Sony Xperia P Review: Does Sony’s White Magic Cast The Right Spell?

Sony Xperia P Review: Does Sony’s White Magic Cast The Right Spell?

The Sony Xperia P has had me rubbing my eyes and scratching more than once over the last week that I’ve been living with it. Not because it’s amazing, but because it’s deeply vexing.

What Is It?

The Sony Xperia P is Sony’s latest attempt to get you excited about using one of its smartphones. Behind the 4-inch, 540×960, White Magic-powered screen (which we’ll get to later), is a dual-core 1Ghz Cortex A9 processor coupled with 1GB of RAM and 16GB worth of internal storage. On the back of the curved smartphone is an 8-megapixel, panorama-capable camera that can shoot video at 1080p.

It ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread (I know, we’ll get there), with a promised update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in the very near future. It’s available on Telstra’s Next G network right now for $0 on the $60 Every Day Connect plan.

What’s To Like?

To be honest, there’s a fair bit to like on the surface of the Xperia P. It’s a striking design. It boasts a black body with a transparent bar at the base, rounded-off by either a black, white or maroon cap. It’s really striking and the see-through bar at the bottom of the handset is wonderful. More handsets should have design features this pretty. The curved back is also really nice and it fits into the hand well. The curved design is reminiscent of the iPhone 3GS that went down so well with most.

The camera is fantastic too. The Cybershot-like camera has always been welcome in Sony smartphones. I remember having the Sony Ericsson K850i and the best part of it was the 3.2-megapixel camera that produced images better than the 5-megapixel Nokia N95. Ah, memories. The sound is also fantastic thanks to Sony speakers.

Sony’s Android skin, Timescape UI, really gets out of your way here too. I use an iPhone 4S as my daily driver, and the Xperia P’s implementation of Android isn’t so in-your-face, meaning that iPhone converts will probably enjoy this phone. It doesn’t hurt that it’s dead easy to use either.

The White Magic screen is a curious little invention too. Basically it sees Sony put a white pixel next to the red, green and blue pixels on the display. It gives the display a distinctly yellowish tinge. Compare that to the darkened blue display of the Galaxy Nexus and the greenish display of the iPhone 4S and it’s not a huge issue. It doesn’t reproduce perfect whites, but when you walk out of a store with it and start using it everyday, it’s barely noticeable.

No Like

It’s only when you start prodding below the surface of the Xperia P that you realise you’re kind of getting a raw deal here.

The specifications, for example, read off the page as less exciting when compared to other smartphones around the same price bracket. On the $60 Telstra Every Day Connect plan, you’re given a choice of two other handsets next to the Xperia P: the HTC Velocity 4G and the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G. Both 4G-capable handsets, both running a higher version of Android and both with considerably more screen real estate.

It gets worse too. Quadrant tests show us that the Xperia P handles processing tasks like handsets that were released almost two years ago. This is the real indictment of how bad this handset really is.

In our tests, we found that the Xperia P scored only marginally higher than the HTC Desire HD, and slightly lower than the LG Optimus 2X with a score of 2189. Compare that with the score of the HTC One X for example which is pushing 5000 in Quadrant test numbers. The HTC One X is only $6 more expensive per month on the Telstra plan.

Which begs you to ask the question: why would you get this phone when you can get a better one for less than the cost of two lattes on your monthly phone bill?

The battery also warrants a mention. It’s fully integrated into the handset so theoretically it should provide better efficiency, right? Wrong. The Xperia P was out of juice after seven hours. Seven hours doesn’t sound that bad, but compare it to the notoriously bad iPhone 4S, which outlasted the Xperia P by an additional two hours. Ouch.

And I know that a software update is coming some time in the next month (supposedly), but did we really have to ship this with Android 2.3 the week before we previewed Android 4.1 Jelly Bean? By the time this gets its Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, Galaxy Nexus owners will already be running around with something better.

Should You Buy One?

Comparison shopping is a tricky thing. With the facts we’re presented with right now, the Xperia P isn’t the best value. Especially considering you can get a better handset for just a few extra dollars per month. Being stuck with a phone you don’t like for two years is especially difficult when you see other phones you could have bought running rings around yours at parties. It’s the price that kills the case for the Xperia P. The prices at the time this review was written stack up against the Xperia P, but that could change in future. If this phone was on a lower plan tier for example, it’d be great value.

The phone only gets a recommend from me if you come at it from a certain angle.

If you’re a staunch iPhone opponent who doesn’t want anything that the fruit stand is selling and need the best looking phone on the Telstra market, you’ll get the Xperia P. Or if you’re someone who’s had enough of Apple and wants to get off the bandwagon, but doesn’t want to be frightened off by Android, you’ll get the Xperia P. It’s then and only then that it makes sense to get one.

Am I missing something here? Did you buy the Xperia P over something like a Galaxy S II or an HTC One X? How’s that going?