Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini review: Shrink to fit
A so-so retail package
Nice surprises are what we like to find inside the boxes of the phones that we review, but unfortunately the X10 mini didn't have many of those. On the other hand all the essentials are covered so there is not much to whine about either.
Inside the package, there’s a microUSB cable and a charger. The rest of the contents include a short manual and a 2GB microSD card that comes loaded directly in the phone.
The headset bundled with the XPERIA X10 mini is the Sony Ericsson MH610. It has a standard 3.5mm jack - there's no sign of the Hi-Fi MH810 headset which has a custom jack developed specifically for XPERIA X10 mini.
Also included in the retail package is a rubber case that's designed to be always-on the handset. It covers and protects the sides and back of the XPERIA X10 mini. There's also a screen protector.
Since XPERIA X10 mini features exchangeable back panels, the retail package comes with a choice of two panels.
Sony Ericsson will be offering a total of six different colors for the back panel. Unfortunately, the back panel availability and retail bundling would be strictly market and even carrier-dependent. In most cases, the phone should come pre-bundled with two of the back panels and users should be able to purchase extra panels.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini 360-degree spin
At 83 x 50 x 16mm the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini sure is tiny. There is hardly a pocket that won’t find enough free space for it and the mere 88 grams of weight will almost make you forget it is there.
Some might frown at the 16mm of thickness which is too much by today’s standards but it doesn’t really make the device unattractive. It almost looks like the boxy appearance was exactly what designers were looking for. Thinner than that and the phone would’ve been near impossible to handle comfortably. And the X10 mini is truly the smallest handset we have had recently.
Design and construction
It’s all a matter of personal taste how you feel about the X10 mini. The boxy handset is quite different than most of its competitors. Manufacturers would usually go for tall slimmer bodies for their touch phones.
The plastic used on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini won’t earn it many points either, especially against metal-built phones, but it’s decent. The back is nicely fingerprint-resistant with rubbery finish.
The shiny plastic on the front (which remains is black in all color versions) does become greasy with use (it doesn’t take too long) but, since the front is mostly taken by the display anyway, we are willing to let that one go.
The touchscreen itself measures 2.55” in diagonal, which seems like the very minimum that still allows finger-use. Sony Ericsson did well with the interface though, to make the best use of the screen estate. We’ll get back to that later but the icons are all large enough and you won’t have trouble pressing any of them.
The screen sensitivity, as was to be expected in a capacitive unit, is excellent. The slightest of touches is enough for a click to be registered, for a great touchscreen experience.
Equally important, the QVGA resolution is adequate for this screen size but doesn’t allow too fancy graphics. For example, most of the icon labels don’t look sharp enough and the icons themselves are not as smooth as we’ve seen on HVGA and WVGA Android handsets. We have seen a bit of improvement here compared to the unit we had for our preview, but the X10 mini simply doesn’t have the pixels to draw the graphics as well as some of its competitors.
The 65K-color limitation inherent to Android versions prior to 2.0 could result in the occasional banding but it’s not as easily noticeable on a screen this size. When the X10 mini receives an Android 2.1 update (said to come before the end of the year) those issues might be completely resolved (provided there are no hardware limitations either).
The image quality is passable as far as TFT displays go, with good brightness and above average contrast. Anyway, an AMOLED display would’ve made sense on the full-grown XPERIA X10 but is obviously too much for the mini league.
The sunlight legibility of the X10 mini display is hardly spectacular but it’s still good. There is some loss of contrast but you are still able to operate the handset trouble-free outdoors on a bright sunny day.
Below the display there are three hardware keys – contextual menu, home and back button. Those are thin knobs but nicely raised and with good press feedback. The obvious absentee is the Search button: in exchange there’s a search widget on the homescreen.
Above the display we find a status LED, the earpiece and the proximity sensor. The proximity sensor is in charge of locking the display when you hold it next to your face during calls.
The left side of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini is completely bereft of controls. The only thing of interest here is a small groove to pull the battery cover off.
On the right you get a volume rocker and a shutter key. The volume rocker is as good as the three keys below the display but the camera key is a bit too tiny. It still has a proper stroke though and very distinct half press. It’s not bad at all, just needs some time getting used to.
On top of the handset is the screen lock key which also acts as a power button. Again, it isn’t the most comfortable to press but we suspect it was done on purpose to minimize accidental presses. More than often it needs a push with a fingernail really.
At the bottom the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini has the audio jack and the microUSB port. There is a protective cap over the microUSB port, while the audio jack is exposed.
The audio jack is absolutely compatible with standard 3.5mm plugs (a pair of which is bundled by Sony Ericsson). The unusual shape is supposed to accommodate the Sony Ericsson MH810 headset, which uses a proprietary plug with several more pins needed for the added music controls. The Hi-Fi MH810 headset was made specifically for XPERIA X10 mini but we're not really if it will be bundled in the retail package or it will be sold separately. Our package came along with the Sony Ericsson MH610 headset.
The back of the XPERIA X10 mini hosts the 5 megapixel camera lens and the LED flash. The loudspeaker also goes in here, slightly to the right.
Removing the battery cover reveals the microSD card slot and the SIM compartment. The microSD slot is hot-swap enabled but the bad news is the battery isn’t user-replaceable.
Carrying a back-up battery is out of the question, of course. We guess once the original battery runs its life span Sony Ericsson service center will replace it for you free of charge as long as you buy the new battery from them. Then again, you’re more likely to change your phone long before the battery performance degrades too bad to be a nuisance.
The battery is quoted at up to 285 hours of standby and 4 hours of talk time in a 2G network. In 3G mode, it’s up to 360 hours of standby and three and half hours of talk time. The real-life performance was quite good: the handset went on for two days of reasonably heavy use (about 30 minutes of telephony, a dozen of photos and forty-five minutes of fiddling with the other phone features each day).
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini is so tiny you can cup it in your hand and out of sight. It’s brilliant to handle and makes you want to cuddle it. Some users might find awkward making calls on something that small but otherwise working on such limited touchscreen estate is trouble free. There are inevitable compromises of course, like no on-screen QWERTY keyboard, but the little chap sure is hard to resist.