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Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Mobile Phone News Update: Sony Ericsson Xperia pro review (davidlim, +64212640000, Auckland, Android, repair)

Sony Ericsson can sit back and call it a job done. The last of the new Xperias is on the shelves and the impressive lineup gives them plenty of reasons to look forward to the holiday season.
Quite a squad they have put together. The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro had to wait long months to finally get some game time. Announced way back in February, the Xperia messenger watched from the sidelines as others went ahead of it. It was a long line too, with two Arcs, two Neos, two minis, the PLAY, the Active and the Ray.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro official photos
It must've been a long wait for users too, judging by your comments on this website. There has been nothing official in the way of an explanation about the delayed launch. Maybe that's the way Sony Ericsson had planned it from the beginning. Perhaps they thought business users, who are a potential target, were least likely to lose their patience. Maybe they didn't want two very similar phones stepping on each other's toes - trying to get the best mileage out of the Neo before the Pro hit the shelves. Or maybe, they just wanted to finish with a bang.
The Pro adds a physical QWERTY keyboard to the best Sony Ericsson have to offer today. That includes a LED-backlit Reality display with Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine, an 8 megapixel ExmorR camera sensor, 720p video with continuous autofocus, and the latest Android 2.3.4.

Key features

  • Four-row slide-out QWERTY keyboard
  • Quad-band GSM /GPRS/EDGE support
  • 3G with 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and 5.8 Mbps HSUPA
  • 3.7" 16M-color capacitive LED-backlit LCD touchscreen of FWVGA resolution (480 x 854 pixels) with Sony Mobile BRAVIA engine
  • Android OS v2.3.4 Gingerbread
  • 1 GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 chipset, 512 MB RAM
  • 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and geotagging
  • 720p video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound
  • Secondary front-facing VGA camera for video chats
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n and DLNA
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • microSD slot up to 32GB (8GB card included)
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v2.1
  • Voice dialing
  • Adobe Flash 11 support
  • microHDMI port

Main disadvantages

  • Display has poor viewing angles
  • No smart dialing
  • microSD card slot is not hot-swappable
  • Battery cover is a hassle to open
  • Slider a bit wobbly
  • Black case extremely prone to fingerprints
This phone can't be blamed for falling short of the mark. And we don't mean that it gets away with the lack of some premium features just because it was announced early this year. The way we see it, a multiple core processor is something for flagships to worry about. You can hold it against the Xperia Arc S. By the same token, a cameraphone like the Xperia Neo isn't quite up to scratch without the 1080p video recording.
The Xperia pro for its part is a smart messenger that might appeal to both business customers and young social users. That's right, these are two completely different targets but it's just the way of a market steadily moving towards smartphones and all-inclusive user experience. Anyway, the point is enough people may actually find the Xperia pro relevant to what they need even without multiple-core processing or FullHD video. One thing we're sure they don't need is a huge gadget in their pocket.
Sony Ericsson took their time with the Pro but it seems the competition hasn't been too keen on messengers either. There hasn't been anything major since the HTC Desire Z and the Milestone 2, at least not in Europe. The closest thing is another Sony Ericsson phone: the Xperia mini pro.
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Sony Ericsson Xperia pro live photos
We liked the mini messenger but Sony Ericsson obviously think it's time for the real deal. We're about to start our traditional hardware checkup and we're looking forward to a comfortable ride. The bigger screen and keyboard should make enough of a difference.

Unboxing the Xperia pro

The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro's retail box brings no surprises - a USB charger, a microUSB-to-USB cable (used for charging and computer connections) and an in-ear headset.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
The Xperia pro retail box
Finally, there are a couple of user guides and an 8GB microSD card in the box. The only thing missing is an HDMI cable.

Sony Ericsson Xperia pro 360-degree spin

The all-plastic Sony Ericsson Xperia pro weighs in at 142 grams and stretches to 120 x 57 x 13.5 mm. That's nearly the same size as the Xperia neo, which is quite an achievement, considering they squeezed in a QWERTY keyboard without increasing the thickness. It's a reasonably compact messenger with good handling, and it looks even slimmer because of the inward rear curve.

Design and build quality

The design of Sony Ericsson Xperia pro mixes Xperia neo and Xperia arc. Looked from the front, the Neo and the Pro are almost impossible to tell apart. The back has a similar inward curve as the two Xperia Arcs, slightly less prominent perhaps as the Pro is obviously not as tall.
So, it's a familiar look and the styling lacks any kind of ornaments. We like the strip of silver that frames the phone's body asymmetrically - thin on the sides, wider at the top and bottom. Our review unit is the red flavor. It wouldn't have been our first choice but it has a serious advantage over the black unit.
The Xperia pro finish is heavy on gloss and gets covered in grease in no time. The smudges are quite hard to clean too but, luckily, not as visible on the red and probably silver version. For the black one though there is no hope.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo
The Xperia neo next to Xperia pro
Most of the phone’s front is taken by the 3.7" 16M-color LCD screen with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. The Xperia pro uses the same Reality display as the Xperia arc, neo, ray and arc S, enhanced with the Sony Bravia Mobile Engine. The high-quality LED-backlit LCD has pleasing colors and commendable sunlight legibility. The questionable feature is viewing angles: whn you look at the display at an angle, contrast is quickly lost and the colors get washed out.
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The Reality display is good
Although the Reality display is no match for the Samsung’s SuperAMOLED, it’s on the better side of LCDs and we've repeatedly praised the recent Sony Ericsson smartphones for the notably improved image quality and outdoor performance.
Here's our proprietary display test. On the Xperia pro, we were only able to do our display test with the screen brightness set to the maximum, as once you select anything other the maximum setting the light sensor kicks in and starts automatically controlling the screen brightness. And since we conduct our test in a completely dark room that would lead to inaccurate results.
Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Ericsson Xperia pro - - - 0.6 557 928
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc - - - 0.33 394 1207
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 0.00 231 0.00 362
Apple iPhone 4S 0.14 205 1463 0.52 654 1261
HTC Sensation 0.21 173 809 0.61 438 720
Nokia 701 0.64 619 964 1.12 1022 905

Below the screen we find the usual set of controls. The hardware Back, Home and Menu buttons do look a bit crammed up together but actually more comfortable and solid to press compared to the Xperia Arc.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
The typical controls below the display • Video-call camera and sensors above the display
It’s pretty crowded above the display: there’s the earpiece, an ambient light sensor, the secondary VGA camera and a proximity sensor.
The left hand side of the Xperia pro has the 3.5mm audio jack and the tiny Lock/Power key. It seems to be comfortably placed to reach with a forefinger if you wrap your right hand around the device. It's so small though that it's almost impossible to press this way. We found we had to press it with a fingernail to be sure it will do the job.
In the top right, there is the thin volume rocker and a microHDMI port under a small plastic lid. There’s a tiny status LED next to the HDMI port. On the other end is the two-step shutter key. It's stiff and small - just like on the two Arcs. What makes it worse here is the form factor. Every time we tried to push the shutter key all the way down, the slider gave in and moved up.
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The 3.5mm jack and the Power/Lock key on the left • the camera key, the volume rocker and the HDMI port on the right
On top we find the centrally placed microUSB port. The lanyard eyelet is the only thing at the bottom.
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The microUSB port at the top • the bottom side
Sliding the Xperia pro open reveals its key feature: the four-row QWERTY keyboard. There's a setting allowing you to enable Smart Keyboard, which Sony Ericsson claim will give you instant access to relevant functions but it just didn't work on our unit. The slider motion unlocks the screen and that's that. We should warn against a minor wobble to the slider, which may or may not deteriorate with time.
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The keyboard is awesome
As to the keyboard itself, it uses the exact same layout as the Mini pro but the well-spaced keys enjoy more room and that's all to the user's benefit. The keys are prominent enough with nice matte finish, the press feedback is good. This is one of the most beautifully lit keyboards we've seen too. Each key is outlined by a thin thread of light and the symbols are nicely illuminated.
The back of the Sony Ericsson Xperia pro has the 8MP lens and a single LED flash. The lens is recessed to ensure protection against scratches and smudges. The secondary microphone for active noise cancellation is also nearby.
The loudspeaker is all the way at the bottom.
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The camera lens, LED flash and loudspeaker grill at the back
The microSD card slot is under the battery cover, at the very end of the battery compartment, which rules out hot-swap. By the way, we had a lot of trouble opening the battery cover. There's no designated place to put a finger and pull up. We ended up scratching the surface to find the slightest opening. The Xperia pro supports cards of up to 32GB and comes with a complimentary 8GB card.
The SIM card compartment is next to the microSD slot too. The Xperia pro is powered by a 1500mAh battery, which should be enough to last three days of normal usage.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
The microSD card slot and the SIM bed
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro got a battery rating of 37h in our recently introduced standardized battery test. You can expect 37 hours between charges with an hour of 3G calls, and hour of video playback and an hour of web browsing each day. That’s better than what we are used to seeing from modern-day smartphones.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia pro is reasonably sized and comfortable to use and carry around. It's nearly the size of an Xperia Neo and they did a good job of fitting a QWERTY keyboard there. It's quite an efficient keyboard too, and beautifully backlit. A great physical keyboard and the 3.7” display, this is a full-size messenger many will be willing to consider over the compact mini pro.
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Sony Ericsson Xperia pro held in hand
The phone is well built, though we have our gripes. They're not going to ruin the experience, just something to look out for when trying the phone. There is a wobble in the slider - the bottom of the phone is looser than the top. It's not too worrisome but it's there. The back cover is a hassle to open but let's say you won't need to do that too often. The Power button and the shutter key could've been better. We don't mind the plastic build and the sober styling. The phone looks good and handles well without being a design wonder. Because of the fingerprint issues we wouldn't recommend the black version.

This post is sponsored by:Dr Mobiles Limited
1 Huron Street, Takapuna, North Shore 0622
Tel: (09) 551-5344 and Mob: (021) 264-0000
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