Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This image is a bit disturbing perhaps, but as we usher in the New Year 2009, its a good time to remind everyone to PLEASE DRIVE SAFE. Be careful and be considerate.

No text message or phone call is worth your life, or the life of others.

To all my friends who have supported me and to all readers out there, I wish you everyone a very Happy and Successful New Year, and may it be a year full of touchscreen glory, amazing screen resolutions, slimming beauties and to drool-for mobile phones!

Its going to be a great year ahead.

Signing off, for 2008.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 review

The long LONG awaited and highly publicised X1 has finally arrived on our shores! The much advertised marriage between Sony Ericsson and Windows Mobile. When it was first announced, everyone (especially Windows Mobile users) were captivated by the new fancy interface, with icons that zoom in and out, zipping left to right. Very iPhone-ish wouldn't you say?

I've spent a good few weeks with the X1.

It has been interesting.

So, what are my first impressions? Is it all its glammed up to be? Is this really the saviour flagship phone for Sony Ericsson? Should YOU get it? Read on..

1 x Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 unit
1 x travel adapter with bundled miniport USB
1 x stereo headset with built-in microphone
1 x extra pen stylus
1 x setup CD
Sony Ericsson X1 manuals

First impressions
When I was first informed that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 had (finally) arrived, I immediately arranged to pick one up. Arriving home, quickly opening up the box, I was pleasantly surprised with the packaging. Very classy. Taking it out and holding it, I thought "this is it, the X1 that everyone has been waiting for". Before switching it on, I opened up the slider to reveal the keyboard that I had often just seen in photos online.
(Coming from using an iPhone with a virtual keyboard, this was refreshing I had to admit). Quickly popping in my sim card (the battery cover was a bit tight to open, which is a good thing really), I switched it on and was greeted with a cool Xperia logo followed by a Windows Mobile 6.1 green screen (windows lovers will find this familiar). There's even a "mirror finishing" display screen when on standby. Not bad, not bad... It was a good first impression.

Physical aspects
  • The SE Xperia comes in two colour variants; Silver and Black. My review unit is the black one as you can see.
  • On the top, you will find the 3.5mm jack (great inclusion by SE for the music buffs) and the power / standby key.
  • On the left, you will only see the mini USB slot.
  • On the right, the volume rocker key and the camera activation button.
  • At the back, you'll see the "3.2 megapixel" camera with flash and the XPERIA logo. As my unit is black, it looks very classy.
  • The real star of the X1 is the slide out keyboard. As you can see, its very well laid out . The number pad is quite different from these you would have seen from Nokia, Blackberry, Treo or even the P1. Because of the space constraints, SE decided to place the number pad at the far right, instead of label them on the top. Honestly, it took me a while (very short one) to get used to it. Once I got cracking, I found myself finding a reason to SMS / email someone... (anyone!!). (Note: The threaded chat is fantastic! As it should be since this is a WinMob 6.1 device. Anyone who has not experienced what threaded chat can do yet, you wouldn't understand). But, I have to say, for big thumbs like mine, you will need to press the keys with a "little bit" more effort. I guess the design of the keyboard, being placed on a "slope" or "curve", whichever you want to call it, has sacrificed some usability. Not a major problem in my opinion.
  • There is an optical sensor in the middle of the 4-way d-pad which is kinda cool at the beginning, but tends to get a little bit annoying and sometimes awkward after a while because its so sensitive! I mean, there's already a 4-way d-pad, so why include a optical sensor again?
  • Overall, the build quality of the X1 is superb. It felt very solid and very classy . SE sure knocked this one out of the park. About time too SE!
  • When I first started up the X1, the full glory of the 800 x 400 VGA screen, I was blown away with the resolution. It is amazing. All packed into a nicely sized 2.8inch screen! I have to say its one of the best screen resolutions on a Windows device to date. But, the sacrifice will be the size of the fonts. If your eyesight isn't exactly 20-20, you might have to squint especially when reading under the sunlight. Also, maybe my fingernails weren't very sharp, so on some occasions I had to "angle" my "pokes" to make sure it hit the right areas. I suppose that's why they included a stylus. (But seriously, how many people really use those styluses anyway?)
  • There's a key feature which SE included in the X1, not found in other windows devices, and its called "Panels". There are 7 loaded panels (hence the name) which are customisable and allows you to choose what you want as a home screen e.g. a clock interface, a weather interface, a media interface (where you can listen to music, select videos, view photos or even make a call), a Google interface and a few others. It doubles up as a shortcut/favourites sort of screen too. Quite handy. I found myself moving in between panels just for fun. But at the end of the day, I still liked my standard "Today screen" with info on my daily schedules and messages clearly laid out in front of me.
Photo courtesy of

Call quality
  • I tested the call quality both on the handset and on loudspeakers, both of which were clear and excellent. No major complaints here.
  • Hitting the "call" button will bring up the standard list of recent calls. It took a while before I could get used to identifying what were my missed calls, dialed calls or received calls though.
  • As you would expect, the X1 is touted as the most complete device that SE has released into the market. Go on, think of any feature you want. You'd probably find it on the X1. HSDPA, WIFI, GPS, Bluetooth... the list goes on.
  • I tested out Opera with Wifi on the X1 and suffice to say, I was impressed with it. I guess it works as well as I'd expect it to. Checking my emails, my blog and even logging onto Facebook. All brilliantly clear on the beautiful screen.
Camera / multimedia performance
  • Camera wise, this is perhaps the most used feature I used out of the X1. 3.2 megapixels with autofocus, 30fps video recording (albeit in VGA). Finally, a decent camera on a smartphone. OK, don't compare it to the killer SE C905 with 8megapixels but it puts up a fight compared to others out there like the Nokia E71, the E90 or even the iPhone. You can select the whole array of camera features, scene modes, flash on/off and even touch-select your focus points. Of course, in low light conditions, its not perfect. But like I always say in my reviews, if you want a clear night shot, use a real camera. But overall, I really had fun messing with this feature. I've included some shots taken with various scene modes.
A shot of the Bulletin in a dimly lighted room, with flash.
A shot of the garden outside. Full daylight.
Another shot of the garden.
A shot of the skies. Full daylight shot.
A shot of my little Tomy in a lighted room. No flash.
A night mode shot.
A night shot of my little Tomy. With flash.
A indoor shot of a house deco.
A close up shot of a Vaja leather case box.
A flash shot of the X1 box. Dim lighted room.
  • I would imagine the majority of (potential) buyers be wondering about the multimedia capabilities. SE did a great job including a 3.5mm headphone jack which means you can used just about any headphone as you wish, instead of being just limited to SE's included ones. Audio was loud, clear and crisp. Throw in the ease of the music player "panel", and you find a pretty enjoyable piece of Sony Ericsson (Walkman) tradition in your hands.

Things I loved about the X1
  • The build quality. It felt very solid in hand and quite a pleasure to use, especially with the slide out keyboard. Granted, you will need to put in a "little bit" of pressure when typing, but this is a minor issue in my opinion. Slide the X1 closed, you still get access to the whole array of shortcuts (ok, you wont be able to sms while driving, which is dangerous, so this is a good thing!)
  • The notification lights. Ok, maybe its just me, but there's something quite cool about a blinking phone on your desk. Kind of shows your phone is still alive I always thought. There are 4 independant notification lights on the four corners of the X1. These LED lights change with various colors. Ok, maybe you're not like me, then you can still switch them off under settings. But, the lights do offer a nice touch and weren’t too distracting or overly bright.
  • The battery life. Coming from using an iPhone, this was a joy. Making calls, sending numerous SMS's, occasional surfing on Wifi, listening to music, snapping random shots of things around me... I didn't need to charge for about 2 days.I'm sure it would last longer with "normal" use.
  • The multimedia capabilities. I just loved watching videos and viewing my photos on the screen. Granted, its not as savvy as an iPhone, but for a SE device, this is pretty revolutionary. Throw in the decent audio sound and you have a good multimedia device enough to satisfy the business user and the casual users out there.
  • Being able to charge with the USB cable when plugged into my pc. You'd be surprised but this is a very useful requirement. How many of us spend hours in front of the pc at work, or even at home? So why not use that time to charge up your X1 while transferring data across or even using the X1 as your modem? (I did not test this function as I did not have the review unit long enough to do so, but I'm sure it will work)

Things I didn't like about the X1
  • The sensitive optical button. Occasionally, I found myself "accidentally" brushing past the icon/application I wanted and/or activating it by mistake. I really think SE didn't need to include this on the X1.
  • Being a Windows Device, albeit with a fast 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200 processor coupled with 256MB of RAM, a Windows device is still a Windows device. Sometimes pressing the "OK" button did nothing for a few seconds, or switching between portrait and landscape modes took a second longer than I wanted. BUT, the hardcore Windows mobile users out there would probably insist that this is normal. Maybe it is, but for me, I like my phones to react instantly you know? I'm fussy that way.

d3xlabs recommendations
Having finally been able to get my hands on the SE X1, I really had mixed feelings at first, as I'm not an avid Windows Mobile device user. But having spent a few weeks with the X1, I come away mildly impressed with it. Putting it through its paces, with using it as my daily workhorse, running my schedules, making my usual calls, pushing the multimedia to its capacities, even toying with GPS (I didn't report much on this. C'mon, do we really need to use this extensively in Brunei?), surfing with HSDPA and wifi... its quite a stunner this Sony Ericsson. Fully loaded and spec-ed out.

Sure there are minor niggles I have with it, but overall, the X1 has been a pleasure to use. The only thing is, it doesn't come cheap. For those of you who can afford this device, it won't disappoint, but I will be honest here too; there are cheaper alternatives in the market today that offer you similar features.

So was the wait worth it? I think so.

My Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 rating - 4 stars
Available at all Incomm outlets now
Retail Price - BND1,198
(Remember to use your DST privilege cards for better discounts)