Hans D. Baumeister

Hans D. Baumeister

Review: Sony XPERIA Pro

To get some insight on my switch from an Apple iPhone 4 to an Android phone, please have a look at this entry as well as the prelude to this review.

What convinced me to chose the XPERIA Pro over another Android smartphone with a physical keyboard is the side-slider (bigger keyboard), screen size (bigger than the Motorola Pro+) and the technical specs, including the ability to officially upgrade from Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) to 4.04 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

As mentioned before, I’d physically tested a Motorola Pro+ device before ordering the XPERIA Pro. While the Motorola really is quite a nice phone (and seemingly quick, despite the restricted hardware specs), but the display was just a tick too small, as was the keyboard. My thumbs just aren’t as nimble anymore.

So lets get into the pros and cons of the XPERIA. Keep in mind that this is a device released for 2011...

Device in General
I ordered the red phone (also available in charcoal and sliver), which really is “pretty”. The materials feel great, according the spec, the phone is fitted with gorillaglass for the display. The slider mechanism feels extremely solid, I’m quite sure it will work fine for a long time. The back is easily removable, yet on the device quite solidly. The SIM is easy to insert; with a little finagling, I was able to slide the Micro-SIM adapter in with proper electrical contact. Considering that this is impossible in quite a number of phones, I can live with shimmying the thing around a bit. The contact hasn’t budged since I started using the phone, so that’s ok there.

At first glance, the keyboard looks chincy, but when you start using it, it is absolutely fine. I can type quite quickly using both thumbs, while supporting the back of the phone with the fingers of both hands. The device does auto-capitalization - despite the checkmark being off in the settings. This still fools me once in a while, I’ll hit shift and continue typing, only noticing a bit later that I’ve been capitalizing everything. I presume this is a bug in the 4.04 release.

The display is touted in the Sony marketing materials as being exceptionally good, due to the “Bravia” engine, with comparison photos of photos with and without this technology. Personally, I find the display to be quite okay, though it can’t compete with a modern iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 display in clarity or contrast.

I didn’t bother testing the device with the preinstalled Android 2.3.4 - something I should have done to get a feel for the responsiveness in comparison to 4.04. From what I’ve read on the web, 4.04 does have issues with processing speed, and - quite honestly - this is the major issue I have with the XPERIA Pro. The device has a single-core CPU, a decision on part of Sony that is completely beyond me. Even in 2011, devices slanted for the professional market - as the XPERIA Pro supposedly is - had dual-core CPUs, often at 1.5 GHz.

That second core is badly missed on the Pro, as is more device memory (only about 380 MB remain). Even with moving apps to the SD-Card (not possible with all apps), you won’t install very many apps on the phone before you run out of memory, which makes the phone even slower.

Even with seemingly enough memory left over, the processing speed takes a massive dump - I’ve cleaned out the phone by removing apps I don’t REALLY need (but would really like to have) several times already.

One thing became very clear to me since switching from the iPhone 4 to the XPERIA Pro: the iPhone quite obviously was designed for excellent WiFi reception, at the expense of cellular reception quality. With the XPERIA, this is reversed. I have good cellular reception in locations (like my home office), where I had none whatsoever with the iPhone.

On the other hand, where I had full-power Wifi reception with the iPhone (like, in the kitchen), the XPERIA Pro is only at about 50%.

Talk quality
Boy, this really blew my mind: I’d always had issues understanding people while talking on the iPhone. With a bit of surrounding noise (i.e. train station), talk quality was so low, I generally avoided being on the phone. With the XPERIA Pro, this is completely different. Unless the person on the other line is using an iPhone (yep!), calls are very clear and seem to have a great bandwidth. HD voice seems to be implemented in some form, something that at least the iPhone 4 definitely doesn’t seem to offer.

The battery on the phone is exchangeable, which immediately prompted me to get a second one on ebay (for a laughable 7€). Unfortunately, I didn’t check ahead of time wether there is a docking station available to charge the battery out of the phone - which there is not. Oh, well, now I have two batteries…

The battery lasts - with use comparable to the iPhone - about as long: one day maximum. Wether this would have been different, had I left 2.3.6 on the device, I don’t know. Discussions on the Web seem to indicate that 4.04 is also a bit of a power hog.

If this device had a dual-core CPU and double the internal RAM, I would probably keep it for the next 10 years (okay, I’m exaggerating slightly here). To add to my wish-list, I would make it just a tick bigger (i.e. bigger display) and would love an official update to Android 4.1 or 4.2.

Would I recommend the device? If you’re looking for an Android phone with an excellent physical keyboard, I doubt you can find a better solution. Unfortunately, physical keyboards seem to have gone out of favor with the users (and the manufacturers). The selection is dwindling, with options like the BlackBerry 7.x devices going down the drain (lack of support, dusty old GUI).

You can still order the XPERIA Pro new from select sources - something you should definitely consider if you feel you can live with the caveats.

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