Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro 3 Stars

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While we all enjoy the benefits of smartphones, sometimes we yearn for a handset that will slip neatly into a jeans pocket. A few years ago there were plenty around – but that was before we all wanted touch-screens, snappers and 3G antennae.

The closest we got to that particularly mobile users’ holy grail were last year’s Xperia X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro, which managed to be neat, albeit chunky, and had touch-screens and slide-out keyboards. While Sony has got rid of the X10 moniker, the handset remains a similar size while managing to boast a far larger screen – it now measure 3 inches – but weighs 16g more than last year’s version.

The Mini Pro feels nice in the hand and looks good, with its shiny back cover and chrome highlights. It’s chunkier than your average smartphone, which may take some getting used to.

Small is beautiful

That said, it’s still small enough to disappear behind a credit card, and is very usable. That screen is surprisingly good, and impressed when we watched video on it. The previous models suffered from smaller screens, but this latest Pro has the benefit of an extra half an inch. It may not sound much, but it makes quite a difference – however, don’t expect to open loads of apps on screen as you might do on the Samsung Galaxy S II’s large screen. You should manage to open one or two if you choose the likes of Google Search Bar and lock, or some of the shortcut icons. Larger apps such as Weather will cover the whole screen.

Hot corners

To make the most of the extra space on the display, Sony Ericsson has come up with ‘hot corners’. Simply press the righthand corner and the keypad will appear so that you can dial a phone number. Another corner offers up Music Playback, Radio and Picture Gallery. Press the other corners and see Contacts and Messaging.

There’s a front-facing lens for making video calls, and the five-megapixel camera can also be used to take HD video at 720p. We were reasonably impressed with music playback too.

Key points

There are four rows of keys when you slide out the QWERTY keyboard. While you’ll find the keys well spaced, don’t expect a BlackBerry-like typing experience. And don’t look for the separate row of number keys either…

While we’re talking about keys, you’ll find only one hard key on the device and that’s for Home – it wakes the display and sends you back to the main home page. There’s a pair of virtual keys that sit astride this, which will take you to the menu and the previous screens. The only other hard keys are the power button, volume rocker and camera key.

Latest news

The Mini Pro runs Android 2.3.3, the latest flavour, so you get all the latest offerings. It proved speedy to use, loading apps quickly and allowing us to easily move between screens. Net surfing worked fine, although you’ll want to pull out the keyboard and turn the handset to landscape mode to get the best experience.

There is also a virtual keyboard, which offers the choice of a 1-9 phone keypad and QWERTY layout, but it is a little small, although perfectly usable.

Getting social

Social networking is becoming increasingly important on smartphones, and Sony Ericsson offers its own Timescape system to take care of messages, updates and Twitter feeds. It’s a disappointment, as the stack of tiles you’re presented with prove difficult to read.

Our conclusion

There’s a reason why smartphones have large displays – it allows you to do all those nifty tasks, such as mapping, browsing the web and watching video. However, if you really want a smaller handset, and are prepared to cope with a smaller screen, the Mini Pro does still offer a speedy performance.

Pros:
Classy design; small form factor.
Cons:
Small screen; Timescape is unimpressive.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 4 Stars
  • Ease of use 2 Stars
  • Features 3 Stars
  • Performance 4 Stars
  • Battery life 3 Stars

Final verdict: 3 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice