Sony Xperia P review: Ironclad

GSMArena team, 1 June 2012.
Pages: 123456789

Vanilla gallery

The Xperia P uses the traditional droid Gallery, which hasn't really seen much change in Gingerbread. It has good functionality, cool 3D looks and nice transition effects, and shows full resolution images.

The different albums and folders appear as piles of photos, which fall in neat grids once selected. If you have online albums over at Picasa those show up as separate stacks as well.

You should have noticed the two switches at the top by now. The first opens a different gallery section that stores your 3D panorama shots, while the second opens the Sweep Multi Angle shots section.

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The standard gallery

To view the 3D panoramas in 3D, you need to connect your phone to a compatible 3DTV. Multi Angle shots are harder to view outside the device as you need something with an accelerometer and the proper app - you best bet is another Xperia.

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3D Panorama and Multi Angle shooting modes are available

Facebook and Picasa albums are distinguished by the small logo of the corresponding service. Facebook pictures can be "liked" with the thumbs up button in the upper right corner.

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Liking photos is enabled for Facebook albums

Photos can be sorted by date with the help of a button in the top right corner, which switches between grid and timeline view.

You can use pinch zoom or the old-fashioned +/- buttons. If you pan past the edge of a photo, the gallery will load up the next (or previous) image.

Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

The BRAVIA engine enhances contrast and colors by sharpening the image and reducing noise. These steps would normally lead to artifacts, but you'll have to look from really up close to notice. You can switch BRAVIA off, but we recommend keeping it on - it really improves the image quality.

Basic video player with pleasing codec support

There is no dedicated video player app on the Xperia P as in most of the droids out there. DivX, XviD and MKV videos are supported but the Xperia P has a rather selective filtering and not all videos got through.

The Xperia P managed to play every MP4 file we threw at it, even the 1080p videos. Most of the high-res DivX/XviD/MKV files did run too. Unfortunately, the Xperia P has rather patchy audio codec support, most notably AC-3 is not on the list. So, some videos played without audio and some with unsupported bitrate didn't pass at all.

There is no subtitle support and there is no way you can see video information (file name, codec, size, etc.).

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Watching a video on the Xperia P

Rich music experience

The Xperia P has the same music player that we liked on the Xperia S. You're welcomed to a Cover Flow-like interface and you can swipe left and right to skip tracks (complete with a smooth 3D effect).

This is the Playing tab, the second tab available is called My Music and it's where your music library is organized. Tracks are sorted by album, artist, playlist, all tracks, SensMe channel, favorites. There's also a link to Sony's Music Unlimited service.

In the Now playing interface, there's the familiar Infinite button - it gives you quick options to find the music or karaoke videos on YouTube for the current song, look for more tracks on PlayNow, search Wikipedia for info on the artist or look for lyrics on Google. New features can be added to this menu with extensions available in the Play Store.

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The revamped music player Music library The Infinite button

SensMe should be familiar from those old Sony Ericsson Walkman phones. In case you've missed it, SensMe filters songs by mood. By default, there are nine "channels" - daytime, energetic, relax, upbeat, mellow, lounge, emotional, dance and extreme.

You need to download SensMe data before you can use this feature. Luckily, you no longer have to use a PC Suite to tag songs - you just need an Internet connection, the phone will handle the rest.

Audiophiles will appreciate the rich selection of equalizer presets. There's a custom preset too - it lets you adjust five frequency bands and there's a Clear Bass slider too.

The More tab offers a Headphone surround option, which can be set to Studio, Club or Concert hall. If you're not using the headphones, you can turn the xLOUD feature on, which optimizes the sound for the Xperia P loudspeaker.

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The equalizer

A new feature is the track info and playback controls available on the lockscreen, which let you control the player without having to unlock the phone. The music controls replace the clock, which might be annoying if you just want to check the time. Still, the clock slides out of view, so you have about a second to see what time it is (or just look at the small clock in the upper right corner).

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Music player controls on the lockscreen

FM radio with RDS

The Sony Xperia P is equipped with an FM radio, which has a really neat and simple interface. It automatically scans the area for the available stations and places "notches" on the frequency dial for easier scrolling to the next station. There's a Force mono option to use in case of poor reception.

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The FM radio app TrackID

The TrackID service is also available and works within the radio app. You can even like a song on Facebook.

Good audio output

The Sony Xperia P performed identically to its Xperia S sibling in the active external amplifier part of our test. The smartphone got excellent scores all over the field and had above average loudness, which adds up to a great performance.

What's even more impressive is that when headphones come into play the Xperia P is actually slightly better than its more expensive sibling. Granted, the results are so similar that it's almost certain that the audio chips inside the two are identical, but the P takes the narrow win here. The stereo crosstalk rises by a somewhat smaller margin and a tad less distortion creeps in. Volume on the P, just as on S are about average.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia P+0.03, -0.04-87.387.60.0110.020-86.2
Sony Xperia P (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.10-86.086.20.1500.302-54.0
Sony Xperia S+0.10, -0.09-86.686.80.0110.018-86.9
Sony Xperia S (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.13-88.488.60.2640.338-47.3
Sony Xperia sola+0.03, -0.04-81.682.20.0850.185-83.5
Sony Xperia sola (headphones attached)+0.45, -0.10-81.881.80.1890.416-52.8
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V+0.11, -0.10-89.689.20.0140.037-80.9
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V (headphones attached)+0.36, -0.11-89.389.00.1000.291-49.7
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro+0.11, -0.10-89.789.30.0130.037-88.1
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.13-88.789.00.3430.326-39.7
Sony Ericsson Xperia ray+0.11, -0.10-89.489.10.0140.037-91.3
Sony Ericsson Xperia ray (headphones attached)+0.47, -0.13-89.188.80.3570.351-39.0

Sony Xperia P frequency response
Sony Xperia P frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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