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Sony Ericsson X10 mini pro Review

Verdict

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Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £199.00

When we looked at the X10 mini, we were amazed by just how usable such a small touchscreen Android smartphone could be. Now Sony Ericsson has added a keyboard to this tiny device, does it further add to the experience or has it finally pushed the concept into the realms of the ridiculous?


The first thing to note about the X10 mini pro is it’s rather thick. Understandable for a phone with a keyboard, but when the device is otherwise so small it results in it having rather peculiar proportions. Even the X10 mini felt a bit squat, so the X10 mini pro feels decidedly chunky. Nonetheless it’s still a very small and portable device.


In a clever piece of design, Sony Ericsson has kept the front face of the X10 mini pro the same size as the X10 mini, so it appears of a similar size, but the top and bottom edges then slope outward allowing for the keyboard underneath to be just that little bit wider and more comfortable to use.


Design wise, the simple combination of glossy black on the front and matt black on the back works as well as ever and the layout of controls and ports is tidy and unobtrusive. Slide the keyboard out and the silver keys marry up nicely with the rest of the design. The only negative is the plastic screen/bezel, which gives the phone a slightly cheap look.


Sony Ericsson has pretty much aced the external features of this phone. The front three buttons for Menu, Home, and Back are all responsive and neatly positioned. Likewise the power/screen lock button on the top edge and the volume rocker on the right edge are easy to reach, though the volume control is a tad small so can be difficult to pinpoint.


The company has even managed to fit in a dedicated camera button, which is a rarity on smartphones of any size. Likewise, the ample five megapixel camera has the oft omitted addition of an LED flash. To round it all off, standard headphone and microUSB sockets take care of music listening and charging/data connection duties – no proprietary connectors here.


Remove the backplate and you can access the SIM slot and battery as well as a microSD slot that can take cards up to 16GB. Internal memory is only 128MB, so you’ll be glad to know a 2GB card is included in the box.

The biggest sacrifice of phones this size are their screens and so it is with the X10 mini pro. At just 2.55in, it’s tiny. Its resolution of 240 x 320 pixels is also low but thanks to the small screen it actually looks quite sharp and thanks to good viewing angles, a decent level of brightness and rich colours, it’s generally a pleasure to use.


Of course, it has its limitations. Browsing the web, for instance, requires a lot of scrolling around and zooming in and out, but thanks to speedy operation and a responsive capacitive touchscreen, this isn’t too much of a chore. You’ll probably not want to watch video of any great length or share your photos with friends on this screen however.


To make the most of the limited screen real estate, Sony Ericsson has tweaked the Android operating system quite heavily. Gone is the free reign to add numerous icons and widgets to a multitude of desktops and instead you have a choice of just four shortcuts on the homescreen – one in each corner. You can flip between multiple centre screens and add onto each a single widget, with the usual choice of a clock face, search bar and Facebook feed among others.


You can customise which apps appear in the four corners and which widgets go where, and doing so is a simple process. The result is a surprisingly usable interface that just about gets the right balance between ease of use and functionality. We only wish Sony Ericsson had been able to shoe horn in a couple more shortcuts somehow.


To access the rest of the phone’s functions you simply tap the central button or swipe the screen upwards. This gains you access to the main menu that is arranged in grids of nine icons that you can swipe left and right between.


Being based on Android, there are plenty of features on offer with an excellent web browser, great email reader, a Facebook app, and a YouTube app among the pre-installed selection. With access to the Android marketplace you can add a near endless number of other useful utilities or games, with the only limitations being that some apps don’t support the low screen resolution and some may not be compatible with the 1.6 version of Android that this phone runs – it’s quite an old version, now. We had few problems adding the basics like a Twitter client, though.


As hinted at before, despite this phone’s diddy dimensions, it still feels like a proper smartphone with a responsive touchscreen and speedy operation, whether just navigating the interface or running a fairly graphically intensive app like GoogleMaps. Likewise, connectivity isn’t compromised with Wi-FI, Bluetooth and HSDPA 3G all onboard.


Even the camera impresses with speedy operation and perfectly acceptable results in both light and dark situations for both video and photos. It still falls someway short of a dedicated compact still camera or dedicated internet camcorder but for casual snaps it does the job and has no significant failings as compared to its peers.

Another area that Sony Ericsson had tweaked on the X10 mini was the onscreen keyboard, using a custom T9 style affair rather than a QWERTY one. You still get this on the X10 mini pro, but with the addition of a physical keyboard you don’t need to rely on it when typing long messages. What’s more, not only is the keyboard a full size one, it’s also very good.


It consists of four rows of ten keys, bar the bottom row with its enlarged spacebar. As such it doesn’t have a dedicated row of number buttons, but in general use we didn’t find this too much of a hassle. The bottom row of letter being shifted left to a while to become accustomed to, but again not to an outright annoying level. Moreover the small but pronounced keys are easy to locate by touch alone and the rest of the layout makes it doubly easy to concentrate on what you’re writing, not how you’re writing it. Ironically, we also found the narrow width of the keyboard made it easier to type, as compared with some larger phones with side sliding keyboards where we find them too wide to reach the central keys comfortably.


Normally we’d make the point that we can still type faster on onscreen keyboards, but given the X10 mini’s screen size and the onscreen keyboard that it used, having a physical keyboard is arguably the only option for fast typing.


Another surprise of this phone is its battery life. While you’ll certainly run it down quickly if you have lots of widgets and apps running, if you keep things sensible you should have no problems getting at least a couple of days out of each charge – not stellar, but impressive for such a small and capable phone. Call quality also threw up no obvious issues, though there’s no active noise cancelling so it’s not the best device for use in noisy environments.


Looking then at cost, the X10 mini pro comes in at around £250 SIM free (Next, of all places even has it for £199 at the moment), and free on monthly contracts of around £20 a month. This puts it firmly in the budget smartphone / premium feature phone sector in competition with handsets like the HTC Wildfire and LG Optimus GT540. As such it seems right on the money.


”’Verdict”’


The Sony Ericsson X10 mini pro is a handset that requires many caveats before recommendation. If you’re looking for a powerful and feature rich phone with as small a footprint as possible that has a physical keyboard then it is without equal. However, if you’re simply looking for a good budget smartphone then there are other handsets we’d recommend.



We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Used as our main phone for the review period

Reviewed using respected industry benchmarks and real world testing

Always has a SIM card installed

Tested with phone calls, games and popular apps

Trusted Score

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Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Design 7
  • Value 8
  • Features 8

General

Operating System Android OS
Height (Millimeter) 90mm
Width (Millimeter) 52mm
Depth (Millimeter) 17mm
Weight (Gram) 120g
Available Colours Black

Display

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 2.55in
Screen Resolution 240x320
Touchscreen Yes

Battery

Talk Time (Minute) 210m
Standby Time (Hour) 360hr

Storage

Internal Storage (Gigabyte) 0.128GB
Camera (Megapixel) 5 Megapixel
Front Facing Camera (Megapixel) No Megapixel
Camera Flash LED

Connectivity

Bluetooth Yes
WiFi Yes
3G/4G Yes
3.5mm Headphone Jack Yes
Charging/Computer Connection microUSB

Processor and Internal Specs

CPU 600MHz ARM 11

Misc

App Store Android Market
GPS Yes

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