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Sony Xperia SP review

A mid-range marvel with a massively impressive spec list

Our Verdict

The excellent camera and range of connectivity that includes NFC and 4G go hand-in-hand with a great design and a screen size that will be just right for someone that doesn't want a high-end 5-inch monster.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 1 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 12.1 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 7.50 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 1280 x 720

View full specification

For

  • Attractive aluminium design
  • Full-featured camera
  • Media apps are a highlight
  • Impressive HD screen

Against

  • Average processor
  • Low storage space
  • Battery drains quickly
  • Redundant Sony online services

Battery life

Xperia SPTake video streaming, for example, and you can expect to run the battery dry in about five hours if you've got the brightness and the audio cranked right up. However, graphics-heavy games like Grand Theft Auto 3 or Sega Virtua Tennis will reduce the Xperia SP to empty in as little as three hours. If you've got a cross-country train journey coming up or spend a lot of time commuting, this won't impress you.

Sony must have understood this because it has included a Battery STAMINA Mode (why everything has to be in capitals with this company, we don't know) that recognises when the display has been switched off (ergo, you're not actively using the phone) and switches off all the non-essential applications. When you hit the power button, it immediately fires everything back up again.

Similarly, Wi-Fi and mobile data traffic – the two biggest draws alongside the display – are disabled when the STAMINA mode is engaged. You'll still get incoming calls and text messages but everything else gets put on standby.

If you engage the stamina mode and temper your usage to the occasional browsing session, the odd email and perhaps using TrackID to discover a tune or two, then you can get a full day's use from the Xperia SP's battery. You'll be able to make it 36 hours with very careful usage but, realistically, this is a phone that you'll be charging every night.

The battery-saving features are useful and we know from first hand experience that most of today's smartphone's struggle to retain the juice, so we can't treat the Xperia SP too harshly for its average battery life.

Connectivity

Sony Xperia SP review

The only physical connectivity you'll find on the Sony Xperia SP is the micro USB/MHL port used for charging and syncing with a PC or external display, and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the chassis.

One of the definite benefits of the Android operating system is the plug-and-play mentality of the connectivity. If you want to swap some music tracks or pictures between your PC and your phone, you can simply plug the Sony Xperia SP in and transfer between folders like any other device.

Bluetooth version 4.0 is included, as is Near-Field Communications (NFC), which immediately makes the Sony Xperia SP compatible with the vast majority of wireless speakers, headsets and game controllers out there.

Sony has plenty of first-party NFC accessories such as the Wireless SRS-BTV5 speaker and the Sony Xperia SmartTags NT2 that work simply by engaging the NFC and touching the Sony Xperia SP to each one. Its one-touch symbol is clearly displayed in the notifications panel on the top of the home screen and on a sticker on the back of the phone's case itself.

Sony Xperia SP review

It can be used for streaming music or quickly sharing photos and files in a similar way to Android Beam. Of course, in order to get the full experience you're going to have to buy into the Sony ecosystem, so we'll leave that particular decision to you.

Telephony hasn't been left out, and the Sony Xperia SP comes with 4G support. For UK users, this is something that will become an important decision later in the year when the rest of the networks start rolling out 4G tariffs. US users can already benefit from an established choice of 4G plans.

All the connectivity options can be accessed in the Settings menu while some, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, can also be quickly accessed through the notifications bar at the top of the screen.

There's also a dashboard widget included that'll enable you to toggle various settings on or off straight from the home screen.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory1 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotNo
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyXperia S
Cellular Generation3G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution12.1 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Phone StyleBar
ColourBlack
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSony Mobile
Battery Talk Time7.50 Hour
Screen Size10.9 cm (4.3")
Screen Resolution1280 x 720
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)144 g
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Operating System VersionAndroid 2.3 Gingerbread
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Radio Tuner TypeFM
Call FeaturesCall Log
Pixel Density342 ppi
Height128 mm
Width64 mm
Depth10.6 mm
Radio TunerYes
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product NameXPERIA S Smartphone
Processor Speed1.50 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon
Product LineXperia S
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeGyro Sensor, Accelerometer, Digital Compass, Proximity Sensor
Manufacturer Part Number1257-2734
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing Information

Experience watch. Experience capture. Experience play. In full HD, all with the Xperia S smartphone.

Snap, share and view life's greatest hits on the crisp, clear 4.3 HD touchscreen. Escape into blockbuster movies, hit music and PlayStation games. It's all a few clicks away with the Sony Entertainment Network on your Xperia S smartphone. But don't keep all the fun to yourself - share it on your TV, straight from your HD mobile. Sony Entertainment Network with Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited are not available in every market.