Monday, 25 April 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro And Neo: Hands-On Impressions

I recently had the opportunity to play with Sony Ericsson's latest and greatest Android devices, including the flagship Xperia Arc. What really stood out to me though was the quality of Sony Ericsson's less-promoted offerings -- the Xperia Pro and Neo.

First of all, let's take a look at the specs. Both phones have 3.7" 'reality display' screens with a resolution of 854*480 (perfect 16:9 aspect ratio), 8.1 Megapixel cameras with LED flash, 1GHz Snapdragon processors, 512Mb of RAM and all of this running on top of the Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS.

The most obvious difference between the two is that the Xperia Pro features a slide-out physical keyboard.

I've recently fallen in love with physical keyboards, not because they allow me to type faster, but because they allow me to type without having to keep my eyes glued to the device's screen, which is a big plus in my opinion. The Pro's keyboard is a pleasure to use, with individual keys being well separated to minimise typos. The keys also provide good feedback and 'bounce' for stroke confirmation. In comparison to the Motorola Milestone or BlackBerry Torch's keyboard, the Xperia Pro's is far superior mainly due to the spacing of the keys.

This alone makes the Pro an ideal choice for younger people, and I suppose this is the segment that Sony Ericsson are targetting considering the colour choices that are available.

According to the specs sheet, the Neo and Pro have the same 'reality display' screen. I recorded a quick video comparing the screens of the Xperia Pro, Neo and Arc which shows that the screen might actually be another difference between these two phones:

Note that these are all prototypes, so make of it what you will. Xperia Pro on the left, Arc in the middle and Neo on the right.

Something I noticed was that both phones use the same battery, the new BA700.

It's rated at 1500mAh, which is pretty big in Symbian terms, but with Android you never know what you'll get in terms of battery life. At least this means there should be plenty of spare batteries available.

With Android 2.3 on board, both phones were very quick during menu navigation and web page loading times were minimal.

In terms of 'feel' of the hardware, there are actually a few differences. It's obvious that a physical keyboard would make the Pro heavier than the Neo, but it's still quite a light phone at only 140 grams, while the Neo weighs 126 grams. This is due to the fact that both phones are constructed primarily of plastic. If light phones are your thing, then Sony Ericsson have definitely got you covered. Personally, I like my phones to be heavy and to feature metal (Motorola Milestone and Nokia E90 - yum!).

The Xperia Neo has a more curved body than the Pro, similar to SE's Vivaz. The 'human curvature' combined with the minimal width of the Neo helps the phone to fall naturally into the palm of your hand for comfortable one-handed use.

The Xperia Neo has been delayed by Sony Ericsson, but should be released pretty soon. The Pro is expected a little later in Q2.


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