By Anton D. Nagy | July 4, 2011 8:51 AM
Nokia’s X7 was launched concurrently with the Finnish company releasing the new version of its Symbian mobile platform, Anna. Together with the E6, the X7 is shipping with Anna on board, and many Nokia and Symbian fans out there will love the smartphone. Espoo is referring to the X7 as an entertainment phone, and it delivers in that department, no matter if we’re talking pictures, video or music content.
The specs aren’t on par with what you’d be used to in terms of the latest Android smartphones for instance, but it packs a nice 4-inch capacitive AMOLED display with nHD resolution, offering 640 x 360 pixels, eight-megapixel camera with full focus and dual LED flash, and 720p video recording capability, and an 8GB memory card pre-installed. Plus, there’s up to 350MB built-in memory, Bluetooth 3.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, all powered by a 1200mAh battery.
The processor is similar to what you’d find on the Nokia N8, a 680MHz ARM11 CPU. Is the X7 an alternative to consider to the N8? Does Symbian Anna have what it takes to compete with Android, Windows Phone or iOS? Read our full review to find out!
The Nokia X7 ships with an 8GB microSD card (class 4), in-ear noise cancelling headphones, wall charger and sync cable.
There’s nothing ground breaking in terms of the Nokia X7 internals. The overall impression is one of high quality, like we’re used to with Nokia hardware. Materials used are top-tier, build quality is in the high range, and the design might be appealing to some while others will not find it that attractive. It ships with Symbian^3 PR2 (Anna) and components more or less in line with the Nokia N8.
The processor used by Nokia is an N8-ish ARM11, clocking in at 680MHz. It manages to deliver flawless multimedia playback and some decent multitasking but it struggles with heavy web page browsing. The screen offers nHD resolution (360 x 640 pixels) and it is an AMOLED of four inches, offering a nice, vivid image reproduction with good contrast. 256MB of RAM, while the same as the N8, is nothing like your Android smartphone’s 1GB, and Symbian Anna often needs more. 512MB would have been welcome! There are only 350MB accessible from the 1GB of ROM but there’s an 8GB microSD card (hot swappable) pre-installed to make up for the small storage space on the smartphone itself. It supports cards up to 32GB capacity.
Radio-wise, the X7 is a penta-band device, meaning you can easily get it on 1700MHz AWS as well as 850/1900 bands. Its full frequency list encompasses GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and UMTS (850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz) with GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA cellular data. It also has GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, FM Radio, and Wi-Fi b/g/n. The usual sensors are also present with proximity and ambient light, plus an accelerometer. The camera can take eight-megapixel photos at 3264 x 2448 pixels as well as record 720p videos. Powering everything is a 1200mAh battery.
The design of the X7 is somewhat futuristic. Youve got the angled top and bottom corners and the curved back which make it feel really pleasant while holding the phone. It feels solid, and this is mainly because of the build quality and materials used, but the curvature on the back adds to the experience. Nothing really to object to in terms of finishing touches and build quality — it’s just what you’re used to from the Finnish manufacturer.
The screen offers real 16:9 aspect ratio (the one used for 1080p videos) thanks to the nHD resolution which is 640 by 360 pixels. The AMOLED screen reproduces the images and multimedia content in general very well, with (not over) saturated colors and deep blacks, as you’d expect. Text is well legible with no jerky edges and the colored icons look good on the (almost absolute) black background.
There’s a small speaker grill at the top of the smartphone where you will also find the light and proximity sensor. There’s no LED indicator for coverage or notifications, though, but this seems to be the current trend overall with manufacturers. The bottom only holds a single button which is used for bringing up the Menu as well as accessing multi-tasking controls for switching between open applications. The top is where you’ll find the microUSB port used for synching and charging, your (angled) power button as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack. Don’t let the grills on the top fool you, as the X7 unfortunately only has two speakers, contrary to what initial rumors had suggested.
The bottom holds the main microphone and the two stereo speakers, while the back is where you’ll find your secondary microphone — useful for recording video. It’s placed right beside the eight-megapixel camera with “third generation” dual LED flash. Unfortunately it’s not the fancy Carl Zeiss optics-enabled camera you’ll find on the Nokia N8, but it definitely delivers more than you’d expect from your regular smartphone.
The left side holds the drawers for the SIM and the microSD cards. Since the Nokia X7 doesn’t have a removable battery, the manufacturer went with a drawer-like design. Two slots, one at the top for the microSD and one at the bottom for the SIM card are used to access these chips. We found the operation of these to be a bit awkward, but thankfully you don’t swap out the cards on a regular basis. The right side features the volume rockers for adjusting the sound as well as a dedicated camera button, which is always a great addition. It can be used as a shortcut to bring up the camera application upon long press as well as releasing the shutter/starting the video recording while in the camera program.
The Nokia X7 isn’t what you’d call a thin smartphone, but its 11.9mm thickness feels thinner thanks to the curved edges. Due to the 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen, the X7 is rather tall at 119.7mm; it is also 62.8mm wide and weighs 146 grams.
People have been waiting a long time for a full QWERTY software input offering from Nokia which they could use in portrait mode. Anna brings that — among other features — and since the X7 has been launched together with Symbian Anna, it comes pre-installed on the handset.
At first glance, Symbian reminds you of the Android interface with all the sliding panels and home screens enriched with widgets. The X7 allows for a maximum of three home screens, and each one of those holds a maximum of six widgets, limiting you to a total of 18 active widgets on your device at once (which is probably more than enough for the average user).
There are not a whole lot of widgets preinstalled on the Nokia X7. Some come stock, like the Calendar, Email, Favorite People, Social networking and so on, and some depend on the applications which are installed out of the box. One can always download more from the OVI Store, either as stand-alone files or as part of applications with their corresponding widgets. You can easily customize the types of widgets present on a certain Home Screen as well as the widget position in relation to the screen and other widgets (up or down the list).
Swiping between the home screens is possible in both directions, left or right, or you can use the soft button in order to toggle between them. If you want to further customize these, you can set different backgrounds or wallpapers for each of your screens. This can be a custom image or one from those pre-loaded on the X7.
The lock screen on Symbian Anna is rather simple. It displays the clock, date, next event (if any), as well as notifications like missed calls, texts and emails. There’s an Unlock button on the bottom of the screen which, once pressed, will unlock the smartphone.
The Menu button brings you to the list of applications, which are organized into folders. You can easily move the most frequent to the top as well as move icons around. Double-pressing the Home button will take you to the webOS card-like multi-tasking window where you can switch to one of the running apps, close a certain program, or choose to close all of them.
Social integration is done via the OVI Social application, which currently offers linking to Facebook and Twitter accounts. It also comes with a widget which updates itself on the Home Screen so that you are up-to-date with all of your friends’ activities.
OVI Maps is included out-of-the-box, as is the case of most Nokia smartphones, offering turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation for both driving and walking. We found the pre-installed maps to be very accurate and detailed, GPS wasn’t lagging or reporting incorrect positions. Maps are vector-like and easy to read, also offering you the possibility of checking in with a place on the map (or creating a place if it doesn’t exist).
The E-mail application has great Exchange support. After sending out an “email to self”, the Nokia X7 was the first one to (almost instantly) notify of a new e-mail, beating the iPhone by a couple of seconds as well as a Windows Phone 7. The e-mail client can collapse and expand messages according to the date received so you can unclutter the list. Deleting an email is done instantly, without any lag, as are reading or replying.
The platform operates as it should, taking into consideration that the specs aren’t in the top range. We definitely would have liked to see Nokia bundle a dedicated YouTube app (like Android does), but instead the icon just points to the mobile YouTube page.
One of the worst performances comes from the internet browsing. Even with the Flash plugin turned off, the X7 often struggles to display web pages with a fair amount of text and images. Checkerboard is present and operation (scrolling, zooming, etc.) is sluggish, to say the least. Any action attempted on a not-fully-loaded webpage will fail. but if you are satisfied with browsing the mobile web (instead of the desktop version of pages), you should be fine.
As we’ve previously mentioned, it’s not the camera you’ll find on the Nokia N8 with the Carl Zeiss optics, but it’s definitely a solid performer. The eight-megapixel sensor captures sharp images with contrast and good saturation in almost every scenario. If Nokia was to further improve something camera-related we’d say it would be nice to reduce the focal length of the lenses, so that capturing real close-ups could be possible from an even shorter distance.
Videos also look good on both the AMOLED screen as well as downloaded to a computer. Frame rate could be a tad higher but it’s definitely not a problem for the average user. Unfortunately the videos captured are maxed out at 720p, and the X7 lacks an HDMI-out port.
Time-to-shoot is good, with the camera focusing relatively quickly, and the dedicated application offering some great options to help you out as well as customize the shooting experience (scene selection, grid display, smile detection, etc.).
Don’t expect butter smooth performance all the time while using the X7. There could be several factors influencing this, from the moderate internals used to the platform itself. While in most cases you will not have to wait for it to do common tasks, once the list of running applications starts filling up, you’ll feel the need to close some.
You’ll also have to wait a bit after boot-up in order for all the widgets to be properly loaded, and if you use them in the “online” mode when they update regularly, you’ll sometimes feel a bit of sluggishness until they redraw. Swiping from a Home Screen to the other is smooth and so is scrolling in applications like E-mail, Calendar or even the Music Player. You’ll also have to wait a little for OVI applications like OVI Maps, OVI Store and OVI Social to load but once loaded and fully updated, they’re operating at a decent rate.
There’s nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to call quality, the X7 delivers solid performance with no dropped calls. Using the handset reproduces a clear and crisp sound with a little bit of bass (reminding of some BlackBerry smartphone). Where the X7 really shines is while using the speakerphone.
With its higher-than-average volume speakers you will no longer feel the need to turn the speaker down because of distorted sound. You won’t need to bring the phone closer to your ear while on speaker even in a loud environment.
Reception is above-average on the X7, delivering 15-25% more bars than the iPhone or the LG Optimus 7 using the same operator, in the same spot. This is not only to the advantage of call quality, as you’ll also feel a snappier operation while the smartphone holds on to a data signal better.
We initially though the 1200mAh battery would be too small and drain quickly but with a normal day-to-day operation (browsing the internet, listening to music, social networking, a dozen e-mails, text messages, and phone calls); in reality, it can last anywhere between one and one-and-a-half days. You can of course reduce the period for e-mail polling (we had it set for automatic push) and put your widgets in offline mode so that they only refresh manually. Screen brightness is effective in the 50%-75% range and setting the screen time-out to a shorter delay than the default can bring you some more minutes of operation when it really matters.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
You can purchase the X7 from retailers like Negri Electronics, where it goes for $549.50 unlocked. The X7 should have arrived to the US as the Nokia Journey with AT&T, but plans were cancelled back in January. Whether it will be reactivated for the American market is anyone’s guess, but you can always either import it or find a reseller that had it listed.
+ Excellent build quality
+ AMOLED Screen reproduces vivid colors, almost “true black” dark regions
+ Camera is above-average
+ Excellent sound quality
+ Ships with the new Symbian^3 Anna PR2
+ Free OVI Maps GPS Navigation software
+ Penta-band radio support
+ Above average battery life
- Non-removable battery
- Awkward SIM and microSD card slots
- Slow processor, low amount of memory
- Poor Internet browsing experience
- Symbian is lacking polish and design aesthetics found in Windows Phone 7 and iOS
- Text input can be sometimes awkward, entering text in another windows than the actual text box
The Nokia X7 has a futuristic design some of you will like, while others will not. While we wish there were four speakers in the smartphone, the two at the bottom deliver great sound quality and volume even without the spatialization settings enabled.
Symbian unfortunately no longer has what it takes to compete with Android and iOS due to the lack of polish and recent decline in popularity, since Nokia chose to abandon it in favor of Windows Phone. For fans of the Nokia brand, Symbian, or new entrants in the smartphone world, the X7 is definitely a great choice for a multimedia, social smartphone which also offers free navigation solution. Power users or heavy business users will often be frustrated by the platform itself as well as the occasional slow-downs in operation.
We rate the Nokia X7 a 2.5/5.