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Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Introduction:

Announced way back at MWC in February, the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro didn’t arrive in the stores until the fall.

It’s one of the few phones with physical QWERTY keyboard that ship with Android Gingerbread onboard, and offers all the goodies associated with this year’s Xperia line bests, such as a 480×854 LCD Reality Display, 1GHz processor and 8MP camera with Exmor R sensor.

Did Sony Ericsson succeed in making the case for a physical QWERTY Android in this day and age of giant mobile displays, or will the belated Xperia pro appeal only to the slide-out keyboard fanatics out there? Read on to find out…

Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

In the box:

  • In-ear headset
  • Wall charger
  • 8GB microSD card
  • MicroUSB cable
  • Warranty and information leaflets

Design:

You can immediately guess that the Xperia pro is a phone from the first edition of the Xperia line design, as it has three arched Android navigation keys below the display, instead of the semi-circular home button we have now on phones like the Xperia ray and the rest from the summer crop. Here the keys are not as thin as on the Xperia arc, for example, and have a rather shallow travel.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro can be called a looker - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro can be called a looker - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro can be called a looker - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro can be called a looker

 

Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

You can compare the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The 3.7” so-called Reality Display sports 480×854 resolution, which makes pixel density pretty good at 265ppi, and the screen is bright enough, with decent visibility outside. The viewing angles are better than on other screens in the Xperia line, like the Xperia arc, but the image still fades quite a bit past the 45 degree tilt. The LCD display sports the Mobile BRAVIA Engine, which pumps the colors and contrast when showing pictures and video for a more vivid picture.

The 3.7” Reality Display sports 480x854 resolution - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The 3.7” Reality Display sports 480x854 resolution - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The 3.7” Reality Display sports 480x854 resolution - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

The 3.7” Reality Display sports 480×854 resolution

The Xperia pro can be called a looker, especially in the burgundy casing we got, and the chrome-like rim around the keyboard half makes for a stylish contrast. The weight is kept in check at 4.94oz (140g), while the thickness is bearable at 0.53” (13.5mm), considering the side-sliding QWERTY keyboard.

Speaking of the keyboard, it looks great with the well-spaced chiclet keys painted in the color of the casing, and each button seems individually lit in white. The four-row keyboard has a longish space key in the middle, plus a full set of arrow keys, which make it an instant classic.

The only thing that could use improvement is key travel, which is on the shallow and clicky side. There aren’t any shortcut keys to program on the keyboard, you only get a dedicated browser launch button. There is something called Smart Keyboard in the Settings menu, but it is only to turn on typing mode the second you push open the sliding mechanism.

Pushing the screen half up to reveal the keyboard is fairly easy, yet Sony Ericsson has managed to avoid any overly wobbly feeling. The railing feels sturdy, and the screen half snaps back into place reassuringly with only a slight nudge, aided by the spring-loading mechanism.

The side-sliding QWERTY keyboard of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The side-sliding QWERTY keyboard of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The side-sliding QWERTY keyboard of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

The side-sliding QWERTY keyboard of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro

Looking around the sides, Sony Ericsson keeps making too small for comfort power/lock keys and the travel is very shallow. The volume rocker on the right is pretty short and narrow, too, and not protruding enough to be operated easily.

On the right we also have a regular microHDMI port, covered with a protective flap, an LED notification light, and a two-stage shutter button, which is a rarity in these days of virtual everything. The camera key is also very small, and so it takes getting used to, just like the power key and the rocker. The microSD card is not hot-swappable, since you have to take out the battery; removing the back cover is very easy once you realize that the dedicated slot for your nails is… the microHDMI port; you just have to remove its flap, and the battery cover peels off in a snap.

Power key and 3.5mm jack (left) - microHDMI port, camera and volume keys (right) - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Bottom edge - microHDMI port, camera and volume keys (right) - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Charging port (top) - microHDMI port, camera and volume keys (right) - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Power key and 3.5mm jack (left)

Bottom edge

Charging port (top)

microHDMI port, camera and volume keys (right) - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
microHDMI port, camera and volume keys (right) - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

microHDMI port, camera and volume keys (right)

Besides the 8MP Exmor R camera module on the back, we also have a front-facer, plus a full suite of sensors, and noise-canceling mikes, so nothing substantial seems to be missing from the Xperia pro, while the overall design impression is quite classy.

Back - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Camera - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Battery compartment - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Back

Camera

Battery compartment

 

Interface and Functionality:

We won’t dwell too much on the Timescape UX, as we’ve reviewed it on the Xperia arc S, we’ll just mention that it looks pretty with its transparencies and transitional animations, plus Sony Ericsson manages to keep it functional with the embedded Facebook inside Xperia option. It integrates tightly your phone contacts with friends from the social network, and allows you to shoot a status update directly from the homescreens, or see that a Facebook friend calling has a birthday today, for instance. Our only gripe with the interface is that it doesn’t support smart dialing, so you have to search for your contacts.

The Timescape UX interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The Timescape UX interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The Timescape UX interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The Timescape UX interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

The Timescape UX interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro

As customary, the Timescape interface runs very well on the 1GHz Snapdragon S2 processor, coupled with 512MB of RAM, although it is the most visually polished one after HTC Sense. You get 1GB of ROM (320MB user-available) for installing apps, but an 8GB microSD card is included in the package for expanding.

There have been the inevitable interface adjustments when you slide open the keyboard, so you can see the whole screen while typing, instead of having an on-screen keyboard block half of the view, which is a great advantage of these handsets. The interface has a full landscape mode while the keyboard is open. Still, if you just need to quickly type something with the virtual keyboard, there is also a Swype-like option for text input, called Trace.

Virtual keyboard - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Virtual keyboard - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Virtual keyboard - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Virtual keyboard

The LiveWare app allows you to start an application of your choosing when something is connected to the phone, be it a headset, headphones or a charger. Thus you can tell it to start the music or video player each time headphones are connected, or automatically go into the desktop clock mode in Android, while the handset is charging.

Internet and Connectivity:

We have a very good browser on the Xperia pro, with snappy scrolling and panning, and fluid zooming. The full Adobe Flash support is a plus when you need it, and the physical keyboard comes nifty when typing in forms and comment boxes, or updating your social networking status. The 3.7” screen is of good size, and the pixels are densely grouped enough for comfortable reading.

We have a very good browser on the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
We have a very good browser on the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
We have a very good browser on the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

We have a very good browser on the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro

We have a 7.2Mbps HSDPA 3G radio on the Xperia pro, plus Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, A-GPS, DLNA and FM Radio. When cold-started, it took the GPS about 4-5 minutes to locate us, which is average, and when we had a data connection it locked us in seconds, as is already the norm.

The wireless media streaming is governed by a dedicated Connected Devices app, which enables you to send music and videos to/from the phone via Wi-Fi to your HDTV, home stereo or computer with DLNA.

Camera:

The camera interface offers a rich set of scene modes, which are very easy to get to in the menus.

We have the new UI here, that includes features like 2D and 3D Panorama, but the latter is of use only to project the results on a Sony 3D HDTV. There is a separate 3D section in the Gallery for those stitched 3D panoramas.

Camera interface - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Camera interface - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Camera interface - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Camera interface - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Camera interface

The pictures themselves are nothing to write home about. They are taken on a very cloudy day, and although the presentation is rather natural, the colors turned out warmer, giving the sky a rusty hue. Detail is average for an 8MP phone camera. Indoors the colors are also not accurate, this time having a purple hue in the strong light sample. The snaps tend to introduce a lot of noise when the lights are toned down, and the LED flash is too anemic, not able to light up the scene even at 6 feet.

Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Outdoor samples shot with the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro

Strong - Indoor samples - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Medium - Indoor samples - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Low light - Indoor samples - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
Darkness - Indoor samples - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Strong

Medium

Low light

Darkness

Indoor samples

Xperia pro shoots 720p HD video with 30fps, and sports continuous autofocus and face detection while filming. The detail is average for the resolution, and mediocre when compared to the best phones, which offer 1080p. Continuous autofocus is nice feature, but it is too finicky and slow to adjust. There is no on-screen shutter button while filming, so you have to always start and stop filming with the tiny camera key of the Xperia pro.

Mulimedia:

The music player is pretty and minimalistic, yet offers things like equalizer presets and Facebook sharing of the song. The Xperia line of Sony Ericsson has some of the more potent loudspeakers on a mobile phone, and the Xperia pro is no exception. Strong, clear output, and full sound make the phone a good mono boombox if you feel like it.

The music player is pretty and minimalistic - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The music player is pretty and minimalistic - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review
The music player is pretty and minimalistic - Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

The music player is pretty and minimalistic

The handset is capable of running 720p HD videos, which look very good and the Mobile BRAVIA Engine  bumps the contrast and saturation. The Xperia pro doesn’t support DivX/Xvid from the onset, you have to hit Android market for that.

Performance:

Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

Voice quality in the earpiece is very good, with strong volume and clear sound, and the noise-canceling mics do a good job filtering the background noise out of our conversations for the receiving end.

Talk time is quoted as 7 hours in 3G mode, which is slightly below average, but the handset held itself pretty well while we were perusing it for the review, and you should be able to get your full day out of the battery with normal usage.

Conclusion:

The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro is the rare sight of a good-looking Android 2.3 Gingerbread phone with a side-sliding physical keyboard, which is on top of that very comfortable to type on.

It pays to optimize your handsets for a specific chipset, too, and the 1GHz Snapdragon S2 processor that runs the Xperia line proves again that it is more than enough to run the pretty Timescape UI flawlessly. We also have a very snappy browser navigation that is usually reserved for dual-core chipsets, and a potent loudspeaker.

Out of the smaller gripes we have with the phone, we’d point out the tiny and uncomfortable buttons all around the handset – the power/lock key, the volume rocker and the shutter key are too small and fidgety to press. Another small issue is the subpar viewing angles of the screen. Still, the more important parameters like outside visibility and pixel density are above average for the mid-range category.

There are many physical keyboard aficionados out there, and the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro seems poised to fill a gaping hole in their heart, having one of the most comfortable and beautifully backlit keyboards on an Android device. It is also very capable in most other characteristics, and its price fits right into the mid-range category, not aspiring for something it is not.

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3 comments on “Sony Ericsson Xperia pro Review

  1. Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful information particularly the closing section I deal with such info much. I used to be looking for this certain information for a very long. Thank you and good luck.

  2. Great review covered almost every question that I had except for one.
    does anyone know if you can use a non sony headphones with this phone?
    I have the Marley Revolution Headphones without the control talk, really hoping that they will work.
    I have just ordered this phone in red.
    Once again awesome review , keep up the great work, Cheers
    Elizabeth 🙂

    PS I also have the Sony MDR XB20 They are great too !!!!!

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