The Xperia Pro is the latest in Sony Ericsson’s smartphone range and combines a physical keyboard with a touch screen. It also includes a micro HDMI-out port, a feature that isn’t as common as we’d like it to be. The device is fairly light considering its sliding screen, but does it pack sufficient punch to make it worth considering over the myriad Android handsets on the market?
An increasing number of manufacturers are combining traditional mobile phone keyboards with touch screens in an effort of offer consumers the best of both worlds. The Xperia Pro is one such device and offers a 3,7-inch touch screen that slides to reveal a Qwerty keyboard beneath.
The keyboard itself is excellent and offers equally sized and spaced non-slip keys, including four arrow keys and a dedicated Internet browser button. There are also three chrome-coloured buttons at the bottom of the screen: back, home and options.
On the left-hand side of the Xperia Pro, you’ll find the power/screen lock buttons and a 3,5mm audio jack. We’d have been happier if Sony Ericsson had placed the audio jack on the top or bottom of the device as that’s always more convenient than having a headphone or speaker plug poking out of the side of the phone.
On the right, there’s a volume rocker and two very welcome inclusions: the micro HDMI port and a dedicated — and sensibly placed — camera button that both launches the camera and acts as a shutter release.
The camera itself offers 8 megapixels, autofocus and an LED flash and captures video at 720p at 30 frames a second. The front-facing camera, meanwhile, offers VGA quality images for video calling or awful, grainy self-portraits.
The backlit LED, 480×854-pixel display offers approximately 265 pixels per inch. The touch screen is suitably responsive and includes haptic feedback, which is pleasing for those times you want to type one handed using the screen rather than the physical keyboard.
Despite the sliding form factor, the Xperia Pro is surprisingly light — at just 142g and at 13,5mm thick, it isn’t much larger than other smartphones devoid of physical keyboards.
The Xperia Pro is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor, includes 1GB of RAM and Sony Ericsson includes an 8GB microSD card in the box. It has all the usual accoutrements: GPS, 3G, Wi-Fi, and so on.
The Xperia Pro ships with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), overlaid with Sony Ericsson’s “Timescape” user interface. Like most Android overlays, Timescape seems a little unnecessary and isn’t always as intuitive as we’d like. Still, it’s not awful and can be toned down to some extent in the settings menu.
Unfortunately, Sony Ericsson has opted to include its own on-screen keyboard which isn’t nearly as good as the default Android offering. However, its use of widgets for things like the media player is excellent.
Though the screen of the Xperia Pro is bright and responsive to the touch, we would have liked it to be a little bigger. At 3,7 inches, it feels small compared to the likes of the recent Samsung and HTC smartphones and means a lot of zooming in and out is required when browsing Web pages.
Our other gripe with the handset is its high-gloss black rear cover that’s a little slippery, shows every fingerprint and dirty mark and gets greasy all too quickly. We would have preferred a matt, textured surface on the rear so that we wouldn’t feel compelled to wipe the Xperia Pro on our trousers quite so often.
At R5 999, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro is in line with other phones in its class. It’s a capable and fairly attractive device and its main differentiator – the physical keyboard – is well laid out and a delight to use.
The Xperia Pro might be one of the last devices to carry the Sony Ericsson name after Sony recently announced that it was buying Ericsson out of the partnership the two companies entered into in 2001. Hopefully there’ll be a few more devices carrying the name before then, because although the Xperia Pro is a good device it wouldn’t make for a sufficiently grand swansong from the joint venture. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
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