to squeeze all its great features into to that compact chassis?

One thing it does share with its big brother is the see-through bar that sits below the display. This is where you’ll see pressure areas that light up when you press them – one each for Home, Menu and Back. Push the bar to make them perform – it’s very neat and the phone looks great, despite that odd lip beneath the bar, which does make it a bit chunkier than it should be.

The back of the phone is silver, and it cannot be opened, so you won’t be swapping batteries. The SIM card sits in a slot on the side of the handset. The Xperia P is really smart looking, its curvy and silver and is reminiscent of the HTC One S, although it doesn’t have the solid metal body that had. It feels more plasticky, but still manages to be solid in build and more than capable of resisting scuffs.

If you hate having to prise the cover off a micro USB port you’ll be glad to know it has been left uncovered on this handset – plus there is a mini HDMI port should you wish to connect your phone to a monitor or TV. The power key is on the right-hand edge – which is rather annoying because we kept hitting the volume controls when we were aiming to unlock the handset – we’re not sure why it couldn’t sit on the top of the handset.

Gingerbread still a treat

The Xperia P runs the Gingerbread version of Android, but it has the benefit of an Xperia user interface, complete with the swirly live wallpaper that we enjoyed on the Xperia S. Ice Cream Sandwich may be some time coming to the Xperia phones, which is odd as everyone else is offering handsets with Android 4.0 already installed. However, Gingerbread is decent enough and offers plenty of opportunities for customisation. There are five desktops that can be personalised with folders, apps and a good choice of widgets, plus there’s a quartet of shortcuts at the bottom of the display for you to add your favourite apps to.

The social media offering is still Sony’s Timescape widget, which is far from well-designed – it streams updates from Twitter and Facebook but never seems to manage to update automatically – and the small window can only fit in two messages at any one time. The news widget is equally unimpressive, although the power tools are handy for quickly switching GPS, Wi-Fi and so on, off and on.

Double the power

The dual-core chip runs games and apps smoothly and offers future-proofing for future titles. The 1GB of RAM ensures that even some demanding 3D titles ran smoothly.

It’s a shame that the battery life isn’t so impressive. We only got 20 hours out of the Xperia P (the Xperia S managed more than 24). And that was light use, such as texting, emailing and surfing the net. Stream media and you’ll be lucky to get five hours out of a fully charged battery.

Sharp screen

The screen is very decent – it measures 4 inches and has a good 960 x 540 pixel resolution. HD films look crisp, as will your photo library. It’s not up there with the screens on the HTC One X or Xperia S, but it matches the likes of the HTC One S. Colours are bold and viewing angles are wide.

If you want music or films, you have access to the Sony Music and Video Unlimited offerings – or you can use the 13GB of onboard storage to carry round your own choice of media. You can’t expand this as there is no microSD slot, but there’s room for thousands of apps and thousands of photos. You can also stream video from sites such as iPlayer.

The Xperia P also has Near Field Communication (NFC) on-board. You’ll be able to use this to make contactless payments at some time in the future – but for now you can make use of it with the Smart Tags app. No tags are included with the phone, so you’ll have to buy some if you want them – a packet of four costs about £10 from Amazon and similar sites.

Picture perfect

The snapper is an 8-megapixel model that produces sharp, bright shots in daylight but fares less well in low light. The resulting images are grainy and dull unless you use the LED flash, which manages to wash-out the subjects. Nevertheless, it captures great 1080p HD video and also has a panoramic facility.

A dedicated camera key sits on the right side of the device – press it and it fires up the app and sparks the shutter – if the phone is asleep, it takes only about a second to wake it up and take a snap if you press the camera button.

Our conclusion

Sony is producing some excellent smartphones in the shape of its Xperia series. The Xperia P is more compact than the Xperia S but manages to cram in some excellent features, such as the 8-megapixel snapper, dual-core chip and good screen – it’s just the poor battery life that lets it down. As an all-rounder, we would pick the HTC One S over the Xperia P, but nonetheless for enjoying media and apps on the move it’s still a good choice.