Powerful chip; Sharp, bright Reality screen; impressive feature-packed snapper; Good-looking, creative design.
Playing games drains the battery and warms up the handset; a tad weighty and chunky.
The Sony Xperia SP has some fabulous features, including a clever, powerful eight-megapixel snapper, powerful Qualcom chip and HD Reality screen. The handset is speedy, fun to use and looks great.
We loved the Xperia Z smartphone from Japanese giants Sony, with its strong, waterproof chassis and excellent snapper. But it was let down by a chunky body and disappointing battery life. So when we got our hands on the new Xperia SP, we were keen to see if these issues had been addressed. First off, we could see the phone has a more compact chassis, but with a great 720p HD display and impressive camera.
Our favourite feature of the phone’s design is the bar that sits at the bottom of the handset – it’s transparent and glows in colour when you have a notification. It looks good, and also means you don’t have to keep checking the screen to see if you have texts or emails waiting.
The chassis is made from aluminium, and it is more pocket-friendly than its predecessor, even though it has more girth. It’s also comfy to use with one hand, because the five-inch display of the Xperia Z has been reduced to 4.6 inches.
It is heavier though. The Xperia Z was on the heavy side, and the SP is 155g more weighty. It’s not uncomfortable to hold, but you will notice it has a heft to it.
We also really like the now iconic round power button, which sticks out of the right edge of the handset. It’s simple to find, especially if you’re fiddling with your handset in the dark – something we seem to do quite a lot.
On the right side of the handset you’ll find the shutter button. Hold it down in hibernation mode and the camera app loads straight away. Push again and the snapper focuses, then press fully to take a snap. Photos and HD video can be taken at the same time, and the snapper also boasts a range of special modes including panorama and some nifty filters. You won’t find many better cameras on a phone at this price.
The 4.6in Reality display is a boost for media fans. It has a 720p resolution, which offers 319 pixels per inch. There are sharper screens to be found, but we were still impressed by the HD images, which were sharp with no blurry edges. The screen is bright enough to cope with any glare, boasts good contrast levels and amazingly wide viewing angles.
The Xperia Z’s snapper impressed us with its Superior Auto mode, which gave us bright, vibrant snaps in pretty much all light conditions. The Xperia SP also boasts this clever mode – even on dull days we were rewarded with bright snaps. Just point and shoot and you get impressive images.
Under the hood sits a Qualcomm chip that handles anything you throw at it without a murmur. We were able to play the latest games such as Iron Man 3 with great frame rates, and they all looked amazing. After an hour’s play, though, you’ll notice that the handset gets a tad warm. Not hot enough to be a real worry, but we did notice it was warm when we popped the handset back in our pocket.
Sony fans will love the fact that the Xperia SP has NFC support and can communicate with other Sony gadgets wirelessly. You can connect it to a Sony TV and use the phone as a remote, or listen to music via Sony headphones and speakers. And you can use a Sony external storage device to back up your media, apps and photos too. Okay, you may be restricted to buying Sony gizmos, but at least the NFC facility is being used for something useful.
If you’re a keen gamer, don’t expect more than three hours of playing before the juice runs out of the battery – streaming video gives you a reasonable five hours. In moderate use – a bit of net surfing, some texting, emailing and a few calls – you should manage to squeeze out 36 hours. Power saving mode will help, although it does switch off some of the key features.
The Xperia SP really is a mid-range marvel, with its feature-filled snapper, and Reality screen. It is a tad hefty, and the juice drains quickly if you’re gaming, but for the price you’d be hard pushed to find a better phone.
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