Sony’s latest mid-range Android smartphone has some neat features but battery life is not one of them
Of Sony’s three new Android smartphones, the Xperia P is the mid-range model, between the entry-level U and the more expensive Xperia S.
All three share a similar, stylish design. The Xperia P’s aluminium case has a slab-like design that combines squared-off sides with a gently rounded back (which wobbles less on a flat surface than the Xperia S). It feels both very sturdy and comfortable to hold.
Since its tough metal case would give poor phone and Wifi reception, the Xperia P’s antennas are packed into a plastic pod at its base. This is separated from the main body by a clear plastic strip with a fine mesh of wires running through it. It is home to Android’s three touch-sensitive buttons that are faintly labelled in white and only dimly illuminated, which makes them tricky to see.
The Xperia P has 16GB of onboard storage, but there is no memory card slot for adding more. That means anyone who likes the Xperia but needs more storage will need to spend more for the S, which costs £349 without contract, has 32GB and a slightly better specification.
A lack of visibility in bright sunlight is a common complaint with smartphones but Sony has addressed this on the Xperia P. Its 4in screen with 540x960 pixel resolution has an excellent balance between size and sharpness, as well as rich colours, but its key feature is White Magic. Adding an extra white sub-pixel to the usual colour LCD screen’s red, green and blue sub-pixels, White Magic gives a brighter image. The Xperia P’s screen was certainly clearer in bright sunshine than that of the iPhone 4S.
White Magic can also be switched between ‘bright’ and ‘power saver’ modes. Both automatically adjust brightness but the latter keeps it dimmer at all times to reduce battery consumption.
The battery lasted four hours and 45 minutes with White Magic disabled and the screen set to 50 per cent brightness. Both White Magic modes added an extra 90 minutes for a total battery life of six hours and 15 minutes, which is better but less than some other smartphones.
We liked the eight-megapixel camera. Its detailed photos with rich, natural colours were among the best we have seen from a smartphone.
The Xperia P’s 1GHz dual-core processor is one of the slowest we have tested in an Android smartphone, but its so-so performance is really only apparent in benchmark tests and it runs very smoothly in actual use. Hopefully this will not change when Sony releases its next Android update.
The Xperia P has one more trick up its sleeve. Sony supplies three Smart Tag key fobs (more can be purchased) that can change certain settings simply by touching one to the smartphone’s case. Keep one in the car and it could launch a GPS app and enable Bluetooth for a hands-free kit connection.
A stylish smartphone with lots of features, such as an excellent screen and camera, but the Xperia P is let down badly by its mediocre battery life. Better smartphones are available for only a little more money.
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Although a very stylish smartphone with lots of features, such as an excellent screen and camera, the Xperia P is let down badly by its mediocre battery life. It's worth buying only if you can find it cheaper elsewhere.
Sturdy, stylish design; Excellent screen and camera
Poor battery life
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