STE U8500 NovaThor SoC with dual core 1GHz processor
16GB Flash Storage
4 inch LCD 'Reality Display' with 540x960 resolution
8MP camera with autofocus, 1080p30 video recording
Quad band GSM
Dual band/Tri band 3G (depending on model) HSDPA 14.4Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, NFC, USB On-the-Go
Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Sony TimeScape UI
Sharing a common design language to the flagship Xperia S and entry level Xperia U, the Xperia P sits awkwardly in the middle. With a specification far closer to the Xperia U but in a far more premium body, the Xperia P reminds me of the HTC Legend - where style and form wins over pure specifications. The Xperia P is by far the best iteration of the NXT design language thanks to the use of metallic unibody cover, one that even the more expensive Xperia S can't claim to have.
Xperia S, but the differences are negligible. The 'Reality Display' used here is in fact a Super LCD one, albeit one powered by Sony's BRAVIA engine, which enhances contrast and colour saturation.
In addition to the traditional RGB sub-pixel arrangement, the Xperia P's display also contains an additional white sub-pixel. This technology is dubbed WhiteMagic which Sony claims allows them to create a display that is unusually bright. In testing, this proved to be true but at some expense. In contrast to Super AMOLED and IPS technologies, the high level of brightness here tends to lead to washed out colours, reduced contrast and black-levels. Fortunately, it is rare that one would be forced to use the Xperia P at maximum brightness, though people in countries that are blessed with reliable weather should take note.
Below the display is the now recognisable transparent band that it share with its other NXT cousins. While the strip contains markers displaying the keys for back, home and menu, the actual touch sensitive buttons lies just above or below the strip. However, unlike the Xperia S's front buttons, it buttons here are sensitive enough that you do not require pin point accuracy to actually use. Above the display resides the secondary camera, notification LED and earpiece. Unsurprisingly, the Xperia P's voice call capability are good with the earpiece powerful enough to use even in the noisy pub.
The right side of the Xperia P is even busier than the left side. Here you will find the loudspeaker, a conveniently placed power button, volume rocker and finally the two-step camera shutter button. The placement of the loudspeaker is great as it meant that it won't get muffled due to being blocked by your palms, even when used sideways. A single 3.5mm headphone jack resides on the top of the device.
Turning over, the backside is exclusively used for the 8MP camera and its solitary LED flash. Unlike previous Xperia smartphones, the Xperia P's camera is positioned away from the top so there is less chance for one to accidentally get their fingers in the way. The rather small 1305mAh battery is none-removable, which is a shame as the Xperia P's battery life isn't brilliant. In day to day life, it actually performs worse than the Xperia U, which isn't surprising as while they share the same processor, the Xperia P has a larger display with more pixels and subpixels to power.
With a dual core 1GHz Ericsson processor paired with Mali-400MP GPU (the same GPU that powered the Samsung Galaxy S2), the Xperia P sounds like it should be able to handle Android with aplomb and the benchmark results seems to confirm that. In reality, the Xperia P suffers from significant interface lag not seen on other dual core Android smartphones like the HTC One S and even the single core Xperia Ray and Xperia Arc, which is rather disappointing as benchmark results were competent. Sony has plenty of work to do if they are keen on optimising their proprietary NXT/Timescape UI for this particular chipset.
Still it isn't all bad. The dual core processor does keep most third party apps pumping along nicely. There is a hint of lagness when compared to the Xperia U - but I attribute that due to the higher resolution display. The inclusion of 1GB RAM was a surprise and is plentiful. No expansion slot is included, though a generous 16GB of storage space is built-in. You can however augment the storage temporarily by connecting a flash drive using a USB On-the-Go cable (not included).
The NXT launcher is the same one that powers the Xperia S and U and it doesn't appears to be any different. It is based on the same launcher that powered most of Sony Ericsson's 2011 Xperia line-up, which I was rather fond of. While aging, any power users will feel right at home. Despite looking rather complex and terrifying, it is simple to use and master. However the widgets can get quite a bit overwhelming for a first time smartphone user.
The app drawer is flat based and can be sorted based on your own order, alphabetically, most used and recently installed. Apps can also be uninstalled directly from the app drawer, Folders can be created on the homescreen by dragging one shortcut over another - similar to the method on iOS. Widgets bundled includes Sony's socially friendly Timescape, TrackID and LiveWare. The homescreen also does lag at times and I hope this will be fixed when ICS update arrives with hardware acceleration.
A key Android feature is notifications. Notifications allows one to glance at an assortment of details we would otherwise miss. You access the notification bar by swiping downwards from the top display. Here, any notifications that appears will be listed here, be it your missed calls, text messages, Facebook messages, emails and Twitter mentions, Foursquare check-ins etc, as well as the opportunity to dismiss them all.
With Google Maps now supporting full offline support for maps, Android is fast becoming an ideal solution for SatNav users. As a standard feature on most phones, the Xperia P contains a GPS receiver. When used alongside wireless positioning via WiFi or mobile masts, the Xperia P's GPS received was able to provide a full lock within seconds, a fair improvement over just a few years ago when gaining a GPS lock under two minutes was considered an achievement of sorts.
Like the Xperia S, the Xperia P also features a hidden talent in the form of NFC/RFID. Near Field Communications is the latest trend in smartphones and is said to be able to revolutionise the way we interact with our gadgets. Sony sells SmartTags, designed to work with NFC devices like the Xperia P. These SmartTags aren't actually programmable, but you can set your Xperia P up to tell the tell the phone what actions are to be performed whenever certain tags are scanned. You could leave a tag in at work, which will then tell your phone to connect to the office WiFi and switch off 3G data when you scan it. The possibilities are endless. Just got home and want to immediately listen to some music? Scan a tag that instructs your phone to connect to a Bluetooth speaker and starting up the Music Player automatically.
here alongside a number of image samples.
When it was announced, the closest competitor to the Xperia P was the HTC One S, a device with a far superior specification (it has a next generation Snapdragon S4 SoC) and offers similar imaging capabilities, though the price difference has now widen in favour of the Xperia P. At its current price point (£275 from Amazon), there is almost no competition to the Xperia P when it comes to a 'new device' with comparable talents. Look backwards however and you will find the year old HTC Sensation to be priced slightly lower, new. A proven device, the HTC Sensation has even been updated to ICS a couple of months ago making it, theoretically at least, a better buy. Sure it lacks NFC, but with NFC still developing, the technology is a more of a niche for geeks rather than a must-have.
After close to a month with the Xperia P, I have actually come appreciate the NXT design even more than the higher priced Xperia S. This is mainly to do with the size and 'premium feel' of the device. It does lack the superior camera prowess of the Xperia S. The software engineers at Sony need to make ICS/Jellybean update a priority, as the Xperia P is suffering without it. In another world I wouldn't care if it ran on an older platform - as long as it ran well. But the changes in ICS are just too huge to ignore, that it makes sense to demand a new phone that comes with a new version of Android.