If you've followed Sony Ericsson's development roadmap like we have, then you'll know that the Xperia X1 represents a dramatic change in direction for a company that’s made many phones which look very similar to each other.
The Xperia X1 is different from anything Sony Ericsson has come up with before and hopefully signals a push towards a much more innovative future. Of course innovation can go wrong, but that's part of the risk. Read our review if you want to find out whether the gamble paid off.
You can get yourself a Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 for free on a monthly contract from Vodafone.
Similar to the HTC Touch Pro, the Xperia X1 features a touchscreen on the front and hidden underneath a full slide-out Qwerty keypad. Our review model came in a serious but attractive black casing that's made up of metal and plastic sections. It feels solid and could most likely take a few tumbles. Most of the X1's surfaces aside from the screen are matte which means you don't get fingerprints all over it.
The Xperia's touchscreen is very sharp and large enough to enjoy viewing emails and videos, but it's noticeably smaller than the iPho ne 3G's, which may bother you depending on what you use it for.
We found the X1's screen fairly responsive but not as responsive as the iPhone's when using a finger. It's made less finger-friendly due to the Windows Mobile's interface that regularly requires using a stylus to tap on smaller sections of the menu or texting interface, for example.
If navigating the touchscreen using your finger or the X1's stylus winds you up, then you can always use the four-way navigation key underneath the screen. Bizarrely, the navigation key features an optical sensor in the middle, which also doubles up as an OK button.
The optical sensor allows you to scroll through the X1's menu by simply stroking it and while it is useful at times, we found it made navigation over-complicated. Every time you inadvertently brush the sensor it can cause something to move on the screen which can get a bit annoying at times.
One of the X1's most exciting features is its slide-out Qwerty keypad that we were keen to test out. It slides out at a curved angle and boasts a backlight for use in the dark. There's no need for it to curve but several people remarked that it looks good.
We'd like to report that the X1's keypad delighted us but we found the keys a little too flat and ill-defined. You do get used to using it, but it's certainly not perfect. A better keypad would feature keys that were more raised in the middle so that you can feel them better as you're typing.
Something we did think was perfect about the X1's design is the built-in 3.5mm headphone jack, which lets you plug your standard headphones straight in -- a feature we want to see on more Sony Ericsson phones, in particular its Walkman range of phones.
The X1 comes laden with features all wrapped up in a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional package. In order to get to some of these features Sony Ericsson has implemented a customisable 'panels' system.
Similar to HTC's TouchFLO 3D menu interface, the X1's on-screen panel system provides finger-friendly access to a variety of features via a menu that houses nine exchangeable panels. These panels act as shortcuts to a variety of different apps or services.
Once pressed a panel will change the homepage, for example, or give you access to the X1's FM radio or media files. According to Sony Ericsson, more panels will be added over time and you'll be able to download them straight to the X1 with relative ease.
We like the panel concept and it does make accessing certain features easier, but the panel interface is slow to react at times and ultimately a patch rather than a fix for the Windows Mobile interface.
On a more positive note, because it runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, the X1 offers Push email, Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft document editing and viewing support. From a business perspective it's more than capable of keeping you up to date.
Windows Mobile 6.1 runs well enough on the X1 but not as fast as we would like and still lags at times when loading apps or when accessing certain parts of the menu. Also, at times it seemed to struggle with changing the screen from portrait to landscape mode.
Interface lag aside, HSDPA and Wi-Fi make Web access fast and enjoyable. A good tip is to download Opera Mobile that renders sites similar to the iPhone's browser. The X1's GPS works well outdoors with Google Maps or if you prefer you can install third-party mapping software.
Accessing media content such as music or videos can be done via
Windows Media player or via Sony Ericsson's PSP-like player that can be
accessed via a panel. The X1's media player has a PSP-style layout and is easy
to use. You can create playlists and shuffle tracks with just a few
Equally easy to use is the X1's 3.2-megapixel camera that can be accessed via a dedicated shutter key on the side. It's basic and only has an LED photo light but takes good quality shots in daylight for small prints. In low light the LEDs only work well at close range.
Audio quality during calls was clear but a little quieter than we would have liked. The loudspeaker performed well, but you're better off using a Bluetooth headset. The X1 also supports stereo Bluetooth if you want to listen to music wirelessly.
Using 3G the X1's battery life is quoted at six hours talk time and 640 hours standby time. We found that it lasted for almost two days with moderate use, but it will depend on how heavily you use Wi-Fi, HSDPA and all the X1's other features.
The Xperia X1 is Sony Ericsson's most ambitious phone to date boasting a plethora of features. Unfortunately, while it looks beautiful it doesn't work as well as we expected. Part of the problem is that Windows Mobile still isn't a consumer friendly OS -- it's just too fiddly.
Sony Ericsson's attempt at making Windows Mobile more intuitive is commendable -- the panel system works, but it doesn't work well enough all of the time. Similar to the HTC Touch HD, we think that if the X1 ran Android, then you might just have something very special indeed.
Of course, it isn't just an OS issue: the Xperia X1's screen isn't as sensitive as we’ve become accustomed to on the iPhone and the keypad isn't as great as we'd hoped -- a little more definition on the keys goes a long way.
If you want something different this is a good choice, but if you're looking for the best Windows Mobile phone or the best touchscreen phone, then unfortunately, this is neither. That said, we hope to see more brave moves like this from Sony Ericsson, who up until recently pumped out one too many handsets that looked the same as the ones before them.Edited by Cristina Psomadakis