A Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro

There aren’t many phones around that offer you both a slide-out keyboard and touchscreen, especially in the mid-range price bracket. Sony Ericsson launched a touchscreen phone with slide-out keyboard almost a year ago (X10 Mini Pro) . Now, its successor is here and this time its simply called the Xperia Mini Pro.

The phone retains the cute and compact form factor of the original but gets some much-needed upgrades. The most visible change is the display that now measures a very usable 3-inches and comes with Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine. The resolution also gets a bump up to 320 x 480 pixels thanks to which the display is sharper .

Sony Xperia Mini Pro
Sony Xperia Mini Pro

The brightness of the display is just average, and the lack of an ambient light sensor is a letdown – the brightness requires manual adjustment every time you step out. Under the display are the usual Android buttons – the ‘back’ and ‘menu’ buttons are touch-sensitive while the ‘home’ button is a physical one. The back of the phone has a smooth finish. The overall construction of the phone feels solid, although the phone is a fairly thick due to the slide-out keyboard.

The keyboard has well laid out keys that are comfortable to use and respond well. The keyboard and Android buttons are backlit in white which is helpful in dark environments, but the lack of an ambient sensor leads to the backlight coming on every time the keyboard is pulled out – even under direct sunlight. Sony Ericsson has incorporated a camera shutter key on the side, which a lot of manufacturers now tend to skip.

This is very welcome, especially for the shutter-happy crowd. In terms of hardware, it has a 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM and 400MB onboard storage expandable via microSD card.

It has 3G, Wi-Fi with hotspot and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. Google’s Android 2.3 OS has Sony Ericsson’s customised Timescape interface on top. The phone zips along in navigation, launching applications and playing games -even with multiple apps running in the background.

By far, this is one of the zippiest phones available in the 15,000 price. The Mini Pro excels in multimedia performance as well. The sound output from the external as well as the in-ear speaker is loud and provides clear output in voice calls. The incorporated ‘xLOUD’ feature boosts the output from the loudspeaker, which is handy in noisy environments. The phone has a 5MP AF camera on the back with LED flash that takes great pictures in day light.

Indoors and under artificial light, some noise is visible in dark areas, but the pictures are good for sharing online. It records videos in 720p resolution, which are good in quality, though the lack of a TV-out is disappointing.

Where the Xperia Mini Pro really crashes and burns is the battery backup. With the standard mail and social networking apps running and with brightness set to 50%, the phone fails to last even a full day. A full charge in the morning is depleted in about 12 hours.

The only other phone with a slide-out keyboard is the Samsung Galaxy 551, which runs a slow 600Mhz processor. The Xperia Mini Pro has everything going for it – great hardware , zippy user interface, latest software , but the poor battery life simply ruins a perfectly good phone. At the same price, you can check out the Spice Mi410 that comes with a 4-inch touchscreen, 1Ghz processor and Android 2.2.