Look and feel
We really like the Sony Xperia P’s unique design, with the transparent shortcuts bar and the smart silver backing that’s refreshingly scuff-free, although the lip does bulk it up
Ease of use
A responsive touch-screen combined with Android’s intuitive interface makes the Xperia P a slick, usable handset. We’re hoping an Ice Cream Sandwich update will hit soon
An eight-megapixel camera takes great daylight shots, as well as panoramas and 1080p HD video. The colourful screen is an enjoyable way of taking in movies and photos or browsing the web, and built-in NFC offers future-proofing
Dual-core performance means all of your apps and games will run perfectly on the Xperia P, and should do for quite some time
The one major failing of the Xperia P. With under 24 hours of life with standard use, and only four to five hours of media streaming, you’ll need to carry your charger around when you stray from home
The Sony Xperia P is Sony’s second solo smartphone after it broke ties with Ericsson, and a more compact version of the excellent Sony Xperia S, which rocked our world with slick design and a super-sharp screen. The Xperia P certainly resembles its bigger brother, but can it pack as many fantastic features into a dinkier body?
To find out which Sony Xperia smartphone is best for you - the Xperia S, the Xperia P or the Xperia U - check out our quick comparison feature!
Sony has nailed smartphone design over the years, and the Xperia P looks typically smart. The curved silver chassis reminds us of the HTC One S (minus the rounded corners), although the One S had a solid metallic frame that felt strong enough to resist a sledgehammer. The Xperia P looks and feels more plasticky, but don’t be deceived: it’s solid enough to take a proper pounding, and is refreshingly resistant to scuffs.
The Xperia P boasts the same transparent bar as the Xperia S, located just beneath the screen. Here you’ll find light-up pressure points for the Back, Home and Menu buttons. The Xperia S confused us by making us tap above these points to perform the desired action, but the Xperia P corrects this by having you push the bar itself. It’s very slick and seamless design, although the ‘chin’ beneath the transparent bar does bulk up the phone.
The back of the phone doesn’t open up, so you won’t be able to swap the battery out. You slide the SIM card into a slot on the side, but thankfully Sony hasn’t borrowed from Apple’s iPhone design, requiring a toothpick or unfurled paper clip to frantically prise your way inside. The Micro USB port isn’t covered as in the Xperia S, which is good news for anyone who chews on their fingernails, and a mini HDMI port can be used to hook up to a TV or monitor. Our only grumble is the power button’s position on the right edge – we kept pushing the volume controls by accident when trying to unlock the Xperia P, and a top-mounted button would’ve been preferred.
No Ice Cream for you
The Android Gingerbread interface retains the distinctive Xperia facelift of the Xperia S, hallmarked by the swirly live wallpaper we all know and love. Unfortunately, there’s a wait before the Xperia series gets the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, which seems bizarre when plenty of Sony’s rivals are churning out phones with full Android 4.0 pre-installed.
Still, Gingerbread does the job for now, offering plenty of customisation as usual. You can select shortcuts to your four favourite apps, which are locked at the bottom of the screen, while the five desktops can be filled with apps, folders, and a decent supply of widgets. Sony’s Timescape widget, which streams updates from your Facebook and Twitter accounts, is still clunky and restrictive. It never seem to automatically update when asked to, while the tiny window only shows two messages at a time unless you bother to open it. The likes of the News widget are just as restrictive, but the power tools give a quick way of turning on and off Wi-Fi, GPS and other power-sappers.
The Xperia P’s four-inch qHD screen boasts a sharp 960x540-pixel resolution, which delivers crisp visuals when watching high definition movies or flicking through your photo collection. It can’t match the jaw-dropping display on the more expensive Xperia S or the HTC One X, but it’s easily a match for the HTC One S and similarly priced phones. Viewing angles are excellent, with minimal loss of quality when the screen is tilted, and colour reproduction is bold.
Sony’s Music and Video Unlimited services give you access to tons of tunes and movies, or you can carry around 13GB worth of your own media collection using the built-in storage. Sadly there’s no microSD slot for expanding this, although you’ll easily be able to take thousands of photos or download thousands of apps before you’ll have to start deleting stuff to make room for more. You can also stream video over websites such as the BBC iPlayer.
Twice the power
A dual-core processor means your apps and games will run smoothly at all times, and for the foreseeable future. We tried some of the most taxing 3D titles and they played without a glitch, helped along by the 1GB of RAM.
Sadly, battery life isn’t as impressive. The Xperia S easily survives well over 24 hours with constant use, but the Xperia P died in just 20. That’s with only light app use as well as emailing, texting and web browsing. If you stream media then expect to get just four hours before the battery goes kaput.
An eight-megapixel rear-facing camera shoots bright and sharp daytime snaps, although typically struggles once the lights are dimmed. Low light shots are dull and grainy, so you’ll need to use the LED flash. However, the flash occasionally white-washes subjects and we preferred results with HTC’s One family. But the Xperia P can shoot excellent 1080p HD video and the panorama mode does a fantastic job of capturing a landscape.
A panorama shot taken with the Sony Xperia P
For more example shots, see our Sony Xperia P image gallery.
As with the Xperia S, you get a physical camera button on the right edge of the phone, which opens the app and takes shots. It’s a lifesaver when you’re taking self portrait shots, and holding the button actually opens the camera and takes a snap in around a second when the phone is hibernating – perfect for capturing spontaneous action shots. Loading the app isn’t quite as fast when the phone is unlocked for some reason, but it isn’t far behind.
Tag, you’re it
As with the Xperia S, the Xperia P has built-in Near Field Communications (NFC). In the future, NFC will help you pay for goods and services, but for now you can use it with Sony’s SmartTags app. Unfortunately you don’t get any tags included, so you’ll need to fork out a tenner for a pack of four on sites such as Amazon.
Sony’s Xperia series is shaping up to be an excellent range of smartphones. The Xperia P is a dinkier version of the Xperia S but still keeps many of the great features, including a dual-core processor, sharp eight-megapixel camera and colourful screen, although battery life is a let down. As an all-round package we prefer the HTC One S, but the Xperia P is a great way to enjoy your apps and media on the move.