Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Review

In a nutshell: The Sony Ericsson X10 Mini is a half-size version of the original X10. It's an ultra-compact smartphone running Android and with impressive features such as a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, aGPS with Google Maps, a fast processor, support for 16GB of memory and a good battery life. Connectivity excels with WiFi and HSPA. But the small screen size presents a challenge.
Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini
The original Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is an amazing Android phone, but it does suffer from being rather large. So a mini version has got to be a good thing. Hasn't it? Let's take a closer look and see what the X10 Mini can do.

Well, the styling of the X10 Mini is exactly the same as its big brother, including the three silver buttons below the screen. But it's a much smaller handset and weighs in at a svelte 88g, making it very compact and lightweight indeed. It's possibly the lightest and most compact smartphone currently on the market. In fact, it's tiny even compared to non-smartphones. When Sony Ericsson say Mini, they certainly mean it!

But the small size comes with a price - a small screen. It's just 2.55 inches in size, making it perhaps the smallest touchscreen that we've ever used. Oh dear, this doesn't help make the phone easy to use. Although the screen has a decent resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, and is bright and sharp, it's just physically too small to fit enough on the screen. There isn't even enough room for a virtual QWERTY keyboard, but the icons and buttons are big enough to press and the very responsive capacitive screen certainly helps a lot. Sony Ericsson's interface screens help too, such as Timescape which brings together Facebook updates, tweets, texts and missed calls so you don't have to keep moving between apps. The facebook and twitter apps work pretty well. The screen is laid out logically, with icons in the four corners giving you one-touch access to user-defined functions such as music, camera, contacts, etc. You can easily customise the layout and add widgets to your screens, although there isn't room for many. The combination of Android and Sony Ericsson's customisations certainly make a lot out of the small screen real estate, but we're left wanting more. You'll probably struggle even more on a bright, sunny day. The small screen also tends to make the phone feel a bit like a toy. Some users may also find it rather small to hold when making phone calls. Still, this is the inevitable result of making the device physically small, so you have to balance the advantages against the disadvantages.

What else is in this super-compact smartphone? Well, there's a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. The camera can record video at VGA resolution with a video light, but there's no video calling. The X10 Mini includes an excellent media player, with a 3.5mm audio jack so you can plug in your own headphones. There's also support for Bluetooth stereo headphones. You can look up a song on Google or youtube with a single click. An FM radio with RDS is included too. TrackID (find out the name of a song) and PlayNow (download ringtones, etc) are available too.

aGPS is here, with full support for Google Maps (including Street View) and geo-tagging of photos. A demo version of WisePilot Turn-by-Turn navigation software is included, although we wouldn't recommend the X10 Mini for in-car navigation due to the small screen size.

The built-in memory of 128MB is small for a smartphone, but you can add microSD memory cards of up to 16GB. A 2GB card is included in the sales package.

Connectivity is good, with WiFi, Bluetooth, USB and a 3.5mm audio jack, although Bluetooth file transfer is a challenge. The phone also offers fast internet access over 3G with HSPA giving maximum download speeds of 7.2 Mbps. The phone syncs with your PC, including syncing your email with Microsoft® Exchange email server, although the Android system really wants desperately to sync with Gmail.

Web browsing isn't awful, despite the small screen, although you'll find yourself scrolling up and down and zooming in and out rather too much for comfort. Zooming isn't that easy, as it involves clicking zoom buttons, as there's no pinch-to-zoom capability. There's no Flash support either, although on the positive side YouTube videos are fully supported via a dedicated app.

Battery performance isn't too bad. The small screen size helps to conserve juice, and you should get a couple of days' use between charges - better than the HTC Desire we think. Be aware though that the battery is not replaceable. The processor is a 600 MHz Qualcomm CPU, which isn't the fastest available, but is certainly fast enough for the screen size. You'll find that the X10 Mini responds eagerly to your fingers.

We mentioned in our Xperia X10 review that Sony Ericsson have so far only released Android 1.6 on the Xperia phones. An upgrade to version 2.1 has now been made available. Android is a powerful operating system and the number of useful apps that are available to download free is starting to rival that of the iPhone.

To sum up, the X10 Mini is a super-compact smartphone that gets 5 stars for looks and "cute" appeal, and packs in plenty of high-spec features. However, we found ourselves wishing that the device was actually just a but bigger so it could fit in a larger display. It's a shame that SE couldn't manage to release Android 2.1 at launch, and we do feel that the phone's at the top limit of what we'd be prepared to pay. Still, on upgrade it's free and if you're prepared to make the necessary compromises in return for such a compact phone, the X10 Mini is a good choice.

The new Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro is the same phone but with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.


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