Last year Sony Ericsson embarked on their biggest year in the smartphone industry (in my opinion) as they released their next generation of XPERIA smartphones, there was the Arc, Neo, X10 Mini and finally the most important one regarding this review…the X10 Mini Pro.
Now does anyone really properly remember that handset? I mean let’s face it-it wasn’t brilliant, it was too small and had many software bugs and to be quite honest for a long time also it was way overpriced. Would many people over the age of 15-16 have bought this phone? I’m not so sure.
The reason I’ve mentioned the above is because Sony Ericsson are at it again releasing their 3rd generation of Xperia smartphones, and I have one of them the Xperia Mini Pro. Which is the successor to the X10 Mini Pro of last year.
So is the ‘Upgrade’ worth taking a look at? Or is it just another one of those smartphones that will disappear from the radar?
Well if you want to find out more about this intriguing handset please do read on.
What’s in the box?
- Xperia Mini Pro
- 3-Pin UK Charging Adapter
- USB to MicroUSB Sync/Charge cable
- 2GB MicroSD card
- Quick start guide
- Warranty information
10 Second Review
- Product: Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro
- Price: From £219.99 SIM Free, from free on contract with various and from £199.99 pay as you go on various networks.
- Summary: A very nice little phone with lots of positives and very little negatives. Massive thumbs up!
- Best of: Screen, usability, very robust build, gorgeous keyboard.
- Worst of: USB cover difficult to remove, size could be annoying for some
- Buy now from: Various
- Also consider: HTC ChaCha
Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro specification:
- 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network: HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
- Dimensions: 92 x 53 x 18 mm
- Weight: 136 g
- Display: LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 320 x 480 pixels, 3.0 inches
- QWERTY keyboard
- Scratch-resistant surface
- Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
- Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- 3.5mm jack
- Memory: 512 MB RAM, 400MB storage
- MicroSD, up to 32GB, 2GB card included
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP
- USB: v2.0 microUSB
- Camera: 5 MP, 2592×1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, 720p video
- Secondary camera: VGA
- OS: Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
- CPU: 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon
- Radio: Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS with A-GPS support
- Digital compass
- SNS integration
- Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1200 mAh
First of all on the top of the handset are 3 things, from left to right as you see it is the 3.5mm Audio jack for headphones and headsets, next alone the top you will see the USB slot with a cover for protection from dust etc. Then finally is the power on/off and lock/unlock button.
Next on the left of the device there is only the little gap to enable the back cover to be removed, the rest is smooth.
The right side of the phone is where the dedicated camera button and up/down volume rocker are kept, I much prefer my volume rocker on the left of a handset but you get used to it
The only thing on the bottom is a couple of little holes for a charm or lanyard.
On the back of the handset is the loudspeaker, Sony Ericsson logo, Xperia brand name, 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash above it and the letter HD to show that the phone is capable of HD recording.
Finally on the front is where all the action happens, from the top we have the loudspeaker for voice calls with the VGA front facing camera to the right of that , also just next to both of those things are 3 almost invisible sensors, and a very tiny LED light for notifications. Underneath these is the 3.0 inch LED backlit display. Just at the bottom is the home physical button and either side of that is 1 touch sensitive button, the left side is the back button and the right is the menu.
You will also see that when you slide the front of the phone to the right a 4 row QWERTY keyboard appears.
- Great build quality
- Lovely slick interface
- QWERTY keyboard
- A little small for large handed people I feel
- Timescape application
- Camera quality
- Lack of headphone compatibility
This year has been a very good year for me personally as Matt has given me quite a few brilliant devices to review and here I have yet another one! The Xperia Mini Pro is a phone that I’ve wanted to look at since its release because my sister has its predecessor the X10 Mini Pro and she loves it although it’s battery life is awful and it’s very laggy due to its severely underpowered processor. But with the Xperia Mini Pro Sony Ericsson have done wonders! To many people what they’ve done might seem very minimal but to me the changes have made a huge difference for the better!
In my review I will try to explain as much as I can as to why the changes are such a good thing, so I think I will begin with one of the most impressive changes. Build quality.
The device has a much sturdier build than the X10 Mini Pro that’s for sure! On this handset it makes you feel that theoretically speaking you could drop it on a hard floor and it wouldn’t break (obviously I didn’t test the theory!) One other brilliant thing about this phone is the fact that it feels amazing in the hand; it feels like it belongs which makes the overall experience with the phone a lot more enjoyable. The only downside to the build is the slight wobble in the screen when closed but apart from that I’m quite impressed with the upgrade in quality on this device.
Now onto design, when I first took the Mini Pro from its box I immediately noticed the difference between it and its predecessor, the main one being that it actually looks good! With its lovely small form factor and it squared off edges and button placement make for a lovely little smartphone and what I would call a worthy successor to the damp squib that was the X10 Mini Pro from last year. There are a couple of things that I would have done differently though, 1 of which is the USB protective flap which I personally hate! Because even with a decent set of finger nails its flipping difficult to remove, this isn’t a good thing in my book! One other thing that I would change is the 2 touch sensitive buttons on the front of the phone either side of the physical home button. The reason I don’t like them is because, for this type of handset I don’t really think they work because, I am a guy that prefers one or the other when it comes to physical buttons or touch buttons so to have both variants on 1 small phone I don’t like so I would prefer either 3 touch or 3 physical buttons.
Software and Usability
Onto the operating system now and first a history lesson, did you know that the Android platform has been around for only 4 years?! And look how far it’s come in such a short space of time, the first version of the software that got people to take notice was 1.5 which revolutionized the way people could use a mobile phone (other than Apple) then manufacturers started to put overlays on top of the android platform to ‘improve’ the experience, HTC added their Sense overlay and if you look at the market now there are a number of manufacturers adding overlays.
An example of this is Sony Ericssons’ Timescape overlay which is installed on this handset, it is unfortunately a Marmite overlay though as some people love it but more people hate it. I’m in between liking and disliking it. I like some bits of it but really don’t like other bits, an example of not liking bits is the actual Timescape application which is sort of like ‘Friend stream’ on HTC devices, it takes all of your text messages, and social networking messages/posts into 1 simple place, but in practice it’s pretty pants to be honest and I think a lot of people using the Xperia devices would agree too. I much prefer going into each application individually to read messages as it makes everything nice to use. The application also lacks features from Twitter and Facebook that we have come to expect, I wasn’t allowed to post a photo using Timescape! So I had to download the Twitter application to be able to do this! I was NOT a happy bunny!
It’s not all bad though as in my opinion the rest of the overlay is beautiful and very enjoyable to look at and to use, this paired with Android Gingerbread makes for a brilliant operating system overall and hopefully you will agree that it does look good when you see the screenshots below.
First of all here is the lock screen with unlock slider from left to right and sound off/on slider in the other direction.
Next are the Home screens, of which there are 5 which are all customizable with a nice addition from Sony Ericsson in each of the 4 corners. They are customizable short cuts which you can add app shortcuts into them to make them easy to access, I personally think they are just there to look really cool.
Android as a general operating system makes everything quite straight forward, even when it comes to the settings. A few years ago before I knew even what a smartphone was I was quite useless at setting a phone up to the way I liked it, it wasn’t until I got myself a HTC Hero that I got ‘clued up’ on the settings etc, so it does take a bit of time to get used to but generally speaking the android platform is very simple to tweak.
Below are just a few screenshots showing you the different sections within the settings menu, I didn’t think that you would want to see every section so I’ve chosen to add what I use most often.
So hopefully with the screenshots that you can see above you will have a better understanding of what android is all about and that yes, it may look and sound scary but I can assure you that if you do take the plunge with any android phone you will not be disappointed at all!
These days’ smartphones play a huge part in business as well as pleasure so a good calendar application is required to enable business men and women to keep track of their appointments etc, and on the Mini Pro there is just the app for the job.
The application has a few viewing options depending on how you prefer to look at a calendar, they are day, week and month and I have provided screenshots of all 3 views below.
I personally prefer the month view, I use this view simply because it suits my lifestyle, mainly because I regularly forget what day it is! The application also makes it so simple to create a new event, all you have to do is press the menu button on the phone and then an on screen menu will pop up giving options such as ‘new event’ when you press that then the below screen will show on screen.
Overall I would say that the calendar is a joy to use and I would imagine that for business it would be fantastic, so a thumbs up to Sony Ericsson here.
Below are a couple more screenshots to show you the rest of the applications interface.
Internet and E-Mail
Moving on now to what I would say are 2 of the most important features of any smartphone, internet browsing and e-mail functionality.
The reason for me personally why these 2 things are important is because I rarely go on my laptop because e-mail and internet browsing has become such a pivotal part of smartphone use, plus with each month that passes manufacturers are continuing to improve their products bringing with them a greater browsing and e-mail experience. Of course as well there are tablet computers taking over a PC or laptops job and they are gradually improving also.
So onto the browsing experience on this little beauty of a phone, my first impressions when I first loaded tracyandmatt.co.uk were ‘wow that’s fast!’ you might think that is a little cliché but once you see the devices Quadrant standard benchmark results at the end of the review you will be pleasantly surprised.
The browser itself is much the same as any other Android Gingerbread smartphone really, it has a slick interface with a smooth pinch to zoom in and out function plus the additional double tap.
Below is an example of what a web page looks like to try and represent how nice the screen makes everything look, you will have to bear in mind though that this phone does only have a 3 inch display so don’t be expecting iPhone Retina Display quality.
Now that I’ve covered the browsing on the handset let’s talk about e-mail, on every android phone there are 2 e-mail client applications and the Xperia mini pro is no different, as it has the mandatory Gmail app but also Sony Ericssons own e-mail application, which I am sure you will agree once you’ve seen the screenshots is rather nice.
First of all let’s talk about the Gmail app as it is less ‘cool’ that the other! The interface on this app is exactly the same as all of the other Gmail apps on android devices, it has a simple, useable interface accessible to anyone and e-mails tend to look very nice and clear. To be honest there isn’t much that I can say that I haven’t said before in other reviews, I tend to only use my Gmail account for less important things so I rarely use the application at all really but when I do use it, it is always very nice and easy to send a quick e-mail but also to receive lots of emails at once.
Below are a few screenshots for you to see the interface of the application, so that you can judge for yourself whether it looks simple and useable.
I will now talk about the very cool Sony Ericsson e-mail application, I just hope that I can make it sound as cool as I think it really is.
First of all I will mention that it is quite a lot different to other manufacturers own applications in the fact that it has a pretty nifty little feature called preview pane, which is exactly as it says on the tin (so to speak) it is a feature that first came into action on the Xperia Arc and basically it provides a preview of your e-mail without needing to open the email separately, a very handy feature especially when you are in a hurry to read something.
Below are 2 screenshots of the above mentioned feature.
As you can hopefully see above the feature is extremely cool! It is a time saving feature that I imagine lots of people would love to have.
Hopefully you will also agree that the app looks really nice? It’s the best e-mail application I have used in a while actually, let’s face it reading e-mails isn’t the most exciting of tasks to do every day is it? So for an application on your smartphone to look good and be very enjoyable to use sure is a good thing?
Below are a couple more screenshots from within the app to show you the rest of the interface.
When I say Media I mean anything from the music player to YouTube, so let’s begin with an apology because for some really strange reason the phone wouldn’t allow me to take any screenshots of the music player or video playback, I was going to show you both but I’m afraid now you will just have to read this section and take my word for it.
The music player actually has a lovely interface that impressed me quite a bit, it’s got a nice silver background and basically just looks good. The downsides begin when you want to listen to any music! I will attempt to explain what I mean, I have a set of £80 Monster Beats headphones that work perfectly in HTC, Apple, Samsung etc phones but apparently Sony Ericsson don’t like that so they aren’t a compatible accessory! So instead the user is forced to use the frankly awful provided headset which provides sound quality from the dark ages! I was absolutely gutted when I found that my headphones didn’t work so as you can imagine I haven’t listened to much music while I’ve had the handset for review.
However the music playback without headphones is quite good, the external loudspeaker outputs decent sound well decent enough to listen to a couple of songs now and then anyway, but this loudspeaker also comes in handy when watching video content as I will explain below.
Video playback despite the small screen is really impressive on this little handset, the screen quality is quite deceiving actually as you don’t expect much from a 3 inch HVGA display when you first look at it but when I first saw the quality of this I was super impressed. The type of video that works best on the Mini Pro is YouTube, I have times during a week where I can watch YouTube content for a couple of hours a day so for me having a great application on my smartphone is essential! So when I saw that the app plus the playback quality makes for a lovely watching experience.
Camera and Video Camera
It seems that a lot of smartphone manufacturers are choosing 5 megapixel cameras with a single LED flash, I am thinking that the reason for this could be because the parts are much cheaper? Some of the phones I’ve reviewed with 5 megapixel cameras have been good but others have been terrible, so I wasn’t hoping for much from this camera to be honest.
The types of photos I usually take on my phones are passing shots of pretty cool things like moving cars if I see a Ferrari where I live (Very Rare!) or of my dog so the camera doesn’t need to be amazing but it does need to be at least useable. Is the Xperia Mini Pro’s camera useable? The short answer is sometimes, the longer answer is if you haven’t got your digital camera with you and you really want to take a photo of something then it will perform OK! Let’s face the facts this was never going to be awesome was it?! It isn’t the worst camera on a phone I’ve used of this type by a long way but it certainly isn’t the best either.
The quality of the shots entirely depends on the weather and how bright the lighting is where you are taking the photos, if the lighting isn’t quite right then there’s no hope of a decent shot at all.
The application itself though is really nice to use, it’s slick and quite different to what I’ve seen previously, it’s got a totally black background with an options menu accessible with a swipe from left to right, the options you are presented with though are limited but they do a job which to be honest is what I would describe the camera as really.
Below are some sample photos that I have taken from my back garden with the camera set to automatic everything (this was the best way to do it).
Also in the same application is an option to record video, the phone is capable of recording in 720p but I really wouldn’t get your hopes up for amazing quality because you will be disappointed, however the quality is better than I personally expected having read some other reviews on the net saying that the camera absolutely sucks, well to be honest it doesn’t suck it just isn’t brilliant.
I mentioned earlier in the review that I didn’t like the Timescape application much and I will now try to explain why I dislike it. I think what’s best for this section is for me to show you the app and then explain why dislikes.
Now you can see the application in all its ‘Glory’ what do you think? In my opinion it’s just not cool, it’s horrible to use and to look at! Plus one of the worst things about the app is the fact that you can’t upload any video or picture content to either facebook or twitter! How bad is that?! An example of this being an epic fail for you now, me and my partner went to a games convention in September and at the time I was unaware of the app being so limited so when I tried to upload pictures to my twitter I found that I couldn’t! So I had to download the actual Twitter app from the marketplace which wasn’t cool at all! Good job I had a GiffGaff Sim card at the time!
There are other ways of using social networking sites though, I’ve already mentioned the official twitter application, but pre-installed on the device was the facebook application, which if you have used it on any other Android device won’t be any different, the reason that I haven’t taken any screenshots of the app is because I really didn’t wish to use it because it wasn’t good to use on such a small screen if I’m be totally honest, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to read a whole paragraph on something that isn’t nice to use?
Calls and Messaging
I have a question for you guys, how often while using your smartphone do you completely forget that it is in fact a mobile phone? If I was to answer that question it would be all of the time! The reason this happens a lot is probably due to the fact that I rarely call anyone and if I do I use Skype long distance to save on minutes usage so my iPhone is more like my little personal computer/games device more than it is a mobile phone.
Voice calls are absolutely superb, the clarity is so clear it feels like the person is stood right next to me! I have recently used a lot of smartphones ranging from high end to low end and this handset pretty much sits in the middle of voice quality spectrum. Overall also the volume of a call is really good, it’s not too loud and not so quiet that you can’t hear the other person which is obviously a good thing, there were times when using the device that the quality of the call dropped slightly when signal wasn’t so great but other than that it’s pretty good indeed.
Below is a screenshot of the phone dialler, you will hopefully be able to notice that the text is easy to read and the Timescape overlay looking good as ever as well.
Onto messaging now, overall due to the absolutely awesome physical QWERTY keyboard text messaging-e-mail etc are so fantastic! Typing on the keyboard is a dream, I’m usually not a fan of physical QWERTY keyboards on smartphones but if all keyboard/touch screen phones had keyboards this good then I would even consider one with a larger screen.
If you’ve not seen this little gem of a phone before then I urge you to go check it out at one of your local phone stores and try out the keyboard.
Below are a couple of screenshots of the messaging interface.
There are also a couple of On screen keyboards to choose from (As well as the one above), but I very much doubt that anyone would use them but for the sake of this review I thought that I would take screenshots of them for you guys.
Battery life and overall performance
As smartphones are vastly becoming a little more than an accessory to people’s life, the battery life and performance of the phones surely has to be better than most are? For example my partner owns the HTC ChaCha and she can’t ever get a day out of a full charge, what good is that to anyone?! So having made that point you will be pleasantly surprised to hear that the Xperia Mini pro performs admirably in terms of battery life, on a full charge with medium to high use (Texting, calls, browsing) I managed to get around about 1 ½ days which is pretty awesome by today’s standards.
So moving on from good battery performance I’d like to show you a screenshot of a Quadrant Standard benchmark test that I did on the device to show as accurately as possible how well it performs. One thing that I will mention to you guys is I ran the test 5 times before I came to the score in the below screenshot, the total each time was around the score below which I am sure you will agree is so impressive for such a small device.
Just to let you know how good this actually is, I currently have the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray for review as well as this one and it scored a consistent 200 points less than this handset! The question there would be why?!
The end of another exciting review and of all of the reviews that I have done, this is the one that I’ve taken the longest to complete and I would say that this is because I like the device and wanted to accurately portray it’s quality in this review so you guys can make your own judgements from it.
Overall I would recommend this phone to anyone who loves phones, wants to switch from something larger to something smaller or to the younger community who are maybe fed up with their blackberries etc.
Reviewed by: Chris