Dinky Android phones tend to usually mean cheap. A plethora of pint-sized devices are floating around, and they usually leave much to be desired having sacrificed screen sizes with poor resolutions and under powered processors (Samsung: I am looking at you). Sony has taken a different tact, building on the experience gained form last years X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro phones to give us an update for 2011. Again, they offer two variants and have eschewed the X10 moniker to produce the Xperia Mini and Mini Pro. Substantially they are the same device albeit with one key difference (pun definitely intended).
Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro | Review
There is the usual adornment of a physical home screen button and soft menu and back keys, with the menu being on the right as opposed to the more usual left on HTC/Samsung devices. This is to aid the user when the keyboard is slid out, providing a back key within easy reach. A 3.5mm headphone socket on the top with the power on button and micro-USB port. On the right side we have a volume rocker, and interestingly a dedicated camera button. The small screen gives a sharp 320×480 resolution which wipes the floor with the HTC Wildfire and virtually every small formed Samsung in existence. Also, the screen is very responsive to touch, being of the capacitive variety.
Good news in the performance front: the Mini Pro is fast. Very fast. Clocking a combined AnTuTu score of 3079, it outperforms most single core devices on the market. Coupled with a smaller screen, it means the user never has to wait for something to happen. It stands to reason that mobile devices probably have an optimal screen size to processor ratio, and on the basis of this phone, manufacturers putting 800MHz processors into phones such as Samsung and ZTE ought to think twice.
The Mini Pro is not a top tier handset, but Sony Ericsson have clearly thought about the bottom line of usability and whether the hardware can cope. The speed is a boon for many common tasks, and none more important than making calls. It starts very fast when compared to some other phones with an off-to-dial time of just 18 seconds, compared to 49 seconds for a Samsung Galaxy S with a similar processor but a larger screen.
Battery life is a great advantage of using a smaller screen. Even though the battery is 1,200mAh, below the average of most Android handsets, it manages a good day and a half of normal usage. If you want to be conservative and turn off the 3G and data via the included widgets, you can get 3 days out of the phone. Granted, that is with minimal emailing and app use, but great news for those who want to use their phone as, ahem, a phone (shock!).
Camera wise, the 5 megapixel sensor on board is a solid effort. It lacks the advanced aspects of the Exmor R processor found in upper tier models such as the Xperia Arc, and so suffers at low light. But it will do the job with many configurable options such as image stabilisation, white balance and metering, and the built in LED flash is nice and bright. 720p video is best captured in good light as low light tends to introduce a fair bit of noise. But once again, the flexibility that being able to shoot high definition video form your pocket is something that the Mini Pro accomplishes pretty well. It’s not the best, but far from the worst.
There is also an array of widgets and apps such as Type and Send to update social newtorks, integration with Sony’s Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services and the neat Timescape widget to give you updates on anything from your text messages to Facebook updates.
Out of the box the Mini Pro runs Android 2.3.3 but Sony Ericsson has issued an upgrade to 2.3.4 which came out just as this review was being written. Also, Sony have mentioned that some devices may be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich update in 2012 but I wonder if the smaller screen size precludes many of the benefits offered of Android 4.0. Personally, the device is rock solid with Gingerbread and if it “ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
The screen, although small, is nice an bright with vivid colour reproduction. Facebook photos pop out of the phone and the fast processor offers no lag on any screen. It is quick and snappy in all regards.
The only negative side of things is the small form factor which may make usability suffer for some. Gamers, for example will find it tricky manoeuvring action based games where on screen controls are needed (e.g. Guerilla Bob). But for casual Tetris use, it is more than adequate. The presence of the slide out keyboard also negates many of the problems associated with 3″ touch screens. I would imagine the user experience from the Xperia Mini would be more negative than its Pro sibling without the extra dimension brought by the keyboard.
If a large screen is not what you are after, but you still want the benefits of apps and communication via a touch of a button, the Xperia Mini Pro does a great job.
In many ways, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro is the perfect small form factor smart phone. There is little point in marking down a phone which is not deigned to offer a big screen, multimedia experience. If that is what you are after, look elsewhere. Thought has gone into its design and the effort has paid off with a solidly built, usable and flexible device.
It is more than up to virtually any task (barring serious gaming) and is the perfect foil to the Blackberry-esque smartphones that have flooded the market. If a cute Android package is what you are after, the Xperia Mini Pro is more than up to the job.
AndroidGenus Score: 9/10 – Excellent
Build and features: 8/10 – Good
Performance & Battery: 9/10 – Excellent
User Interface: 9/10 – Good
Best deals on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro:
PAYG: Pay-as-you-Go @ Mobiles.co.uk for £199.90 or
12 Month Contract: Free on 12 Month Contract @ Mobiles.co.uk (equates to £16.25 per month line rental)
18 Month Contract: Free on 18 month contract @ £20.42 per month from BuyMobilePHones.net (plus £85 cashback or 9 months free line rental)
24 Month Contract: Free on 24 month contract @ £15 per month from BuyMobilePHones.net (plus £50 cashback)