Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Review

Sony Ericsson's flagship mobile phone features a 4.1inch screen, Android operating system and an 8.1-megapixel camera plus fast 1GHz processing. But how does it perform? Doug Harman finds out.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i is the company’s new flagship mobile phone and as such it certainly packs a specification punch. A large screen, fast 1GHz Snapdragon processor, Android operating system (OS) and an 8.1-megapixel camera all vie for attention on a sleekly smooth handset.

This is Sony Ericsson’s first mobile with the Android OS and at last it seems the company is catching up with the other smartphone crowd. To that end it features all the key elements you’d expect for a smartphone at the top-end of the scale, including it’s crisp, scratch resistant 480x854 touch sensitive screen.
Measuring 119x63x13mm, boasting a nice 4-inch screen and weighing 135g, the X10 is quite large, so perhaps not for everyone and pushing it to within the realms of the some of the larger smart phones out there such as the HTC Evo; its physical size matches that of the internal memory, 8GB on a microSD card, bundled with the device.

 Connectivity is good with HSDPA, WiFi (b and g) Bluetooth 2.0 (plus EDR) and GPS as well while other hardware includes accelerometer and proximity sensors and a light sensor that helps keep the screen viewable in brighter conditions or saves power in when it’s more gloomy or indoors.
The build is reasonable too though there’s a predominance of plastics though this makes the matt black smoothly curved back plate very nice to hold and keeps it free of smudges and fingerprints. It also means it feel nice to hold and use.

However the call volume is a tad too low for my liking, particularly if the ambient noise is high which is a slight issue as you joggle the phone around your ear to try and get a better position to hear the person on the other end of the line.

A small flap that protects the port from unwanted intrusions of pocket lint, or dust and dirt covers the USB port. However I bet it will quickly get in the way, becoming a tad irksome as the phone needs frequent charges; battery usage is heavy, particularly when you turn on all the bells and whistles and connection options and thanks to the large screen.

A 3.5mm headphone jack allows use with the supplied earphones, which are a little too large for my ears (I prefer in ear phones as a result) but they sound perfectly acceptable. Three controls grace the bottom of the X10’s face: Menu, Back and Home but it lacks a direct search control (handy on other Android devices out there) while the right side provides a rocker-style volume control and a dedicated camera button.

If you press and hold the Home button you get a shortcut panel to apps and controls, do the same on the menu control and the keyboard appears. Sony Ericsson appear to have modified and customised the Android interface as evidenced by the changes to the camera controls but it’s unlikely to bother most users though you’ll have to await Sony Ericsson rolling out software updates from the 1.6 OS version that’s installed here.

The X10’s keyboard is nice but it kept freezing in use, and the touch sensitivity is not as accomplished as, say, the iPhone. It’s not bad just inconsistent, as sometimes it is overly sensitive (frustrating in menus) and others, not sensitive enough and while I love the suggested word system that appears while you type, it takes up far to much room and when the touch sensitivity decides to have a glitch, selecting one becomes either fiddly or a challenge depending on whether it decides to be more or less sensitive.

The browser is the usual Android affair but Flash is not supported, neither is multitouch but the screen makes web v=browsing very doable indeed, so it’s a good Internet platform. To get at all this, there’s a simple enough set up process and the Sony Ericsson home page provides left and right swipe pages as well, and all three pages are customisable with widgets and the like. Of the widgets on offer the calendar is rather limited and the power manager lacks screen brightness preferences and the ability to switch off background syncing. However, a useful browser summary is nice to have as it allows you to quickly bounce straight to pages but there are two of the key features for the X10.

These are Sony Ericsson’s Timescape and Mediascape applications, which are both designed to help assimilate the X10 into your world of social networking and media management. As it’s name suggest, the former is, well a timeline for your social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) with updates shown on individual animated pages for each person.

The view offered, with each buddy on a separate animated page or tile can be enlarged by tapping the buddy you want to see more of and tapping twice takes you through to the relevant mobile home page, Facebook, say, but limitations include the lack of a list view for Twitter updates (there’s a separate client to do that, which is not ideal) making it hard if you follow lots of people.  Facebook is less of an issue since updates are less frequent, but you’re still left with the one, tiled view option.

Integration of Facebook and Twitter contacts is possible but it’s not as slick as it might be since once you have tapped a page, contact info is available via a small infinity symbol but you must manually link contacts, only after that’s done do you get a contact page containing all there contact information including text and phone histories.

Mediascape meanwhile is an organizer for your photos music and video and provides a simple interface to click through to various options. Switching categories provides a cool scatter and reorder effect. As you might expect, the music options gives access to Sony’s PlayNow service.
The photography section provides access to images on the phone and online such as Facebook (again) and Picasa though you can’t add images from Flickr (yet) and you cannot see other’s photos, something that is possible on the HTC Sense for example.

Also a link to YouTube or (local) networked videos would make sense (again this is something that could be added in future updates, perhaps) but it’s certainly a feature with potential and some neat touches even if it’s not fully rounded as of writing this review.

The X10’s phone probably the other key attraction here and as suck it provides a high resolution for such a handset and touch and face AF both work well. Scene selections are offered too (landscape portrait and so on) so you get a little bit of creative control but I doubt you’ll use ‘em much though the small LED flash is difficult to control because it’s menus are buried within the advanced settings menus. Odd and not very user friendly.

Video is captured at 800x480-pixels, so there’s no HD capture I’m afraid. Video resolution looks good and at an average of 28fps, it’s smoothly rendered too.  However, video format is a little limited (MPEG4, 3GPP and WMV) but watching movies is good on the large screen though you may be tempted to get third party media players on board fairly quickly given the built-in player’s limitations.

Verdict: 
Overall then the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i is a flawed gem. There’s potential for some bits (such as HD movies and the Android OS version used) that can all be sorted by updates to the software. The oddities involving the changes to screen touch sensitivity are frustrating and the power usage means a power socket needs to be to hand every day. Otherwise the feature set and the design are good even if the Timescape and Mediascape packages need, in my view, a little more finesse to get properly user friendly, which means it falters against the competition. And so, although relatively modest in scope we still await the polish this device definitely needs.