By July 7, 2010

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini review

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini reviewIn much the same way as phones went touchscreen in the recent past, it’s now becoming a trend for mobile manufacturers to add ‘mini’ on the end of the model names, then put them through the most minor of changes and call it a day. The X10 mini however is probably the only phone that really deserves the title of ‘mini’ – Sony Ericsson has made some serious changes and ‘X10 Tiny’ would probably have been a more appropriate name.

Whatever they chose to call it, the design also reflects that it is very much the little brother of the original beefy X10. Sony Ericsson showed off both the X10 mini and the X10 mini pro back at MWC in February, where their tiny form factor combined with Android caught many people’s hearts. On the face of it, a small touchscreen may not seem to make sense for sake of usability, and so in the review we’ll find out amongst other things whether having a 2.55″screen and not many buttons is a good idea. The X10 mini is the first of the two to hit the market here in the UK, but can a tiny little phone make a large impression?



What’s in the box?

  • Xperia X10 mini
  • Extra cover colours (carrier dependent)
  • 2GB microSD card
  • In-ear headphones
  • microUSB cable
  • Sony Ericsson ‘Greenheart’ USB charger
  • Manuals & documentation


Be sure to stop by at Matt’s unboxing of the X10 mini to see the phone in action!




Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini review Specification:

  • Operating System – Google Android 1.6
  • 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




The top of the device is not very interesting, containing only a power/lock button.



The left hand side is even less interesting, with a full nothing on this side.



The bottom of the phone houses a 3.5mm headphone jack in the middle, with an extra slot next to it for proprietary headphones with inline remote. Next to that is the microUSB connector for sync and charge, and a microphone hole above it.



The right side has a two-stage dedicated camera key, and a volume rocker.



The curved rear of the phone is removable and replaceable with many different coloured backs, with holes for the 5MP camera, LED flash, and speaker. Below that, there’s a classic embossed SE logo and ‘XPERIA’ branding.



And on the front there’s the miniscule 2.55″ QVGA display, with a proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and earpiece above it. Below, there’s the menu, home, and back buttons, standard Android buttons but lacking the search key and the call and end keys.






  • Very pocketable
  • Customisation with covers
  • SE’s custom interface
  • Audio quality
  • Camera quality


  • QVGA screen limits app choices
  • Screen not very bright
  • Non-removable battery
  • microUSB cover hard to remove
  • Inaccurate keyboard



Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini review

The Sony Ericsson X10 mini was a handset I wanted to review the day I saw it announced back in February. For once, Sony Ericsson has released it on time and here it is on my table. I knew that it was a small version of the 4″ X10, but it still managed to surprise me with its size the second I saw it. The X10 mini really is mini – really mini. It’s the smallest smartphone to be released in recent memory, and you really have to see it in person to appreciate its diminutive dimensions. Even so, its actually pretty thick at 16mm, but the curved design helps to mask it and it contours to your hand in a similar way to an old iPhone. Every pocket would find space for such a small handset, and it’s 88 grams of weight won’t hold you back either.

Nearly everyone that saw the X10 mini asked to see its keyboard. When I replied that there is no real keyboard and it’s an onscreen one, most scoffed at the possibility of typing on such a small screen. They do have a point though – the 2.55″display restricted Sony Ericsson from using a qwerty virtual ‘board as you would normally find on other Android phones. Instead, they opted for a standard 14-key numeric pad. Although it’s better than cramming in a tiny qwerty keyboard, fast typing seemed to choke the poor phone and strokes went unregistered all too frequently. This forced me to type in the slow lane, and the frustration built up too much for me to bear typing beyond a quick message. It all sounds pretty drastic, and it’s actually fine for quick messages. But for hardcore emailers typing out lengthy messages, I’d strongly recommend you avoid this phone – not that you should be considering a phone with a numeric keypad anyway. Another annoying quirk is the placement of the backspace button – it’s in the bottom left hand corner, which just so happens to be the opposite side of where the backspace is on virtually every other keyboard. Besides the speed issue, the way the keyboard works is generally quite nice. There’s a shortcut to access your input methods, and once you’ve selected T9 or Multi-tap, you can swipe left or right for the numbers or symbols.

On the display front, the X10 mini has both good and bad points. Starting with the good – it’s very responsive. It has a capacitive display which relies on the conductivity of your finger, making it very good at registering swipes and gestures, which are commonplace in the Android interface. Although it is a QVGA resolution, it’s not as blocky as I was expecting. It’s certainly not as clear as other high end phones with high res displays but for navigating around the UI it’s perfectly acceptable. The inclusion of a 240×320 display is partly a cost cutting decision but also because it’s so small. Even so, Sony Ericsson’s UI on top of Android certainly makes the most of the space – the four corners can be assigned to a program of your choosing, and widgets can be placed on what seems to be an unlimited number of homescreens. If you’re familiar with Android, having an unlimited number of homescreens sounds like a breakthrough but in reality, it’s there because you can only place one widget per screen. Even if it is just the search bar, it places it in the middle and no more widgets can be added to that screen and with nothing like HTC Sense’s helicopter view, it’s easy to forget which homescreen contains what.

The unusually low screen resolution (for Android devices) also restricts the number of apps you can download in the Android App Market. Many apps were developed and designed for higher resolutions and so to prevent an app not running properly, ones that are not compatible just don’t appear; if you’re after an Android phone for certain applications, it would be a good idea to check whether these apps are compatible with QVGA screens.

The 5MP camera on the rear of the device is pretty good, on par with what you would expect from Sony Ericsson. Despite its size, the camera is of good quality and has a LED flash, something that is unfortunately a rare find on Android phones. Even so, you can more or less forget the flash if your subject is more than a few metres away. Images are well detailed and sharp in strong light, although low light photos without the flash does suffer from the usual graininess and noise. The camera app again takes advantage of the corners for shortcuts to the flash, video recorder, scene type, and gallery. It’s fast to load too but it’s probably because it’s really basic. Those controls mentioned are the only controls you have, which is not what Sony Ericsson usually do with their phones – rather disappointing. In the scenes, you can choose between auto, macro, twilight, and sports mode. And that’s it for the camera options.

The video camera is unsurprisingly nothing to write home about. It records at a mere VGA resolution and playing back on the phone is really the only place you want to see it. At least it does record at 30fps which helps reduce blocking and keeps the video relatively smooth.

DSC00004 DSC00008


Despite there being ‘only’ a 600MHz processor and 128MB of RAM, the X10 mini runs very fast. This is already old generation hardware but costs have obviously been taken into consideration when the components were chosen. On a large high res display, the processor would probably choke up but having only a QVGA resolution does have its benefits – it allows the phone to really fly along and not have the power consumption of a higher clocked processor. There is no lag most of the time, and slight judders in transitions only occur when running too many applications in the background.

The X10 mini’s browser is the standard Android webkit browser, so it’s pretty fast. Pages render quickly and generally correctly, but here is another example where the QVGA resolution holds it back. It can only display a small portion of a webpage at a time, so you’ll find yourself scrolling around web pages a lot. There is of course the zoom out button (no multi-touch) but when zooming out the text blurs to an unreadable state, again due to the low resolution screen.

The settings reveal that the phone is running Android 1.6. Some may see this as a dealbreaker, but in daily use of the phone, I never found myself asking for a feature that is only available in newer versions of Android. Exchange email support is there, thanks to a SE home-grown email client. This was one of the main features that 1.6 lacked, and it’s nice to see that Sony Ericsson have catered for business email. If you are still not happy with an outdated firmware version, 2.1 is coming to the X10 before the end of the year according to them, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. By then, you’ll be pining for an even newer version anyway, such is the pace of Android development.

Timescape is another app that comes with the custom UI and it aggregates all your different communications. You can see your SMS, calls, email, Facebook and Twitter from this screen and lets you catch up on what’s happening. It’s also available as a widget that shows the single newest thing. That view is a bit silly unless you check your phone hundreds of times a day but at least it acts as a shortcut to the app. The app itself I’m quite a fan of and I found myself using it instead of going to the messages app or the Facebook app etc. You can filter what is displayed which is quite useful if you follow a lot of people on twitter and don’t fancy scrolling down for hours on end.

The music player is also skinned and redesigned from the standard Android music player. The controls are easily accessible on the screen with support for album art display. You can’t search for a song but scrolling through a list of songs is made easier with a quick scroll bar. The sound quality is excellent, both through the headphones and the speaker which is a nice surprise considering the phone’s size. The included earphones are much better than the usual pair of plasticky, tinny headphones you get bundled with handsets, and they are of the in-ear type and include various sizes of plugs for differently sized ears.

The X10 mini’s battery life is pretty good for a smartphone like this – I could squeeze out just under two days of heavy usage. Leaving the phone on standby with only a few calls and texts got me through three full days, but when used in the same way in an area with constantly low reception, that dropped considerably to about one and half days. Phones do use marginally more power when in an area with low reception, but for the battery life to halve is quite unusual – something to consider if you don’t usually get a good signal.



Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini review Conclusion

All in all, when looking at the X10 mini it’s all too easy to compare it with other ultra-expensive Android beasts like the HTC Desire, and looking at it in this way would make the little phone feel, well, second rate. However, this phone was never designed to compete with the big boys – that battle is being fought by the big X10. The X10 mini is much more budget minded and so its competition are actually phones such as HTC’s Tattoo or Nokia’s 5530. When compared with these, the X10 mini comes out very favourably with excellent audio capabilities, a beautiful and snappy UI on top of the benefits of Android and the plethora of apps it offers, and, of course, the unique form factor. To me, text input is the X10 mini’s only major weakness, and that’s where the X10 mini pro and its side sliding keyboard come in. Even so, for people who are not huge users of messaging yet want a really compact phone that’s simple and enjoyable to use, the Xperia X10 mini is a phone that won’t disappoint.


Review by: Vince

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

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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