May 1st in Gadgets by .

Xperia X10 from Sony Ericsson: Hands-on review

Check out our hands on review of Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X10 Android phone, this is not a tech spec or regurgitated review… it’s new content and our honest opinion of the phone; good and bad!

Here at Today’s Top Tech Towers, we’re always excited to get a new bit of tech to try out (hint hint to anyone wishing to get their latest tech gadget or app featured!!)… so we were really looking forward to getting our hand on the new Xperia X10.

Xperia X10

Click for larger image

There are plenty of tech specs available on the net, so we’re not going to simply fob our readers off with yet another regurgitated copy of those and pass it off as a review. Oh no. Nor do we attempt to go over the features of Android, or compare them to the iPhone. Again, there’s already a tonne of people doing that elsewhere.

This quick review is about our true experience of the X10 after living with it for 5 days and trying out all it’s features. With your list of tech specs at hand, our review should hopefully help you decide if the X10 is the phone for you or not.

The X10’s unique selling points were the larger screen, slim design, decent camera and software add-ons to Adroid (like Timescape, Mediascape, etc). So what did we think of them.

The screen

Firstly, the screen size is a dream to work with. Still small enough for your jacket or jeans pocket, but large enough to display very nice webpages and work with. So a big thumbs up there for the 4″ screen. Not so cool for those of you who demand multi-touch however, the first versions of the X10 don’t feature multi-touch displays (possible hardware problems according to some?). Later in Q3 of 2010, we’re rumoured to see a newer X10 with multi-touch, time will tell. For us as Today’s Top Tech multitouch isn’t really that important on a smart phone to be honest. The screens are relatively small for two or three finger actions, and the ‘pinch’ zoom really doesn’t feel so comfortable when it comes down to ‘ease of use’. So just pressing a zoom button with one finger is quite ok for us!

Screen brightness we’ve found pretty good, although to be honest on very sunny days, you do struggle a little to see things clearly. Although casting a little shadow over the screen resolves this, we thought it was still worth a mention. I suspect most phones suffer from direct sunlight problems however, so don’t do making your decision about the X10 on this point alone.

The body

Rear of the Xperia X10

Click for larger image

The X10’s shell is rather nice. We like the black slimline look and feel, and especially like the rear of the casing, which has a ‘rubbery’ feel to it. This gives you a really stable grip whilst holding the phone in your hand. Quite important when you’ve shelled out so much for these kind of devices that you feel it’s really secure in your hand, and not so new shiny and sleek that it’s about to slide out of your hand at the slightest relaxation of your fingers!! It also looks pretty scratch resistant too, so it’s not going to look ugly after a couple of weeks use!

One thing we really find annoying with the Xperia X10’s body is the USB charging access. Well done Sony Ericsson on getting the device to adhere to the forthcoming European standards for mobile phones to be charged by USB, but, you ruined this by putting one of those awful plastic covers over the port! We found removing the plastic cover and trying to maneuver it out of the way to slot in the USB cable was unnecessarily fiddly, and somewhat stressful if you’re in a hurry. The plastic cover has one of those plastic small connections which isn’t long enough to allow you to get it all out of the way and slide in the USB cable connector comfortably. It’s so annoying we’ve been close to ripping off the cover altogether at times!

We do like the fact that the X10 has useful buttons however which feel solid and stable and are well placed. The main three user buttons on the front of the phone are well proportioned and solid enough that you don’t feel they get pressed accidentally by your fingers as they handle the phone during daily activity. The camera button and volume buttons on the side are also nicely designed, small enough not to catch them or spoil the slick curved edge of the phone, but large enough to be useful.

One tiny niggle that we also found was that, whilst the contoured rear surface looked and felt good in the hand, if you lay the phone on the table and do a bit of two handed typing (in landscape mode), the phone wobbles on the table. Only a small point, but, if you’re posting a longer email or WordPress blog, it’s nice to use the two handed typing keyboard in landscape mode… but the uneven back of the phone makes this almost impossible due to the ‘wobble’ effect 🙁

The camera

The 8.1megapixel camera on the Xperia X10 is a joy to use. We tried a few pictures and it really is rather impressive. We also like the fact that you’re able to change the picture quality with just a couple of touches of the screen, to lower resolutions for quick web snaps that don’t require a full 8meg image quality! Smile detection seems to work ok, and multi-face recognition no problem. The flash on the phone is also pretty good, we were more than happy for a mobile phone camera flash.

We would’ve like to see a shortcut on the screen to enable/disable the flash though, without having to go into the config options to do this…

Here’s a samply pic of the macro setting on the camera at just 2mpbs that we took recently. You can see that the camera manages to get a nice depth of field with the background being nicely blurred.

Xperia X10 camera phone test, Macro setting

(image is scaled down for easy web viewing)

Sony Ericssons Android customizations

Xperia X10 Timescape

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Sony has done a nice job of customizing Android, certainly a step in the right direction with Timescape although there are a couple of niggles. Timescape offers you the ability to get all your updates about contacts and activity in one place with a sexy 3d style interface. Facebook, twitter, email, sms, photos, missed calls etc are all listed in date order on tiles, which you can scroll through, click on for a preview, and click again to load the media specific app required to see the full item. If you wish, you can filter the display to only show one specific source, such as only Facebook updates for example.

We like the idea, however, a couple of things annoy us. The text on the info tiles is not so readable when the tiles are lowere down the screen as they get smaller – if they’re not readable they’re not useful! Also, Facebook updates should have an option so as only to display messages on facebook directed at you… otherwise if you’ve for lots of friends on your facebook account, you’ll see all of their status changes in your Timescape which then means you loose the real messages directed to you from email, sms etc as they get swamped from the hundreds of Facebook status changes. Timescape should be able seeing YOUR social world in a single screen, not everyone elses surely?

Timescape comes with a screen widget, which displays the latest social update on top, which you can then touch, to bring up the full Timescape app. Unfortunately, we would’ve preferred something where you could see maybe the latest 3 or 4 updates, as opposed to the just last one, because most of the time for us, the latest was some status change from a random friend on facebook, which isn’t that important to us to take up half of our screenspace on the homepage. This again would be fixed if we could filter out status updates from facebook on our Timescape settings. We did notice on one occasion too that the widget froze at one point, and for the whole day stopped showing any of the later updates. We didn’t figure our why, but, that would be very annoying and a rather useless widget if it continued.

Finally, occasionally, we found waiting 2 or 3 seconds for Timescape to load the full app a little annoying. I know it’s not much, but, since Timescape is only a preview of all your social world, and you will still have to more than likely click a specific item and load that into it’s associated app anyway, we felt it would’ve been nice to be a little quicker.

The X10’s customized software also features an ‘infinity’ button, which is available on photos, contacts, music, etc. Clicking the infinity button enables you to see all the information about that item that the phone has available, both in it’s local database and across the Internet. A nice feature we thought.

One thing to note here with the software on the X10, Sony Ericsson sadly didn’t manage to get the X10 out on a later version (2+) of Android OS, so this phone only ships with v1.6! Later releases of the phone are rumored to get 2.1, but we have yet to receive confirmation of the date.

Battery


As with all the latest smart phones these days, the features are really amazing. You feel like you’ve stepped into the future when you can scan barcodes on products and get instand info and prices on them, use Google Goggles to find out the name of a landmark just by taking a photograph of it, and to have your phone switch into silent mode as it automatically realises you are at work (using the Locale app which makes use of GPS location) etc.

However, for all these features to be useful, the phone needs to last from morning to night without a charge, whilst your GPS, bluetooth, wireless, and so one are enabled! Sadly, we found this to be a struggle on the X10. Our first day with it saw the juice being eaten away so fast we were very shocked. Ok we had everything enabled and used it heavily including camera, GPS, and so on. But, on the second day, with moderate use only, the battery still didn’t cope with a full day, maybe only 8 hours. Very disappointing indeed. Using various apps to help kill tasks automatically and shutdown wireless and GPS whilst not in use, the battery will last longer, perhaps a full day. BUT, the whole point of the phones gets lost if you find you can’t make use of the automated cool features of instant GPS, sat nav, internet access, bluetooth accessories and so on.

We understand that the X10 is not alone in this battery problem, but, it’s still a problem. After forking our so much cash for a phone with all these features, one should not feel the need to limit the phones functionality and avoid using it so as to save the battery to get you through the day before you reach the next charging point. We hope something can be fixed SOON in this area for all mobile devices.

Wireless, Wifi

One final word here, and we’re not sure yet why this is happening, so it needs more investigation before we can conclude if it’s a feature or fault. But we found that often the wireless wasn’t available when we needed it. We had to wait 20 or 30 seconds for it to become available and be used. During our testing we disabled the 3G data on the phone for a day to try out wireless in full, and this was the most problematic part of the wireless capability on the phone. Otherwise the setup and management is smooth and user-friendly.

Overall…

Despite the few niggles, we love this phone. It has style appeal, full functionality good specs. The Snapdragon processor keeps the phone OS software responsive and tight, no lags, sticks or delays.

Android and Sony Ericsson’s X10 customizations offer a real alternative to the iPhone both in terms of style and features. We wait with interest to see what Apple’s next gen iPhone will come up with in response to these feature-packed stylish Android phones now hitting the market.

Today’s Top Tech Review Our overall rating:   4/5

What we liked…

  • Great design, good grip on back of phone
  • Nice customization of Android
  • Decent camera with flash
  • Good processor keeps the software responsive without lags or delay
What we weren’t so keen on…
  • Annoying USB port cover
  • Battery life disappointing
  • Wireless little slow to activate/kick in
  • Android 1.6 a little dated

Vital info

Hardware: Xperia X10
Supplier: Sony Ericsson
Website: www.sonyericsson.com
Price: Get latest prices on Amazon.co.uk

Self-confessed tech and gadget geek. Love all kinds of tech, but especially that which helps me work more effectively, and looks / feels good to use.

VIsit Jon Smith's website

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