Smaller sibling to the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S3-challenging Sony Xperia S, big brother of the entry-level Sony Xperia U, the mid-range Sony Xperia P is no awkward middle child, but a boundary-pushing smartphone that is knocking on the door of a number of its more expensive rivals.

Advancing expectations of the mid-range handset scene, the Sony Xperia P, priced at around £340 in the UK and $490 in the US, isn't the cheapest handset on the market.

But it boasts a fanciful array of specs that would have made a high-end mobile phone of the past 12 months proud, further highlighting the rapid rate of development that the smartphone sector is going through.

Sony Xperia P review

While the Sony Xperia P might not give the iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S3 a run for their respective monies, the handset lines up, on paper, as a strong and similarly priced rival to the Windows Phone-defining Nokia Lumia 800, with the Android 2.3 Gingerbread-packing smartphone boasting a zippy 1GHz Cortex-A9 dual-core processor that powers the 4-inch handset's show.

With the dual-core CPU combining with 1GB of RAM to help ensure a smooth, speedy and fluid user interaction with the device, the Sony Xperia P keeps the entertainment coming with a pair of cameras - 8-megapixel on the rear, VGA on the front - joining the now high-end handset standard 1080p video recording capabilities.

Sony Xperia P review

Usually reserved for top-of-the-line devices, these custom creation features push the Sony Xperia P into a new realm of mid-range price point abilities, and don't disappoint.

Capable of producing strong results both in stills and video modes, the handset's camera capabilities will leave you with a clear conscience when venturing out without your dedicated compact snapper.

Running Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system with the company's Timescape user interface, Sony's latest pocket powerhouse - though impressive in specs and fluidness - is still some way off the cutting edge of smartphone capabilities.

Sony Xperia P review

Looking to rectify this to some extent, Sony has confirmed that an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update is already in the works for the handset, although a confirmed date of arrival has yet to be outlined.

Sony Xperia P review

Further setting the Sony Xperia P apart from its similarly priced and competitively specified rivals, the Sony-branded handset plays host to inbuilt NFC capabilities with the compact 10.5mm-thick handset featuring the technology required to make tap-to-pay purchases as well as close contact, wireless data transfers.

Sony Xperia P review

Picking up the handset from the box, its 120g weight, despite being a full 10 grams lighter than its BlackBerry Bold 9900 rival, feels surprisingly heavy in the hand.

Sony Xperia P review

But this sensation doesn't persist, and after just a few minutes of use this initial surprise is replaced by a feeling of a comfortable, reassuring presence in the hand.

The smartphone feels extremely well balanced, with weight distributed evenly across its entire form.

Sony Xperia P review

vBy no means the slimmest phone on the market, the 10.5mm thick Sony Xperia P is a sturdy handset that is well constructed, with no flex, distortion or unnerving creaks and groans when put under considerable amounts of pressure.

Despite this solid build, thanks to its plastic frame, the handset quickly shows the rigours of daily use, with scuffs, scratches and chips on the body unavoidable.

And although the scratch-resistant display fared well against one rather large accidental drop onto concrete, the smartphone's corners suffered a more aesthetic-blemishing fate, with considerable nicks and chinks removed and the odd dent more than slightly apparent.

Sony Xperia P review

One noticeable flaw with the Sony Xperia P's construction sees a very slight space left between the long edges of the screen and the handset's body turn into a magnet for pocket fluff, dust and dirt, giving the device an unwanted and highly unappealing frame of grime.

Sony Xperia P review

Arguably one of the best looking handsets on the market, the Sony Xperia P shuffles away from the stoic gloss black candybar design with a standout transparent bar that plays host to the usual array of Android-essential, back, home and menu touchscreen buttons.

Sony Xperia P review

While the trio of touch-sensitive Android controls manage much of the user activity, a selection of physical buttons also feature to handle the remaining requirements, such as power/sleep modes, volume controls and a camera shutter.

Sony Xperia P review

Positioned in a potentially dangerous location in terms of accidental presses, the selection of physical buttons is stiff enough to not pose an issue when gripping the Sony Xperia P in either hand.

Sony Xperia P review

Removing handset-depleting blemishes by using a seamless form that features no removable back panel is not without its flaws, with the enclosed casing meaning the side mountable micro SIM slot is fiddly and awkward to use, thanks to a confined space and lack of a SIM-encasing frame.

Sony Xperia P review

Finishing the well styled handset, the 4-inch, 16 million colour LCD display adds a vibrancy that contrasts well against the stark black body and transparent touch panel at the base of the Sony Xperia P.