Channel 5

Sony Xperia SP

Friday 03 May 2013


Rating of 3

The basics

Here comes the mid-range Sony Xperia SP, hot on the heels of its super-charged bigger brother, the Sony Xperia Z. This one isn’t waterproof, but it packs the same blocky design flair into its polished shell, along with a 4.6-inch HD display and a dual-core 1.7GHz processor which blazes through Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Is that enough to help it stand out, or if you’re after a bargain are you better off with one of last year’s smartphones? Let’s find out.

HTC One review

The good

Sony’s struggled to keep up with the Samsung and Apples of the mobile world, but you can’t knock it for build quality. The Sony Xperia SP is a rock solid effort which feels like a mix between a Samsung Galaxy S2 and a metal HTC One - but you can still pop the back cover off to add a memory card (though you can’t switch the battery).

All the ports and buttons are where you’d want them to be, and camera fiends will appreciate the dedicated shutter button on the side - something of a rarity these days - but our favourite touch is the glass strip at the bottom, which glows to alert you to notifications, and even pulses along to your tunes. Don’t like it? No problem, you can turn it off.

The screen too is delicious: the roomy 4.6-inch TFT panel isn’t full HD like the Xperia Z’s, but at 1280x720 resolution, it’s still HD, and you’ll struggle to ever make out the pixels, which makes reading a joy - even long emails and articles. It’s just the right size though, we felt, not too big, not too small, Goldilocks style.

Sony’s learned its lessons when it comes to software too. It used to saddle its phones with bloatware and unwanted games and demos like a digital, cruelly overworked pack horse, but it’s finally learnt that people don’t really like that. Instead, you get a much cleaner, faster Android experience (4.1 rather than 4.2 “Jelly Bean”, sadly, though you might not spot the difference) that even comes with its own clever “Swype”-type keyboard, so you can drag and type one handed quickly and easily. Don’t like it? You can change it: that’s the beauty of Android.

The bad

Know this: the Sony Xperia SP isn’t a particularly skinny phone. At 155g and 10mm thick, it’s a bit beefy compared to some wafer thin blowers out there - so you’d at least expect a rock solid camera housed inside. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what we’ve got. The eight megapixel sensor doesn’t hold a candle to the amazing snapper on the Xperia Z, churning out ordinary shots and struggling indoors.

The big issue is the price though: at around £300 SIM-free, the Sony Xperia SP isn’t a spectacular bargain compared to last year’s top Android phones. It also runs into a problem just about every Android phone we’ve tested recently has hit: it’s not as powerful as LG’s Google Nexus 4 phone, and nor is it as cheap off-contract.If you want a good value Android phone, there’s just no beating that.

Read our full Huawei Ascend G510 review here

The bottom line

It’s one of the dirty secrets of the mobile business: last year’s flagship phones are often better value than this year’s mid-tier phones, and while there’s plenty to like about the Sony Xperia SP, that’s still true here. On contract, you can find a bigger, more powerful Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X for the same price - and if you’re buying SIM-free, the £239 LG Nexus 4 with a full HD screen and Android 4.2 is even better value. Unless you’re a Sony loyalist, we’d look elsewhere.

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Sony Xperia SP is tagged with Sony, xperia sp and Android. Select a tag (Sony, for example) to find everything on The Gadget Show about the subject.

User comments (5)

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I'm disagree, it's true that is heavy and don't have the best camera in the market but it has a powerful dual-core processor an Andreno 320 GPU and in therms of bhenchmarks, the SP is superior that the nexus 4 and too close to the galaxy S3, please in a review look for information before do unfair judgement

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Tez Noriega-Durrant

I also think when comparing to Nexus 4 you need to consider SD card support. That is a big big must for me which these days is severely limiting choice of android handsets available. You also should start reviewing how much usable internal memory is available. Now that with later Androids you can't save apps to SD ( which is a decision that needsurgently to be reversed ), this is becoming critical and can ruin potentially great phones. ( e.g. Samsung Galacy Xcover 2 ... brilliant phone but crippled with only 1gb usable memory ). Not a fan of the S3/4 / iPhone style of phone with the glass screen going to the edges, I had one and screen smashed first time I dropped it. Old HTC Desrire Z was dropped hundreds of times and still working fine after two years. Would much prefer a phone with a edge around. Am getting an SP to replace the crippled Xcover 2, so I'll let you know what I think.

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The Nexus 4 doesn't have a full HD screen, it's resolution is the same as the Xperia S/SP (1280 x 768 pixel resolution, 320 ppi). Also, the dual-core 'Krait' Snapdragon processors are a 'best kept secret' and all test I've seen suggest it outperforms the Nexus 4 and steps on the heels of current quad-core phones. Uninformed reporting?

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I have had the SP for just over a week now and I love it! The Android experience is really sleek to use and to look at, compared to the the S3 which can have a cartoonish characteristic. You criticise the weight, which for me really creates a nice feel in the hand of something made of more than plastic. The screen on this phone may not be 'full HD' it is certainly a beautiful screen, and I had to look really hard and still struggled to pick out the pixels. One thing that lets this phone down is indeed the camera, I have trouble getting the phones camera to focus on a quick snap. Another thing is the price, when I was looking around the market for a decent smartphone on a low budget I decided for me it was either the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the Sony Xperia SP. But when it boiled down to it the price was the sticking point, I found very few carriers would give me a good price coupled with a decent contract on the S3. In the end, I got a good deal at Orange on the SP who gave me the phone for FREE on a £20.50 contract, where as this seemed near impossible anywhere else for either phone.

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Ok first of I had the LG Nexus 4 and I now have the sp... The nexus 4 is not a full HD display its only 1366 x 768... The sp has the snapdragon S4 and the nexus has the snapdragon s4 pro (pro for quad core), now the dual core is clocked at 1.7ghz which over clocks the gpu making it perform better on gaming however the nexus has 2gb ram unlike sp with 1gb ram. But the 1gb ram clocked more fastwe at 500mhz.. I have benchmarked this mobile and performs better than the nexus 4 by miles and just beats it's bigger bother xperia . All thanks to the 1.7ghz.. Sometimes it lags unlike the nexus that's because it's not got the other 2 cores to help it out and it's on a 4g signal..... Gadget show if your gunna state something get it right first... Won't be watching your programs from now on can't state facts!!!

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