By December 12, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Review

XperiaPro-main A little while ago Matt did an unboxing video of a handset that I personally had my eye on because my partner and sister are looking for a decent phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard, so when I got the e-mail from Matt asking me to review the Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro I jumped at the chance!

As you may notice this is going to be my 3rd Sony Ericsson Xperia phone to review in as many months, so I am sure that you will say to yourselves well ‘What’s the difference really?’

Well to find out the answer to that question you will have to read on to find the full review.

 

The 10 Second Review:

  • Device: Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
  • Price: £306 inc VAT (SIM-free)
  • Summary: A lovely looking phone with nice QWERTY keyboard but the software again lets a decent phone down, it’s quite boring too as it is way too similar to other Xperia devices-Ray, Arc etc the only difference being the keyboard.
  • Best of: Physical Keyboard, screen, size
  • Worst of: Boring, Software, too samey
  • Buy from: Clove Technology
  • Also consider: Xperia Arc, Xperia Mini Pro

 

What’s in the box?

This handset in particular is a review device and all I received in the package was the phone itself with no accessories etc. But in the retail packaging I would imagine you would receive a USB sync/charge cable, charger, warranty information etc.

 

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Pro specification:

  • 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • 3G Network: HSDPA 900 / 2100
  • HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
  • Dimensions: 120 x 57 x 13.5 mm
  • Weight: 142 g
  • Display: LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 480 x 854 pixels, 3.7 inches (~265 ppi pixel density)
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
  • Multi-touch input method
  • Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine
  • Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
  • 3.5mm jack
  • Memory: 1 GB (320 MB user available) ROM, 512 MB RAM
  • microSD, up to 32GB, 8 GB included
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth: v2.1 with A2DP
  • microUSB v2.0
  • Camera: 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, [email protected], continuous autofocus, video light
  • Secondary Camera: VGA
  • OS: Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • CPU: Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon 1 GHz processor
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • GPS A-GPS support
  • HDMI port
  • Battery: Standard battery, Li-Po 1500 mAh

 

General

On the top of the phone is the MicroUSB slot for sync/charge.

Xperia-pro-top

 

On the left side is the 3.5mm headphone jack with the power on/off/lock/unlock button directly underneath it.

Xperia-pro-left

 

On the right side is where the up/down volume rocker is placed.

Xperia-pro-right

 

On the bottom are a couple of little holes for a phone charm or lanyard.

Xperia-pro-bottom

 

On the back of the device is where the 8 megapixel camera with Led flash is, plus next to those is the external speaker.

Xperia-pro-back 

 

Finally on the front is the 3.7 inch screen, front facing VGA camera, 3 physical buttons being- Back, Home and menu buttons.

Xperia-pro-front

 

Review

I can’t recall Sony Ericsson venturing into the larger phone with physical keyboard too often in the past, there was the Vivaz pro but other than that I can’t remember anything of note I may of course be totally wrong but from personal experience I’ve only ever seen the one phone that could be seen as larger with a keyboard.

So with that in mind my initial expectations of the Xperia Pro weren’t as high as they possibly could have been had Sony Ericsson released more phones of this type, I have to say though that I was quite impressed with the device initially because first of all it does look very nice but also because the size of the phone and screen are for me perfect. The 3.7 inch screen is smack bang in the middle of being too small and too big so for me it represents my ideal sized phone so a good start indeed for the Xperia Pro.

 

Build Quality and Design

As with any device that I review I am looking out for anything that might make the phone undesirable to the public, so I first look at how strong the build of the device is to see whether it is robust enough to cope with everyday life for a variety of people from the young generation to the older generations.

Does this have strong build quality? Short answer is yes but of course this is a review so you are more likely to want to know the longer answer.

The phone is made from very strong and very glossy plastics and I know that most of you will say that is a bad idea and that it’s going to be really weak, but the funny thing is with Sony Ericsson they seem to be able to make plastics seem like the strongest most robust material to use for handsets.

What this phone does have is a very smooth and sturdy slide out mechanism for the QWERTY keyboard, it doesn’t feel like the HTC Desire Z did (like it was going to break every time you opened it!) so I was very pleased that a quick flick to open it up was allowed without it breaking the phone.

As with the last 2 handsets that I’ve reviewed (Xperia Mini Pro and Ray) the design of this product is also very good but I did have a couple of issues with button size and placement.

An example of this issue is where the power button is placed…right underneath the 3.5mm headphone jack! How illogical is that?! Plus the actual button is way too small so I often found myself getting quite frustrated by this; the tiny factor doesn’t end with 1 button though as the dedicated camera button is exactly the same size so I often resorted to using the touch function within the camera to take photos. Sort it out Sony Ericsson!

Things do improve as you get used to everything though as I have finally got my wish of having physical buttons on the front of a smartphone!!! I was ecstatic to see the buttons there that I think I even did a shout out loud to them, which sounds strange I know but I have been longing for this on a smartphone again for ages! It just makes a nice change to other handsets that have just touch sensitive buttons which do often get annoying.

 

Software

Unlike the Xperia Ray and Mini Pro the Xperia Pro has an updated version of Android Gingerbread-2.3.4 which brings with it a few security and bug updates etc but the most important addition for us reviewers is the ability to take screenshots on the device itself! I have been waiting for this for a long time so for me and every other reviewer out there it’s a brilliant feature.

As for actual everyday use though the software is pretty much exactly the same as any other Xperia device really, it has the silly Timescape overlay on it, it is very smooth and so simple to use even for an android newcomer as I will show you with the below screenshots.

When you first turn the phone on out of the box you are greeted with a setup process, this consists of things like setting the time/date and adding Google accounts and setting up a Wi-Fi connection etc, it is basically an easy way to get into the android ways without being thrown into the deep end straight away, meaning if you were greeted with 5 fully customised home-screens straight away I am pretty sure that would scare some people.

Once you have successfully completed the setup you will be presented with the following screens. Note though that the screens that I have taken are customised to my personal preferences so the screens you will see look a little difference but the screenshots below should give you a fair idea of what to expect.

HomeScreen1 HomeScreen2 HomeScreen3 HomeScreen4 HomeScreen5

If you have read my last 2 reviews then the above shots will look quite familiar to you because as I mentioned before the software is almost identical to the Xperia Ray etc so you won’t really find many things if anything at all different.

One thing that stays the same with most if not all android devices is the fact that you can customise all of the home screens to exactly what you want, you are able to put widgets, app shortcuts, folders and basically most of what you see above in the screenshots I have chosen to do for myself, the only screen that remained unchanged was the one far left although I’m not really sure why!

Next I wanted to show you the app tray because you are going to be spending a lot of your time in this section of the software opening apps, so the screenshots are below to show you what to expect.

AppTray1 AppTray2 AppTray3 AppTray4

In the above screenshots I have the apps laid out in ‘most used’ order because it was logical for me as I wanted the apps that I used most often on the first page, lazy really! The more applications that you download means the more pages of apps there will be, the action of swiping right and left between the pages is smooth and fast as well which is good.

I did encounter a couple of niggly problems while testing the handset that I am sure could be fixed with either app updates or OS update, the main problem I found was that when I was doing battery heavy tasks such as web browsing and video playback the phone would decide to lag ridiculously for some reason and then suddenly just stop and carry on as normal. It also did this during the use of such applications as Spotify, sky news and sky sports news the phone actually restarted itself while I was browsing the sports news app, the problem is though that I’m not sure if this issue was the phone or the app and I’m afraid that there was no way of me finding out for sure either.

I thought that I would also show you guys some screenshots of the settings pages to give you an idea of what you can expect when you own the device, this section is exactly the same as the Xperia Ray and Mini Pro that I have previously reviewed but as this is handset has a larger screen I thought that I would show you.

Settings1 Settings2 Settings3

 

Internet & E-Mail

As this is a review of an android smartphone I would imagine that anyone who is reading it would be seriously interested to know about the internet browsing and e-mail capabilities?

First of all lets visit the internet capabilities of the handset, below are some screenshots of browsing in both vertical and horizontal orientations and I will then talk about my experience with it.

Internet1 Internet2 Internet3 Internet4

As with the Xperia Ray that I reviewed last this phone has a deliciously bright display with 854 x 480 pixels which makes for a super looking beautiful screen to look at and use every day. As we all know by now Apple have the most impressive display technology so we shouldn’t be expecting any other manufacturer to come close should we? I am really impressed with Sony Ericssons screen tech though because it is so vibrant and so nice to use, plus it has the added feature that it doesn’t sap the phones’ battery! Exactly what you want!

Anyway back to browsing, my point about the screen is that it makes browsing the web such a pleasure! The display makes it so easy to read the text even when zoomed out a bit, now I use the internet a lot on my phone every day and I hardly use my laptop so I was looking for the Xperia Pro to meet my every need regarding speed/ease of use etc. The good news is that it did meet my needs very well indeed! I have been very impressed with how fast the phone responds to the things that I tell it to do such as go to a web page and opening new windows etc etc.

I do have a little niggle with the interface however, I am becoming increasingly frustrated by having the + and – buttons on screen every time I touch the screen! I exclusively use pinch to zoom or the double tap to zoom in and out on my phone so I really could do without the annoying buttons from older android versions to be in the way.

Regarding the actual every day use of the browser I was quite impressed by the performance and usability on both 3G and Wi-Fi connections, obviously 3G was slower than Wi-Fi but honestly not by much if I’m being honest. I was using a GiffGaff sim card in the phone and I had no issues at all while browsing on a 3G signal, the phone seemed to respond to browsing tasks nearly as quickly as it did while connected to my home Wi-Fi so overall I found browsing in and out of the house really good.

E-mail is a feature that a lot of people with smartphones use every single day as it brings with it convenience and depending on the platform you use it also brings unified inboxes to fetch/push all of your e-mails into 1 easy to read place. So when I started using the e-mail application on the Xperia Pro I synchronised all of my 3 addresses, 2 were on the OS app and the other was in the Gmail app.

The Sony Ericsson application is the one that I am most impressed with as it is just superb for organising your e-mails and reading them too, I will hopefully show you this in the below screenshots…

E-Mail1 E-mail2 E-Mail3 E-Mail4

As you can hopefully notice by looking at the screenshots above is the simple fact that the app really looks great? It is definitely one of the best looking e-mail applications I’ve seen, especially compared to iPhone which let’s face it could definitely be improved!

As for the apps usability and functionality it’s exactly the same as it was on the Xperia Mini Pro and Xperia Ray, it did however enjoy using it a little more than the other 2 devices due to the 3.7 inch display. A simple change makes the e-mail application an absolute joy to use as with a larger screen that means that you can have a larger preview area underneath the mail when using the ‘preview pane’ feature of course.

I also thought I would mention the fact that unlike the other 2 phones I’ve reviewed this phone responds to tasks within the app such as, sending an e-mail and receiving mails that little bit quicker, maybe part of that is the physical QWERTY keyboard? There’s no way of knowing for sure but I was pleased to see it anyway.

I mentioned earlier that there is also a Gmail application built in, a googlemail account is actually a requirement on an android device because the operating system itself is created by Google, when you have a googlemail account synchronised to the device it basically allows you to access the android market as well as to access your own emails. It works in a similar way to the Apple ID really but you have to pay with everything on your debit card whereas on iTunes you are able to buy pre-paid cards.

Anyway enough waffling and onto the application itself, it is a basic e-mail app that does its job in a very non spectacular way, the app is quite dull and boring but I don’t imagine people using it often enough to worry about how it looks to be honest.

Screenshots of the app are below.

Gmail1 Gmail2

 

Social Networking

Anyone who has read my reviews before will know that social networking is a large part of my life (I know that might sound quite sad) and it is so because I am fascinated by what other people do in their everyday lives, I for example follow some of the most famous people in the world like professional footballers and movie stars! This is why Facebook and Twitter are so popular all over the world; and in my opinion will continue to grow as the years go by and technology improves.

With that theory in mind then I was expecting much of the same experience that I had with the Xperia Ray in particular, which in truth I did. Using both Facebook and Twitter on this handset is exactly the same as it was on the Ray which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but some may find the fact that the manufacturer have so many similar products off putting.

My question to you guys is ‘Would having so many similar devices put you off choosing that manufacturer when purchasing a new phone?’

Facebook is a global phenomenon as we all know but I do have an issue with the mobile versions of the site, my problem with it is the fact that the applications half of the time doesn’t work properly! Especially on the iOS platform which annoys me personally as I never log onto the desktop version.

So how is the application on Android? Pretty much the same as the iOS one to be honest, it works when it wants to but when it works it’s great but not fantastic which from a lot of people’s point of view I can imagine is very annoying!

Below are some screenshots of the Facebook application in action on the Xperia Pro.

Social4 Social5

Twitter is where social networking on android devices improves immensely; this is because there are more applications that support the service than there are for Facebook which is most possibly down to rights and such. In the Android Market there are so many different apps that support the Titter platform, some are good but most aren’t really of any use to many people and the one that I personally prefer is the official application which is the one that I have taken screenshots of which you can see below.

Social1 Social2 Social3

As you can see it isn’t the prettiest of applications but the main thing with this one is, it works brilliantly and is very quick to complete tasks like receiving tweets and sending them etc. The app is also very easy to set up initially as all you have to do (if you have a Twitter account at the setup stage) is type in your account username and password and then the app will retrieve your information and any tweets past and present. Simples!

It has a nice little feature which allows you to simply drag the screen down to retrieve tweets, a feature that I prefer to pressing a refresh button any day of the week and I am sure most of you guys would agree that it’s quicker too?

There is also a Sony Ericsson invention built into the operating system overlay that allows the user to set up their Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts and it will then present them into a unified list that you can manipulate by simple swiping up through the tweets and posts, even text messages will be listed if you choose to have them shown.

If you are wondering why there are no screenshots to show you it is because I don’t think that the app merits enough of a mention really, I really dislike the app because it is so limited and doesn’t really make social networking as fun as it should be! I much prefer to use the official applications even if they don’t work properly all of the time.

 

Android Market

In my review of the Xperia Ray I mentioned in this section that the android market was Exclusive to Sony Ericsson, but the thing is it’s not it is actually the same on every android device now (as far as I am aware) so I apologise for my mistake there.

Here are some screenshots of the market interface again simply to give you an idea of what to expect.

Market1 Market2 Market3

You will notice that the interface is much nicer than it was previously which makes it a much more pleasing experience browsing through all of the applications, games, films and books.

 

Keyboards

This handset in particular is more of an intriguing one because it has a couple of keyboard choices for a change, it has the superb physical QWERTY Keyboard (pictured earlier) and some lovely on screen keyboard options as well.

Here is the on screen QWERTY keyboard to show you the nice choices you would have if you decided to purchase this phone, I think it is really good to have choices regarding keyboards as sometimes you don’t always need to slide the keyboard out to type a quick text.

Keyboard1 Keyboard2

I mentioned in my review of the Xperia Ray that I didn’t like the keyboard due to the screen being slightly too small, well on the Xperia Pro I found no such problems as it has a really good 3.7 inch display which makes the on screen keyboard in both portrait and landscape much easier to use.

 

Calendar

How many people do you think use a calendar every day? Thousands? Millions? My point is that a calendar is almost an essential thing to have for most people because it allows them to keep track of appointments, meetings and even when to put the car in for a service etc. So for me a smartphone should have a calendar that is very easy to use and to also look good.

Does the calendar do both of those things? Yes it does indeed!

Here is the calendar interface in all of its glory to give you an initial impression of how simple the interface is.

Calender1 Calender2 Calender3

In the calendar application you can choose how to view it with 3 different views, they are shown above and they are named, Month, week and day. The different views basically just help to break everything up into a more manageable space so for example if you had a day full of important meetings/appointments then you could choose to view your calendar in day mode and it would just show you everything on that particular day.

You can also tell the calendar to remind you of the events that you create so that you will never forget anything important, trust me this comes in handy so often for me you wouldn’t believe!

 

Voice calls

Now onto something that is super easy to forget these days…Call quality! I mean this is mobile phone after all!

This phone has been a disappointment on this front to be honest because the call quality was very poor for some reason, even though it has 2 microphones to attempt to block out exterior noise. During a call I found quite a lot of interference as though it was a radio that I was talking on, plus the exterior noise was very evident as well so I have been super unimpressed with the overall quality of voice calling on this device.

Which if you can remember from the Xperia Ray and Mini Pro is totally the opposite as the call quality on those 2 devices was superb, so I am just wondering if I got an early version of the phone that wasn’t quite polished?

I thought I would show you the phone dialler below.

Dialler

Camera and Video Camera

Smartphones are named so due to them being ‘smart’ and they include almost everything that a home desktop computer does which includes a digital camera. This feature of a smartphone is evolving all of the time with new technologies being brought in all of the time to improve image quality and lens quality etc.

The camera in the Xperia Pro is actually pretty good overall but it isn’t amazing, but should it be on a phone? Having a decent camera in your smartphone is a bonus if ask me, and this camera is definitely decent but I’m just saying not to expect iPhone 4S kind of quality from it.

Below are some screenshots of the camera interface, I haven’t shown you all of the different settings options because it would be a lot to take it at once but I have shown you the most important sections.

Camera1 Camera2 Camera3

 

The camera application is really simple to use actually as the different settings are all labelled obviously and the changes that each different setting make are evident from the minute you choose them. The variety of settings available are shown in the screenshot on the right and you will see that although there aren’t as many settings as you would get on a digital camera but there are is a nice amount that do make a difference when required.

The types of settings that I used during testing were things like macro focus mode, landscape scene mode but the one setting that I had switched on at all times was the image stabiliser, this is due to me having very shaky hands for some reason but the stabiliser really does work!

Overall I have been relatively impressed with the quality of the camera that the Xperia Pro possesses but I wasn’t blown away compared to some other phone cameras out there, but for this type of handset it is quite impressive indeed.

Below are some photos taken on the phone with different settings, I will write underneath each photo what settings were used so that you can try and find differences between them all and to show you the quality of the camera.

DSC_0017 DSC_0015

DSC_0006

Photo 1- Settings set to-Scene mode=Cloudy

Exposure left at 0

Contrast and brightness left at Auto and focus mode and white

Balance also left on Auto.

Photo2- Settings set to- Scene Mode=Cloudy

Exposure left to 0

White Balance=Auto

Brightness and contrast=Auto

Photo 3- Settings set to- Scene Mode=Auto

Focus Mode=Macro

White Balance=Auto

Brightness and contrast=Auto

This phone also has 720p recording capability so I thought that instead of me boring you to death about the technical stuff that I would simply show you a video that I took with settings all at Auto and image stabiliser switched on. To be honest all you need to know about the video recording is that it is more of a point and shoot type of thing rather than a professional video recorder as settings are limited hence why I thought I’d just show you a video.

 

Sample Video

 

Of course there is also a place where all of your photos and videos will be kept, the Gallery and a screenshot of this is below to show you what to expect.

Gallery1

Music and video playback

Unfortunately guys I was unable to listen to music through a set of headphones due to me not owning a compatible headset which is disappointing but as I only received a review device with no accessories I was limited to just using the external loud speaker.

Through the loud speaker the sound wasn’t ever going to be brilliant but it was OK for the odd song now and again and was more than ok to watch videos with which was obviously a good thing. I have to admit though that I didn’t really listen to much music due to the lack of headphones so I can’t really comment properly on the quality of the product for music playback but hopefully we (tracyandmatt.co.uk) will get our hands on a retail device as soon as it becomes available and we will then be able to comment on everything that I couldn’t.

One thing that I can comprehensively comment on though is the quality of video playback through the device as I watched A LOT during my time with the phone! I watched quite a few YouTube videos and a few feature films as well and I was so impressed with the playback from this phone, the screen is just so good that it makes the colours stand out more than I thought they would.

YouTube HQ quality is very good most of the time with most of the poor quality videos being the up loaders fault but if the initial file is of good quality then the playback on this phone was very good indeed and impressed me a lot. The size of the screen makes a huge difference to the quality as well because having a larger screen makes for a better viewing experience, plus it was much easier to hold while watching something, unlike the Xperia Ray which was quite small in the hand, it had great video quality but the screen was just too small in my opinion but with the Xperia Pro the 3.7 inch display is impressive.

Below are a couple of screenshots of the YouTube app for you, it is no different on any Android device but I like it so much that I must show you.

Youtube1 Youtube2

Battery and Performance

A huge part of a smartphone these days is how well it performs tasks without draining the battery life in a matter of hours; does the Xperia Pro have good battery life and performance?

Well let’s see with a little screenshot first of all…

Quadrant

That screenshot is of an application called Quadrant Standard and it is a basic benchmarking tool to give us a fair idea of how the device can perform a variety of tasks such as gaming, whether the memory in the hardware is up to scratch and how fast the processor can perform simple tasks too. As you can see it performs quite well against some older phones but the problem is that I ran the same benchmark test on the Xperia Mini Pro and Xperia Ray and both of those devices have beaten this phone by at least 200 points, why?! I have absolutely no idea why they are so different to be honest because as far as I am aware the same 1 GHz processor is in all 3 phones so it’s a mystery to me.

As for the devices’ battery life it was relatively impressive with decent results, I did 3 separate tests on the battery life and they were -heavy use, medium use and no use at all.

Heavy user test results were that the battery lasted an estimated 8-10 hours which is about average for other smartphones on the market so not too bad considering.

Medium use test came out at 2 days which is a considerable improvement on other devices of similar type that I have used in the past, Thumbs up to Sony Ericsson there.

Finally with no use at all, the phone lasted 5 days! Amazing or what?!

Overall I was impressed with the day to day performance of the phone and with the added bonus of good battery life it made for a more enjoyable experience overall.

 

Conclusion

Overall my time with the Xperia Pro was quite a good one, but for me the phone lacks a certain quality that would distinguish it in the mass market and for that reason I am not sure whether it can succeed as I don’t think many people would choose this device over some other more attractive propositions.

I believe that the type of people who would buy this type of phone would be people buying it as a gift for a child if the price was right, and younger people themselves who maybe can’t afford an iPhone or something similar, other than that I can’t really see businesses opting for this instead of blackberry devices any time soon.

 

Review by: Chris

[ Post Tags: Sony Ericsson XPERIA Pro, Android 2.3, Smartphone, tracyandmatt.co.uk ]

Posted in: Reviews

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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