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Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 review


We review Sony's stylish Xperia X1 smartphone which includes a full QWERTY keyboard

Rating:

Verdict: Superb hardware and good general specifications are let down by bizarre Panels system

Price: Sim-free £419.99, from free with contract

Pros: Excellent hardware design, fully QWERTY keyboard, high-resolution screen, clever and useful tilting screen, 3.5mm headset connector

Cons: Panels idea does not work well, average camera

Design: Good-looking with stylish grey and silver chassis

Operating System: Windows Mobile Professional 6.1

More Info: Sony Ericsson website

Sony Ericsson has a long history in producing smartphones, but the Xperia X1 represents a new beginning for the company. In the past Sony Ericsson’s smartphones have used the UIQ operating system from Symbian’s stable. However, that OS is now defunct, and Sony Ericsson has for the first time gone with Windows Mobile for the Xperia X1.

The Xperia X1 is a great-looking smartphone. The build is sturdy and the grey and silver chassis design is stylish, with a fair amount of metal having been used in the build. Considering that it houses a full QWERTY keyboard hidden away under the screen it is quite small and tidy, measuring 110.5mm tall, 52.6mm wide and 17mm thick. It weighs a fairly heft 158g though, thanks to those metal parts.

That already noted keyboard is a star feature. As you slide the screen away from the keyboard section it tilts up slightly so that when you pop the Xperia X1 on a desk there is a comfy viewing angle for the screen. We feel that the slight tilt also makes it more comfortable to view the screen while typing when holding the device in your hands. Typing is fairly comfy too, as the keys are well spaced and nicely weighted.

Pin-sharp screen

The screen is a delight. It measures 3-inches across diagonal corners and sports a superb 800 x 480 pixel resolution. This makes it pin-sharp to look at and the quality is stunning. It is touch sensitive, though its resistive technology means it is a little less responsive than some.

Beneath the screen is a buttons section which has been designed in a sort of cut diamond format. The look is distinctive and not unpleasant. Alongside Call and End keys are an OK button, a Panels button (we’ll explain Panels later) and the D-pad.

In the centre of the D-pad is a select button which doubles as an optical control pad. Sweep a finger up and down it to move around on screen. We found this quite useful, though if you find it irritating or difficult to get to grips with it is easy enough to disable it.

HSDPA, WiFi, Bluetooth are all here. There is an FM radio to supplement music playback. The camera is a little disappointing at only 3.2 megapixels, though at least it has autofocus and an LED flash. Anyone used to Sony Ericsson’s CyberShot handsets might anticipate features like BestPic or face detection, but you’ll be disappointed. You can, though, upload images to the web easily.

GPS is also built in, and to get you started with positioning Google Maps has been pre-installed. This is all pretty standard fare for a modern smartphone, and Sony Ericsson has gone one step further in trying to disguise Windows Mobile behind its own user interface.

Panels

This basically boils down to what Sony Ericsson calls Panels. This concept relates to a selection of screens which home in on particular functions of the device. So, there is a Panel for the media player, one for Google, one for listening to the device’s FM radio and so on. There are seven panels pre-installed, and you can download more from Sony Ericsson’s website. There is room for nine on the device, and they are shown initially as a 3 x 3 thumbnail grid. Tap one to choose it and it expands to full screen.

Undoubtedly, the most bizarre Panel is the 3D fish one. There are several fish on this Panel that react as you tap the screen. But they also chance colour in response to various activities on the handset, alerting you to missed calls, low battery or profile status. You may need a crib sheet to remember what all the colours mean.

We aren’t sure the Panels add a great deal to the overall usability of the Xperia X1, and found them to be a bit slow to load too, which rather detracted from us wanting to use them at all.

Inevitably, at some point you do end up in the Windows Mobile interface itself, at which point you will need to use the provided stylus rather than a fingertip to navigate around and make selections.

Memory runs to 400MB and it can be augmented with microSD cards. It is nice to see this format used rather than the more usual Memory Stick Micro that Sony Ericsson likes to use in its handsets.

Battery life is good, which may particularly please music fans, and another plus on that front is the presence of a 3.5mm headset jack.

Overall, we found the Xperia X1 to be a frustrating device. Build quality is superb and the tilting screen an excellent feature. But the Panels idea didn’t work well for us which meant we often found ourselves diving straight into Windows Mobile instead.

 

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Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

The Xperia X1 is stylish looking and features a full QWERTY keyboard

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