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Friday, 9 January 2009

X1 Xperia

X1 XperiaFor about the last 11 months, long term readers will remember that I’ve been going on about one particular mobile phone above all others, for the simple reason that I was absolutely dying to get my hands on one. That phone is the Sony Ericsson X1, or as I prefer to call it (to try and kid on I’m cool), the X1 Xperia.

It’s been a long wait until its official launch, but I’ve finally gone and got myself an X1 Xperia, so I can finally give you the full, exhaustive, warts-and-all review.

First Impressions

X1 Xperia final thoughtsGiven how much I was looking forward to getting hold of the phone, you can imagine that I was really rather excited when I pulled the X1 Xperia out of the box. First impressions: the photos of it really, really don’t do the X1 Xperia justice. It’s only when you get your hands on one that you appreciate the brushed metal finish, and the fact that the build quality is absolutely second-to-none. Some have said the X1 Xperia’s a heavy phone, and to be fair, it is heavier than a lot of mobile phones, but the payoff is that it’s much more solidly built than them as well. As Matt keeps reminding me (since he’s as obsessive over his phone as I am over mine), the HTC Touch HD is thinner and lighter, but I honestly prefer the look of the premium metal in the X1 Xperia, and probably perversely in some people’s eyes, I prefer mobile phones with a bit of weight to them.

Oh, and incidentally, having seen both colours of it in the flesh, I reckon the black one looks a lot better than the silver version, what with the nav-keys being black on both versions. The black X1 Xperia has he illusion of having a bigger screen, simply by the fact it’s black. So that’s the one I’d go for (in fact, the one I did go for).

My First Journeys with Windows Mobile

X1 Xperia tiny keysMe and Sony Ericsson have something in common: the X1 Xperia is the first of our respective mobile phones to use Windows Mobile. Yes I’ve used WM before, but I’m used to using UIQ (who’ve, alas, now filed for bankruptcy) on my old P1, so I was a bit nervous at switching to a new operating system altogether, having heard all the old horror stories about Windows Mobile phones being fiddly, buggy and slow, and having to be restarted constantly. Well, in truth, there are one or two niggling little things about Windows Mobile that wind me up a bit, and do impact upon one’s enjoyment of the X1 Xperia (albeit not for very long). Thanks to a fast processor and loads of memory, the X1 Xperia is, as I’ve said many times before, the first Windows Mobile phone that actually works properly, without the vast majority of problems that have hurt WM in the past.

In essence, the X1 Xperia took my fear of Windows Mobile and completely kicked it out my head. I do still get the ‘crashed-it-take-the-battery-off’ moments, but they’re much fewer and farther between than I’ve seen on any other Windows Mobile phones. Oh, and on the subject of Windows, it may only be able to display 65,000 colours at once, but given that massive screen resolution, and the fact that its 65k colour screen is somehow richer in colour than the 256k colour screen on my sister’s K850i, I ain’t complaining.

Using tiny keys with big hands

One of the things I was a bit nervous about on powering up my X1 Xperia was the keyboard, because up until that point, I’d only tried the keypad on a dummy model of the phone, and found it to be a royal pain in the posterior. On the real X1 Xperia, however, there are no such worries. Yes, the keyboard may be fairly flush to the metal body round it, and yes, it may be a tiny bit fiddly to use at first, but honestly, it gets easier very quickly. Like anything, there’s a learning curve, but it’ll only take you a few days to start getting the most out of the X1 Xperia. The arc slider mechanism is sheer genius, as well, and it makes the side-sliding keyboard even nicer to use, and certainly nicer than any other side-sliding keyboards that come to mind!

Internet goodness

If you’re planning on getting an X1 Xperia, then I can just about damn near guarantee one of your first decisions will be “I’m not using Mobile Internet Explorer ever again unless I have to”. Guarantee it. And you know why? Mobile IE is absolutely god-awful. It thinks it’s a browser on a desktop PC, and as good as the X1 Xperia is, it ain’t a desktop PC. If you only got Mobile IE on the X1 Xperia, then it’d be a horrible internet experience.

Ah, but there’s the rub, y’see, because you also get, straight out of the box, Opera Mobile, which is just in a different league to IE altogether, with touch optimised controls, and that finger controlled slidy style of browsing and flicking through pages, made famous by the iPhone. Well, I can categorically state, having tried both Opera Mobile on the X1 Xperia, and Safari on the iPhone (and Dan is going to argue with me about this, and possibly kill me), Opera Mobile on the X1 Xperia is better. It scrolls faster, the flicky action’s smoother, and even without the fact I love my phone, objectively, Opera Mobile is, I feel, a better browsing experience. Oh and you can do that flicking-thru-lists thing (called, I believe, kinetic scrolling) in the X1 Xperia, too, which is a hoot, and actually useful. Although, my one complaint about it is that in the contacts list, I always flick through too fast, most often missing the person I was aiming for, and ending up ringing somebody else…

Final thoughts

The X1 Xperia, or the Sony Ericsson X1, if you want to be formal about it, is an exceptional mobile phone. It’s impressively built, gorgeous to look at, and an absolute joy to use, and not only that, but its vast range of features, and the best internet access I’ve ever seen on a mobile phone, will benefit you (case in point: checking Radio Times, to see what time a film was on that I wanted to see, or daft things like that). There are a couple of things that aren’t brilliant, namely the camera only being 3 megapixels (although, to be fair to it, it’s probably the best 3 megapixel camera I’ve ever used), and the GPS (which always seems to think I’m about 30 feet away from where I actually am, when it manages to find me at all), and the occasional random glitches you get on any Windows Mobile phone. But aside from that, I’m having real trouble finding anything to fault it on. The X1 Xperia is a true powerhouse, and a good-looking one at that. It may not have the huge screen of the HTC Touch HD, or the TouchFLO 3D interface (although you can get TouchFLO for it), but having played with both, I honestly reckon the Sony Ericsson X1 is the better phone. The Touch HD makes some sacrifices for style reason, such as not having a flash on the camera, and not having a keyboard (two essential things for any phone I buy), whereas the X1 Xperia makes no compromises whatsoever.

In short, this is the best mobile phone I’ve ever owned, and it’s the first phone that I’ve fallen so completely in love with since I got the original Sony Ericsson P800 all those years ago. If you’re thinking of getting the X1 Xperia, do so, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re after a Windows Mobile phone, your best choice is between this and the HTC Touch HD, and I reckon the X1 Xperia’s the better phone. And if you want a super, tip-top powerhouse of a mobile phone, then guess what; the X1 Xperia is still the one I’d go for.

However, I am in danger of losing it, and this brings me to my final complaint about the X1 Xperia. Why did they have to make the Bubble Breaker game on it so bleedin’ addictive? I’m in serious danger of my sister beating me up to take it off me…

And in case you’re wondering, my top score on Bubble Breaker is 1368 points.

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