When Sony Ericsson released the X10 Mini Pro last year, we praised it for the solid user experience. Roll on 12 months and its successor the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro here. It’s the second smallest Android handset around, after its near-identical sister handset, the Xperia Mini.
What we like
What sets the Mini Pro apart is that at just 92mm x 53mm in size its footprint is only a tiny bit bigger than a business card. Even more impressive is that despite being 18mm deep it packs a full QWERTY keyboard.
Our review sample is white, with glowing touch-sensitive back and menu buttons and an illuminated keyboard which is a real bonus.
So what about that keyboard? Well keys are split across four rows, each key is small, but there’s a decent space between each one. There are dedicated full-stop and comma keys, along with a quick-launch Internet button and four arrows for navigating web pages.
Slide open the keyboard and the screen orientation swaps instantly, but the snap mechanism feels secure and wobble free.
We’ve talked about the interface before in our Xperia Mini review and it’s identical here. Sony Ericsson has added its own skin to Android 2.3.3, which as integrated as HTC Sense, but brings some very useful features. Each corner of screen enlarges when you tap; revealing up to four icons or folders, these are accessible from each screen unless you choose to remove them, by dragging an app on top.
Facebook integration is among the best we’ve seen on a handset. Pictures stored on Facebook are accessible via Photos, while the ‘ Friends’ Music and Videos’ apps connects to your Facebook account to display YouTube video shared via your friends.
Other useful extras include Qriocity-powered music-streaming service Music Unlimited (although you need to set up a subscription via PC first). Qriocity’s Video service lets you buy or rent movies, it costs £11.99 to buy or £3.59 to rent movies like The Adjustment Bureau, which you can then also watch on a compatible Bravia TV or PS3.
Sony Ericsson is including 12-months free subscription to McAfee Wave Secure and McAfee Anti Virus software, here up to nine contacts can be informed via SMS if another sim card is used in your phone.
At just 320×480 the 3-inch screen resolution is average, its still colourful and smooth for movie playback, usable in bright sunlight with surprisingly good off-angle viewing.
The 1Ghz processor ensures the Xperia Mini Pro never feels slow, you can scroll up and down web pages, without lag and you get Flash support out of the box.
A bright f/2.6 aperture helps the 5-megpixel camera capture clear, bright movies with bold colours. Touch to take a picture or use the dedicated shutter, which is fairly quick in bright sunlight. Unlike the Xperia Mini you get a front-facing camera too.
Call quality is good for such a small phone and Sony Ericsson includes Noise Suppression, which seems to work effectively at reducing background noise.
What we don’t like
Our complaints about the Xperia Mini still apply here. The screen is smaller than most phones in this mid-range bracket – such as the HTC Wildfire S (3.2-inch) and Samsung Galaxy Ace (3.5-inches), the means that some of the widgets totally dominate the screen. The Facebook widget in particular is huge, with tiny text.
720p HD video quality is disappointing too, detail is incredibly soft and smooth, with far from the fine detail you expect from high definition. Although we like the camera, it is occasionally fooled by bright exposures and some shots suffer from softness around the edge.
When watching movies whites aren’t quite as pure as we’d like and when browsing the web, colours seem a little muted and there’s no automatic brightness either, although you can quickly dim the brightness. The low resolution is especially obvious if you are watching a movie with text on the screen or subtitles.
There are a few niggles with the UI too. Timescape is a lovely looking, but in short this incredibly fiddly Facebook and Twitter synchronisation app isn’t worth bothering with. Additionally we couldn’t sync our Gmail and Hotmail accounts into the same inbox, so frustratingly we had to use them separately
The Xperia Mini Pro deserves to be a success, it’s beautifully designed and well built, combining the convenience of a touchscreen for browsing with a full Qwerty. It’s not perfect – the screen size and resolution means it isn’t probably the best choice for movie fans and the HD video camera is a disappointment. But ultimately even if you aren’t a fan of a phone with such a tiny form factor, it’s hard not to be impressed by the amount of features Sony Ericsson has crammed in. If you’re not bothered by the full QWERTY and front-facing camera go for the Xperia Mini, but if email and messaging are your priority, the Xperia Mini Pro is for you.