Sony Xperia SP Review

Reading time ~ 9 minute(s)
Sony Xperia SP
SONY Xperia SP: a rip-off 1
Verdict: Rip-off 3 Stars (3 / 5)

Build:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Ergonomics:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Video:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Audio:1.5 Stars (1.5 / 5)
Connectivity:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Calls:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
Software:2 Stars (2 / 5)
Reliability:2 Stars (2 / 5)

What have we here? The SONY Xperia SP smartphone, an awesomely spec’d device that proves it is easy to make things look great on paper, then simply fail to deliver. Let’s go through some details.

Build

Utterly mediocre, the back panel (looking so sexy in the photo above) is made of thin, flexible, weak plastic, bestowing cheapness and fragility on the wonderful (on paper) SONY Xperia SP. Since the battery is not removable, and the SIM and SD slots could have easily been placed on the side of the phone, this panel could have been left out altogether, and it would have been for the best. But since the hard reset button resides under this panel, I guess there’s a use for it – SONY couldn’t just set up a hard reset using a combination of the usual buttons, I guess. Or make the battery removable.

The transparent strip at the bottom, the infamous Xperia SP led remains a debatable design issue, especially since the led can be disabled. Initially it seemed useful (e.g., for nocturnal notifications when the phone was on silent), but the constant flashing for every notification ultimately proved very annoying, therefore I have deactivated it, as probably did most users.

Ergonomics

There is certain physical discomfort in manipulating the Xperia SP with one hand, even with my big and deft hands. Some golden ratio, somewhere, is being broken. Along with the overall impression of fragility of this device, the general impression is that of having to be extra-careful with it, which is of course detrimental to the ease of use and the enjoyment of the experience.

The advantage of having a dedicated camera button is lessened by the erratic way it works. Sometimes it requires a short press to open the camera app, sometimes it expects a long press. Since it has too stages, like a real shutter button, it has a theoretical advantage when taking pictures. In practice, because it works the way it wants to, it often needs a longer than normal press to take the picture, or it simply fails to respond, eliciting extra movements which ultimately lead to motion blur and loss of focus. In summary, it’s shit.

The phone hasn’t got real physical system buttons, it uses the built-in Android interface instead, which is both good and bad. Good because it allows for a marginally bigger screen (the button bar retracts when it’s not needed), bad because the button bar is subject to all software glitches.

Video

The big screen is the greatest selling point of the SONY Xperia SP, and the reason I bought it. Its resolution enters the high-definition realm. And this is where the positives end. The visibility angles are a disaster, meaning they are really, really bad for this day and age. Black has no depth, the greys are washed out. There are gross chromatic exaggerations, especially with red. The reading experience (which is the reason of the reason I bought it) is good though.

Photos and movie are perfectly ordinary, with nothing particularly striking in any direction.

Audio

This is where you want to throw the Xperia SP against the ground. One would expect at least decent, if not excellent audio quality from SONY. Well, it’s not delivered. The speakers are very wimpy, and the jack output barely drives headphones that sound nice, loud, and clear on older portables, even made by lesser brands. SONY’s software gimmicks with pretty names that I’m sure are the result of some brain storming sessions in the meetings of the most useless department of any company (i.e., Clear Phase® and xLoud®) are completely useless, or they manage to make it sound even worse (which actually must be some sort of achievement, I guess) when you plug-in a decent pair of headphones. As usually, shitty hardware cannot really be compensated by cheap software tricks. For the audio issues only, this phone should be priced at a quarter of what it is now.

Audio recording is entirely pathetic, the mic clips very fast, has almost no  compression. I took a few shots at a concert, and was surprised to find that the material was completely unusable: the entire soundtrack was simply a huge, unbearable rumble noise, punctuated by the singer’s screams once in a while, practically a continuum of digital clipping that no one ever wants to hear, which tells me this: that is one crappy mic, that couldn’t even take pop music outdoors.

Connectivity

The wireless is strong and stable. I don’t have 4G where I’m at, so I can’t say anything about Xperia SP’s ability to use it. The Bluetooth works well, if anyone cares. In theory, The Xperia SP is NFC – enabled, but since it wasn’t delivered with some sample NFC cards (thanks SONY, you cheap bastards) and I can’t be bothered to buy any yet, this feature is completely useless to me.

Calls

In the end, that’s why I got a phone, not a tablet or a Kindle. There are issues here, too. The proximity sensor sometimes seems to live a life of its own, so the call is accidentally discontinued using the ear, an organ unable to see that the screen is still on, because it doesn’t have eyes (wouldn’t that be cool). The sound is thin, vague (sound is, you’ve guessed, the stigma of this phone, made by a company that claims to specialize in sound), and outdoors, especially in wind, hearing the other person may quickly turn into an annoying difficulty.

Software

The factory Android 4.1 is not OK on this device, and the minor update offered by SONY doesn’t help it. No phone sporting a 1.7GHz CPU should have any glitches in the OS interface, but the Xperia SP often presents the user with small delays and brief freezing episodes, causing enormous frustration. It is way too sluggish when you consider the expectations. Not in a monumental way, but a small glitch here, a little freeze there, now a tiny delay, then an itty-bitty unresponsiveness episode – and there’s your user experience going gloriously down the pipes.

The Walkman app (hey, it’s a SONY) is below mediocre, but that was to be expected by now. Poweramp (even the free version) wipes the floor with it. The rest of the SONY factory apps are completely dispensable, nothing remarkable or that you cannot live without.

SONY just launched, a couple of days ago, the Android 4.3 update for the SONY Xperia SP, and it’s the last chance I give this phone to sort out its problems. Not yet available in my area – carrier probably needs to install its shitty bloatware first, just to give me something to do right after the update, namely uninstall all their crap without ever opening it. Very thoughtful of them, as usual.

Reliability

The sins and bugs of the SONY Xperia SP are many, varied, absurd, recurrent and very annoying.

Sometimes when you unplug the headphones the ring volume drops dramatically, without any warning, even the volume indicator stays the same! Only when you wonder a few times why you did not hear the phone ring, and check the volume indicator, and then test it, you realize the problem. The only remedy is to plug back the headphones and then unplug again. With a little luck, voilá, the ring volume goes back to normal. Just hope you have a 3.5” jack on you, one way or another, when this happens, because I couldn’t find any other way (not even reset!) to solve this issue.

Another very annoying issue is Xperia SP’s intermittent screen unresponsiveness when the phone rests on a hard surface, but sometimes even in other scenarios. Great phone, eh? I suspect the NFC chip on the back panel to have some involvement in this, but I cannot test it since it can’t be disabled (sure, I could just remove the case and the back panel as a test, and walk around like that waiting for this intermittent issue to occur, because that’s what customers are supposed to do, aren’t day). SONY’s only solution is to send the phone for repair. It’s like they’re really dumb, like it’s such a simple and convenient thing to do, backing everything up, wiping the device clean, use something else for two weeks, just to remedy a stupid problem that the phone came with from factory!

This phone is into the bad habit of refreshing the home screens every single bloody time you visit them! So there’s always that second when the icons and the widgets seem “suspended” before actually getting rendered, as when you would try to install Windows 7 on a 128 MB of RAM PC from the Windows 98 era. It does this pointlessly, utterly pointlessly, due to who knows what bug or glitch in the software or hardware. And this constant lag, serving as an inopportune reminder that this phone sucks, is doubtlessly capable of driving someone crazy, and makes you want to bang it against Mother Earth with full force. About forty times a day.

Then there’s apps dying abrupt, dubious, and strange deaths, with no warnings or error messages. They just… vanish, sometimes from under your very eyes! Yes, the front app is now gone! Any questions?

Conclusions

SONY Xperia SP is, for the most part, a rip-off. Its superb hardware specs (for the class) are promptly neutralized by a disastrous software implementation and, perhaps, gross mismatching of poorly chosen hardware components, which is something unrepairable in a sorely definitive way.

This device is definitely not worth the asking price, and its only worthy feature, the big screen, can surely be found somewhere else, in a package that cannot be but better. This shitty device does not belong in the mid-range except “on paper”.

I made the mistake of buying SONY again, and am now paying for it. SONY is a brand of… SONY is a brand and nothing more, that’s the thing. The disgusting audio subsystem in the Xperia SP and the lacking screen on a phone made by a company that makes TVs and audio equipment by tradition proves that SONY should be regarded as the poor man’s Apple, but one that delivers even less. Design (sort of, the Xperia series boasts the awesome design of the power button! WTF?), hype, and advertising intoxication, without any reflection in the reliability and quality of the product.

All of the above, along with the relative difficulty in finding accessories (cases, etc.) for it, compared to other brands and models, compel me to recommend that you avoid the SONY Xperia SP, and actually the entire Xperia line (which I read way too much about already, trying to find solutions to Xperia SP’s problems). I would also recommend avoiding SONY in general, since my latest experiences with them convinced me they have lost their place and direction. They fail to deliver. For some they may be OK, but as for me, I’m done.

Never again, SONY, never again.


Notes
  1. Meaning too expensive for what it is, and precisely that.
(5.00 / 2 votes)
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3 thoughts on “Sony Xperia SP Review

  1. This is not true! Install CyanogenMod 11 and the problem is solved! But yeah noobs like you like to keep the stock ROM and people are also complaining about the stock ROM of other brands like htc, samsung , … So please stfu because this is one of the best mid range phones one can get even though I must admit that the stock ROM is really bad

    1. I shouldn’t have approved your drivel, but let it be here for posterity. I’m no noob, my friend, I might have been playing around with custom ROMs since before you owned a smartphone, how would you know?

      This is not a review, nor an article, and definitely not a phone for hackers. It’s for the average, paying consumer, who is met with all of the above upon purchasing this piece of crap machine. Granted, it has a big screen – with horrendous viewing angles and strange colours.

      I’m in no mood to play around with custom ROMs on my main device, which right now is the Xperia SP, because the possibility of bricking is never far away, and custom ROMs definitely do not guarantee any miracles, e.g. I’m ready to bet the sound (and obviously the screen) won’t see any improvement whatsoever due to hardware limitations.

      My device is also within warranty (I needn’t remind you installing custom ROMs voids it), and even if it wasn’t, how can you come here and simply point your finger at me and other users for not installing unofficial, unsupported software on my malfunctioning, shitty new phone, or else we’re stupid “noobs”?!

      When, and if, I decide to install CM is a whole different story.

      “This is not true!” Wow, what a great “review” you offered. Sort out your facts, and ease off on the “haxxor” ethos, pal, you know you ain’t one. In fact, you’re quite a noob, it seems. I’ve looked up some of your threads on XDA Devs, and you’re kind of stumbling in the dark there, as far as I can tell. LOL.

  2. I should’ve read this article before. I bought this shitty phone four days ago, the camera wasn’t working and every time that I tried to access it the phone crashed. I have updated Android and it was even worse, restarting again and crashing without any reason. I sent it back to amazon and I took my money back!

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