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Sony Xperia P review: Sony Xperia P

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The Good Sharp, aluminium design. Good, 4-inch display. Sony's NXT UI is slick and intuitive as any on the Android platform.

The Bad Below-average battery life. Non-expandable memory. Non-replaceable battery. Xperia S is only AU$50 more expensive.

The Bottom Line The Xperia P is a solid Sony smartphone, but with the Xperia S costing only AU$50 more, we'd suggest that you think about spending the extra money.

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7.5 Overall

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Every family has the golden child. The one who gets the good looks and the secret favour of their parents as a result. The Xperia P is that child in the 2012 Xperia family, and although it's positioned as being a more affordable option than the flagship Xperia S, it has the looks to be an eye catcher in its own right.

These good looks come in the form of a unibody aluminium body. Unlike the Xperia S and Xperia U, the P is one solid piece, and is not designed to be opened by the user. This means that its battery is locked away from all but the most adventurous smartphone owners, and that its memory is non-expandable, like the iPhone and HTC One X.

Sony opts for a 4-inch screen for the P, with a qHD (960x540-pixel) resolution, and, while this adds up to far fewer pixels per inch than you find on the HD screen of the Xperia S, it isn't a big issue for this phone. The screen here is sharp and colourful, though the colour-banding issue we've seen on recent Sony releases is still evident, unfortunately.

This phone also benefits from a technology that Sony is calling WhiteMagic. This basically equates to a very bright screen matched with ambient light-sensing smarts to determine when you need it most — like outdoors — and when it can return to a battery-saving level of brightness. We've seen many smartphone makers claim similar outdoor clarity before, but none do it so well as WhiteMagic and the Xperia P. Even under fluoros in our office, you can clearly see the difference when the P is beside another phone without WhiteMagic. The screen isn't just brighter, but somehow clearer, too.

Below the touchscreen, Sony includes the same transparent panel that we saw earlier in the year when we reviewed the Xperia S. This bar serves the dual purpose of being the most recognisable feature of the Xperia family, and of housing the phone's antenna. Interestingly, our reviews team at CNET Asia noticed a "death grip"-like signal attenuation problem when testing the Xperia P, though happily we haven't been able to replicate this problem with our review unit in Sydney.

Compared to

Sony Xperia P Sony Xperia S Samsung Galaxy S II Galaxy Nexus
Android 2.3 (upgradeable) Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.0
4-inch LCD
540x960 pixels
4.3-inch LCD
720x1280 pixels
4.3-inch AMOLED
480x800 pixels
4.65-inch AMOLED
720x1280 pixels
Ericsson NovaThor
Dual 1GHz
Samsung Exynos
TI OMAP 4460
16GB storage
16GB storage
16GB storage
16GB storage
AU$449* AU$488* AU$508* AU$496*

*Prices are accurate at the time of writing, though are likely to change.

User experience and performance

If you're familiar with the user interface on the Xperia S, or even the Xperia Arc and Arc S from last year, you'll have a solid idea of what to expect with the Xperia P. Sony calls this common interface platform the Sony NXT experience, and while it lacks some of the glamour of HTC's Sense UI, it is among our favourite smartphone UI layers. NXT is slick and fluid, with a few great, intuitive tweaks to the basic Android platform UI. It also feels a lot like the UI on the PlayStation 3 and the Vita handheld console, which is great for fans of Sony products.

The phone's battery life isn't so great, unfortunately, with its 1300mAh battery managing to get through only a single day of moderate use. This battery is considerably smaller than the 1800mAh or larger batteries we've tended to see in phones this year, and this shows how it compares with other handsets in our in-house tests. When playing a 720p video file, the P lasted only three and a half hours, and for web browsing only four hours. This isn't a phone we'd recommend for business users who rely heavily on calls and regular email delivery.

It's dual-core 1GHz processor places the Xperia P in the mid-range of phones this year, and this is reflected in the benchmark tests we've run. One such test is an OpenGL 3D-rendering test created by Rightware, where the Xperia P scores 13 frames per second. This is a result on par with other mid-tier phones, like the LG Prada, but is predictably about half the result we saw with the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One XL. This doesn't impact on the everyday use of the phone, however. The Xperia P handled itself well when launching apps and multitasking, with only minor pauses between executions.

It's also worth noting that the Xperia P will launch in Australia running on the Android Gingerbread platform (2.3), but is upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0). Sony believes that this update should occur within a month of the handset launching.

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