Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 preview

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 preview
(from: GSMArena team)


Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is one of the hottest names in the industry and it's not even released yet. Santa won't be able to get us one for Christmas but next year holds a serious promise for us geeks. The Sony Ericsson's first Snapdragon device and first Android smartphone is one seriously capable handset that promises great user experience.

We first met the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 a month ago at its official announcement event in London. The device that might end up deciding the company's fate left us feeling quite positive about its market prospects so we are really pleased to finally welcome it to our office.

The software of the XPERIA X10 is far from settled but since Sony Ericsson dared to show it to the audience, you can bet that the hardware won't see any dramatic changes. The realistic expectations are for the bugs to be solved and maybe a couple of minor features added but what we are going to show is what you should expect to see when the device hits the shelves in Q1 of next year.

For starters let's take a look at the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 key characteristics.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 at a glance:

General: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS 900/1900/2100 MHz, HSDPA, HSUPA
Form factor: Touchscreen bar phone
Dimensions: 119 x 63 x 13 mm, 135 g
Display: 4" 65K-color TFT capacitive touchscreen, 854 x 480 pixels
Platform: Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon 1 GHz processor
OS: Android 1.6 (Donut)
Memory: 1GB storage, 256MB RAM, microSD card slot, 8GB card included in the retail box
Camera: 8 megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash and face detection; touch focus, WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) video recording at 30fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, standard microUSB port, GPS receiver with A-GPS, 3.5mm audio jack
Misc: Sony Ericsson Timescape and Mediascape UI, built-in accelerometer

That Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 certainly looks pretty powerful among its Android peers. It's only major sin is that it will be too late for the Christmas shopping spree and will have to achieve success in a much more challenging market conditions.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 views

An unspectacular handset can do wonders in the last moths of the year, given the right marketing, but things get much tougher once New Year's Eve passes. People have already spent most of their surplus cash and need more persuasion to shell out the serious amount that this baby calls for.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 next to the Apple iPhone 3GS and HTC HD2

But than again, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 looks well prepared to handle any challenge. The device is supposed to launch in the middle February - most probably around the MWC 2010.

We'll start with a brief hardware inspection of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 following the break.

The 4 inch screen is a treat

Being a full-touch handset the Ericsson XPERIA X10 had little room for maneuver as far as the design is concerned. The huge touchscreen covers most of the front, while the back is pretty plain. The rounded edges certainly give it an added attractiveness - much like the wavy metallic pattern on the side.

The design of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is pretty standard

What we are particularly happy about is the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 display. The 4" capacitive touchscreen unit packs a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and great picture quality.

Of course, that 65K-color limitation of the Android 1.6 Donut takes its toll on some occasions, but unless it's single-color gradients that you are looking at, it won't really bother you in day-to-day usage. The default UI graphis have been carefully chose not to reveal this weak spot.

The display contrast is nice and the sunlight legibility is the best we have seen on a Sony Ericsson handset. In fact out there in the bright sun, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is as good as the Apple iPhone. The X10 brightness is bit below that on the iPhone, but still higher than on most other full touch phones. So the XPERIA X10 display gets a well deserved compliment.

The sensitivity of the display is great as well - quite as expected from a capacitive touchscreen. You don't need a push but only a slight touch for a click to be registered. The snappy Snapdragon also matters as the perceivable responsiveness of a device is screen and processing power in equal shares.

Getting to know the details

The X10 sports Menu, Homescreen and Back buttons under the display

The three keys below the display are nicely comfortable with good tactile feedback. The left button opens the menu, the middle takes you to the homescreen, while the right one is a Back key.

Camera and volume are controlled from the right

The right side of the handset features the camera key and the volume rocker, which also doubles as a zoom control. Those are both a bit too small, but nothing you cannot get used to pretty quickly.

It's pretty boring on the left

The left side of Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 features no controls whatsoever.

The top of the X10 hosts the 3.5mm audio jack, the power key and the microUSB slot. The universal connector is covered by a small plastic lid to prevent dust and dirt accumulation. We are extremely pleased that Sony Ericsson are ditching their proprietary Fast port connector and moving to the standard microUSB instead. We should see more of that on their 2010 products.

The microUSB slot is covered by a plastic lid, unlike the 3.5mm jack

At the bottom of Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 there's a pretty large whole. That is where the lanyard should go if you happen to use one.

The lanyard eyelet

The back of the handset features the 8 megapixel camera and its companion - the LED flash. As you might have guessed taking photos in complete darkness is not what the XPERIA X10 likes to do, but the occasional close-range shot of your buddies might be saved by the tiny LED.

The 8 megapixel camera is only treated to a LED flash

Unfortunately there is no protection for the camera lens, so you should be particularly careful not to scratch them. It's recessed enough but any sharpo objects in your pocket might get dangerously close.

The microSD card slot is below the battery and that means it's not hot-swappable. Having to restart the handset every time we need to access the card is not really our favorite thing but, alas, Sony Ericsson didn't find room for it elsewhere.

The microSD card slot is located under the battery cover

It's got a handling we liked

The build quality of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is pretty decent.The plastic on the back is quite fingerprint resistant and it's only the front panel that takes on an increasingly smudgy appearance as the day goes by.

We really enjoy the rounded edges on the back. They can easily make you believe that the phone is slimmer than it is. XPERIA X10 is about the size of original HTC Touch HD (but much lighter) so you can guess its size is on the border of crossing the line of convenient single hand operation. We can however assure you, it feels perfectly all right in a man's hand.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 held in hand

So that's about as much as we can tell you about the hardware right now. Join us on the next page to take a peek at the software side of the deal.

Custom UI everywhere, Android 1.6 lurking beneath

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 runs on the Android 1.6 OS Donut. You probably knew that right from the start, but we can't hide our disappointment that it doesn't come with the latest Android 2.0. Currently, Sony Ericsson has not announced any plans for an official upgrade to the latest version some time in the future.

Another unwelcomed surprise is that the XPERIA X10 Android implementation won't be making use of multi-touch gestures such as pinch zooming in the web browser and gallery.

That being said, we still gotta give Sony Ericsson the credit they deserve for coming up with their nice custom UI. Yeah, it still needs some polishing around the edges, but it's got that magic mojo. And with the help of the 1GHz Snapdragon core inside, you can be sure the final result would be amazing.

All the homescreens, lockscreen, menus, submenus, notifications areas and internal buttons have been redesign completely by Sony Ericsson. As a result, X10 brings a completely new underwater-like blue interface and looks completely different from it Android siblings.

The lockscreen and the three customizable homescreens

Still the Android structure is almost intact and you won't get lost digging into the menus and settings. All the usual suspects are here - the three homescreens, and the single menu that holds all your stuff, the slide-down notification area at the top and the contextual menu at the bottom.

As you see from the shots, the customized Android 1.6 is eye-catching and gives the OS a slightly new feel.

The customized Android UI

Surprisingly good camera

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 sports an 8 megapixel camera with LED flash capable of taking photos at a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels.
Sonu Ericsson have designed their own camera interface from scratch.

At the left column bar you will find only five options - capturing mode, resolution, scenes, focus mode and camcorder switcher. On the opposite you can change the exposure compensation and go to the camera album.

There are four capturing modes - normal, scene recognition, smile detection and touch capture. Choosing the scene recognition will set all settings to auto and the X10 will estimate on what setting to shoot.

On the other hand there are five focus modes available - single or multi autofocus for focusing on more than one spot, macro mode, face detection and infinity for capturing landscapes.

Finally, there is one really handy addition - the recent shot tray. It appears at the bottom left corner and shows the last pictures taken as small thumbnails.

Camera interface

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 takes pretty good photos with excellent detail and colors even at this early pre-production stage. There are no visible problems with the lens or processing algorithm. There are some things here and there that need polishing, but we are more than satisfied with the results.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 camera samples

The X10 is capable of capturing videos up to WVGA (800x480)@30fps. Touch focus is even available in the video recording mode.

Picture bar • camcorder options

Videos look well and despite some frame rate and compression problems, we are happy with them. But you can bet we woouldn't have been be so forgiving if this was a retail version.

Mediascape and Timescape

Timescape and Mediascape are the two new interfaces (read: applications) developed by Sony Ericsson specifically for XPERIA X10. They provide a novel and interactive way of accessing and managing your communications (including social networking) and your multimedia content.

However - these two most interesting parts of the XPERIA X10 UI are also the least finished. That's the reason why we're also not publishing any video demos at this stage. The software is still not ready for prime time and Sony Ericsson are hard at work in polishing it.

Accessing all your media

So first off, let's answer what is Mediascape. Well, we can simply call it a fancy file browser and media player. But we would be oversimplifying things.

Granted, the Mediascape UI contains three different categories - Music, Video and Photo. Sure enough the Music and Photo tabs are very similar - they show in a small thumbnail rows your recently added, recently viewed/played files and your favorites among those.

The magic however is on the second part of the screen, which is dedicated to online content - if you link your X10 to a Facebook/Picasa/Flicker account or some online music service, you will see your content in the same way as those into the phone.

The Photo tab

We also mentioned there's a Video tab, remember? Well, there is no online content here but you get all your videos in a plain and easy to use thumbnail view. Unfortunately, DivX and XviD videos are not supported and those clips don't even get listed here.

The Video tab

All the three tabs feature a More button, which will lead you to the full power of the galleries. Choosing more into the Music tab will open the full lists typical for a music player – recently added, played, favorites, albums, tracks, genres, etc.
The music and video player have pretty much identical interfaces with some plain straightforward buttons. At this stage there is no equalizer for the music player.

The Music tab

The gallery has all the regular controls and it works nice and fluidly. You can upload images to social networking services directly from here. Zooming is also fast. As we mentioned before, there is no multi-touch, so you will count on the dedicated virtual buttons.

Browsing images

If you click on the Infinite button in the music player (and interestingly the image gallery), you will get a streamlined view of a Google search results based on the context info like the current album artist. The search results are sorted by their type - such as YouTube videos, images, popular e-shops, etc.
Finally, you can set the Mediascape as your default homescreen, which will be shown when you hit the Home key.

The music and video player

And a place to gather all those close to you

Just like Mediascape, Timescape is a separate application but it's job is to bring all your communications together. It always displays an aggregated view of your SMS, MMS, email, missed calls, Facebook updates and Twitter updates all on one screen. It also has a large number of tabs that can filter the content by type.

The Timescape UI

Similar to the Mediscape, the Timescape can be set for your default homescreen too.

To sum up - Mediascape is your player, Timescape is your communicator.

First impressions

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is far from official release but it's clear it's full of potential. It has among the currently fastest ticking hardware platform. The 4-inch screen is as big as you can fit on a mobile phone without hampering usability. So yes, the XPERIA X10 is one great package that will take on the competition with no hesitation.

Choosing Android is smart move by Sony Ericsson, since the OS is still new and developing, with free open-source code and a growing App Market. And most importantly, it's not plagued by the Windows Mobile or Symbian legacy.

The Timescape and Mediascape interfaces allow for a completely new user experience on the Android platform. HTC Sense UI will definitely get a run for its money..

Unfortunately, there are at least two and a half months to go before Sony Ericsson release the XPERIA X10 and they still have a lot of work to do and a lot of edges to polish. Chances are we'll be getting a real treat in February 2010.

No comments:

Post a Comment