By August 6, 2010

Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro Review

Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro Review Sony Ericsson has met both ends of the size spectrum with their latest Android smartphones. The X10 and its 4 inch display sat at the top end, and the X10 mini obviously took its place at bottom end. The Mini Pro may be at the bottom end by size standards, but by no means is it bottom end in terms of features and functionality.

The X10 Mini now has a Pro version, and it remains virtually unchanged except for the addition of a hardware qwerty keyboard. My main gripe with the Mini was its slow text input, so when the Mini Pro was heading my way, it seemed like the perfect answer to my prayers. It’s probably the smallest qwerty slider the world has ever seen, and probably the smallest we’ll ever see, so its carved itself a pretty unique slot to sit in. But can a device so small make a large enough impression to deserve a place in your pocket? Read on to see our verdict.

 

What’s in the box?

  • Sony Ericsson U20i
  • BST-38 Battery (930mAh)
  • In-ear earphones & smaller size plugs
  • 2GB microSD card
  • Greenheart charger (3 pin to USB)
  • USB to microUSB cable
  • Documentation

Also check out Matt’s X10 Mini Pro unboxing video or my X10 Mini review for more.

 

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro Specification:

  • Operating System – Google Android 1.6
  • Sliding QWERTY keyboard
  • Processor – Qualcomm MSM7227 600MHz
  • Memory -128 MB
  • Display – 2.55 inch     240 x 320 resolution
  • Network – GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
    UMTS/HSPA 900/2100
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
  • AGPS
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack
  • microSD memory card -up to 16GB
  • Camera – 5 megapixel with auto focus and Geo-tagging
  • Talk Time – GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 – 4 hours
    UMTS/HSPA 900/2100 – 3 hours 50 min   (manufactures approximation)
  • Standby Time –  GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 – 285 hours
    UMTS/HSPA 900/2100 – 360 hours (manufactures approximation)
  • Battery – Standard Rechargeable Lithium-ion
  • Dimensions – 83 x 50 x 16 mm
  • Weight – 88 grams with battery

 

General

On the top, we have a power button in the middle and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This jack has an extra proprietary slot for Sony Ericsson earphones with in line remote (MH-810).

MiniPro-top

 

On the left hand side, the microUSB port sits right in the middle. The microSD card slot is also on this side, but hidden under the back cover.

MiniPro-side

 

On the bottom, there’s a lanyard hole and the mic.

MiniPro-bottom

 

The right hand side houses the camera button, the volume rocker, and a little indent to pry the back cover off.

MiniPro-chunky

 

The rear of the device has the 5MP camera and accompanying LED flash in the top corner. There is also the speaker grill here and the shiny Sony Ericsson and Xperia logos.

MiniPro-back

 

Spinning round to the front, you can see the 2.55″ display. Above it rests the earpiece and the proximity and light sensors, and the notification LED. Below the display, there’s the trio of buttons that are identical to the X10 Mini – the menu, home and back buttons.

MiniPro-front

 

 

Highlights

  • Robust slide mechanism
  • Sensitive screen
  • Easy to use keyboard
  • Sound quality
  • Removable battery

 

Lowlights

  • Screen resolution
  • Android 1.6
  • Camera interface
  • Sometimes slow to wake up

 

 

Review

The X10 Mini Pro is very similar hardware wise to its twin, the X10 Mini. Nevertheless, they are different phones, and so there are differences between them. The first difference is size. Yes, they are both miniscule, but the Mini Pro is noticeably larger in all three dimensions. The Mini Pro feels even chunkier than its sibling at 17mm deep but then that chunkiness isn’t helped by the fact it’s so short. It’s not so bad that it gets in the way during daily use, but don’t expect to forget about it when it’s in your pocket – you certainly know it’s there even though it’s small. The second difference is the placement of ports, which I found to be well thought-out given the change in form factor. One example of this is the microUSB port. On the Mini, it was on the bottom, but on the Mini Pro it has migrated to the left hand side. Why? Well when you’re typing on the qwerty keyboard, you are going to grip the top and bottom ends of the phone – having the port on the bottom means you can type easily at the same time as charging the phone.

MiniPro-angled-left-open

Speaking of typing, the experience is very good on the Mini Pro. The mentioned keyboard is the main differentiating factor between this and the Mini. In fact, it differentiates it from every other phone out there – yes there are countless full-touch slates but how many micro-sliders do you see? Being the first doesn’t make it the worst either. The keys are nice and domed, unlike the flatter keys seen on the Vivaz Pro or Motorola Milestone and they have a fair amount of travel. Although the phone is small, the keys are nicely spaced too. My only gripe is the fact that the second and third rows of keys are not aligned the ‘normal’ way (or at least the way I think is normal). BlackBerry keyboards have the Z under the S key and the X under the D key etc. but the Mini Pro has the Z under the A and the X under S. Maybe I’m just used to my 9700 but I found myself hitting the wrong keys too often to bear. Still, it’s something that with prolonged use you can get used to. Except for this, I’m quite fond of the layout, with dedicated keys for full stops, commas, question marks, and apostrophes. Other commonly used symbols can be accessed with a quick press of the blue alt key, and more obscure punctuation is there thanks to the Sym key. The slide mechanism also earns another gold star for the Mini Pro. It is very heavily spring loaded that gives a very loud click when you open or close. On any other phone, it would sound as if you are slamming it shut, but the Mini Pro has a very loud yet satisfying click. Whether this is a good thing or not is down to personal preference but for me it’s reassurance of its build quality.

MiniPro-front-open

So the keyboard manages to impress in spite of its miniature body, but does a 2.55″ QVGA screen also do itself justice? Well, the situation is more complex than a straightforward yes or no answer. It has the same display as the Mini, and just as I was with that, I’m leaning towards the no side. At just over two and a half inches diagonal it is a very small display, especially for Android. Adding to this, the measly resolution doesn’t really bring out Android’s animations and polish, but Sony Ericsson have done really well with optimising their custom UI for such a small screen – icons and buttons are very thumbable.

Sound quality and battery life are much the same story as the Mini – pretty good. The included earphones are actually quite decent, much better than your usual bundled set. But using a high end set really brings out the quality of sound, which is to be expected given Sony Ericsson’s previous record with their Walkman phones. The music player itself handled about 14GB of music from a Class 2 microSD card pretty well – after indexing, there was no noticeable slowdown when scrolling through the list of songs.

MiniPro-keyboard

As I said before, battery life is rated exactly the same as the Mini because it runs identical hardware powered by identically sized batteries. Unlike the Mini, the battery is removable so you do have the option of replacing a dead battery with a spare if you find yourself away from a power socket. I got between two to three days depending on my usage, but I don’t consider myself a true power user. However, people who do use their phone a lot should be able to get through a full day – this may not sound like much, but a day’s hardcore use is just as good if not better than comparable (Android) smartphones.

In terms of connectivity, the X10 Mini Pro has all bases covered – it’s a quad band GSM phone and so should work in almost every country, and is also equipped with the usual 3G HSPA for fast mobile internet speeds. In addition, there’s WiFi and assisted GPS, rounded off with Bluetooth 2.1 support. One thing I would mention is that the WiFi switches off when the phone is in sleep mode, and upon return, it can be very slow to reconnect – more often than not I found myself having to go back into the wireless settings for it to kick back in, but other than that, everything worked without a hitch.

So overall, the hardware is generally a positive for the X10 Mini Pro – it’s a tiny but surprisingly usable phone, but can Android 1.6 and Sony Ericsson’s customisation match it to give a truly rounded user experience? Although Sony says an Éclair update is in the pipeline for release before the end of the year, it’s certainly not set in stone. However, the limitations of Android 1.6 are patched up pretty well with Sony Ericsson’s UI, also featured on the daddy X10. Before we go more in-depth, it’s worth mentioning that the X10 Mini runs more or less exactly the same firmware as the Mini Pro (save for a landscape mode in the Mini Pro) – I found no difference in use whatsoever, and so all opinions expressed here will likely apply to its twin as well.

Starting off with the lock screen, it’s pretty simple – there’s a large digital clock and a message telling you to press menu to unlock. Once unlocked, it takes you to your homescreen. Unlike other Android phones, you cannot add shortcuts to apps except for the four in the corners. Also, there is space for only one widget per page, even if the widget is designed to only take up one ‘block’, it still sits in the middle. However, these decisions have been made more likely than not because of its limited screen estate. Another consequence of a small, low-res display is that the menu is a 3×3 grid, and rather than scrolling down, you scroll the pages left and right – this may sound okay, but if you have a lot of apps you’d find yourself flicking left and right through the pages quite often.

widgets menu homescreen

Homescreen Menu 1 widget per page

From the homescreen screenshot, you can see the four corners are taken up by shortcuts – by default, these are Messages, Music, Calls, and Contacts. As you’d expect, these are customisable to launch any app of your choice, and serves as a replacement for the usual Android home screen shortcuts.

While the corners are occupied by application shortcuts, the main part of each screen can be populated with widgets. As mentioned before, there is only space for one widget per screen, even if it’s just an LED light toggle switch. Luckily, you can have up to twenty (yes, two-zero!) homescreens, which for most users should be plenty. I’ve opted for the most boring background but there are other more exciting ones to choose from, both standard Android wallpapers and Sony Ericsson’s wallpapers. Of course there is also the option of setting your own, but I found the light coloured text hard to read on anything except for dark backgrounds, particularly in direct sunlight.

Probably the most prominent addition is the social networking tool called Timescape. Essentially all it does is gather information from various sources and aggregates them for you and presents them in a simple easy to navigate fashion. Messages, missed calls, facebook and twitter updates all appear in Timescape like a universal inbox. Again, the four corners of the screen have been utilised here – tapping the top left allows you to sort what you see. There are options to see all events, or just a single service. Updates are not pushed, but you can choose to update at 15 minutes intervals up to 3 hours, and there’s a manual option as well. From Timescape you can update both facebook and twitter statuses. Overall, I found Timescape to work pretty well although it can get quite messy – yes it can display your messages and missed calls, but they usually end up lost in the tidal wave of facebook and twitter updates; that’s why I didn’t link my twitter profile with it. You’d be forever scrolling in vain to find an important message, which I think sums up Timescape – if you were actually looking for a message, going to that specific messaging application or going to the actual site would be much easier, but if you were just looking at what your friends were up to, Timescape is the way to go.

timescape timescape 2 timescape 3

Timescape Updating status Excluding services

The Mini Pro has a 5MP snapper with an LED flash but it is partly let down by an overly simple camera app, identical to the one on the Mini. You get options for the flash and scene mode only; you can’t tweak white balance or even add effects. This is pretty disappointing considering the pictures its produces are actually quite good. The two stage camera button allows for the autofocus which was really quick, and never had any trouble focusing, even in lower light. Taking the picture and reviewing is also speedy, but there are no on board editing functions.

cameracamcorder

camera scenes  Sample Image

 

After taking your snaps, they get stored in Sony Ericsson’s Album app. They’ve done away with the standard Gallery app, which is pretty average on 1.6 Donut. The Album app is an improvement, sorting your pics by date, but like the camera app, it’s pretty barebones. There is a very neat and super responsive zoom function which works by holding your finger down, then moving up to zoom in and down to zoom out, due to the lack of multi-touch. I found this to be really good and easy to use, as getting two fingers for multi-touch on a 2.55″ screen would be pretty difficult! Apart from playing with zoom, you have the option to send it, delete it, or set it as a contact or wallpaper. These are the only options you get, so the Album app is really only for viewing.

media zoom

 

Preloaded on the Mini Pro is the YouTube application. It feels well integrated thanks to the fact that it uses whatever theme you have at the moment. Videos play exactly as you expect; tapping on the screen brings up a simple scrubber bar and media controls including fast forward and rewind that works in 15 second intervals. The low resolution means you won’t have access to HQ video but its certainly watchable. It’s the same story with the Video app – your locally stored videos are presented in an identical fashion to your photos in the Album app, and play in the same way as the YouTube application.

Android is known for its excellent webkit based browser, and the Mini Pro is no exception. The browser loads pages fast and renders them correctly in all the sites I visited. The small screen and low QVGA resolution didn’t help matters while unfortunately the hold-and-drag zooming didn’t apply here either. Even at it’s default zoom level, (1st screenshot) text was only just readable, and it’s definitely not readable when fully zoomed out. , the Mini Pro handles casual browsing just fine, and if you’re patient enough to keep zooming in and out with the standard zoom tool then you should be fine here.

browser browser 2

Default zoom level Fully zoomed out

The final media feature worth talking about is the music player. The standard Android music player was nothing to write home about, so to improve it wouldn’t be difficult. Fortunately, Sony Ericsson has done reasonably well. After a relatively quick indexing of 14GB of music, it still remained responsive and smooth to fast scrolling through pretty large playlists. The user interface is very easy to use, with a button that allows you to find out more about the currently playing song and artist. The sound quality, like the Mini is nothing short of excellent, especially when plugged into a decent set of cans. In fact, I’d say the Mini Pro just tops the Mini but not by much. This is probably the reason why more advanced music features feel more sorely missed than they really are. There aren’t any equaliser presets or anything you can tweak, nor is there any search feature which I find sort of let down by, especially when there’s a superb qwerty keyboard.

music trackid

­ Music Player TrackID music recognition

There are a few interesting applications that are loaded onto the device by default, one of the being the Facebook for Android application. It works pretty well and is quite full featured – you can see your news feed, view walls and photos and send and receive messages. Text is pretty small but it’s readable and the application as a whole is responsive. For twitter, you can download many third-party application from the Android Market, except for the official one – that requires Android 2.1 which hopefully will hit the Mini and Mini Pro in the future.

facebook

The Mini Pro has pretty good office and organisation applications too. The calendar naturally syncs with Google Calendar, offering you a month and day view. Adding new events and appointments on the phone is quick and easy, and reminders can also be set. Any events you add on a computer through the web will appear on the phone, as will your Google Contacts. Speaking of contacts, the phonebook is pretty well featured for a phonebook, allowing you to store many different fields of information per contact. The notes application is also pretty good and aesthetically pleasing, with your notes presented in a cool post-it note style.

calendar phonebook dialer

Calendar New contact fields Dialer

The Min Pro is an Android phone so it’s no surprise that it comes preloaded with Google Maps. It is currently at 4.4, and there are four different sections, each with their own icon. There’s the usual Maps, but there’s also Navigation, Latitude and Places. Maps is just that – a map, that you zoom using the same zoom tool as the browser. You can apply the usual layers, and use Street View. When the built in compass is enabled, the map will turn with you, resulting in a very interactive experience – Google maps is one of my favourite applications. Navigation also works very well, and the GPS was pretty quick to get an accurate fix, even with aGPS on.

places latitude navigation

Navigation Places Latitude

Wisepilot is the preinstalled alternative to Google Navigation, and it provides full guided navigation, but it’s only a trial – to continue using it for more than a few days, you’d have to shell out for the full version. While it is a good application, Google’s Navigation is just as good, and there’s no price better than free.

 

 

MiniPro-angled-open

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the X10 Mini Pro isn’t an Android powerhouse; then again, it was never advertised to be – there were no promises of HD video or an amazing high res screen. However what it does do, it does it well. The modest hardware such as the 600MHz processor and 128MB of ram are a far cry from the gigahertz Snapdragons and half a gig plus of ram powering the high end phones, yet the Mini Pro is responsive and fluid nearly all the time. This goes to show the optimisation that Sony Ericsson have achieved, both in their UI and Android’s power management – I never expected to get more than a day from a meagre 930mAh battery. The compact size of the Mini Pro adds to the surprise – who would have thought that a comfortable and spacious keyboard could be attached to such a small phone? People on the hunt for a slim or a game and media-centric device should look elsewhere, but if it’s a sliding keyboard you’re after in a small phone, there isn’t much choice, they all tend to have at least a 3.2″ screen if there’s a keyboard. Yes, it’s quite chunky, but in comparison with the Mini, it’s only gained 1mm in depth – quite an engineering feat.

So as you can probably tell, I liked the Mini Pro a lot. I also liked the Mini but felt that usability suffered a tiny bit too much to reach such a small size. With the Mini Pro though, Sony Ericsson have hit a happy medium between form and function – it’s nice and small, yet the keyboard allows it to be a truly usable device. It’s well built too and should last the usual knocks and bumps. The price isn’t bad either – for around £200 you’d be hard pressed to find a phone with similar efficiency and flexibility that comes with Android. If it’s an easy to use compact messenger you’re after, the X10 Mini Pro is highly recommended.

 

Review by: Vince

[ Post Tags: Sony Ericsson, Xperia X10, X10 Mini Pro ]

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
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About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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