Sony Xperia SP review
Android 4.3, 4.6in 1,280x720 display
Sony’s customisations to the operating system are fairly minimal. It has a total of seven home screens. Sony’s entertainment apps, such as its Video and Music Unlimited services, are hidden away on its outer screens, leaving more room for your own apps on the central screen. A small portion of the screen is taken up by touch-sensitive back, home and menu controls, but we still had plenty of room to use the rest of the screen, including the keyboard. We were able to type quickly and accurately, and while we initially lamented the loss of full stop and comma keys on the first screen, these can be easily added back in using the keyboard settings wizard.
Where the Xperia SP falls down the most is its 8-megapixel camera. We liked having a physical shutter button, but while our outdoor shots had plenty of detail, colours often looked quite murky, even in bright sunshine. We also noticed quite a lot of noise, and clouds in particular were riddled with a light speckling of colour, even in lighter, whiter areas. Indoor shots were better, but the noise still persisted and it didn’t cope well in low lighting conditions.
Its video recording was similarly mediocre, as there was a lot of visible noise even in our brightly lit test room. Static white backgrounds positively shimmered during playback and it only got worse when we turned the lights off.
This will be disappointing to some, but thankfully Sony goes some way to make up for this by packing the Xperia SP full of extra features. Most of them require other Sony products in order to work, but the first of these is support for Sony’s PlayStation 3 Dualshock controller, which allows you to use a PS3 controller with the phone when playing games. Its built-in NFC also pairs up with NFC-enabled Sony Bravia TVs so you can mirror your phone content on the TV screen. The MirrorLink app, on the other hand, will let the phone connect with certain in-car entertainment systems and mirror what’s on screen.
We loved the Sony Xperia SP when it was first released last year. It was a fantastic looking handset that punched above its weight when it came to application performance, and we thought it provided better value than Sony's then-flagship model, the Xperia Z.
The SP has proven so popular, in fact, that it's still on sale. It's now shipped with Android 4.3 instead of 4.1, with an upgrade for existing SP users due in the next few months, and it's now cheaper than ever. But is it still a good buy today?
Prices will vary, but Sony Mobile is now selling the SP SIM free for £239, down from £314 when we reviewed it last year. It's also available on pre-pay for £170 from O2 or £180 from EE, which is down from last year's price of £250. This is great value for what was already a fantastic mid-range smartphone, and at this price, it's still our current mid-range champion.
The SP's Adreno 320 GPU also gives it double the amount of graphics performance of the Moto G, making it much more suitable to playing demanding 3D games. The SP comes with an 8-megapixel camera as well, which is an improvement on the Moto G's 5-megapixel sensor.
The SP's battery life is also better, lasting just over ten hours in our continuous video playback test compared to the Moto G's nine hours under the same conditions. If you're after a super fast phone that doesn't cost the earth, the Xperia SP is still the phone to buy.