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Mid-range meets 4G: Sony’s $499 Xperia SP reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 3:58 pm 23/05/2013

Fourth-generation connections make mobile broadband fantastic, but not everyone can afford the ticket price for a smartphone, and that’s where a new handset from Sony comes in, delivering 4G alongside an 8 megapixel camera, Android 4.1, and a high definition screen for not too much dosh.

Features

The second 4G phone from Sony this year, the Xperia SP continues some of the hard work Sony has made with its current range of devices, but cuts the price and size into something people who don’t want a five inch device might look forward to.

First there’s the touchscreen, which on this device sits at 4.6 inches and offers the 2012 high resolution of choice 1280×720, also known by the masses as “high-definition.” As is typical for Sony mobile products, the Mobile Bravia Engine will be making the colours nice and contrasty, while the protection for the display will come in the form of Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass.

Under the screen is the innards, and while the rear case is removable, the insides are not, with every soldered and screwed down into one hefty phone.

Here, you’ll find a slight step down from the chip seen on the flagship Xperia Z, with a dual-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz and paired with 1GB RAM and the Adreno 320 graphics chipset. Storage is set to 8GB inside, though you can expand this considerably with the microSD slot which sits under the removable back cover.

Google’s Android is the operating system of choice, with Sony sticking with Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” for the version. Sony’s Android overlay is still here, just in case you were expecting stock Android.

You can expect a camera on the Xperia SP, with an 8 megapixel rear module, as well as a VGA front camera for the small amount of video chat and self conferencing you might be planning on doing.

Connection options are pretty standard for a 2013 phone, with Sony including support for 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, DLNA, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, and the wireless handshake protocol that is Near-Field Communication.

People with a need for speed will also find that 4G mobile connections are supported, as Long-Term Evolution technology is on-board here.

Ports are typically minimalist, just like the included physical buttons, and you’ll find only a microUSB charge and data port on the left side, while the top of the handset features a 3.5mm headset jack.

Buttons mostly work via the touchscreen on the Xperia SP, and so you’ll find very few physical push buttons here, with everything located on the right side. From top to bottom, you’ll find a volume rocker, the circular power button in the style used on the Xperia Z, and a dedicated camera button.

Another similar feature to the Z is the lack of a removable battery, which in this handset is build right into the unit and is set to 2370mAh.

One other feature borrows from a phone we looked at last year, the Xperia S, and that’s a small transparent strip at the bottom that acts as your notification bar, lighting up with a different colour when various things are happening.

Take the back cover off and you'll find slots for microSD and microSIM, but everything else is inside the handset.

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Price (RRP)

$499

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Great battery life; Solid 4G speeds; Notification bar can be useful;

Product Cons

Reasonably heavy; VGA camera on front; Dedicated camera button isn't sensitive at all; Eight megapixel camera isn't the best out there; Screen viewing angles need some work;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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