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Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 Review

The XPERIA X1 was the first Windows Mobile that got rid of the bulk, weight and stuffy business appearance of older smartphones.

The XPERIA X1 was the first Windows Mobile that got rid of the bulk, weight and stuffy business appearance of older smartphones. The first Sony Ericsson mobile to actually use the Windows Mobile operating system, the XPERIA X1 has great features and connectivity, plus a new interface called XPERIA Panels.

This is a beautifully constructed mobile phone. Though still slightly thicker and heavier than the ideal, the brushed metal case, arc slider and awesome QWERTY keyboard work together in perfect unison. The slider is especially impressive. Rolling smoothly along its rails, a concise click resounds when opened or closed. The keyboard admittedly looks small at first, but after using it you’ll find it to be comfortable. Messaging and e-mail can be done quickly with two hands, and the backlighting on keys looks great in dark areas. Unlike most keyboards on smartphones, the X1 has specific buttons for punctuation, which saves you a lot of time by not having to go to symbol menus.

This smartphone will grow on you. At first your patience may be tested by having to often use the stylus, but it becomes natural after awhile. With one of the good Panel interfaces going, using the X1 is easy, but in truth, it’s questionable whether they’re truly necessary. Out of the box, the X1 has seven panels pre-installed, with more available from a Sony Ericsson web portal. After using the optional panels, you may only need two of them, which is inefficient. Get past this flaw and you’ll find the X1 to be a fully functional smartphone.

The best panel is an externally downloadable one called the SBP Mobile Shell. This panel provides one-touch access to nearly all of the X1’s features, including weather and calendar information, call and message notifications, favourite phone book entries and general settings. Many people will like the Facebook panel, which has a bubble interface allowing you to check your friends’ latest updates. It should be noted the potential for developers to create more panels is there, so if used well the system will definitely add to your overall phone experience.

One major issue is the lag time during the process of information. This can be irritating; there are cheaper yet more intuitive smartphones around. Looking at the phone's performance as an entirety, through accessing common applications and the menu, has a mixture of results. The X1 runs a 520MHz Qualcomm processor with a huge 256MB RAM, and most of the time this is fine. Executing Java apps and opening menus is quick, and launching other programs, like Opera Mobile, only takes a few seconds. However, the Xperia Panels require more resources. It’s best to remain in the panel you find most useful, though this defeats the purpose of having many to choose from.

The X1’s display is first class. The screen is a little smaller than an iPhone’s, but the 800x480 WVGA resolution is 2.5 times higher than that of the iPhone 3G. Videos and photos look sharp and clear with amazing colours, although some fonts and icons in the Windows Mobile interface come across as tiny, making them very difficult to decipher. Some menus, like the alphabetical listing in the contacts menu, are nearly impossible to read, as the letters are so small. This means you’ll need to use the stylus (plastic pointer) a lot of the time.

Battery life cycles are only average. Sony Ericsson says you’ll get ten hours of talk-time, but you’ll be lucky to get about a day and a half between charges. This is if you’re making a moderate use of calls, messages and push emails.

The X1 is a 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable device, which has a connectivity combination of Wi-Fi, a GPS and Bluetooth. These are all essential to the productivity of customers looking for a good business phone. Internet browsing isn’t fun on the default Internet Explorer browser, but the phone also comes enabled with the user-friendly Opera Mobile browser. Over Telstra’s Next G network, mobile data speeds are very quick.

The X1 is a pretty good multimedia tool, with a 3.5mm headphone jack and the high-resolution display. A 3.2-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED photolight flash does reasonably well, but is not in the same league as the range of 8-megapixel camera phones now available. Nonetheless, photos have good colour and focus, and night pictures turn out well too; the bright LED manages to light up subjects within about two metres.

The multimedia panel works well, duplicating Sony Ericsson’s Walkman menus. You can access pictures, music, videos, games and contacts easily, and scrolling through menus with just your finger comes naturally. Upgrade the headphones because the ones that come with the phone have very little bass capacity. There’s also an FM radio and multimedia player, which both use preloaded XPERIA panels. The X1 has a tiny 384MB of internal memory, but a microSD card slot can be bought for extra storage. These cards are widely available and cheaper than Sony’s Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards.

Responsiveness is the main contention when it comes to the X1. Executing applications is fine, but there are times when the X1 stops responding to input. A good example of this is immediately after sending a text message. Overall, it's a great first attempt at a WiMo smartphone and an exceptionally good-looking handset.

•    Pros:
•    Well-built with tough hardware
•    Terrific Hi-res display, QWERTY keyboard, great Arc Slider, smart business-like design
•    Full range of connectivity, lots of the newest features
•    Panel system is great if used intelligently

•    Cons:
•    Performance lag is an issue
•    Battery life only average
•    Preloaded XPERIA Panels aren’t worth using
•    Not much internal memory
•    Need to use stylus (plastic pointer)
•    User experience is unintuitive
•    Very expensive


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