Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1

Was this hotly anticipated smartphone worth the year-long wait?

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Build quality and design, excellent display, QWERTY keyboard, range of the latest features

Cons

  • Lag, preloaded panels aren’t great, little internal memory, still need to use stylus, high price

Bottom Line

After almost a year of waiting, the XPERIA X1 has finally arrived. It's not the game changing handset that it looked like it would be when it was first announced, but the panel system has its merits and the display and design are first class. Unfortunately, laggy performance is an issue and it isn't cheap.

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Almost a year since it was first announced, the long wait for Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X1 is over. It's one of the most-anticipated smartphones ever. The first Sony Ericsson mobile to utilise the Windows Mobile operating system, the XPERIA X1 promises a wealth of features and connectivity and a new interface feature dubbed XPERIA Panels.

It is simply a superbly constructed mobile. While a little thicker and heavier than we’d have liked, the brushed metal casing, arc slider and well-designed QWERTY keyboard combine to provide an excellent feel. The slider in particular is impressive: it rolls smoothly along its rails and delivers an audible click when slid open or closed. The keyboard, though looking a little small at first glance, is comfortable to type on. We were able to achieve excellent messaging and e-mail speeds with two hands, and the key backlighting looks superb in dim light.

The X1’s display is excellent. The screen is a little smaller than the iPhone, but the 800x480 resolution puts it ahead of the pack. Videos and photos look crisp and clear, while colour is outstanding. Our only complaint is that some fonts and aspects of the interface are quite small, making them difficult to view at times. The same applies to many of the icons in the Windows Mobile interface, so you’ll need to use the stylus more often than not.

A unique feature of the X1 is what Sony Ericsson has called XPERIA Panels. These skins have been designed to make the user experience on the device more efficient and effective; the standard Windows Mobile interface is not as intuitive as many competitor offerings. There are seven XPERIA panels preinstalled on the handset, with more available to download. Undoubtedly the best of these downloadable panels is the SBP Mobile Shell. This panel provides one-touch access to most of the X1’s features, including weather and calendar details, call and message notifications, favourite phone book entries and settings. Also worth a look is the Facebook panel, with a bubble interface that allows you to check your friends’ status updates with a quick glance.

The panel system works reasonably well and definitely adds to the user experience, but the preloaded panels are somewhat disappointing. Of them, there are only a few that you will find useful. The two Sony Ericsson panels pale into insignificance when compared to the SBP Mobile Shell, while the 3D Fish panel is virtually useless. The potential for developers to create more panels is there though, and the system definitely adds to the overall experience.

Unfortunately, the biggest drawback to the panels is speed. The lag when pressing the panel key, and when selecting or rotating the panels, is frustrating. The same applies for the general use of the handset, with a few exceptions.

The X1 is a 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable device and has Wi-Fi, aGPS and Bluetooth with the A2DP profile. Internet browsing is painful on the default Internet Explorer browser, but the X1 also comes with the more user-friendly Opera Mobile browser. We tested the unit over Telstra’s Next G network and were impressed with mobile data speeds, though the X1 won’t be able to take advantage of Telstra’s network speed upgrades early in 2009. Telstra will initially launch the X1a (designed to operate on its 850MHz band) in December, while other carriers will receive the X1i (operating on 900MHz and 2100MHz bands) in January.

The X1 is a fair multimedia device, aided by the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack and the high-resolution display. A 3.2-megapixel camera with LED flash performs reasonably well, but it is a bit of a let-down considering the range of 8-megapixel camera phones available now. There is also an FM radio and multimedia player and both of these applications have preloaded panels. The multimedia panel is excellent, and mirrors Sony Ericsson’s Walkman menus. You can access pictures, music, videos, games and contacts with ease and scrolling through the menus with your finger works well.

The X1 only has 384MB of internal memory, though a microSD card slot allows for extra storage. We were pleasantly surprised that the more widely available and cheaper microSD card was chosen over Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards. The X1 uses a regular mini-USB connection for charging and synchronising.

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