Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1

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INTRODUCTION

   The X1 is somewhat of a prodigy. It brings an intriguing Panel interface to the world of Windows Mobile, plus a slick design and arc-sliding keyboard. Sony Ericsson is calling the X1 a "game changer" – throwing unseen marketing might behind the device in hopes of getting attention from those from the entire smartphone community, not just that of Windows Mobile. Is this really a game changer? We have the answer. Read on for the thorough review!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s talk specs. The XPERIA X1 is running on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. The particular unit I’m using is the X1i – and there are bound to be several different versions like the X1c and X1a, depending on region.

    It’s using a Qualcomm MSM7200A CPU clocking in at 528MHz, and includes 256MB of RAM (~200MB accessible) and 384MB of ROM (~280MB accessible). The touchscreen is 3.0" and has WVGA resolution, which is 800×480, making for a pixel density of 310ppi (compared to 285ppi on the Touch Diamond/Pro and 164ppi on the iPhone). It’s a quadband (850/900/1800/1900) GSM device with triband (900/1900/2100) UMTS, plus HSDPA, though it is quite possible that the X1i has the UMTS 850 band, but there’s not enough evidence right now to validate or nullify this claim.

    The X1 has aGPS, WiFi (b & g), Bluetooth 2.0, miniUSB for charging and syncing, a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio, and microSD expansion, plus an optical joystick used as a D-Pad. The camera on the back is 3.2MP with LED flash, and has autofocus and selective autofocus. The camera on the front is VGA resolution for video calls. Powering the entire unit is a big 1500mAh battery.

(all images link to larger versions)

The X1 comes in black and silver. This unit is black.

The X1 features a unique Panel interface. We’ll cover that in detail later in the review.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

In comparison to the HTC Touch Pro, the X1 is 1mm thinner, plus taller and less wide. Click here to compare the specs of the X1 and Touch Pro. More comparison pictures of the two later.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here is the unboxing video for the XPERIA X1, which was memorable.

This is the box for the X1.

    Inside the box we get a charge/sync cable, a charge adapter (though no standalone charging adapter), earphones with eargels, headphone passthrough (with microphone), extra stylus, the device/battery, and plenty of reading material in full color. Missing is a case and screen protector.

THE DEVICE

The front of the device has a real brushed metal Panel that gives the devices a high quality feel.

The X1 deviates from the flush touchscreen trend and has a recessed screen. This allows for fantastic screen sensitivity, but also creates a groove in which dust can become trapped.

Closer in on the top, we see the light sensor on the left, and front facing video camera on right.

    On the bottom Panel, we have a left and right soft key (which are programmable), a call start and end key, a button to bring up the Panel interface (more on that on page 2), and an OK key. In the center is a rectangular optical joystick used for scrolling and selecting. Surrounding the optical joystick is a standard D-Pad. Missing is a Start menu button, which would help with one-handed usability.

The sides of the device are adorned with chrome. On the first side, we have a dual action camera button on the left, and a volume rocker on the right.

On the top we have a hexagonal on/off button, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack (nice!). Also, note the placement of the stylus to the right of the headphone jack.

Here’s a shot of the stylus, which is of the non-collapsible variety.

On the left side, we have miniUSB for charging and syncing, plus a speaker over on the right side towards the bottom.

On the bottom of the device, we have a microphone on the top half and a lanyard loop below that.

On the rear we have a real brushed metal Panel covering up the battery. Above that is the 3.2MP camera, with flash.

Taking off the battery cover, we see the 1500mAh battery.

And unfortunately the microSD slot is under the battery cover. There is a soft reset hole back here near the stylus silo.

Let’s take a look at the spring-assisted keyboard. It has four rows, with a super-oversized spacebar. The number buttons are embedded within the letters, and to access them, you must press the blue button in the bottom left corner.

    The arc-slider design, a first for any phone, positions the screen at a slightly positive angle. According to Sony Ericsson, this helps with viewing angle and weight distribution. I’m not sure about the former, but the device is definitely well-weighted when the keyboard is open.

And here’s a close up of the keyboard. The buttons are quite flat, but have a small ridge to help you feel for them. They’re made of plastic, and have a slight rubbery coating.

The keyboard of the X1 is backlit.

And so are the spaces between the buttons on the front – cool, eh?

Here, note the two multi-color LED indicator lights. These blink depending on system status, and they’re also on the other side. To see more about them, see the 2nd software tour video.

COMPARISONS

Here we have a shot comparing (from left to right) the Samsung Omnia, HTC Touch Pro, Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1, AT&T Tilt (TyTN II), and Apple iPhone.

Here they are stacked in reverse order.

And here is a profile shot. The X1 (middle) is thinner than the Touch Pro (second from top).

Here’s a shot of the Touch Pro and X1 together. The keyboard on the X1 has larger keys and bigger spaces between the keys. Be sure to check out the comparison chart of these two devices.

Click on over to the next page where we’ll cover the Panel interface plus included software.

   

The Panel interface makes the Today screen a platform on which to run programs, almost making the Start menu secondary to the Windows Mobile experience.

The idea is that you have multiple Panels for different scenarios. For example, you have one Panel with RSS feeds and appointments for the work day. The weekend comes, and you switch to the fish Panel – which only gives you basic information like time, date, and missed call status – because you don’t care much about RSS feeds or appointments.

    This is the main Panel interface that you access by pressing the Panel button on the phone. When the Panels are on the screen, they jiggle slightly, and the recent-most Panel is larger than the rest, as seen on the bottom. When you tap on a Panel, the device gives a small vibration.

If you flip the keyboard open, a cool animation begins….

…and the Panels will reorient into landscape.

In this other view, you can shuffle through Panels as if they were a bunch of cards. If you tap the wrench in the bottom right corner…

…you’ll be able to modify any of the Panels. You can only have nine Panels on the screen at once.

In this screen, you can replace a Panel with another, or make it blank. Or, you can get more Panels.

And right now, the selection is slim for extra Panels. The bottom two don’t work very well, but the top two are great. I’ll cover the Spb Shell Panel below. All Panels are free.

Ok, this is the first Panel – one that you’ve seen before. It’s the default Today screen Panel.

    Here is what I call my "daytime" Panel. It shows me what’s going on at pocketnow.com and sister site AllShadow.com via their RSS feeds, plus has a list of four of my next appointments, and other info towards the top such as time, date, and temperature. If you tap Options on the bottom right…

…you can configure the Panel.

You can have multiple RSS feeds. If you wanted, you could have this Panel be comprised entirely of RSS feeds.

And, you can also add program shortcuts to the Panel.

    Here is the fish Panel. It’s simple, but simple on purpose. It gives you the date and time. The gray fish will turn red when your battery is low. The small orange fish will turn gray when the sound is turned off. The large orange fish will turn gold when you have an unread message. And there’s a fourth fish that only comes on the screen when you have a missed call.

This Panel is almost identical to the RSS Panel seen previously, but here I have it configured differently.

And, I should mention, all Panels work well in landscape.

This is the slick multimedia Panel that is completely finger-friendly, and has great animations that is somewhat reminiscent of Windows Media Center.

The photo gallery, which is flick-scrollable, shows you all of the pictures on your device or storage card.

If you tap on a picture, you can begin a slideshow.

In the Music section, you can dial down by Artist, Album, Tracks, and playlist.

Here’s what it looks like when you play a track – complete with album art and all!

Here’s the video library. You can flip your finger upwards to see all of them. When videos play, you get translucent on-screen play controls like an iPhone. Video playback is super smooth.

You can also flip through games through the multimedia Panel.

This is the FM radio Panel. You can only use the FM radio through the Panel – there is no program for it elsewhere.

Here is the Google Panel from where you can initiate a Google search or use their other services. Calling up this panel to do a search is slightly faster than opening up a browser through the Start menu.

We learned recently that Spb was making a Panel for the X1. Well, here it is. Basically, it gives you the full functionality of Spb Mobile Shell (a $30 program) for free. It’s really great.

Spb Mobile Shell does weather.

If you hit the left button on the bottom, or swipe your finger left, you get the application launcher. This is all customizable.

And on the button on the right, we have a favorite people pane that we can use to list speed dials.



If you want to see a video demonstration of the Panels, check out the video above.

SOFTWARE

    So, being an HTC manufactured device, we get the HTC Task Manager, which lets us close programs selectively. We can also use this to dictate what happens when you press the "x" button in Windows Mobile. Sony Ericsson has set the default to "close" application. This keeps program memory wide open. Since the X1 has excellent performance, opening a program that is not in program memory is much faster than it is on other devices.

The X1 includes Microsoft Office 2007 Mobile.

Here is the first half of the Programs list. Because of the long screen, we see a lot of icons in one view. I should mention that the X1 has excellent flick-scrolling throughout the entire OS, like in this screen.

If we go into games, we see two added: Sodoku and Bejeweled 2. Both are from Astraware. Sudoku is the full version, while Bejewled is a trial.

Both games load in landscape.

This is Handango InHand – the only Windows Mobile app store.

It’s better than nothing – but the interface is crude, the selection isn’t great, there are no trials, and prices are still high on Windows Mobile software.

And here is the second frame of the Start Menu. We have a streaming video player. Using this, you can stream videos from m.youtube.com.

Opera Mobile 9.5 has been optimized on the X1, and performance is great. It rivals Safari on the iPhone in its ability to render webpages, and with the WVGA screen, pages look fantastic.

This particular version of Opera Mobile allows for the adjustment of the cache size.

PHONE

Here’s the phone application, adorned in a nice-looking brushed metal theme.

When you press in on a button, you get a 3D effect.

Here is the call history tab, with icons along the bottom that continue the brushed metal look.

This is what happens when a call comes in. The left and right soft keys take on the role of Silence and Send Text. To answer a call, you must use the hardware call start or end keys on the phone.

And when you’re on a call, this is what it looks like. You get an oversized call end button at the bottom of the screen. Overall, as a phone, the X1 does quite well. Call quality was above average, and reception was solid.

Click on to the next page as we cover Settings and camera quality on the XPERIA X1.

Let’s take a look at Settings.

The number of programmable hardware keys is very small. You can only program the right or left softkey – which is unusual.

We’re still not 100% sure if the X1i has UMTS 850 support – but it’s certainly listed here in the phone band settings.

You can still configure the Today screen Panel.

Here we are in System.

As noted here, this particular unit is the X1i.

Here is where you can turn on and off the four system notification lights surrounding the device. Disabling this may save on battery. Be sure to check out the video halfway down this page for a demo of this.

Here is the second view of the System tab.

The X1 comes with a large amount of program memory…as much as the Touch Pro.

Here we can change the enable the optical joystick and adjust its sensitivity.

And we can turn on automatic backlighting adjustment.

Here in the connection tab…

…we can have the device automatically configure itself based on the carrier you’re using.

And finally, this is what the connection manager looks like.



Take a look at this video, which goes through the software bits I just talked about.

CAMERA

The camera application of the X1 is quite robust. This is the standard shooting window. The X1 uses selective autofocus, meaning you can tap your finger on the object in the frame that you want to be in focus.

It camera app includes various preset scene modes.

And here are the options for focus.

You can dial into advanced settings for video, photo, and general to change picture quality, white balance, and resolution.

Here is a macro shot using the selective autofocus. The colors are vibrant and the object in the foreground is very much in focus.

Here is an indoor shot with low light, using the flash. Everything came out clear, and there is little noise.

And here is an outdoor shot. The colors are vibrant.

Click on to the next page as we wrap up the review with a note on performance, battery life, and talk about all the Pros and Cons of the X1.

BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from has been used for the
following benchmark comparisons with the XPERIA X1.

    The performance of the X1 is the best I’ve ever seen on any Windows Mobile device. There is little to no hesitation when launching programs and flipping through various screens. This makes using the X1 very pleasing. The only area that needs work is the Panel interface – there’s a slight lag between pressing the Panel hardware button and when the Panels come up on the screen. Also, rotating the Panel screen from portrait to landscape gets a bit choppy.

BATTERY
    The battery on the XPERIA X1 is 1500mAh, which is larger than the Touch Pro (which packs 1350mAh). The battery life on the XPERIA X1, to my utmost surprise, was fantastic. I’d get to the end of the day and still have around 50% battery left after a ton of use. With other similar devices, I’m lucky if there is 20% remaining. So, with heavy use of data, GPS, and many calls, the X1 will get through 1.5-2 days. With moderate use, you will get through around 2.5 days, and with light use, expect 4 days. Sony Ericsson did a great job on battery optimization.

BUGS AND WISHES

    Because Sony Ericsson spend many months with the X1 in testing, the device is very well optimized. All of the software worked well, and I didn’t have to soft reset but once, and that was required because of a cellular data issue.

    With a high end device, I expect to be outfitted with accessories. Missing from the box was a case and screen protector.

    The trend for screens on smartphones has been towards the flush design, and the X1 goes back to the recessed screen configuration like the TyTN II. The good thing about this is that it allows for higher screen sensitivity, but it also creates a groove for dust and dirt to get trapped.

    If you’re big on one-handed usability, this isn’t your device. There is no dedicated Start menu button on the front and there’s no on-screen keyboard that you can easily use with your thumb (though this could be remedied by getting TouchPal), so you often have to open the keyboard to type. That said, the optical cursor does help a bit for navigating the device without moving your thumb from the bottom Panel.

    Sony Ericsson is working towards getting developer support for the Panels – they’ve released an SDK, and are doing a contest with prizes to engender more excitement around Panel development. At the time of this review, there were just four extra Panels to choose from, two of which are of little use. I’d like to see a messaging Panel that gives Outlook-like previews of the message in my inbox. How about a finance Panel that tracks my stock portfolio during the day? Or, an instant messaging Panel that hooks up with multiple IM services? There are a lot of great possibilities and I hope that we see a lot of interesting Panels.

PURCHASING

    You can grab the unlocked XPERIA X1i in black or silver from a variety of online retailers like Clove or eXpansys. Prices range from $800-900.




PROS

  • Panel interface is interesting and holds potential

  • Amazing performance

  • Outstanding battery life
  • Crisp and bright WVGA screen with high touch sensitivity
  • Near instant screen rotation
  • Has a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Includes optical D-Pad plus standard D-Pad
  • Flick-scrolling throughout
  • Auto-configures for major carriers (AT&T & T-Mobile in the US included)
  • Innovative four-way LED notification system
  • Great build quality with use of real metal
  • Top-notch camera
  • aGPS/WiFi/HSDPA/FM Radio

CONS

  • Poor one-handed usability
  • Choice of Panels is currently scarce
  • Recessed screen traps debris
  • No case/screen protector included
  • No voice recognition software
  • microSD slot is under battery cover
  • Lacks an accelerometer
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    This is the best Windows Mobile device that has ever passed my desk. Period. Sony Ericsson was right by declaring it a "game changer" – this has raised the bar, and if the Panel interface takes off and we see a lot of neat Panels, the X1 could become a benchmark mobile device.

    Not only is the X1 refined from top to bottom, but it brings a new interface paradigm that challenges our idea of what a Windows Mobile Today screen should be. I was super impressed by its high performance and excellent battery life, and was refreshed by the sensitivity and clarity of the high-resolution touchscreen. If you’re big on one-handed use, this device is not for you. But for everyone else that desires a powerhouse of a device, this is definitely it.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.