Sony Ericsson Xperia pro review: Social Inc.
8 megapixel camera offers Sweep Panorama
The Xperia pro boasts an 8 megapixel camera, complete with a single LED light. Much like the Xperia ray, arc and arc S, the Xperia pro uses an backlit Exmor R sensor, which promises improved low-light performance. Our experience with these sort of sensors is that they indeed offer lowered noise levels but the improvement is nothing that major.
The camera controls on the Xperia pro are available on two taskbars on either side of the viewfinder. The left one holds five shortcuts to various settings, while the right one shows thumbnails of the five most recent photos.
You can pull to expand the settings taskbars or push them out of sight. It’s a clever solution that lets you pick how much of the camera controls are seen in the viewfinder. The shortcuts in the left column can be rearranged and you can replace some of them with others from the extended menu.
The Xperia pro camera interface
You can choose between five capture modes - Normal, Scene recognition, Smile detection, Sweep Panorama and 3D Sweep Panorama. In Normal, you pick the Scene settings manually or you can enable Scene recognition and let the Xperia pro take a guess (it's fairly good at it).
The two panorama modes are the additions brought by the Android 2.3.4. The Sweep Panorama option is available in lots of Sony portable cameras, so it should be familiar to some of you. Anyway, it’s very easy to take a panorama - you just follow an on-screen slider until you reach the end and your panorama shot is taken. Unfortunately you can't choose how long it will be, you have to shoot it until the slider run out. If you are too slow or too fast you'll have to start over.
Depending on which panorama mode you have chosen, you will be able either to view your 2D shot (4912x1080 pixels) on your Xperia pro or take it on a 3D TV and see it there.
Other settings include changing the resolution, toggling between front/back camera, photo light (but it's switched manually, not automatically as a flash), geotagging, image stabilization and focus mode. Also at your disposal are a self-timer, shutter sound, exposure, white balance and metering settings.
The image quality is good - noise levels are kept relatively low and there is enough fine detail, although not the best in the 8MP league. Photos have good contrast and good though oversaturated colors.
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro camera samples
The panorama shots are captured with 4912x1080 pixels resolution and if you take them with a tripod they will be assembled perfectly. If not, you'll be surprised to out the pictures are almost as good as tripod enhanced ones.
We also snapped a couple of shots in poor lighting so you can see the high ISO result for yourself
Photo quality comparison
We’ve also added the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro to our Photo Compare database. The tool’s page has a quick how to guide.
The Xperia pro performed very well on all the three charts, producing enough amount of detail and pleasant colors. Compared to similar Exmor R-bundled siblings, the Xperia pro turned to be equal or even better.
Very good 720p video recording
The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro captures 720p video at 30 fps and does a very good job of it. The camcorder has similar settings to the still camera - focus mode, metering, exposure value and image stabilization are all user-configurable.
The Xperia pro camcorder joins the select few with continuous autofocus. It may take a few seconds to refocus after you re-frame but that's better than repeating attempts to lock focus that may ruin a video.
Videos are stored in MP4 format (6Mbps bitrate) and the frame rate nails the 30fps mark. The amount of captured detail is very good and so are the colors (though they're oversaturated again). Contrast is good too.
The amount of detail drops a bit in the dark as noise reduction fights to keep videos mostly noise free.
Check out the 720p sample we captured with the Xperia pro:
If you want to look closer at the video quality, you can download this untouched sample 720p@30fps, taken straight off the device.
Video quality comparison
We entered the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro in our Video Compare Tool database too and put it head to head with other 720p mobile camcorders. You'll find it a good match or even superior for the latest Gingerbread running HTC and Samsung single-core droids.
Great connectivity, but you may consider a dock
The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro has a good deal of connectivity options. The basics are covered by quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and tri-band HSPA with download rates of up to 7.2 Mbps and upload at 5.76 Mbps.
It offers Wi-Fi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.1 for wireless local connectivity. The Connected devices app turns your Xperia pro into a DLNA server, letting you view media on DLNA-enabled devices (e.g. TV, PlayStation 3).
The microUSB v2.0 port handles both wired data transfer and charging. With the Android 2.3.4 Xperia pro supports USB on-the-go, but you have to buy the Sony Ericsson Live Dock to be able to use it. When you get the accessory, you can connect USB Flash drives, keyboard and mouse to your phone.
The LiveWare manager app lets you assign specific apps to be launched when a given accessory is connected, which can be quite handy (e.g. launch music player when you plug in headphones or a file browser for flash memory).
The inbuilt storage has 240MB only available to the user, but you can expand it up to 32GB via the microSD card slot. The phone ships with an 8GB memory card.
A standard 3.5mm audio jack and a micro HDMI port complete the connectivity tally. There is no micro HDMI cable included in the retail box, but usually is a market dependent feature.
The web browser everybody likes
The user interface of the browser is simple, with almost no visible chrome by default. Once the page loads, all you see is the URL bar and the bookmark button at the top of the screen. Once you zoom in and pan around though even that disappears (scroll to the top or press menu to bring it back).
That way you have the entire 3.7” screen for web browsing. The Xperia pro browser supports double tap and pinch zooming, along with the dedicated virtual zoom buttons. There's text reflow, which reformats text so that it best fits on the screen.
The browsing performance is excellent - panning, zooming and the text reflow are blazing fast. The Xperia pro web browser is an example of how a mobile browser should look and behave.
The minimalist UI is quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up. You can open a new tab, switch tabs, refresh the page, go forward, and open bookmarks. The last button reveals even more options (text copying, find on page, etc.).
One of the important features in the web browser is the full Flash 11 support. YouTube videos played smoothly at 360p, 480p and even 720p - no dropped frames and audio lag. It seems the new Flash 11 is much optimized than it’s the 10.x versions. Flash games played trouble free too.