The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini was announced in February at the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress. It may be two generations behind with Android 1.6, but the pint-sized package sheds the heavy features of the original X10 and gets back to basics along with a snappy processor.
The mini has the smallest footprint in the Xperia X10 family. It's so small we could palm the entire phone in our hand, and with space left over. The mini's tiny footprint is suited for those who like to hang their phone around their neck on a lanyard.
The plastic back has a convex shape and can be swapped out with six snap-on covers in different colours. The shiny plastic on the front picks up fingerprint smudges easily, but the same could also be said for phones with a touchscreen that's almost the size of the entire front area. The display measures 2.55 inches and screen sensitivity was excellent in our tests.
On button placements, there are three hardware slits for the contextual Menu, Home and Back below the screen. These are raised significantly from the chassis and have decent tactile feedback. On the right are the volume buttons and camera shutter, which are styled in a similar fashion as the main control strip. The main power button and key lock are at the top and nearly flush with the surface. We suspect this was intentional to minimise accidental presses. The 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB port are along the bottom. Removing the battery cover at the back reveals the SIM and microSD card slots. Note that the battery on the X10 mini isn't replaceable.
As the release cycles of Android shorten, devices are undoubtedly going to be launched with older versions of Google's OS. Hence, one of the most frequently asked questions is whether there will be a firmware upgrade and when. For the X10 mini, Sony Ericsson has said it will provide an update to version 2.1 in Q4 this year. The mini pro and original X10 will also get the software upgrade during that time. Sure, the mini may be left out of the upgrade for now, but this Sony Ericsson nails it for someone seeking to buy a basic, compact Android smartphone.
Sony Ericsson's custom interface for Android features four customisable quadrants for placing applications at each corner of the home screen. There's space for only one widget per home screen due to the limited screen estate. We noticed that the mini started to lag as we added more widgets (we had a total of 12) and eventually gave up at one point with a force quit pop-up message. The home screens don't loop, so when you get to the last one, you'll have to make several swipes in the opposite direction to go back.
One of the issues we encountered with the small display on the mini was that we had to jump in and out of the alphanumeric keypad when filling in text fields. For forms or menus that have only one or two boxes, we could memorise what we needed to key in and use the Next option to get to the following field. But if it was anything more than that, we had to click Back to exit the keypad and know which field we were filling in. It's a minor inconvenience, but could be frustrating for some people.
The application icons and text don't look particularly sharp given the QVGA resolution and there aren't many fancy graphics transitions, but 320x240 pixels are adequate for a screen this size. It also helps that many of these labels are enlarged for better legibility on the small display. Screen legibility under sunlight is passable. We could make out on-screen text, but the reflections did take a few points off the overall experience.
We like the text input method, though. To get to the number and symbol pads, we simply drag out the columns on either side of the display and push them away once we're done. This is where both thumbs come in very handy with switching panels. We also like the font size, which is easy on the eyes, and we rarely had to squint to see what's on the screen. The mini doesn't have an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, which is fine since the limited panel size wouldn't be able to accommodate for one, either.
The mini doesn't support multi-touch. In the WebKit browser, you use either the magnifying glass to zoom or the overview option to quickly pan to a particular section on the web page. Flash is also not supported on this browser. In the picture gallery, you zoom on an image by double-tapping it.
Sony Ericsson's proprietary Timescape was a hit and miss for us. It presented Facebook and Twitter updates, messages and missed calls in a visually attractive manner, and that was it. We didn't find it particularly useful since there are apps that can manage these newsfeeds better. You can choose to show all or display updates from a particular source. You can also post status updates to Facebook and Twitter, as well as associate your contacts in the phone book with someone from these social-networking accounts. Unlike the X10, the X10 mini doesn't come with Mediascape for aggregating multimedia content. This is another area where the mini hogs less of the phone's resources.
The 5-megapixel camera is just as basic and probably can't get any simpler with only options to toggle the flash modes, switch between still and video capture, and four scene (auto, macro, twilight, sports) settings. It's dead simple to use with almost nothing to configure. In our field tests, there was a good amount of resolved details in the images and the mini certainly delivered the goods for a snapshot camera. The mini also records videos in VGA resolution at 30fps.
As can be expected of an Android smartphone, the mini comes with the usual repertoire of Google applications including Gmail, Latitude, Maps, a YouTube player and Android Market. Wisepilot for turn-by-turn navigation and DataViz RoadSync for synchronisation with a Microsoft Exchange server are also pre-installed.
The X10 mini is powered by a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor. This may be less powerful than higher-end smartphones fitted with the 1GHz Snapdragon processor and more RAM, but the mini managed to deliver a very smooth and snappy experience. This is probably due to a smaller, lower-resolution screen and less demand on the system resources compared with more advanced and power-hungry devices. To sum it up briefly, the X10 mini flies.
On call quality, the party on the other line reported that our voice sounded muffled when we were at a busy cross junction with music blaring from a nearby shopping mall. The quality was better when we tested the phone indoors at the CNET Asia office. The volume was also adequate when we switched to speaker mode. Note that the mini doesn't support video calls.
The 950mAh battery is rated for four hours of talk time and slightly less than 12 days on standby. With push email from Gmail and Exchange ActiveSync enabled, the mini lasted only slightly past a day.
The Xperia X10 mini will probably end up as one of the most easily misplaced phones in our book. Despite its small footprint, the mini doesn't compromise on usability. The interface is fast and the fonts suit the tiny display. The mini won't compete with higher-end Android smartphones, but with all the basic smartphone features included and an affordable retail price, the X10 mini may hold out on its own against the trend for large touchscreens and advanced features, for people who just want things simple.
Via CNET Asia