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Sony Xperia SP Review: Meet the King of Midrange Smartphones

It's our full review of the Sony Xperia SP!
It’s our full review of the Sony Xperia SP!

Sony Xperia SP: King of Midrange Smartphones

We’ll jump the gun a bit and go straight to our verdict. The Sony Xperia SP, based on our experience with it in the last week, is arguably the best smartphone as of this writing that you can buy in the Php14,000-Php15,000 price range. It’s a killer mid-range smartphone with stunning design and packed with features that you usually find in flagship models. It does have some weaknesses and we’ll cover them in this review but everything taken into consideration, this smartphone deserves your attention if you’re in the market for a smartphone and you have around Php14,000-Php15,000 budget.

Sony Mobile Xperia SP Spec Sheet

  • 1.7GHz Dual-core CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 Chip Set
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB Internal Storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD
  • 4.6-inch scratch resistant TFT touchscreen, 1280×720 pixels
  • 8.0-megapixel camera with auto focus, Exmor RS, 16x Digital Zoom
  • Pulsed LED Flash
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • WiFi, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS with AGPS Support GLONASS, NFC
  • 3G, HSPA+, LTE
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 2,370mAh Battery

Let’s jump into the review!

Hardware: NOT Plastic. YAY.

Aluminum and metal chassis
Aluminum and metal chassis

The main frame is made from moulded aluminum which is fantastic material that will leave you with a premium impression. The removable back plate is made from plastic polycarbonate but it does have some sort of brushed metal finish which gives the illusion that it’s also made from metal. Most people won’t know the difference, hehe.

The buttons and accents all have the same color as the device except that it’s a little glossier to make them stand out a bit. The silver power lock button is located at the side, similar to the rest of the Xperia line-up of devices.

Side view while on the floor
Side view while on the floor

In terms of form factor, the Sony Xperia SP sports a 4.6-inch display making it noticeably smaller than the usual 5-inch models we’ve been seeing from a lot of manufacturers lately. While there is sacrifice with the media viewing capabilities, the device itself is much easier to handle, pocket, use, even with just one hand. The curved back is also very ergonomic as the device will naturally ease itself into your palm. The heft also gives a reassuring feel that it’s solid and durable.

For the display we have a TFT screen. Resolution is quite good at 1280×720 pixels. Images, text, and video look very clear and crisp but there still is that notable wash out which we’ve seen with the original Sony Xperia Z. We also would have wanted the bezel a little thinner especially since most phones are already going that route. The glass is Corning Gorilla Glass, which means it’s scratch resistant but it does seem to pick up smudges and fingerprints quickly. Kinda annoying if you’re the type that likes seeing their smartphone squeaky clean all the time.

You can customize the colors of the LED strip at the bottom of the phone
You can customize the colors of the LED strip at the bottom of the phone

To add more personality and flare to the Xperia SP, Sony put in the transparent LED strip at the bottom, a feature we saw with earlier models. You can actually customize what colors appear depending on what activity happens. You can also just put it on default to match the color scheme of the theme of your Android device.

Over-all when it comes to the hardware we’re amazed at how good it looks and feels given the affordable price tag. Definitely have to give Sony kudos for this particular model.

Software: It Can Run Circles Around Your Quad-core

Yep that's an impressive score folks.
Yep that’s an impressive score folks.

When we said a few days back that we thought that the Xperia SP had huge potential some readers said we were wrong since this was just a dual-core smartphone and there are a lot of more affordable quad-core options out there, especially from local brands. Well, like what we said in our editorial piece “Why Quad-core Doesn’t Always Beat Dual-core”, it’s not the quantity of cores that matter the most, it’s the quality. To prove my point check out the Antutu Benchmark Test score of the Sony Xperia SP. Almost 17,000. The scores of a lot of other quad-core local brands is usually just in the 11,000-13,000 mark.

Excellent for gaming
Excellent for gaming

In the last few days we’ve been testing it there have only been a few number of times when we felt lag and that was mostly since we had a live wall paper running with multiple active widgets on the home screen and then we started firing up a game after just watching a 720p video.

Speaking of gaming, the Sony Xperia SP is a gaming BEAST. The Adreno 320 GPU is actually the same GPU that a lot of flagship smartphones, like the HTC One, use to date. The result? One of the smoothest play-throughs we’ve had on Dead Trigger.

Also nice for watching videos but anything sub 5 inches really is lackluster viewing
Also nice for watching videos but anything sub 5 inches really is lackluster viewing

For media consumption, we found the 4.6-inch lacking for videos and long browsing. It’s perfect for everything else but when it comes to reading and watching we felt that the 5.0-inch form factor offered a much better experience over-all. That said if you don’t mind the 4.6-inch screen size then it’s more than able to deliver great viewing experience, especially since it can play 720p content and you have expandable storage where you can stuff your downloads into.

LTE Baby! WiFi could use some boosting though :/

No buffering with LTE
No buffering with LTE

Another major and key feature that the Sony Xperia SP has is LTE connectivity. Priced at just Php14,400+ on Kimstore, this makes the Sony Xperia SP one of the most affordable LTE smartphones in the country today. Even better is that you don’t get a compromised unit with this one. This has the full compliment of flagship features including NFC and highly competitive internals. Note that Smart has already announced availability of Smart prepaid sim cards for smartphones so that you means you can just pick an Xperia SP up, pop-in an LTE-powered Smart LTE SIM, and enjoy crazy fast downloads and browsing.

We do have one major complaint with the Xperia SP. For some reason it seems as if it has a weaker WiFi antenna compared to most devices. In a room far from our base station we would have two-three bars on the iPhone 5 or the LG Optimus G Pro and we would only register one, if not zero, bars on the Xperia SP. There’s no problem when near the base station but it does have issues especially if there are a lot of walls in between the station and the device.

Camera: Impressive

With Sony’s Exmor RS technology, the Sony Xperia SP is able to take much more vibrant and highly detailed photos with it’s 8MP primary shooter. The image quality we got can, again, run circles around the quality of pics we usually we get with smartphones in the Php10,000 price range.

Here are sample shots:

DSC_0003

DSC_0005

DSC_0014

IMG_20130901_222523

It’s no PureView but it’s very respectable and a big step up the usual overexposed or washed out pics that we get with other devices.

Battery Life: It can actually go the distance

It can go the distance
It can go the distance

We’re very happy to report that the Sony Xperia SP can actually go the distance. If you manage your LTE connectivity (turn it off when not in use), you can last more than 8-9 hours on a single charge. That’s already with mid-heavy usage alternating with LTE, 3G, and WiFi. That’s quite commendable seeing as we barely got more than 6-7 hours with the Sony Xperia V.

Verdict: We stand by our review, this is one of the, if not the, best mid-range smartphone to date

Side-by-side with the Xperia ZR
Side-by-side with the Xperia ZR

To summarize:

Pros

  • Premium form factor and design (especially if you get it in red).
  • Full connectivity options including 4G LTE and NFC
  • Superb graphics and internals for gaming
  • Respectable optics
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Screen smudges very easily
  • Inferior WiFi Antenna
  • Bezel a bit too thick
  • LED strip is a waste of space if you don’t use it.
  • Screen might be too small for some people

Ultimately we believe the Sony Xperia SP offers very good value for money. It delivers premium flagship features with a mid-range price. Two thumbs up Sony! We highly recommend this smartphone!

The Sony Xperia SP is available at Kimstore for a little over Php14,000. Very good deal if you ask me.

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime he’s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime he’s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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10 Comments

    1. Mdaming store dyan walang stock. Para lang masabi na mababa ang prices nila pero out of stock and hindi nila alam kung kailan magkakaroon ng stock.

  1. I bought this phone a few weeks back and napansin ko na medyo mabilis magdrain yung battery if naka wifi or data.. less than 5mins around 2-3% agad. is this normal?

  2. Ano peo diff. Ng c6503 sa c5303 na moderl ng so my nbasa ako n mga comment blis daw mag init ni sp at mahina WiFi…

  3. with the same price range/category..what would you prefer with respect to operating system??

    is it the Nokia Lumia 920 or Sony Xperia SP?

  4. Nice phone, but if there are noticeable issues like that, di sulit..correct me if im wrong but you will tend to use wifi all the more than ur cam..its good if maganda yung pix quality, but hassle sa browsing .thats one thing to consider..

  5. been using that smart phone to. ganda sa gaming ung gt racing game q naka max n ung graphics wala parin lags ok lng kahit mahina ung wifi antena kc lagi nmn ako nak lte

  6. I was so in a hurry to get rid of this phone. It hangs a lot, I couldn’t stand it anymore. But for 4k, my friend was just so happy to have an LTE phone..

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