Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 review
We review Sony Ericsson's latest smartphone, the Xperia X10 which runs on Android and includes great social networking features and a 4in capacitive screen
Verdict: Sony Ericsson gets third time lucky with the Xperia X10 with a new interface running on Android, great social networking integration, a 4in screen and an 8.1 megapixel camera
Price: Free with contract or £480 SIM-free
Pros: BIG 4in capacitive touchscreen, Timescape, 8.1 megapixel camera, WiFi, HSDPA, A-GPS, 1GHz Snapdragon processor
Cons: Battery life could be better, screen could be more sensitive
Design: Big slab of screen
Operating System: Android 1.6 Donut
More Info: Sony Ericsson website
Sony Ericsson is hoping to get third time lucky with the Xperia X10. The original X1 launched amid much hype but failed to impress thanks to its fiddly interface and underwhelming features. The X2 took so long to get right that they ended up dropping it to make way for the X10, which arrives with Android OS, a brand new UI, 8.1 megapixel camera and a massive 4in screen.
Whatever else the Xperia X10 might be, it's certainly not small. At 119mm x 63mm x 13mm and 135g it's a hefty handful, bigger than the Satio even, though some artful styling on the sides means it doesn't appear quite as chunky as it actually is. Below the large touchscreen are three hard buttons for settings, home and return. On the sides are a volume rocker and camera shutter with a power/standby button, 3.5mm headphone jack and micro USB slot covered by a plastic grommet on top. On the back is a recessed lens for the 8.1 megapixel camera and an LED photo light (and take note, it doesn't work as a flash).
The 4in LCD touchscreen doesn't have the thoroughly modern spec of some of the latest high-end smartphones we've been seeing lately – it's not OLED, and it's not multi-touch, though it does offer 480 x 854-pixel WVGA resolution and 65,000 colours. It looks decently sharp but even though it's capacitive, it wasn't quite as sensitive as we'd expected, and we had quite a few incidences where it simply didn't respond to our (not particularly delicate) presses.
Operating system and processor
The X10 runs on the older Donut version of Android 1.6, which is far from a disaster but you do get the feeling it's not quite at the cutting edge. That's part of the reason for the camera not having a flash by the way, as well as missing out on the very latest browser and keyboard updates.
That's all rather put in the shade however by the X10 main innovations – Timescape and Mediascape. Timescape is available as an icon on the main homepage (there are three altogether, each of which can be peppered with icons and widgets in the usual Android style) and pulls together all your updates into one stream.
And that's absolutely all of them, including Facebook, Twitter, email, texts, photos, even recently played tunes, all arranged chronologically in little overlapping tiles that SE calls 'Splines' (we asked, but they didn't seem to know why either). If the sheer weight of info is all a bit of a headfudge, there's also a scroll bar at the bottom of the screen that lets you split your updates into their relevant areas (Facebook updates only etc).
Once you've set it up (and you'll have to pull in your Facebook contacts individually rather than pulling them in en masse) it's very easy to use and generally worked like a charm. Each of the splines also includes an 'infinity' symbol which, when you press it, brings up additional info, such as a Twitterer's contact details or related tweets.
There's a 1GHz Snapdragon processor on board, which is probably essential with such an intensive application as Timescape.
The 8.1 megapixel camera is just about the best you'll find on an Android phone at the moment. It's not quite up to the spec of the Sony Ericsson Vivaz's HD video, but it does a more than decent job nonetheless. It has autofocus, 16x digital zoom, face detection (plus face tagging, allowing you to group your pics according to who's in them), smile detection (including three different sensitivity settings for big smiles, ordinary smiles and grins), mulitshot, macro mode and a broad range of scene settings.
We were a little disappointed not to see the Cybershot BestPic feature there but you can't have everything. Picture quality is generally very good for a camphone – sharp, with decent colour balance and a minimum of the dreaded purple fringing.
Instead of the Android music player SE's Mediascape does the same for your media as Timescape does for your messages. You can view all your latest videos, tracks and photos as a continuous stream of splines or split them up, and in this mode the infinity symbol pulls in additional tracks from SE's PlayNow online service (plus Spotify if you get it on 3) and Youtube content.
Sound quality through the supplied headphones is better than most though there's no graphic equaliser, and no FM radio, though SE's TrackID service is present and correct.
Unsurprisingly, MP4 and WMV movies look great on the big, big screen, and there's an option to stretch them to fit the screen's dimensions too, which is always welcome. No DivX option though.
It comes with an 8GB microSD memory card, but unfortunately you'll need to remove the battery to get to it, so no hot-swapping.
There's fast web access via HSDPA or WiFi and a slightly tweaked version of the standard Android browser. Zoom icons pop up when you brush the screen and as well as the option of a magnifying window. Generally it worked fine, though there was occasional lag when opening new pages.
There's a basic version of QuickOffice on board which allows you to view, but not create Word, Excel or PowerPoint files, as well as A-GPS backed by Google Maps and a 30-day trial Wisepilot sat nav software, plus lots of additional apps available from Android's ever-growing Market store.
All that processing power, large screen and hefty feature spec comes at a price and it has to be said that battery life isn't among the X10's many impressive features. We barely managed to get a full day of use out of it and though you can reduce the screen brightness and limit the connection options of Timescape to stretch your battery life, that tends to feel a little like driving a Ferrari in the bus lane.
After the first two non-starters, we didn’t really have particularly high expectations of the X10, but we're pleased to say that SE has done spectacularly well. Timescape in particular is a winner as is the 8.1 megapixel camera and the screen is just a bit short of fabulous on account of its sensitivity issues. Not everyone will go for a handset of this size, but it's certainly a contender with HTC's Desire, the Google Nexus One and the iPhone.