Look and feel
A comfortable form factor sits pleasingly in the hand, and the Sony Xperia SP looks marvellous thanks to some thoughtful and creative design – from the iconic circular power button to the glowing transparent bar.
Ease of Use
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean has only been minimally tweaked by Sony and proves as smooth and user-friendly as ever.
Where to begin. The powerful eight megapixel camera with its excellent auto mode? That crisp and colourful 720p Reality display? The well-implemented NFC support? The Xperia SP packs a lot in for its price point.
A 1.7GHz Qualcomm processor in on board and tears up the latest games. We didn’t see a single stutter while using the Xperia SP, although it does get rather toasty after using it for an hour straight.
Although the Xperia SP’s battery drains at supersonic speeds when playing games, it lasts a respectable five hours when streaming video and it’s possible to get over 24 hours of life with moderate use.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/4/2013 11:54:35 AM
Ease of use
Crisp and bright Reality display;
Fantastic feature-packed camera;
Attractive and creative design
Gaming drains battery and heats up the phone;
A little chunky and heavy
Sony’s Xperia Z smartphone was another strong premium offering from the Japanese tech giants, offering a formidable camera and beautiful screen wrapped up in a durable waterproof body. Sadly the battery life was lacking and the rectangular body proved a little too bulky for our pockets, keeping it from that perfect five-star score. So when the Xperia SP hit our desk, rocking a more compact frame but still boasting a brilliant camera and 720p HD screen, we got stuck right in to see if this was the flawless Xperia we’d been waiting for...
The Xperia SP’s aluminium frame is more pocket-friendly than the Xperia Z, despite the additional girth. We had no trouble slipping it into our jeans, and it didn’t constantly have a corner poking free like the Z. It can also comfortably be used one-handed, as the Xperia Z’s monster five inch screen has been reduced to a more manageable 4.6-inches. The only downer is the extra weight. The Xperia Z wasn’t exactly a lightweight and the Xperia SP is even heavier at 155g. It’s not uncomfortably heavy, but you sure do feel that extra heft when you’re wielding it.
Our favourite part of the Xperia SP’s design is the transparent bar at the base of the phone, which glows pretty colours when you have a waiting notification (just like the Xperia P from last year). Not only does it keep you from constantly turning on the phone’s screen to check for emails and texts, it also looks cool. We’re big fans of the iconic circular power button, which protrudes from the right edge of the phone. It helps the new Xperias to stand out, and is also quick and easy to find when you’re fumbling with your phone in the dark, which is something we do surprisingly often.
We loved the Xperia Z’s camera, and the intelligent Superior Auto mode was one of the best things about it, capturing bright, colourful photos in almost every kind of conditions we could think of. That mode has been transferred to the Xperia SP and is just as effective, capturing brilliant vibrant colours in practically any light. Even on dull overcast days, scenes came out pleasingly bright. Best of all, it takes no brains – just point and shoot.
There’s a physical shutter button on the right edge of the Xperia SP, and holding it down when the phone is hibernating launches straight into the camera app. A little bit of pressure and the camera lens focuses, while pushing it down fully takes a snap almost instantly. You can record HD video and take photos at the same time, and there’s a variety of special modes such as Panorama and a variety of funky filters, if that’s your bag. With its fantastic range of features and incredible performance, this is one of the very best cameras you’ll find on a phone at this price.
Media fans will get a kick from the Xperia SP’s 4.6-inch Reality display. That 720p resolution gives you 319 pixels-per-inch of high-definition goodness, not one of the sharpest screens around granted, but HD images still appear impressively crisp with no rough or blurry edges. The display is bright enough to counter even the harshest glare, contrast levels are strong, while viewing angles are incredibly wide – you can tilt the phone practically 90 degrees and still see what’s going on, with no loss in colour or image quality.
A powerful Qualcomm processor runs the show, and handled everything we threw at it with a shrug and a wink. The latest games such as Iron Man 3 ran with perfect frame rates, and of course looked fantastic. But if you get carried away and play for a bit too long, be prepared for sweaty hands – after an hour of blasting action, the Xperia SP was pretty toasty on both sides. Not hot enough to worry us, but enough to warm our thighs when we slipped the phone back into our pocket.
Gaming also sucks the battery dry, taking it from 100% to zero in just over three hours, while streaming video killed it in a more respectable five hours. If you want to get a full day of use, you’ll have to be a lot more conservative. We found that by limiting ourselves to a few email checks and web sessions, a bit of texting and a couple of short calls, we managed to drag almost 36 hours of life from a single charge. There’s also a power saver mode to further wring out battery life, although this disables some key features.
Ditch the wires
If you’re a big Sony fan, with a house full of its gadgets, then the Xperia SP will fit right in and play nicely. Just like its bigger brother the Xperia Z, the Xperia SP has built-in NFC support and so can communicate wirelessly with other gizmos. For instance, pair it with your Sony telly and you can use the phone as a smart remote. You can also connect to speakers and headphones to enjoy your music, or one of Sony’s external storage devices to back up all of your photos, apps and media. It may tie you into buying Sony gear, but it’s great that the company is making full use of NFC rather than simply sticking it in the phone and leaving it at that.
From its powerful feature-packed camera to its brilliant Reality display, the attractive Sony Xperia SP is a mid-range marvel that will please everyone from photographers to film fans. It may be a little chunky and heavy, and the battery still dies quickly when gaming, but for this price you’ll struggle to find better or sexier.