Turning the phone on, the Android interface feels quick to respond and its animations are nice and smooth – there's no stutter vision here. Powering the Xperia P along is a dual-core 1GHz chip (the NovaThor U8500 with Mali-400MP graphics, to be precise), which may sound a little weedy compared to the quad core, 1.5GHz models topping the charts but in practise it's plenty fast enough.
In fact, putting the phone to the test with a few benchmarks, it performs even better than expected, nearly drawing level with the HTC One X in the CPU tests, SunSpider and BrowserMark.
It's much less impressive on the graphics front, with it only just beating the HTC One V in GLBenchmark, but for most games it will be more than sufficient, particularly given it's not having to render them at HD screen resolutions.
When it comes to making calls, we found signal quality to be a little more ropey than we're used to with garbled and broken up voices occurring as a result. But, as ever, such findings have to be taken with a pinch of salt as signal strength varies so wildly from carrier to carrier and location to location, and notably we never dropped a call.
Otherwise the actual sound quality is very good, with the earpiece delivering clear, natural sounding voices, and the mic delivering a pleasing tone too.
The Sony Xperia P runs Android and the overall experience will be instantly familiar to those that have already dabbled in Google's mobile OS. And even if you're new to the platform, it's easy to get to grips with, in particular thanks to the comprehensive walkthrough that's activated when you first power the phone on.
There is a downside, though, which is that this phone runs the rather ancient 2.3 version of Android, rather than the 4.0 version most newish handsets use. Okay, so 2.3 is still used on loads of very decent older phones and it's still very capable, but there are a few nice enhancements in 4.0/4.1 that will be missed. An Android 4.0 based update is in the works, though, and is expected to arrive in early August.
Sony has fairly heavily tweaked the Android interface to both the betterment and detriment of the experience, but overall it remains easy to use.
Some positives include the addition of Sony's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited streaming services, which are both among the best manufacturer specific services of their kind, with reasonable prices and a vast catalogue of content that taps into Sony's motion picture and music archives.
Another fairly obvious change is that you're given the option of whether to have the main apps menu order itself alphabetically, in order of most used or most recently added, or in an order of your choosing. We're fans of the default alphabetical way but at least the other options are there.
Another tweak are the default icons along the bottom of the screen. These are customisable but out of the box the bottom left is home to a folder of multimedia apps – gallery, music, FM radio and camera. We like how this both brings some useful apps to the fore without needing any user customisation, and for those new to Android it highlights what you can do with folders.
On the flip side, there are some distinct oddities, such as the phone resetting every time you add or remove the SIM card. You also can't use the phone on Wi-Fi for anything but web browsing when no SIM is installed. Sony has also failed to add any quick access settings in the drop down notification area – things such as switches for quickly turning Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or 3G on/off – which are quite common on other Android handsets.