After a shaky start, Sony Ericsson's Xperia range has been producing some consistently fine handsets of late, across all the price ranges.
The Mini Pro is an update of the X10 Mini Pro from last year and adds a bigger screen and faster processor as well as the latest version of Android (so far).
Design and build
The Mini Pro is one of the smallest Android handsets you're likely to see at 90x52x17mm and weighing 120g. It's a compact handful but like all sliders it's a little thicker and heavier than it first appears. There's a sleek-looking aluminium strip around the sides as well as a volume rocker and camera shutter button. On top is a power/sleep button, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB port covered by a flimsy plastic grommet.
On the front, Sony Ericsson has again eschewed the Android search button, opting for just three controls: home (as a hard button) flanked by return and menu as touch sensitive options.
The Mini Pro's ace in the hole is its QWERTY keyboard which slides out from the side. It's a little marvel of compact functionality. The 42 keys are certainly crammed in, but they're well spaced and it's nice to see essential options like the '@' symbol get its own key. It would have been even nicer to have had a bit of ridging on the hard plastic keys however, which would have made it easier to distinguish them under the thumbs but with a little practise it's a good, if tiny, keyboard for messaging and inputting info.
Interface and OS
Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread is the operating system - the very latest available, though it's about to be superseded by version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. As usual, Sony Ericsson has its own unique take on the Android experience, with its own interpretations of the icons and widgets. In this case it also makes good use of the limited screen real estate by putting a shortcut into each of the four corners: Messages, Media, Phone and Contacts.
The 2.6in screen is necessarily titchy, but with a resolution of 320x480 pixels it's considerably sharper than its predecessor, which made do with 240x320 pixels. Even so, the tiny dimensions can be a bit wearing after a while, especially after you've been squinting at web pages for too long. Move watching is a bit of a struggle after a few minutes too.
The 5 megapixel camera includes an LED flash and autofocus as well as clever extras like smile and face detection, red eye reduction, touch focus and image stabilisation. But it doesn't have the Exmor R for Mobile image sensor that's been appearing on some of SE's higher end camphones lately, and is designed to help you take better photographs in low light.
Picture quality isn't bad so long as you take a little care with your light and settings - it gets noisy very quickly in lowish light and doesn't respond well to too much light either, all too soon succumbing to white out.
The Mini Pro adds 720p HD video to its box of tricks (a step up from its predecessor) but while it's a good idea on paper, the results aren't as good as some we've seen, and while they look fine on the device itself, you'll notice the lack of detail when you transfer your videos to a bigger screen. There's also a VGA camera at the front for video calling.
Apps and browser
The small screen means that browsing can be a bit of a chore, though the Android browser itself is perfectly functional. The latest version of Android means you're bang up to date for accessibility to apps from the ever growing Android Market.
Media and connectivity
Watching movies can be a bit of a struggle on the compact screen though it's certainly better than the relatively low screen resolution of its predecessor. Music is more fun and you can now share what you're listening to on Facebook direct from the music player. There's also an equalizer on board to help you get the sound you want and an FM radio too. The sound through the supplied headphones isn't bad either. It comes with a 2GB microSD card as standard and you can add up to 32GB if you like.
Performance and battery life
The 1GHz Snapdragon processor backed by 512MB RAM is impressively fast, opening up new apps very quickly and able to operate several at once without any noticeable slow down. There's a price to pay however and the dinky 1200mAh battery will struggle to give you a full day's worth of heavy use.
- Small but effective QWERTY keyboard
- Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
- 5-megapixel camera
- Fast 1GHz processor
- Screen is a bit too small
- Short battery life
Verdict: Solid, compact little QWERTY phone packed with good features, but the tiny screen can be a bit frustrating.