Sony Ericsson Xperia mini review: Small is the new big

GSMArena team, 26 August 2011.
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Out of the big box

The Sony Ericsson Xperia mini resides in a bigger box than you’d think. There’s some extra stuff in the package, which won’t be a surprise if you’ve seen the original Xperia X10 mini. To get the standard accessories out of the way, there’re a microUSB cable, a charger and a single-piece handset inside. The usual papers go without saying, and the 2GB microSD card is already installed.

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The Xperia mini pro retail package

Just like the older generation, the new mini comes features exchangeable battery covers. Two of them are in the bundle: in our case, Glossy Red and Glossy Blue. We cannot confirm that all retail units will ship with spare battery covers.

Sony Ericsson Xperia mini 360-degree spin

A tad taller than the original X10 mini, the Xperia mini stands at 88 x 52 x 16 mm. Basically, it's the same chubby little handset. Minor touches to the exterior surprisingly make a lot of difference, all in the sequel's favor. The upgrades have added a bit of heft here too: the Xperia mini tips the scales at 99g. We wouldn't call it heavier, rather more solid. We don’t mind at all.

Design and construction

To begin with the visual upgrades, the Sony Ericsson Xperia mini has a bigger screen and a different layout of controls to the original. Refinement and elegance is what describes it best, although the 3" Bravia screen probably makes all the difference.

We had the white version of the Xperia mini to test. Entirely made of plastic, the phone looks fresh and trendy. There's nothing to worry about in terms of durability either. The battery cover has fingerprint-proof matt finish, as opposed to the glossy back of the Xperia mini pro.

Two silver lines on the sides are the only ornaments to note, the white case needs little decoration anyway. It's a small phone with plenty of character. Sony Ericsson did well to refresh the looks without overdoing it. Emphasis is obviously on the performance upgrades.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia mini next to Xperia mini pro

The Sony Ericsson Xperia mini has the same 3” HVGA touchscreen as the mini pro. It's a reduced version of the Reality display used in the Arc and the Neo, a LED-backlit LCD unit enhanced by Sony’s proprietary Bravia Mobile Engine. The display produces really nice colors. Contrast is good but the viewing angles are limited – colors get quickly washed out. The excellent outdoor performance is a major point in favor though. We were impressed with the level of sunlight legibility. Good job, Sony Ericsson!

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The small Reality display is excellent

The screen is pleasingly responsive too - no wonder in a capacitive unit. The gentlest of taps and swipes will do, and the speedy, lag-free interface will instantly respond.

Below the display is the usual set-up of controls. The updated design has capacitive Menu and Back buttons, with a single hardware Home key. The Home button is soft but clicky, while the capacitive controls are well-defined, nicely backlit and haptic enabled. All are very comfortable to use.

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There are three keys at the bottom of the front panel

Above the display, the centrally-placed earpiece is followed by proximity and ambient light sensors. There is no front-facing camera, unlike the Xperia mini pro.

There's both manual and auto display brightness setting and the ambient light sensor is doing a good job of adjusting to the available lighting.

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The earpiece enjoys the company of two sensors

The left side of the Sony Ericsson Xperia mini is completely bare. The only thing to notice here is a small slit to use and pull the battery cover open.

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The left side hosts nothing

On the right-hand side, we have the volume rocker on top and a shutter key at the bottom. The volume rocker is reasonably comfortable, the up and down keys are prominent and solid to press. The shutter key is super soft, with very deep half press. We liked it.

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The camera key and the volume rocker are on the right

On top, we find the power/lock key, with a tiny status LED right next to it. It will glow red while the battery is charging (green when fully charged), or blink in blue upon an incoming call. The secondary microphone used for noise cancelation is also around.

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The screen lock key is right next to the status LED

The bottom of the Xperia mini features the lanyard eyelet and the mouthpiece. The connectivity ports are also there: a centrally-placed 3.5mm audio jack and a microUSB port with a small plastic lid.

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The audio jack, the microUSB port, the microphone pinhole and the lanyard eyelet are at the bottom

The back of the Xperia mini features the 5 megapixel camera lens and the LED flash. The loudspeaker also goes in here, slightly to the right. We like the matt finish, being more resistant to dirt perhaps. Makes sense in a white phone.

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The 5 megapixel camera is joined by the LED flash and the loudspeaker at the back

Removing the battery cover reveals the hot-swappable microSD card slot and the SIM compartment.

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Taking a peek under the cover

The 1200mAh battery is quoted at 320 hours of standby and 4 and a half hours of talk time in a 3G network. In reality, we had the Xperia mini on stand-by for about three days, connected to a Wi-Fi network most of the time. When we really pushed it hard though, it barely managed a whole day. It was always connected to both the 3G and Wi-Fi networks, we did heavy browsing, music and video playback, and the usual benchmarks.

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Handling the Xperia mini

The Sony Ericsson Xperia mini is a well-built phone with fresh, modern looks and it is a pleasure to handle. It's an easy phone to like, neat and simple, though not feeling cheap. On the contrary, the good build and quality finish will be much appreciated. The screen is a massive improvement over the original. Size is what you should be careful about: it's absolutely fine for navigating the interface. It’s just the on-screen keyboard that's not the most comfortable. Overall though, you should be able to live with it. After all, it's size that makes the phone unique, bordering on premium.

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