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Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini review: Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini

Without a full QWERTY you must use a nine-button alphabetic keypad for composing messages. Also, since the X10 Mini's keyboard only works in portrait mode you must scroll quite a ways through the symbols keyboard to find basic punctuation. On a basic phone we wouldn't complain about the experience, but we find it unacceptable on a smartphone. Fortunately, the X10 Mini offers a useful predictive text option that's a good alternative to multitap.

The X10 Mini's replaces the X10's 8-megapixel camera for a 5-megapixel shooter. We don't mind the resolution downgrade--5 megapixels is more than adequate on such a handset--but we are disturbed that Sony Ericsson removed most of the editing options. You can geotag photos, use the bright flash and autofocus, and select one of four image settings (auto, sports, twilight, and macro), but those are the only customization options available. Though we'd expected the smaller X10 Mini to offer fewer features, we didn't foresee this much carnage. Also, vanity shots are tricky without a self-portrait mirror.

The X10 Mini's camera has a bright flash.

The handset has a camcorder, though editing options are equally minimal. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 10 seconds, though you can shoot for longer in normal mode. Once you're done playing photographer, you can check out your work in the user-friendly gallery app. Photo quality is just average, which is about what we saw on the X10. Colors could have been richer, and images are a tad dim. The X10 Mini offers 128MB of internal memory and the microSD slot fits cards up to 2GB.

The X10 Mini's photo quality didn't impress.

On both the X10 and X10 Mini, Sony Ericsson gave the normal Android music player a slight, but much-needed, makeover. It displays album art, and you can access shuffle and repeat modes, set favorites, send the track in a message, and designate a track as a ringtone. Loading music on the phone is quite easy whether you're using a USB cable or a memory card. Thanks to Android's efficient USB transfer/storage and PC syncing support, our PC recognized the X10 Mini right when we plugged it in. The handset also comes integrated with Sony Ericsson's PlayNow feature, a TrackID app and an FM radio.

Music quality is similar to the X10, though it's not quite as loud given the X10 Mini's smaller speaker. The quality is respectable, though it gets distorted the higher you go. We recommend headphones for the best experience.

Google and other features
Other features include a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a notepad, a full duplex speakerphone, a timer, and a stopwatch. You'll also find PC syncing, USB mass storage, A2DP stereo Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. The browser has a standard Android design, though it's more than tedious on such a small display. You can replace it with another browser, if you'd like.

Naturally, the X10 Mini offers the full slate of Google applications like YouTube, Google Voice, and Google Talk. Google Maps offers the standard features while Wisepilot brings real-time voice-guided directions. You'll also find a barcode reader, a Wikipedia app, and two games (Peggle and Edge). Of course, more apps and games are available through the Android Market. The integrated Facebook for Android app lets you access the service outside of Timescape.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Xperia X10 Mini in San Francisco using AT&T service. The handset will work with both AT&T's and T-Mobile's GSM networks, but 3G data is available only through AT&T in the United States. You should have better luck abroad since the X10 Mini supports three UMTS/HSPA bands.

Call quality was respectable, though we encountered a couple of issues. Though signal clarity is decent and our friends sounded natural, the audio cut out for a second on more than one occasion. Also, the volume was much too low to talk in a noisy place. On the whole it was a good experience, but it wasn't quite as sharp as the Xperia X10.

Our callers said we sounded fine. They also reported a volume issue, particularly when we were calling next to a busy street. They didn't hear any audio lapses, though, and our friends said that the phone picked up minimal background noise. Almost everyone could tell that we were using a cell phone, but that's hardly a bad thing. We didn't have a problem when calling automated calling systems as long as we were in a quiet place. Speakerphone calls were satisfactory, though the volume remained too low for many calls.

The X10 Mini has a 600Mhz processor, so expect a slower experience than the 1GHz-powered Xperia X10. Yet, the change isn't dramatic, as we were able to perform most functions quickly. And in any case, the downgrade is understandable on a smaller and cheaper phone.

The X10 Mini has a rated battery life of 4 hours 2G talk time and 3.5 hours 3G talk time. Promised standby time is 15 days. According to FCC radiation charts, the X10 Mini has a digital SAR of 1.18 watts per kilogram.

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