It looks ilke an Xperia S, behaves like an Xperia S but this here phone isn't an Xperia S, oh no. This is the mid-range Sony Xperia P. As part of the NXT line, the Sony Xperia P shares the same iconic design, bold corners and customised UI as its bigger brother, however with its 4-inch display and aluminium unibody construct, the Xperia P is the NXT handset for the style-centric out there who don't need 720p screens in their pockets and consider the baby of the bunch, the Xperia U to be a little too, little.
Sony Xperia P: Design
In spite of the metal unibody, the Sony Xperia P doesn't feel dense like the HTC One S and isn't particularly cold to the touch like the Nokia N8. Instead, it's light, somewhat hollow and bordering on dainty for a unibody device.
Shaving off some fascia size when compared to its bigger brother, it also manages to shave off some girth, in turn feeling the most unimposing of the three Xperias. The Xperia P also forgoes the flaps covering the micro USB and micro HDMI ports which should be great for longevity.
What the Sony Xperia P also brings with it are three capacitive buttons on the actual transparent band at the bottom side of the phone. This means the menu, home and back icons are touch sensitive and offer an infinitely more usable input method than the Xperia S and U's trio of corresponding dots.
All in all therefore, the Sony Xperia P sits against the likes of the HTC One S, and the design stacks up well against it. Not as thin, solid or rich to the touch, it does nevertheless offer bolder styling, more confident angles and a more classical visual statement.
Sony Xperia P: Screen
Measuring 4-inches and offering qHD resolution (540x900), the Sony Xperia P packs great pixel density and a screen endowed with Sony's White Magic technology. This tech adds a white sub-pixel to each Xperia P pixel, thus, when displaying white, light passes light through this single sub-pixel. Sony claim this saves power, offers better outdoor viewing and more accurate whites.
Whatever it does, it works at making the screen look fantastic. It's crisp, viewing angles are incredible and the screen's colours are warm and vibrant. Suffering from none of the shortcomings of the Xperia S screen (mediocre viewing angles being the most notable), we hope to see a lot more White Magic on a lot more phones.
Sony Xperia P: User Interface
Inside the Sony Xperia P is Android, and more specifically, Gingerbread. This is off the bat an out of date release for an Android device which isn't a good start, though an Ice Cream Sandwich update should be on the way in the coming months.
Sony do make some pretty impressive tweaks to the user interface to ensure the Android experience doesn't fall short. This involves live wallpapers with an attractive smokey effect. There are also a host of custom widgets which look very impressive, such as weather and power saver. Thanks to the NFC chip onboard, there is also a Smart Tags widget that enable control over Sony's handy profile changing tags.
Despite some cool widgets though, many of the on-board apps do feel like bloatware.
The Sony keyboard offers two input method - traditional typing or a swype style method allowing you to trail your finger along the keys in order to make words. The latter works exceptionally well on the four inch display and is accompanied by a charming ribbon animation as found on the Sony Xperia S.
There are also tweaks to the apps drawer and themes which are easy to manipulate. Everything comes together looking slick, however, in June 2012 we're are less forgiving for the lack of ICS than we were in February for the Xperia S review.
Sony Xperia P: Camera and multimedia
The Sony Xperia P packs an 8-megapixel camera with a nice wide angle. Thanks to the physical camera button and fast shutter, the P jumps into action in no time and with ease making it a great on the go camera. What's even better is the user interface. Lifted straight off Sony Cybershot cameras and optimised for touch input, the UI across the entire NXT line gives you plenty of options to customise your picture taking.
As far as image quality goes, the Sony Xperia P's snaps look solid. We'd say it was the same sensor as the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc S and in turn shots come out looks very competitive. It's low light performance is actually a touch better than the Sony Xperia S, though naturally, detail is weaker.
If you're not into touch to focus, we found the multiple auto-focus mode work a lot better, especially for macro shots and it's great Sony give you so many options if you dig into the menus.
Video is shot at full HD at 30fps. It looks smooth and implements great continuous focus as you can see from the sample video.
Sony Xperia P: Connectivity and Storage
About as well connected as any mobile out at the moment, the Sony Xperia P packs all the standard bells and whistles plus NFC and an HDMI out for exporting video content.
The lack of removable memory might irk some people looking to buy the Sony Xperia P, however with 16GB on board and 11.26GB available to the user, there should be room about 3 or 4 movies and a few hundred tracks.
Getting files onto a Mac from an Xperia P can be a bit of a pain. You have to go through iPhoto which is passable for videos and photos, but we would have much prefered the option to treat the phone as a mass storage device.
Sony Xperia P: Performance and Battery
With its 1GHz dual-core Sony processor, the Sony Xperia P is pretty well specced for a mid-range offering That said, it won't blow the competition out of the water with the likes of the HTC One S offering more speed, albeit with a steeper price tag.
In terms of day to day performance, we found Sony's user interface slightly heavy when considering the processor. Pinching for a widget overview can cause stutters when the default live wallpaper is active.
The death grip issue is evident on the Sony Xperia P. Clasp your hands around the body and you'll see your reception dwindling. We didn't notice this affect call quality though it did have an impact on 3G speeds and is annoying, though truth be told, we don't tend to browse the web with our hands firmly locked around the phone.
When it comes to battery, despite a worrying battery capacity for a 4-inch screened device (1350 mAh), the Sony Xperia P managed to last a full day with music playback, a movie and camera shots as well as a night out. Auto sync is probably asking a bit much for a full day battery, however this isn't bad by today's standards.
Sony Xperia P: Conclusion
Considering where the Sony Xperia P fits into the NXT line, it does a good job of championing the design language, functionality and strengths Sony's new phones have come to represent. It's a good fit in the hand and pocket, has a decent camera and the screen looks fantastic. The buttons are easy to press along the transparent strip, and it works as a phone too. That it packs Gingerbread is a real let down and there is a fair amount of pre-installed Sony-ware, but at about £330 offline, this probably won't irk most buyers out there as much as it irks us. Easily one of the better phones of 2012, anyone in need of bold angles, a killer screen and solid camera will be well served by the Sony Xperia P.