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Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro Hands-On

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Feb 13, 2011, 9:32 PM   by Rich Brome

We had a chance to try this keyboard-packing brother to the Neo. Read on for our impressions of this unique phone that adds messaging without taking away from the multimedia strength of the Neo.

The Xperia Pro is like the big brother to the Neo. It's a little bigger and a lot less curvy. The specs are almost the same, except for the obvious difference of the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Let's not gloss over just how similar the specs are, since the Neo is quite a full-featured multimedia machine. Though you might think the keyboard and "pro" name mean this is a business phone - and maybe it is - don't think you're giving up any "consumer" features. You still get HDMI output, an 8-megapixel camera with "Exmor R" and HD video capture, and a front-facing camera. The only trade-off is a bit of thickness.

Hardware

The Pro feels very light. That's good, but with its all-plastic shell, unfortunately that also makes it feel cheap. It doesn't feel like it will fall apart, mind, you, it just doesn't have a "quality" feel to it. The screen is flush with the face of the phone (like most phones these days, but unlike the Neo.)

 

Xperia Pro body

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The slide has a good feel to it; it snaps open and closed just like it should.

The front and side keys are... pretty terrible in every way, actually, at least on the units we tried. However, this phone is almost five months from launching, so there is a decent chance this is a pre-production issue that will be tightened up by release.

The most important keys - the QWERTY keyboard - works great. It's not the best out there, but the keys are just raised and domed enough to feel easily, and have a decent click to them.

The headset jack is on the side, which isn't as ideal as the top location you'll find on the Neo.

But again, the keyboard is the main attraction, and it's good. You're also not trading away any of the multimedia features, with what promises to be a good 8-megapixel camera.

Software

The software is mostly the same as the Neo, save for two neat keyboard-related tricks.

 

Xperia Pro interface

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

First, on the home screen, if you open the keyboard and just start typing, a special window pops up to catch what you're typing. When you're done entering a word - or whole paragraph - then you can choose what to do with your beautiful words: Search or Share. You can search using the text you typed, or use it for a text message, email, Facebook post, etc. It's a neat idea that reminds us of the "Just Type" feature on webOS.

Second, if you're reading an email, opening the keyboard automatically starts a reply. Neat.

Speaking of email, Sony Ericsson's done something very neat to the email app: a split view, with a list of messages on one side and a full message display on the other side. Even better is that the divider slides so you can show more email or more list.

On all of its new Xperia phones, Sony Ericsson gives you many ways to arrange your apps. For one, you can simply drag-and-drop apps to any order you like in the main app menu. You can also choose to sort them by things like "most used", "recently installed", or of course "alphabetical".

None of the is ground-breaking, but what is neat is... folders. Just like iPhone, you can now create folders for your app icons, right on the home screen, or in the dock of icons at the bottom of the home screen. (From the demos we saw, it wasn't clear if you could also create folders in the app menu.)

Like the Neo, the camera software on the Pro is pretty great. You also have TimeScape and the other usual Sony Ericsson tweaks to Android, although they don't go too far; any Android user should feel right at home on an Xperia.

The Pro - like the Neo - comes in three colors: black, silver, and red. However, it's up to operators which color(s) to offer. The Pro will be the last of today's three new Sony Ericssons to hit the market; look for it late in the 3rd quarter (translation: June.)

Here's a quick video of those folders in action, plus re-arranging apps in the app menu and managing music:

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