Sony Ericsson experimented with the Mini concept with Xperia X10 Mini which didn’t really set the cash registers on fire, reason? It was too small, too weak in terms of hardware. So this time around Sony put in much better hardware and made it slightly bigger. Does it make for great device now? Let’s find out.
This is bigger than X10 Mini – it comes with a 3.0 inch screen, which kind of in between the 2.8 entry level Android phones and little less than kind of industry average size of 3.2 inch. But in terms of usability, its corner based user interface (UI) makes it as usable as a bigger 3.5 inch smartphone.
Being a Mini, it is small but it is not the slimmest device, and that is in fact a good thing for this phone as the thickness makes it easier to hold and operate. Sony Ericsson has done a good job with the design of the phone. Some unusual touches like putting the 3.5 mm jack and USB port at the bottom instead of the top helps in holding the phone while you are using the ear phones.
Xperia Mini comes with three back panels in the box, one in mat black finish and two glossy finished – one each in red and blue. All of them look good; black one is better for the grip due to its mat finish.
The device has just one physical button just below the screen, which is a biggish home button, flanked by two capacitive buttons for return and options. The right side has a soft touch camera button and a volume rocker. At the top lies a power button. All the buttons are conveniently placed. The Chrome insert on both sides of the phone looks good, though opinions can vary here.
The phone runs on a powerful 1 GHz Qualcomm Processor with 512 MB RAM, this combination provides it with a very smooth user experience. The touchscreen duty is done by a 3.0 inch capacitive unit which is very responsive, and is a delight to use.
The screen uses Sony’s Bravia Engine display technology, which makes the display look much better even with a fairly average Resolution of 320×480 pixels. The screen is also very readable even in bright sun light. Reading text in the screen is also very easy.
But due to some strange reason our test unit would hang, if we got any calls while running an app. This is not expected to out of a device with such good specs (for its size), and we think it is due to some problem specific to the handset we got for review.
What we didn’t like is the supplied ear phone – it has no clip, so it keeps falling off your ears, and its quality is also not up to the Sony Ericsson’s standard.
On the connectivity front it has a USB port, 3G HSPA (7.2mbps speed), WiFi, and Bluetooth. A-GPS is present for navigational purpose. The phone is a DLNA certified device which means that it can connect to any other DLNA device though WiFi.
In most Android phones we do not talk about the user interface much as it is standard across similar versions of Android phones. However, this phone is different — it has a heavily customised user interface to optimise the phone for a smaller screen.
The corner user interface that we have earlier seen in the X10 Mini, is much improved now – it is much more customizable, with each corner can now have up to four application of your choice and it’s a question of mere drag and drop. Hence, it is much easier to access almost all your frequently used apps.
Apart from that you have six customisable home screens. Sony Ericsson has used some of the very useful services like Track ID, which identifies the song that is playing through FM.
One of the best parts of the UI of Xperia Mini is its Facebook integration, which is present in Music App and in contacts as well. It has a dedicated home screen for Sony’s famed Timescape, which integrates notifications from Facebook, Twitter, mail and SMSes into one. Sony has also bundled PlayUp service, however it is too expansive to use.
It’s very difficult to talk about the UI in great detail but we must tell you that you will have a lot to discover in this UI and with each discovery you will find it easier and fun to use this phone. And discovery is not difficult as the design is intuitive.
While the phone plays videos with good bit rate, the video player application is fairly bland. Also the device does not play most of the video standards. With PC companion you convert any video to a suitable format but that will need a PC and some time from you.
The phone is based on Android 2.3 and so it comes with much improved user interface of the latest Android version. Further, the support for Indian languages enhances the appeal of Xperia Mini to a much larger audience.
Xperia Mini has a 5 Megapixel camera with a single LED flash. There is no secondary camera for video calling. The camera is capable of recording HD video in 720p. The camera comes with image stabilisation and face detection technologies and makes the job of photo capturing easier.
Camera does a good job of capturing stills in most conditions, it’s only when you get into really dim areas that you will find the camera taking a lot of time find the right exposure and the images coming out a bit grainy. But then you don’t expect it to be professional camera.
The videos are captured in 30 FPS which is good for a mobile camera, although results do not rival that of a dedicated camera but it’s good enough for most tasks.
The battery is small 1200 mAh unit, which is understandable given the small proportions of the device itself. But the battery life is at par with most Android phone with a full day back up with medium usage.
The phone is priced at Rs 13,500, which puts it in the mid-level of the Android devices. The hardware, apart from the screen size, is at par with the phone priced two to three thousand rupee more. And with a user interface that is designed to maximise the space on this small device makes it a very attractive device especially for those who don’t like bulky devices in their pockets. Being a Sony device the music, camera and screen quality is of top notch. A safe buy if you are in the market for an all-rounder that is not bulky.