Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

The X1's good looks and strong hardware are hampered by frequent performance lag, an unintuitive user experience and its jaw-dropping price tag.


6.0
CNET Rating
8.2
User Rating

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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


We still remember when we first saw images of the X1 after its original announcement back in February. At the time Windows Mobile smartphones were shrugging off its bulky size and boring business looks, with phones from HTC beginning to look sleeker, but nothing at the time looked like the X1. The arc-slider and full QWERTY keypad were eye-catching, and the 3-inch touchscreen looked stunning.

Design
For once, the photoshopped images haven't lied. The X1 is every bit as stunning in the flesh (or in the brushed metal, as the case may be). The arc-slider slips fluidly on its rails with a satisfying snap when opened or closed. The four-row QWERTY keyboard is excellent, even if it seems a tad too small at first glance. Using the keyboard is easy, even at night, thanks to its bright backlighting and well spaced buttons. Unlike many keyboards on smartphones the X1 dedicates buttons to common punctuation, saving you from having to dip into symbol menus to find an "@" symbol for email addresses, etc.

The touchscreen has a WVGA resoltuion (800x480) which is 2.5 times higher than that of the iPhone 3G. This sounds like a good thing, and for watching videos it is; however, we've found this resolution fills the screen with sharp, but tiny characters. Some menus, like the alphabetical listing in the contacts menu, is entirely illegible because the letters become so small. Even with the fonts adjusted to the largest setting we've still struggled to read some elements of the screen.

Importantly, this means the X1 isn't a finger-friendly touchscreen. During our testing, we've relied on the stylus for input more than with any touchscreen we've seen for a long time. This is disappointing; using the stylus significantly slows down input and hampers the usability of a touchscreen phone.

Panels
Sony Ericsson is putting a lot of faith in its extensive Windows Mobile skin called the Xperia Panels. While companies like HTC also skin WiMo with a custom interface to increase ease of use, the Xperia Panels is a system offering numerous interface options. Out of the box, the X1 has seven panels pre-installed with more panels available from a Sony Ericsson web portal.

Our first impressions of the Panels weren't particularly favourable. The seven pre-installed Panels range from being too cluttered to use to being utterly useless. For example, one of the more attractive panels featuring three swimming goldfish barely shows notifications and offers no shortcuts to frequently used apps — hardly an interface you'll leave active for very long.

It wasn't until we downloaded a Facebook panel and another by Windows Mobile modders Spb that we saw how excellent this system could be. The Spb Panel acts exactly like the one the company designed for all Windows Mobile handsets, and the Facebook Panel is as good as any app on the iPhone — in fact, it looks more like an iPhone app than a WiMo app.

Features
Under the Panels the X1 is a pretty standard Windows Mobile. At its announcement during World Mobile Congress earlier this year, the X1 was set to be best-in-show, with features to blow everyone else out of the water. That was almost a year ago and now the X1's connectivity combination of HSDPA, Wi-Fi and AGPS isn't exciting, but is nonetheless essential to the productivity of customers looking to use the phone for business purposes.

For pleasure seekers, the X1 is a pretty mean multimedia machine. As mentioned above, videos look amazing on the the high-res display, and one of the pre-installed panels is the Sony Ericsson Walkman music player menu. Our only recommendation is that you upgrade the bundled headphones to a pair capable of producing a well-rounded sound — the 'phones in the box are too light on bass to be of much use.

The X1 also sports a 3.2-megapixel camera with auto-focus and an LED photolight. These specs aren't extraordinary for a smartphone these days, but its performance was much better than expected. The photos we took during testing showed good colour and focus, and even photos at night turned out well — the bright LED managing to illuminate subjects within about two metres of the lens.

Performance
Exploring the phone's performance, through accessing common apps and the menu structure, has provided us with a real mixed bag of results. The X1 runs a 520MHz Qualcomm processor with a massive 256MB RAM, and for the most part this is sufficient. Executing Java apps and opening menus is pretty pacey, and launching other programs, like Opera Mobile, requires only a few seconds of loading time.

Xperia Panels seems to require more resources, however. We noticed considerable lag between pressing the Panels' soft-key and having the interface active, and again after a Panel was selected. For this reason we tended to remain in the panel we found most useful, though this obviously defeats the purpose of having nine active panels to choose from.

Responsiveness, or the lack thereof, seems to be the crux of the first impressions for just about everyone we showed this phone to. While executing applications seem fine, there are too many times when the X1 stops responding to input — immediately after sending an SMS, for example.

Battery life cycles were, in our experience, low to average. Sony Ericsson estimates a whopping 10 hours talk-time for its 1500mAh battery. We saw only about a day and a half between charges, with moderate use of calls and messaging, and push email active throughout the cycles.

Overall
More often than not, we either love or hate the phones we see. The X1 is a rare example of a smartphone that has grown on us over the course of our review. The first few days tested our patience as we turned to the stylus too often, and indeed this element hasn't changed, but with the right Panel interface active, using the X1 is easy enough. In truth, we could do without the Xperia Panels. Of the 15 available at launch, we might use two, and the Panels system seems tremendously resource inefficient.

That in mind, the X1 is a well-featured phone that checks all the important smartphone boxes. We don't love the X1 — the frequent lag spikes are frustrating, and there are definitely cheaper and more intuitive smartphones available — but we think it's a gallant first attempt at a WiMo smartphone and a very attractive handset at that.



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Dagga4
3
Rating
 

Dagga4 posted a review   

The Good:design

The Bad:way way to slow, Joy stick way to sensitive.

one of the worst sony ericsson's i have owned, the other being the C902. way to slow. speaker is not loud enough.

Rubadubadoobag
9
Rating
 

Rubadubadoobag posted a review   

The Good:Beautiful design, lots of free apps (for WM), now very cheap,

The Bad:Small screen, physical keyboard is not great, no (official) update to WM 6.5

I am surprised that CNET rated this phone so poorly, especially since the reviewer acknowledges that the phone is well designed and its hardware is decent even by 2010 standards (the Xperia X10's specs are not much better). Its also available at bargain prices now (I bought mine for $300). The panel system is clever and useful and there are plenty of good unofficial ones available for free download (eg on xda developers). Frankly, this is the best phone I've ever had.

The only reservations I have are that I struggled to get videos working from YouTube, Daily Motion etc (on Internet Explorer) despite trying several flash packages. Other people have not had this problem so perhaps it depends where it is purchased. The other issue is that there have been many reports of cracks appearing in the X1's casing, particularly near the camera or stylus holder. This is rumoured to be caused by heat and poor materials and support from SE on the issue has been varied (some people got their phones replaced while others got nothing). However at $300 I would take the risk.

Sera_6969
10
Rating
 

Sera_6969 posted a review   

The Good:Fast, finger friendly, mod-able, very cheap now

The Bad:out-of-the-box it's a brick & requires xda-devs knowledge for best experience

This is a SE brick but it is an HTC phone inside so, with a few minutes study of xda-developers and a few modifications, it becomes the best pre-HD2 handset available. Can now be picked up at ridiculously low prices.

aaron
1
Rating
 

aaron posted a review   

The Good:nothing

The Bad:everything

it is a really bad phone

 

billy posted a reply   

this is the best phone I ever had

billy
10
Rating
 

billy posted a review   

The Good:Every thing

The Bad:Nothing

I LOVE THIS PHONE

sevenfour
6
Rating
 

sevenfour posted a review   

The Good:design

The Bad:sluggish performance, poor battery life

The phone design and implementation is great, does everything I need it to do. It just needs to do everything about 10 times faster.

 

jeff posted a comment   

The Good:manufacturers fault admitted by sony

The Bad:manufacturers fault admitted by sony

Sony have now admitted to a manufacturers fault in this phone, the innerds of the phone crumble & crack away have a look on you tube for the video on xperia .or just google "xperia crack". Sony are doing nothing about this fault that they admitted to. I tested the phone over 7 months & they will not do anything for anyone.

Helly
5
Rating
 

Helly posted a review   

The Good:tasks, touch screen, very durable, not that many things that are good about this mobile

The Bad:keyboard, paint scratches, a bit slow on rotating

whilst the keyboard is pretty, its not very reliable. i havent even owned my phone for a year and one of the keys has cracked in half and when i press a button on the keypad once, it either registers that i pressed it 3-5 times or i didnt press it at all! it is very frustrating, so make sure you extend your warrantee if youre going to buy this phone.
the black paint scratches off very easily and even sliding it in and out of your pocket will scratch the paint off and you will have this mess of a black and silver phone instead of just a black phone.
the screen rotation is extremely slow which is a hassel when trying to get things done fast.
one of the few things i like about this phone is that it has the usual sony tasks on the screen, the touch screen and that it wont break easily when you drop it. i have dropped my phone onto concrete from my pocket and it still worked fine with only a bumps on the corner as evidence.
all in all, this phone is okay, but, if i could, i would definitely swap my phone right now for something else.

 

jack posted a comment   

Camera and video are two fidgety and videos are very short, calendar is horrible, hard to tell if you have pushed buttons or not, confusing layout of menu items and hard to find exactly what you are looking for, fingerprints are very seeable as well as scratches. By jack@knauf-moscow.eu


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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

  • Dagga4

    Dagga4

    Rating3

    "one of the worst sony ericsson's i have owned, the other being the C902. way to slow. speaker is not loud enough."

  • Rubadubadoobag

    Rubadubadoobag

    Rating9

    "I am surprised that CNET rated this phone so poorly, especially since the reviewer acknowledges that the phone is well designed and its hardware is decent even by 2010 standards (the Xperia X10's s..."

  • Sera_6969

    Sera_6969

    Rating10

    "This is a SE brick but it is an HTC phone inside so, with a few minutes study of xda-developers and a few modifications, it becomes the best pre-HD2 handset available. Can now be picked up at ridic..."

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