Of the two smartphones announced at MWC 2012 that belong to the Xperia NXT trio of devices, the Xperia P is part of Sony Mobile’s (previously Sony Ericsson) effort to rewind the clock and start afresh. A key design aspect of the NXT smartphones is undoubtedly its unique transparent bands, which not only highlights the touchscreen but also gives the phone a very recognizable profile. Form is not without function in the NXT devices of course; the band serves both aesthetic and functional purposes as it is part of the antennae.
It is hard to tell the physical differences between the earlier reviewed Xperia S and P straight off the bat unless you pay close attention. For example. the Xperia P is significantly smaller, shorter and lighter than the Xperia S. While its angular edges make for a pretty – albeit slightly impractical – design, we felt more at ease with the smaller and easier-to-grip Xperia S. Thrown in a sturdy metal-brushed body and what we have on our hands is an eye-catching device that handles well too.
Unlike the Xperia S however, the band doesn’t just act as an indicator for the actual capacitive buttons; the buttons are actually on the band itself. This actually improves the user experience on the whole, as it is less confusing to the user. If you’re hoping to find the latest Android 4.0 software on the Xperia P, we’ll have to disappoint you. Preloaded with Android 2.3 (a.k.a. Gingerbread), the phone is only set to receive the Android 4.0 update in Q3 2012.
One of the unique traits of the Xperia P is its White Magic display. The screen will automatically reduce brightness to conserve battery life when it’s in dimer surroundings, while maintaining a suitable level of brightness for optimal viewing. We found this working as promised.
Another exclusive feature is its SmartDock compatibility. Once docked and linked up to a Sony TV, the Xperia P will switch to a more TV-friendly user interface for simpler navigation via the remote control. Of course, any remote will do as long as the TV is HDMI-CEC compatible. As the SmartDock comes with USB support, you can easily hook up an additional device, say a mouse, to surf the internet right on your TV. The SmartDock is sold separately.
The Xperia comes across as a better bargain than the Xperia S in our opinion. Incremental hardware upgrades aside, the Xperia P comes across as a solid mid-range smartphone, but with a killer frame and screen. While we weren’t bowled over by its average battery life, the camera and likewise overall performance were decent.
Overall, the Xperia P feels like a multimedia-centric variant of its cousin, especially with its WhiteMagic screen technology and SmartDock compatibility.