Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 – A MyRealityTech Review & Giveaway
By: Tony Novoa (Contributing Editor)
Update: Nov 1, 2010. This contest is now officially closed. Congratulations to the winners (announced below) who nabbed their very own unlocked Sony Xperia X10. We would like to thank our friends at Sony and all the fans who participated in the contest. Remember, we have lots and lots of giveaways currently up so don’t forget to enter!
Suresh G. of Los Angeles, CA
Jason H. of Portland, OR
Christina N. of Newark, NJ (Twitter)
Larry M. of Toronto, Canada (Facebook)
Staff Note: Oct 1, 2010. We’ve been telling you on Twitter & Facebook for the last few days. Now it’s a reality! Yes, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is officially a giveaway! All you have to do is read the review and comment down below on why you want one. It’s that simple! Please make sure to read all the way down for the rules. On October 30, 2010 we will award 2 very lucky commenters with their very own UNLOCKED Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 phone! Also, 1 very lucky Facebook Fan & 1 Twitter follower will win their very own units as well!
First and foremost, it needs to be said that as a long-time BlackBerry user I bring a different perspective to my initial exposure with an Android phone. How lucky am I that it happens to be the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10! Note: For this particular review, I used the AT&T branded Xperia X10 and not the Unlocked Global Version. I must also disclose that as my first Android device, I have no basis for comparison to any other Android device. All I can say is that I now understand why Google’s OS has so quickly captured both market and mindshare and is becoming so ubiquitous in the growingly crowded smartphone world. I have become a fast fan.
For starters, the X10 is powered by Android OS 1.6 and doesn’t have a hardware keyboard. You interact with it via a beautiful 4-inch capacitive touchscreen and three buttons beneath the display. Powering it is Qualcomm’s fast 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, making it Sony Ericsson’s most powerful smartphoneyet. I must say that the responsiveness of this phone is also quite impressive.
Even more impressive is that the X10 is the first Sony Ericsson phone to feature Google’s OS and I’m happy to report that everything seemed to work fairly well. let’s take a look at the design shall we?
Build & Design
From a packaging perspective, the X10 comes in a small box. But don’t let that mislead you. This is one of Sony Ericsson’s largest phones to date and also one of the larger cell phones on the market. What is surprising is that despite the the size of the display, which covers almost the entire front of the handset (119x63x13 mm), it is quite comfortable to hold in one hand. The well executed trick is in the width of the phone, which is identical to the BlackBerry Storm form factor. The height is where you find the extra real estate to provide a larger, more encompassing display.
What’s In The Box?
Packaged with the phone you’ll find the basic fare:
- Modular charger with a generous micro USB cable (60″)
- 2 GB microSD Card
- 3.5mm headset
- Quickstart Guide
The X10 has a black, sleek design flanked by curved aluminum and a plastic back cover. The overall impression is a sharp, futuristic, sexy looking device. Frankly, this is not a big surprise coming from Sony. The right side of the handset features multimedia control buttons which control the camera and MP3 player.
The plastic battery cover encompasses the entire back of the X10 and is not easy to remove. You need to use your fingernail to remove it by prying a groove at the bottom of the handset. Right next to it are lanyard holes which I guess can come in handy if you want to attach a wrist strap or hang it somehow.
The display is impressive. Providing a sharp & crisp image is a 4-inch capacitive display with 480 x 854 resolution and 64K color support that delivers good image quality and features. Not quite like Samsung’s AMOLED or Apple’s Retina display but still very sharp and vivid. No complaints here. The Android OS in version 1.6 comes with a 64K color limit, but you will soon be able to upgrade to the latest 2.1 version of the operating system which supports 16M colors. I would expect that the difference isn’t that noticeable but the more colors the better, right?
The current display has excellent contrast and adjusts according to surrounding light. The result is that images remain clear even under direct sunlight. Images may sometimes seem too bright, but this can also be adjusted in the display settings.
In terms of interaction, the screen is very sensitive; the reaction to finger touches is fast. More importantly, the screen is very precise, which facilitates the use of virtual keyboard in both the horizontal and the vertical position (full QWERTY keyboard appears on the screen in both cases). As a BlackBerry Storm user who has long struggled with its virtual keyboard, I can attest to the better and effective execution here.
Similarly, browsing through photos and contacts, web page scrolling and other actions that include moving the finger across the screen can be performed quickly and accurately. The 1 GHz Snapdragon processor definitely makes a difference. However, multi-touch is not supported (why not?????). My understanding is that it won’t be supported even if Android OS was upgraded to version 2.1 (or later) due to “hardware issues,” according to Sony Ericsson. Unlike other handsets with Google’s OS, web pages and photos can’t be zoomed in by pinching. Instead, zooming in can be performed by pressing the icons marked by the plus and minus signs that show up on the screen in certain situations. If you love the way Android works on other devices or are used to Apple’s iOS, this is clearly a disappointment and one of the biggest downsides of the phone.
The three front buttons below the screen consistently have the same specific function. Pressing the left button activates the standard context menu, which as I understand, represents the same choices on every Android handset. Note that the list of available options changes according to the active application. Pressing the middle button always brings up the home screen, while the right one is a one-step-back button. This is not unlike the Blackberry interface – except that it typically offers a four button layout.
Something to note is that when the buttons are pressed, two small lights between them light up. Although this seems to be mostly for aesthetic reasons, it does come in handy when using the device in the dark. Despite the fact that all three buttons are clearly marked and protrude enough to be easily pressed without looking, the icons don’t light up.
The multimedia buttons located around the sides are significantly smaller, flatter and poorly marked. They have a response time delay of a few hundredths of a second, so it is helpful that photos can also be snapped by pressing the much more sensitive screen.
Finally, the top of the handset contains the power button, a micro-USB port covered with a flap and a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. A comment about the flap… while I understand its aesthetic value, it is also woefully annoying to manipulate when it is time to charge the device. I struggled to keep the flap out of the way while connecting the charging cord.
Equipped with a smoking fast processor and big, high resolution screen, the X10 performs very nicely and responsively. The operating system and applications run quickly, zooming in and scrolling through multimedia and web pages is impressive and the overall experience is quite satisfying. Keep in mind that this smartphone currently comes with older version of Google’s operating system, Android OS 1.6. Word has it that Sony Ericsson has promised to release an OS upgrade very shortly.
As far as memory capacity goes, the handset comes with 1 GB of internal memory and an 2 GB microSD memory card, which seemed a bit light given the plethora of apps available for Android OS as well as the potential number of files that one typically wants to store these days. The good news… for those who need more memory, the device supports microSD cards of up to 16 GB.
The Xperia X10 supports all 2G and 3G bands and can therefore be easily used around the world without concern about the mobile network operator’s technology. Certainly, this is a convenience that frequent travelers will appreciate. It is important to note that the phone also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1.
As far as call quality, I can’t characterize it as as completely satisfactory. Keep in mind that performance can probably be attributed to the shortcomings of the AT&T network. That being said, people on the other end did not sound as clear as one would want or expect and many times their voice was followed by a faint echo. I must also admit that my opportunity to test call quality was hampered by having only $25 allocated to the SIM card that came with the phone. These were quickly consumed by data usage and some missed calls. While many other handsets have a significantly louder speaker, I found it to be more than adequate. Notably, the microphone quality is very good; the caller on the other end was always heard distinctly.
As far as the address book goes, I didn’t find it to be as intuitive as it could have been. After a desired contact has been found, it takes an additional three screen touches in order to actually make a call (first for the number and then on the call icon). Although I didn’t try, my understanding is that this issue can be sidestepped by installing a better dialer, many of which are available in the Android Market.
If I have a negative comment about the user interface, it would have to be about Sony Ericsson’s Timescape/Mediascape interface. Here’s how it works… the UI focuses on Internet communication and multimedia content stored in the phone. The Timescape application manages many types of communication: calls, SMS text messages, emails and social media applications like Facebook and Twitter. It can also be set as the home screen.
When Timescape is activated, all the messages are lined up in reverse chronological order and show a photo of the person with whom you communicated. They can be filtered according to communication type and every one of them, along with the photo, has an icon with the infinity sign that shows a complete communication history with that person.
Mediascape functions similarly, but with photos, videos and MP3s organized in reverse chronological order. Most recently used or added files come up first on the list. While I can appreciate the intent of this interface, I find it highly inefficient when dealing with large amounts of communication. That is to say, to rely on this interface would lead to potentially missing important communication which would be buried with unimportant Facebook or Twitter status updates. In order to get good utility from the phone, I relied on native applications for email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Web Browsing and Email
The smartphone features a fairly dated Android OS 1.6 browser, capable of rendering even complicated web pages. This is probably the one big flaw in this phone considering that it comes mightily equipped with a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor. The processor certainly allows very smooth scrolling and zooming, making web browsing a very pleasant experience. However, a phone this beautiful with Android 1.6 (while others are already up to 2.2) is simply unforgivable.
It should be noted that Flash is not supported (like Apple iPhones & iPads), but this downside is somewhat offset by a fast and simple YouTube browser. Although I did not test this, the handset includes an application suite for synchronizing various segments of MS Outlook with the handset (email, contacts, tasks, calendar). The most interesting among them is Moxier Mail, used for Exchange Server email access that doesn’t need server-side extensions since it uses the server’s Outlook Web Access interface. The standard email app can be used for POP3, IMAP and Gmail accounts.
The X10 features an 8.1 megapixel camera with an LED flash. The camera software has a large feature set reminiscent of Sony Cyber-shot cameras. In addition to excellent face and smile detection, people in photos can be tagged (similar to Facebook), which can prove to be useful for subsequent sorting in Mediascape.
Daylight photo quality is above average for this class of handset, exceptionally sharp and with vivid colors. Photos taken in darker settings, however, have much duller colors and a large number of artifacts – probably due to the low light adjustment. My understanding is that some Sony Ericsson phones have much better image quality in this type of setting… and it’s a shame that the X10′s camera doesn’t do better here. Furthermore, the LED flash must be manually activated, which is another downside.
Here are some pictures taken with the phone’s camera…
The Xperia X10 features a 1500 mAh Li-Poly battery, sufficient for about two days of normal usage. Heavy usage of Wi-Fi, multimedia and GPS functionalities reduces the autonomy drastically; the handset, under those conditions, will have to be recharged daily. This, it turns out, was my experience as I ended up extensively exercising the Wi-Fi radio due to the embarrasingly low SIM card account that came with this device (I don’t have an AT&T account so Sony sent what must have been a low capacity SIM card with the phone). Additionally, the reduced battery life can also be due to the large screen although I found the X10 to automatically lock very frequently as soon as it is not being used. Supposedly, just like other Sony Ericsson phones, ordinary calls have little impact on battery life.
Building on Sony’s reputation for beautiful hardware, the Xperia X10 is an excellent Sony Ericsson mobile phone that is stylish and wonderful to look at. It could perhaps even be considered Sony’s best to date. It cannot, however, be considered the best Android-based phone on the market due to its fairly dated Android 1.6 OS (Sony says it should be upgradeable to 2.1 later this year). If Internet communication such as social networking and multimedia capabilities are features you primarily look for in a mobile phone, you will be more than satisfied. However, if you want other functions, such as multi-touch, you may want to look elsewhere. Overall, the Xperia X10′s speed and notable screen can satisfy many, but with other more inviting phones out there, even a $99 subsidized price with a 2 year AT&T Plan won’t make this one a standout. In fairness, it needs to be said that this phone has enjoyed excellent user feedback.
- Highly responsive 4-inch touchscreen (480×854 pixels)
- Nice higher-end camera (8.1 MP with LED flash)
- Good overall performance
- Very attractive build
- Quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G support
- No multi-touch (not even with an OS upgrade!)
- No Flash support for web browsing (yet)
- Voice quality could be better (could be due to AT&T’s service though)
- Innovative Timescape and Mediascape user interface – not really practical for efficient communication
List Price: $99 with a 2 year contract from AT&T, 499.99 without a plan (unlocked price is also around $499.99)
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