REVIEW: Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Android Smartphone

Although touchscreen displays have become hugely popular in recent years, there are still tons of people out there who prefer to have physical keyboards. Sony Ericsson recognizes this and that’s why in addition to the Xperia Neo, they also have the Xperia Pro. This Android smartphone recently launched here in Canada and we’ve taken it out for a test drive.

Specs and Features

Naturally, the Xperia Pro is geared toward a slightly different kind of customer than the Xperia Play. Instead of slide-out gaming controls, it gets a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. That’s easily one of the biggest differentiating factors that makes this smartphone unlike other Xperia devices and increasingly unlike other Android smartphones in general.

As far as the core specs are concerned, you’ll find a Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon 1GHz processor to go along with 1GB of internal memory, 3.7-inch 480×854 pixel LED backlit LCD capacitive touchscreen, 512MB RAM, 8MP camera, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, accelerometer, Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine, microSD expansion, and front-facing VGA videocall camera. It gets the usual smattering of Stereo FM, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, GPS with aGPS, and HSDPA 7.2 along with HSUPA 5.8.

First Impressions

Not unlike the Google Nexus S, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro has a glossy and smooth plastic exterior. Some people may think that such a finish feels cheap, but that’s largely a matter of personal preference.

The sliding mechanism for the keyboard feels robust and the three buttons along the bottom are typical of the Xperia line. I’m personally not a fan of these “slim” buttons, but they’re a relatively minor quibble. Performance appears to be improved over earlier Xperia smartphones and the overall size, while not all that compact, is a touch smaller than some of the larger Android “superphones” that have flooded the market.

Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine

For my money, the Super AMOLED Plus display on the Galaxy S II is still the best in the business in terms of contrast and saturation. The Xperia Pro doesn’t do AMOLED, but its LED-backlit LCD gets some help with what Sony Ericsson calls the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine.

This helps to bump up the graphics a fair amount. While it’s still not as impressive as AMOLED, this LCD easily beats what we see on most HTC devices and what we see on the Motorola Atrix. The colors don’t feel nearly as muted and this is a definite step forward when it comes to gaming, videos, and so on.


Typing on the Keyboard

With the exception of only a handful of handsets, the majority of Android smartphones these days do not have physical keyboards. This will easily be a draw for fans of tactile feedback. The good news is that the QWERTY keyboard on the Xperia pro is quite good.

I still wouldn’t really want to use it to type out an extensive academic paper or anything like that, but it’s fantastic for e-mail messages, text messages, and even short blog posts. The keys offer a soft surface and they are slightly domed. Coupled with the decent spacing, it’s really easy to type based on feel. It should be noted that the keys are not arranged in a slightly staggered fashion, like how you’d find on a computer keyboard; they’re in a perfect grid. So, this may take some getting used to for some folks, but I thought it was pretty great.

Timescape and Other UI Tweaks

My first experience with the Timescape UI from Sony Ericsson was with the Xperia X10 last year. At the time, it was a sluggish experience that seemed to completely bog down the overall performance of the phone.

This time around, the UI still has much the same look, but performance doesn’t feel nearly as much like you’re trudging through a sea of molasses. I’m still not the type to use the aggregating social media service, but I can recognize its value. The rest of the UI isn’t the same as stock Android either — the app tray is arranged in pages rather than being an infinite scrolling list — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. No real complaints, but no huge praises either.

Performance and Benchmarks

To get a sense of the performance of this phone, I ran it through the Quadrant Standard Edition benchmark. The first run through only rendered a score of 1400, but subsequent trials earned scores of 1654 and 1685. That’s a definite step above the Nexus One (1300), but easily below dual-core alternatives like the Atrix (2281).

As far as the network speeds on the Fido network, I used the Speedtest Mobile app. The ping was anywhere from 107ms to 128ms. Download speeds ranged from 5881kbps to 6891kbps, putting it close to the theoretical 7.2Mbps cap on HSDPA. The upload speeds were decent too, ranging from 1089kbps to 1193kbps.

Conclusion

Sony Ericsson is a big company, to be sure, but it’s still not among the top-tier when it comes to Android smartphones. That upper level is probably still held by HTC and Samsung, possibly with an honorable mention to Motorola.

The Xperia pro continues with that kind of tradition. It’s not going to win any awards and it’s not going to floor you with its performance. What it is going to provide you is a more than adequate Android experience at a reasonable price. The 1GHz processor feels dated compared to its current dual core (and soon to be quad core) competition, but it gets the job done. The keyboard is a plus, for people who like keyboards, and the camera (here are a couple of sample photos) is very good too.

Considering that you can get the Xperia pro for $30 on contract or $350 outright, you’re getting a pretty decent deal. This phone is forgettable, but it’s not bad either.

[Sony Xperia Pro Page]


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14 Comments

  1. Flair says:

    come on the conclusion sucks….this phone is one of the best….ive owned android phones an this tops all of them…..so screw u about forgettable….ur forgettable

  2. Anonymous says:

    An idiotic conclusion and poor review from someone who seems simply to not appreciate the Sony Ericsson brand. I don’t know how this can be called “forgettable” or that it “won’t win any awards”. To this day there is simply NO other global QWERTY device that competes. Since QWERTY is objectively superior to touch-only that makes this the best globally available device out there.

    • Jon Langevin says:

      Agreed that there are few QWERTY devices available (my prior phones until 2 weeks ago were the HTC G2 and before that, the G1), but having been an Android user for the past 4 years, I’ve personally migrated to soft-key phones. QWERTY, while nice to have, is ultimately too limited imho, when compared to the flexibility offered by quality soft keyboards such as Swype’s latest offering (in beta on ICS), especially with the larger screens that you find on newer devices. I actually found my own use of QWERTY waning during my ownership of the G2, not due to the keyboard (construction is quite good), but due to the speed afforded by the Swype keyboard.

      If I were to limit myself to only QWERTY devices, then I would not have been able to experience the awesomeness that is packaged into the Galaxy Nexus.

      Of course, to each his own, but I sincerely hope that the Sony phone has dropped in price to remain noteworthy, as the Galaxy Nexus is a steal at $399 unlocked…

  3. Michael,

    You quoted,”Considering that you can get the Xperia pro for $30 on contract or $350
    outright, you’re getting a pretty decent deal. This phone is
    forgettable, but it’s not bad either.”  That is all well and good, but what other phone, that has a QWERTY keyboard, reasonably good screen, and has a 1 gig processor, is BETTER at the same money?  I am looking at the Galaxy Q, but it is hard to find a review of it.  What alternatives, at the same price point, do we have?  You don’t really give any hints.

  4. Givesuhe11 says:

    It makes NO sense to compare the xperia to a dual core when it’s NOT a dual core… The Benchmark was “below dual-core alternatives like the Atrix”… Seriously?? Please explain to me why or even how in the realm of the laws of physics, it could even come close to the benchmark of a dual core? I don’t have an xperia, but after reading your uninformative review, I won’t be following any of your recomendations… Let me know when you compare the downsides to owning a Ford Focus to owning a Kenilworth 18-wheeler… duhhhhhh… Tip: When doing a review, compare qwerty slider Android phone to qwerty slider Android phones, (*cough* with single core cpu’s *cough*)

    • Vertex291 says:

      I presently own an Xperia pro black phone and ik fairly satisfied. For the kind of budget I was looling at and with the kind featires it has like autofocus camera, qwerty and 8.1 mp camera I think I made the right choice. I am fairly surprised how the review of the phone did a comparison with dual core or quad core for that matter. It looks the review was done with opinionated feedbacks to provide an inclination to other brand or no knowledge how to make direct comparisons. I agree with the person above cent percent. Nice feedback given..i liked your style… :-)

    • Givesuhe11 says:

      I bought an xPeria Pro one month after I posted the above msg… and the ONLY thing I would change is a bigger screen… otherwise this is an awesome phone… I got upgraded to ICS on it in May 2012 and it made it even better… Alas tho… my next phone will be a Galaxy S3, unless Sony comes out with something comparable…

  5. Chilac says:

    I have Xperia PRO two week. My previous mobile phone was Nokia N70. I’m still learn about how to use mobilephone.

    Xperia Pro is fast, but something missing.
    No preinstal SMS software or original software on phone. You can not organize your message, folder, copy, move. I not see , maybe is somewhere. 

    Still cannot to delete some on screen function what i not use, like twitter, facebook, some security application…ect. I need time to learn. 

    Manual for this phone is little poor. Missing some
    real explanation. I dont know, if i have wifi (free) active, would my internet browser use it automaticly or use 3g mobility (paid) connection. 
    I have both icon on mobilescreen active (wifi & H).

    I miss that base software, what Nokia N70 have.

    Touchscreen is fast … if you have small finger, then is ideal :) . Whit my big finger i must to learn to hit what i need :D :))))))

    Battery life is poor. Screen use most of power from battery and some background application. I test with 2x battery software (free) from market android, and he prolong the time of use. But if you use more game, or internet, or music without headspeaker, you would buy reserve battery, or recharge more time in day.

    BUT MOST IMPORT … I need more time to learn of this mobile phone. I found all software on market what i need to resolve problems or my needs of phone.

    Generally I’m satisfacted with Xperia PRO

    • Tony says:

      This is true… I can’t organize my messages as well as my calls… Messages can’t be deleted one by one but all of them at the same time (delete conversations)… Missed calls or unwanted phone numbers in your call log can’t be deleted one at a time too, once you pressed the delete button for cal log, then all of your calls are gone… I been used to nokia phones ever since and comparing to this when it comes to SMS and Call log, Nokia is better.

    • Muktark9 says:

      Actually to delete the message or calls you have to hold on to the message you want to delete then do it from there. Its fairly simple. Same with the calls. Just press the number or message for atleast 5 Seconds then it will ask you if you want to save forward or delete. Then press delete. Thanks.

  6. Chilac says:

    I have Xperia PRO two week. My previous mobile phone was Nokia N70. I’m still learn about how to use mobilephone.

    Xperia Pro is fast, but something missing.
    No preinstal SMS software or original software on phone. You can not organize your message, folder, copy, move. I not see , maybe is somewhere. 

    Still cannot to delete some on screen function what i not use, like twitter, facebook, some security application…ect. I need time to learn. 

    Manual for this phone is little poor. Missing some
    real explanation. I dont know, if i have wifi (free) active, would my internet browser use it automaticly or use 3g mobility (paid) connection. 
    I have both icon on mobilescreen active (wifi & H).

    I miss that base software, what Nokia N70 have.

    Touchscreen is fast … if you have small finger, then is ideal :) . Whit my big finger i must to learn to hit what i need :D :))))))

    Battery life is poor. Screen use most of power from battery and some background application. I test with 2x battery software (free) from market android, and he prolong the time of use. But if you use more game, or internet, or music without headspeaker, you would buy reserve battery, or recharge more time in day.

    BUT MOST IMPORT … I need more time to learn of this mobile phone. I found all software on market what i need to resolve problems or my needs of phone.

    Generally I’m satisfacted with Xperia PRO

  7. Chilac says:

    I have Xperia PRO two week. My previous mobile phone was Nokia N70. I’m still learn about how to use mobilephone.

    Xperia Pro is fast, but something missing.
    No preinstal SMS software or original software on phone. You can not organize your message, folder, copy, move. I not see , maybe is somewhere. 

    Still cannot to delete some on screen function what i not use, like twitter, facebook, some security application…ect. I need time to learn. 

    Manual for this phone is little poor. Missing some
    real explanation. I dont know, if i have wifi (free) active, would my internet browser use it automaticly or use 3g mobility (paid) connection. 
    I have both icon on mobilescreen active (wifi & H).

    I miss that base software, what Nokia N70 have.

    Touchscreen is fast … if you have small finger, then is ideal :) . Whit my big finger i must to learn to hit what i need :D :))))))

    Battery life is poor. Screen use most of power from battery and some background application. I test with 2x battery software (free) from market android, and he prolong the time of use. But if you use more game, or internet, or music without headspeaker, you would buy reserve battery, or recharge more time in day.

    BUT MOST IMPORT … I need more time to learn of this mobile phone. I found all software on market what i need to resolve problems or my needs of phone.

    Generally I’m satisfacted with Xperia PRO

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