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When Sony Ericsson launched the Xperia Mini back in 2010, it really wasn’t the best smartphone around. And it really was the only tiny phone around, which is why it didn’t get beat there as well. However, developers at Sony Ericsson are certainly not the ones who go through the denial phase. Good thing, because that probably makes them more receptive to genuine feedback, rather than taking it as an ego issue. They went back to the drawing board, tweaked a few things, overhauled some other things, and basically put in an earnest effort at improving the product.
Look & Feel
The updated Xperia Mini is slightly bigger than the predecessor. Quite obvious, since the older one had a 2.55-inch display, but the new one has a 3.0-inch one. We appreciate this bump up in the size, since it affords a more comfortable platform for touchscreen use.
The power key sits on the top panel, with the notification LED right next to it. The bottom panel has the micro USB port and the 3.5mm audio jack. The USB port has a nice cover on it, and while it isn't very solid, it is one of the better ones we have seen so far. However, the two seem to be placed a little too close, and connecting both simultaneously will be a bit of a wire twisting experience. The right side panel has the camera key and the volume rocker, on the chrome strip. The left side panel has the chrome strip as well, but has been left untouched otherwise.
On the rear panel is the 5MP camera, with the LED flash on top. The nice rubberized finish is quite helpful when gripping the phone. And don’t let anyone kid you that it isn't necessary, because this tiny phone has the tendency of wriggling out of your hands if you aren’t careful. However, we do not like the side pulling out mechanism for the battery cover. It is just uncomfortable and the risk of the plastic teeth holding it down in place may snap, if you are a little too harsh with it.
Overall, the phone fits well in the hand, and is possibly the most comfortable one to use with one hand. The good build quality gives it a premium feel, something that is sorely missing from most phones in this price bracket.
The updated Xperia Mini does have a lot of interesting stuff. The 1GHz processor is paired with 512MB of RAM. While we would usually criticize ‘just’ 512MB, but keeping the price in mind, we don’t really mind. The OS is now the latest one available- Android Gingerbread 2.3, something that really helps this phone stand out in the crowd. None of the rivals in this price category (except its own QWERTY version sibling- the Mini Pro) offers Android 2.3 yet.
The slightly bigger display on this version just makes it every so slightly more comfortable to use, while retaining the ultra-compact form factor. The Bravia Engine display feature that we saw on the Xperia Arc is also available with this phone now.
Speaking of which, the Timescape UI has come a long way since we first saw it. The Xperia Mini also has the app shortcuts on all four edges of the display- Corner UI. Now you can set up to four icons in any of the four clusters. Five home screens to spread the widgets around. What hasn’t changed is that natively, Timescape supports connectivity to Twitter and Facebook. More services haven’t been integrated yet.
[RELATED_ARTICLE]With the 1GHz Qualcomm QSD8255 Snapdragon processor powering the Xperia Mini, paired with 512MB of RAM, the Xperia Mini isn't a slouch. On the contrary, it seems to be one of the best performers out there, at least in this price category. It doesn’t get bogged down when we install apps on it, and only slightly slower when you have a bunch of apps running in the background. But then again, background apps do cause all phones to become a bit sluggish, even the really high-end ones. However, what helps the Xperia Mini is the UI isn't as heavy as the HTC Sense. No wonder HTC phones tend to become sluggish under the same usage scenario we put this through.
The 3.0-inch display is the LED backlit display with a resolution of 320x480 pixels. While this is a slight bump up, size wise, from the predecessor, it still keeps the Mini well inside the tiny smartphone category. However, typing out an SMS just became a lot more comfortable. Scrolling through the app list becomes less of an “opened an app by accident” exercise. The display is quite crisp, and despite the small size, we were impressed by how well text was handled. No needs to squint to read the name of the app you want to open or the number of the person you want to call.
Camera performance is a bit of a disappointment though. Images are not very crisp, and lack the detailing we expected from a camera in this price category.
Battery life is quite un-SE-esque! This one lasts a day and a half, from full charge to complete discharge. Well, the usage included quite a few voice calls, constant connectivity to either Wi-Fi or EDGE and the inevitable WhatsApp chats. Not bad, considering that in the present day, this kind of battery backup solidly falls in the good category. This phone has a 1200mAh battery, to be precise.
For a box price of just over Rs 13k, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini is a phone worth considering. Assuming of course that you are comfortable with the tiny (well, we are being spoilt by those 4-inch displays) display. The performance is very good. The build quality has improved leaps and bounds from what we saw with the predecessor. And of course, the specifications are a lot better than what the rivals offer – 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, Android 2.3 and a UI that is visually appealing and doesn’t slow down the phone. If a matchbox sized Android smartphone is all you want, this may just be the phone to consider. Or consider its sibling - the Xperia Mini Pro with the slide-out QWERTY keypad.
Platform: Android 2.3; Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon single core 1GHz, 512MB RAM; Display: 3.0-inch LED display, 320x480 pixel resolution; Storage: 320MB, microSD slot; Camera: 5MP with 720p videos; Battery: 1200 mAh
HSDPA 900 / 2100
HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
Up to 340 h (2G) / Up to 320 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 4 h 30 min (2G) / Up to 4 h 30 min (3G)