When Sony said they were going to focus heavily on their smartphone game post the break-up with Ericsson, they weren’t kidding around. After the arrival of the Xperia S, the first Sony-branded phone to hit the streets, we now have a fleet of Xperia handsets covering all major price brackets, while the entry-level handsets have yet to arrive. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Xperia P, the second-in-command in the Xperia line-up, bracketed just below the Xperia S. All of Sony’s handsets are very similar in terms of functionality and even design to an extent, but they’ve given each a unique trait to differentiate them. The S had the camera, the U had the multi-colour touch panel, while the Sola incorporated the floating touch technology. The P boasts of having one of the brightest smartphone displays ever fitted to a phone. Let’s see if this is enough to justify its price tag.
Video Review – Sony Xperia P
A video review if the Sony Xperia P
Design and Build
The Xperia P bears a striking resemblance to the Xperia S, only it’s a bit longer and features an aluminium chassis instead of plastic. The build and feel of the phone is very good, but the glossy screen is a big fingerprint magnet. We have a VGA camera in the front, along with a host of sensors like proximity, ambient light, etc. The P has a four-inch screen, which doesn't feel that big since the phone is longer and narrower. The illuminated transparent strip at the bottom is not simply for show this time around, but they actually function as capacitive buttons, unlike the S, which had the buttons above it. The response is good and even a light press triggers an action.
Stylish and well built
Connectivity-wise, we have a microUSB, microHDMI and the microSIM slots on the left side of the phone while the right houses a single speaker grill, power, volume rocker and the camera shutter. There’s no expandable memory on the P, so the 16 GB internal memory is all you have. While the buttons have a good, tactile feel to them, they feel a little too small, especially if you have large hands. We also didn’t like the fact that the power button is placed so close to the volume rocker that you’ll find yourself fumbling for the buttons. The 3.5 mm headphone jack is located up top, while we just have an 8 MP camera along with an LED flash on the back.
Capacitive strip actually works well this time
Overall, the Xperia P feels like a very solid and well put together phone. However, its narrow profile means that it really is not designed for someone with large hands. If you have dainty hands though, the phone should fit you perfectly.
The look and feel of the interface is no different from that of the other Xperia handsets we’ve tested. The four-inch screen squeezes in a healthy resolution of 960 x 540, so text, icons and images look sharp and clear. The brightness level is definitely a lot higher than most phones, which gives the screen very good sunlight legibility. Sony has used their special 'WhiteMagic' technology along with the BRAVIA Mobile Engine to give this display its high brightness levels. While you won't notice it much in indoor use, the sunlight legibility is actually pretty good thanks to the increased brightness level. Since the phone runs on Gingerbread, there is that intermittent lag that creeps in, but the UI is quite smooth as is switching between applications.
Nothing's changed in the interface department
The Xperia P is powered by a NovaThor U8500 SoC that packs in a 1GHz dual-core CPU and an ARM Mali-400 GPU. This is the same chipset that powers the Xperia U and the Sola as well. There aren’t any toggle switches in the notification bar, but you do get a widget that gives you all the switches you’ll need. You can choose between many Timescape widgets for your gallery, Gmail, social networks, etc. Pinching the homescreen makes all the widgets float on a single screen, allowing you to quickly jump to any one you wish. In benchmarks, the Xperia P gave us the same scores as the Xperia U, which is not surprising since they both share the same SoC. In AnTuTu, we got a score of 5423. Linpack gave us a single threaded score of 42.2 MFLOPS and multi-threaded score of 62.3 MFLOPS.
The Xpreria P greets us once again with the same revamped media interface we’ve come to expect from Sony's new NXT line-up. The music player widget now displays album art and Sony has added a lockscreen widget that allows you to skip songs without having to unlock the screen. You get a five-band graphic equalizer, along with a bunch of presets and some other audio enhancements. The sound quality is pretty good though, and the bundled headset provides good ambient noise isolation. The speaker is also pretty loud, but is only mono and not stereo.
Very good media playback
The stock player will playback MP4 files and we also managed to play our 720p AVI test files. Other formats will need a third party player. MKV files play in Moboplayer but not smoothly. It all depends on the bit-rate and the format of your video files. So, while 1080p MP4 files play without a hitch, the same cannot be said for other formats.
The Xperia P is a quad-band GSM phone and you have all the basic connectivity options covered like 3G, Wi-Fi, DLNA, NFC, Bluetooth, etc. Connecting the phone to the PC puts it automatically in MTP mode. You can use it with the companion suite as well, although that’s not needed. The advantage of MTP mode over mass storage is that you can still use the internal memory while you’re transferring data. The stock browser is not the best of the lot since it’s a Gingerbread browser. Webpages are rendered well and text and images appear sharp and crisp. However, it's not the best screen, size-wise, for browsing due to the narrow form factor of the phone.
Plenty of bundled apps
Typing on the Xperia P can be a bit of a task if you have large hands. The keyboard is quite comfortable in landscape mode, but it gets very cramped in portrait mode. Also, the word prediction is not very good and keeps suggesting the wrong words. You’re better off using a third-party keyboard like Swiftkey.
Sony bundles all the essential apps needed to get you started. They've bundled OfficeSuite (only for viewing Office documents), and Media Remote that lets you use your phone as a remote control with Wi-Fi-enabled Sony TVs. You also get WisePilot, NeoReader, Stopwatch, World Clock, etc.
You can activate the 8 MP camera by simply holding down the shutter button. Capturing a photo is quick with almost no lag from the time you hit the button to when the photo is taken. You can choose between tap-to-focus, tap-to-capture and many other modes. Sony has also added a 3D Sweep Panorama, similar to the one seen in their digicams. This doesn’t always work right though and can lead to some pretty weird photos. Normal panorama works well and is quick in stitching the photos together and saving them. The camera sensor does a good job outdoors, where there’s plenty of natural light. Macro shots are very good and the camera quickly focuses on the subject.
Plenty of options to tinker around with
The Xperia P can do video in 1080p with continuous auto-focus. While the captured video has a solid frame rate, it takes time for the auto-focus to kick in and re-adjust. It could have been a little quicker as you have to wait for a few seconds until your subject is in focus, if you’re moving. The video can be viewed directly on an HDTV via the HDMI port.
Captures good detail
Macro mode, with flash
The Sony Xperia P is fitted with a non-removable 1305 mAh battery which lasted around seven hours in our video drain test. It didn't fare so well in our loop tests, which included 1.5 hours of calling, two hours of audio, two hours of video and finally, one hour of audio streaming. The battery life is not outstanding, but it’s pretty good and will easily last you more than a day if you go easy on the data usage.
Verdict and Price in India
At Rs. 24,500, the Sony Xperia P doesn’t really have much competition at its price point, so it’s pretty much hogging all the limelight. You have the Lumia 800, but there’s no point going down that road. The only real alternative is the unofficially available Galaxy Nexus and that’s that one I’d pick in a heartbeat. I didn’t find anything that’s majorly wrong with the Xperia P. Sure, it has its share of niggles like the daft keyboard, bad placement of the side buttons, etc., but it also does fare very well in the display department, has really good media capabilities, a great camera and a compact form factor. How do you decide then? Simple, if you have small hands and like a sugar-coated UI, go for the Xperia P. Else, just get the Galaxy Nexus and stay ahead of the curve.
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Oct 25, 2016