Sony Xperia SP review: SPlendid

GSMArena team, 30 April 2013.

Tags: Sony, Android

4.6" 720 TFT with the Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2

The Sony Xperia SP comes with a 4.6" TFT screen of 720p resolution, which is the new norm for the mid-range. The pixel density adds up to 319ppi, which is enough to get into Retina territory and make everything appear tack sharp. It's no 1080p beast, but at this size the difference is pretty hard to spot with a naked eye.

Sony Xperia SP
The 4.6" 720p screen

The TFT screen is backed by the Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, which enhances contrast and sharpness, brings down noise and saturates colors to make them more pleasing to the eye. The reds in particular tend to really pop out.

The contrast is only average and colors are hardly the best around. Brightness levels are pretty decent, though.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia SP - - - 0.70 568 816
Sony Xperia ZL - - - 0.44 575 1294
Sony Xperia Z - - - 0.70 492 705
HTC One 0.13 205 1580 0.42 647 1541
HTC Butterfly 0.14 173 1200 0.45 501 1104
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
Oppo Find 5 0.17 176 1123 0.51 565 1107
Samsung N7100 Galaxy Note II 0 215 0 402
LG Optimus G Pro - - - 0.41 611 1489
Nokia Lumia 920 - - - 0.48 513 1065
LG Optimus G 0.14 197 1445 0.33 417 1438
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

There are also the subjects of viewing angles. The Sony Xperia SP isn't the best performer in that aspect with color shifting and contrast loss occurring the moment you start tilting the screen.

Finally, the sunlight legibility on the Sony Xperia SP is mediocre, meaning that in brighter environments you might need to work a bit harder to find a proper angle for working with the smartphone.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

You can find all about our display testing routines here.

Controls

The Sony Xperia SP has a pretty standard set of controls as far as the latest smartphones by the Japanese company go. The smartphone relies on virtual buttons, so understandably there are no keys beneath the display. All you can find there is the primary microphone and the transparent antenna which doubles as an illuminated notification strip.

The VGA front-facing camera is joined by the earpiece, the ambient light sensor and the proximity sensor above the screen.

Sony Xperia SP
The VGA front-facing camera is in the upper left corner

The left side of the phone features the bare microUSB port. The lack of protective cover facilitates usages, but can lead to some dirt accumulation with time.

Sony Xperia SP Sony Xperia SP Sony Xperia SP
The Xperia SP microUSB port

On the right, you'll find the volume rocker near the top, the power/lock button (of the signature Xperia variety) and a two-step camera button.

We always appreciate a dedicated camera button on a phone, even more so when talking decent snappers. The shutter button on the Sony Xperia SP has good feedback and distinct half-press, although ideally it would have been a bit wider.

Sony Xperia SP Sony Xperia SP
There are three keys on the right

The top of the Sony Xperia SP only features the 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Sony Xperia SP Sony Xperia SP
The audio jack is on top

The bottom is completely bereft of functional elements.

Sony Xperia SP
There's nothing to see at the bottom

The back panel of the Sony Xperia SP is user-removable, but even so you don't get access to the 2370 mAh battery. All you get underneath the plastic cover is the hot-swappable microSD card slot and the microSIM slot.

Sony Xperia SP Sony Xperia SP
The back panel is removable but the battery isn't accessible

As far as battery life goes, the Xperia SP posted some very good numbers, even beating out the likes of the Xperia Z and ZL flagships. The Xperia SP achieved a score of 51h in our endurance rating, suggesting that it can last for more than two full days on a charge if you use it for an hour of web browsing, an hour of video watching and an hour of telephony per day.

More info on the test can be found here.

Sony has done well to make the Xperia SP easy to handle despite its relatively large for the class dimension. The controls are all nicely placed and easy to press, so none of them causes any usability issues.

Sony Xperia SP Sony Xperia SP
Handling the Sony Xperia SP

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