The Sony Xperia SP is a mid-range Android smartphone that is pretty much a toned down version of the flagship Sony Xperia Z. It boasts a good screen, ample storage and handles day-to-day tasks in a timely fashion. Continue reading our Sony Xperia SP review to find out more. Take a look at Group test: What's the best smartphone?
Sony Xperia SP review: Design and build
The Xperia SP looks a bit like the missing link between the old flagship Xperia S and the new Sony don, the Xperia Z. What we mean by this is that while it posses the big screened, wide and soft edged attributes of the Z it still retains the iconic transparent strip of the S. The difference is that Sony has now put a LED in the bar on the Xperia SP, which means you get a bright and almighty multicolored notification flash now. A nice touch at first, but it can become annoying over time. The transparent LED bar also occasionally changes colour to match the overall shade of your screen, which is also pretty neat, but also a bit of a gimmick. See also Group test: what's the best Android phone?
Anyway, that's more than enough time spent on the transparent bar, on to the size and weight. Interestingly, the SP is smaller but heavier than its big brother, the Xperia Z. Measuring in at 67x131x 67.1x10mm and weighing 155g (compared to the 71x139x7.9mm and 146g of the Xperia Z). It's not an overly heavy or small phone, it's just a bit "meh". Take a look at our Sony Xperia SP video review too.
That said, when you've got the Xperia SP in your hand it actually feels nice in terms of weight and size. The 4.6in display is about bang-on the line of best fit for the average thumb's screen reach. The device also feels very solid in your hand, which is pretty impressive too considering it is in a plastic shell.
Sony Xperia SP Video review
Sony Xperia SP review: Hardware
To be brutally honest, the hardware in the Sony Xperia SP is pretty hard to get excited about. But that's sort of the point of a mid-range Android smartphone, so don't take it as a bad point.
Under the hood is a dual-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm MSM8960T Snapdragon processor, which isn't exactly a beast but its still got a good amount of oomph. So good in fact, that when using this phone we would say that in terms of opening apps, and doing normal day-to-day tasks there was very little (if any) difference between the SP and high-end smartphones such as the Galaxy S4, HTC One, iPhone 5 or Sony Xperia Z, which is perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay this mid-range Android smartphone - its real-usage performance really is impressive.
The SP also comes with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, which is far from huge, but it does make up this by having an expandable SD slot so you can boost the storage by a further 32GB should you want to.
In terms of benchmark scores, the Sony Xperia SP punches well above its weight. Lets start with the best result, and this was in GLBenchmark HD framerate benchmark, where it posted the best scores we have seen from any smartphone to date, scoring 44fps. To put this into perspective the S4 scored 41fps (previous record), the iPhone 5 hit 38fps, while the HTC One only managed a now puny 34fps.
It was no slouch in the other benchmarks either, scoring a very impressive 2015 in the Geekbench 2 benchmark (S4 = 3227, HTC One = 2721, iPhone 5 = 1650).
The final benchmark we ran was the Sunspider test, where it scored 1811ms, again to put this in to perspective, (the lower the score the better) the iPhone posted a result of 903ms, the Galaxy S4 hit 1092ms and the HTC One managed 1213ms. So really, the Xperia SP is on par here for its specs and price.
The 4.6in display on the Sony Xperia SP is pretty sharp too, although when you look at it directly next to the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z it does look inferior. That said, you would hardly describe the screen as fuzzy. Its 720x1280 pixels and 319ppi pixel density is not to be sniffed at by any means, it's actually very impressive.
Finally on the hardware front, the Xperia SP has two pretty good cameras – primary is an 8MP camera complete with a LED flash, the secondary is a front facing VGA camera. The picture quality of these is pretty standard for the specs, and will capture an acceptable amount of detail for well lit close ups, but gets found out pretty quickly in low-light or far away snaps.
Sony Xperia SP review: Software
The Sony Xperia SP comes with Android OS v4.1 Jelly Bean installed complete with a very familiar interface and feel for those who are used to Sony's Android phones. If you are an Android phone user, then there will be no issue with getting used to this phones layout and feel.
Sony has equipped the Xperia SP with a reasonable amount of its own apps, but hasn't gone as crazy as other smartphone makers like Samsung and HTC with what's on offer. With the SP you get Sony specific audio, image and video players, a Sony Select app store, and a preloaded Socialife app which will group all of your social media content together for you should you want it to.
The other domestic apps that the SP offers, are music and video download services, a related PlayStation app, track ID, a neat video editing app called Movie Studio, Car mode, and a couple of sat-nav styled apps also.
Sony Xperia SP review: Battery life
Battery life is an interesting one these days, with most people happy with any smartphone that comfortably gets them through a day of 'normal' usage…anything more than that seems to be a bonus.
During 'normal usage' the Sony Xperia SP's Li-Ion 2370mAh non-removable battery can certainly meet these demands and even go into the "bonus" second day territory. However, when you don't enable battery saving mode and continue to use the phone for long periods (more than a couple of hours constant use), battery life falls quickly and you'll be lucky to make it to the end of the day.