Hands On: Sony Xperia SP

By Pat Pilcher

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After languishing at the periphery as the smartphone craze gathered momentum, Sony finally seems to have hit their stride in the smartphones game since ditching Ericsson and cutting lose with the new Xperia line. The latest addition to their smartphone line up is the mid-range Sony Xperia SP which manages to bat well above its mid-range weight.

Look and Feel

You do get a hell of a lot of bang for your buck considering the SP's position as a mid-range phone. Features such as its big 4.6" screen, and surprisingly decent spec would have almost enough make it a flagship device in its own right only 6 months ago.

Looks-wise the SP has a distinctive Xperia look about it thanks to a slab like curvy design. One distinctive feature a transparent strip on its base, much like the earlier Xperia S. Sony has put the transparent space to use with a multi-colour LED so you get colour notifications which is kind of cool.

Interestingly, the SP is a tad smaller than the Xperia Z but is marginally heavier. In use, the difference in size or weight is actually pretty negligible and probably has more to do with the materials used in the SPs construction. In terms of its feel, it has a decent amount of heft attached to it and feels reassuringly solid.

I did struggle to get as excited about the SP as I did with the Xperia Z, but considering it is intended as mid-range Android smartphone, I was still impressed at how much value for money Sony have managed to wring out of the SP. All told design-wise, the SP is a class act.

In Use

Nowhere is this more apparent than Under its hood where there's a dual-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, plus 8GB of internal storage, and an SD card slot. While not quite on a par with the Z, Its 720x1280 screen (319ppi) wasn't too shabby.

Another area where the SP also wins points is its 4G capabilities. Testing it whilst passing through Auckland airport out yielded mobile data speeds in excess of 20Mbps, which is fast enough to place my ADSL 2+ connection on the endangered species list.

Last but by no means least are its cameras. The rear camera has an 8MP sensor camera and the front facing camera has a VGA resolution. Like most other phone cameras at this price point, the SPs camera can deliver the photographic goods under decent lighting conditions but the quality quickly deteriorated when shooting under low-light shooting conditions.

The SP is powered by Android OS v4.1 Jelly Bean and like the Xperia Z, and the amount of manufacturer added fluff has been kept to a sensible minimum. There are also a bunch of Sony Apps added but these also don't interfere with the look and feel of android and the SP should be a pick up and go proposition for anyone remotely familiar with Android.

The SP comes equipped with a battery saving mode that makes a huge difference, giving at least a day and half of use before the SP begs for some wall socket time. How much this is to do with the SPs 2370mAh non-removable battery and energy efficient hardware is hard to say, but using the SP without the battery saving mode enabled see's the SP conking out before a working day is done (this did however vary depending how heavily the PS was used).

Verdict

Sony have managed to craft a surprisingly decent smartphone whose specs are pretty reasonable considering its $599 sticker price (prices will however vary depending on which mobile plan you choose). If you're after 4G data speeds, want a reasonably specc'd android phone that boxes well above its weight and are on a budget, check out the Xperia - it isn't half bad.

Tech Specs

RRP $599 (Handset only)
Connectivity (Mobile data): 2G/3G/4G
Connectivity (WLAN): Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band
Connectivity (Bluetooth v4.0)
NFC
Dimensions: 130.6 x 67.1 x 10 mm
Weight:155g
Display: TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen (720 x 1280, 4.6" inches, 319 ppi)
Memory expansion: microSD, up to 32 GB
Memory: 8 GB (5.8 GB available), 1 GB RAM
Camera (rear): 8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
Camera (front): VGA
OS: Android OS, v4.1 (Jelly Bean)
CPU: Dual-core 1.7 GHz Krait
GPU: Adreno 320
Radio: FM radio with RDS
Battery: Li-Ion 2370 mAh (Non-removable)

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