We must admit to being highly sceptical of the X10 mini when we first heard about it. The full-size X10 fell well short of the mark and merely shrinking the device certainly wasn't going to fundamentally fix any of its issues. Things weren't helped by the gimmicky nature of the TV ads for the device with silly break-dancing fingers – like that's how people interact with their phones. However, we must admit to being pleasantly surprised now that we've actually got our hands on the device.
First and foremost, it really is mini! With dimensions of 83 x 50 x 16mm, it's not just small for a touchscreen smartphone but simply one of the smallest phones of any type that we've seen. It does seem (and in fact is) a bit thick, but for the most part this is just the proportions of the device making it look thicker than it actually is.
As with the full-size X10, the mini's styling is nice with a relatively uncluttered fascia, but given those slightly chunky proportions and the sheer fact that so many buttons and other bits and bobs have to be shoe-horned into such a small space, it's certainly not the most elegant. This isn't helped by the choice of a glossy plastic surface for the screen and front section, which gives it a slightly cheap feel and also makes fingerprints particularly noticeable.
For fans of making your mobile match your personality, you'll be glad to know you can remove the backplate and replace it with a variety of alternatives. You get six covers in the box, which comprise soft-touch matt black, eggshell red, glossy metallic silver, eggshell pearlescent white, eggshell lime green, and glossy pink/silver finishes. Being boring old curmudgeonly blokes, we of course opted for the matt black one, but all the alternatives still looked quite nice.
The main controls sit underneath the screen, which from left to right are the context sensitive Menu button, Home button, and Back button. Whereas the back button can feel somewhat superfluous on some phones, the addition of a physical back button on this phone makes particular sense given the tiny screen. Sony Ericsson (SE) has thankfully dropped the dedicated search button, though: instead search is included as a widget on the desktop. On the top edge is a power/screen lock button.
Surprisingly for SE, which is famed for using proprietary connectors long after most other manufacturers have moved to universal standards, the company has included both standard microUSB and headphone sockets on the bottom edge. This is doubly surprisingly being as we wouldn't have put it past SE to simply drop the headphone jack to save space. As ever, while we appreciate the potential benefits of covering the microUSB socket, we find these flaps more of a hinderance than a help in everyday use.
We're also surprised to see a dedicated camera button on the right edge along with the volume control. What's more, the camera even has an LED flash, autofocus, and can take shots up to five-megapixels in size. Even half-decent video is supported with a resolution of 640 x 480 and framerate of 30fps. Of course, viewing your photos and watching video on that tiny screen is going to be of limited enjoyment, but load the photos and videos on to your computer or straight to an online service like Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube and you can see them in all their glory.