The Sony Xperia P by all rights shouldn't really set anyone's heart aflutter. It doesn't, after all, have any single feature that really sets it apart from any other Android smartphone. But somehow the whole is better than the sum of its parts, making it a tempting mid-range handset.
Where the Sony Xperia P starts its assault is with its design. It's smart and sleek yet quirky too. It has the same overall vibe as the Xperia S, with the Xperia line's signature features of the curved back, pointy corners and the clear strip running through the bottom section. But while we felt the S fell short of expectations the P actually exceeds them. This is for two reasons. The first is it uses a more premium looking and feeling metal back, and the second is that our expectations are markedly lower to start with, this being a mid-range handset after all.
The design isn't perfect though. One thing we didn't like about the Xperia S that the Xperia P hasn't managed to fix is the bitty look and feel. The screen has an unsightly lip around it, the front facing camera really stands out and the pathetic flap that covers the SIM slot lets the side down. Nonetheless, overall the Xperia P is a handset we'd happily be seen with.
Ergonomics and Connectivity
What's more, it's not all about vanity either. The Xperia P's design appeals because it's actually easy to handle too. It has a modest 4in screen so its overall dimensions are a manageable 122 x 59.5 x 10.5 mm. These proportions also put the side mounted power button cum screen lock switch directly under thumb or finger for easy one handed operation. Likewise the volume rocker, while the touch sensitive navigation buttons set into the plastic strip beneath the screen aren't a stretch either – and they work well too. Only the slightly uncomfortable pointy corners and slightly over-stiff buttons are an issue, and they're not much of one.
In contrast, the Xperia S is hardly the largest handset going but nevertheless it felt little bigger (and heavier) than we like, its buttons don't quite fall so nicely into place and its touch buttons are awful.
Added to these great basics the Xperia P has a shutter button for the camera and a microHDMI socket, so it's easy to take pictures and hook your phone up to a TV to look at said pictures. You don't, however, get expandable storage by way of a microSD slot (you get 16GB of built in storage), and in fact you can't remove the backplate to replace the batter either, or at least not without getting a screwdriver out.
On the wireless front you only get Blutooth v2.1 rather than v4.0 but this a relatively minor slip up. You also get everything else you should want with Wi-Fi n, NFC and quad band 3G all present and correct, so you can stream, sync, talk and text from just about anywhere.
Overall then we think the Xperia P has one of the most compelling combinations of ergonomics and features currently available, particularly if you're not into these really big phones.
Not dropping the baton is the screen, which although not up there with the biggest and best is only a step below. It's an LCD so suffers from a slightly grey look to dark images, and there's a little bit of contrast shift when viewed from an angle. What's more it has only 540 x 960 pixels, which is a fair few less than the 720 x 1280 panels of the top dogs. So, a Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X beater it isn't.
But, the resolution is a step above the 480 x 800 panels that were standard a year ago and combined with the modest 4in screen size it makes for a screen that's plenty sharp enough for a nice experience whether web browsing, reading emails, watching video or playing games. It's also reasonably colourful, and because there's no air gap between the glass screen and LCD display below, the image looks like its right on the surface of the glass, giving great viewing angles.
In terms of responsiveness, it's absolutely fine too, and you've got scratch-resistant glass to keep the phone looking fresher for longer.