It should be noted that the inclusion of Opera Mobile makes the web surfing experience entirely more enjoyable than with Internet Explorer. We pitted the X1 (using Opera Mobile, obviously) against the iPhone 3G to see which would load up the full version (read: non-mobile version) of our homepage the fastest via WiFi, and while Safari managed to load the entire page -- graphics and all -- before the X1, the X1 did
get the first text up a smidgen faster than the iPhone 3G. We did administer the same test via 3G, and results were similar. All in all, Opera Mobile provides a browsing experience that's enjoyable and usable, and if you're still not satisfied, there's always Skyfire
(in time, hopefully). Have a look at the video below to see the X1 and iPhone 3G race to the finish.
Usability / Reception
In the end, a phone's merits on paper are only truly laudable if the end product is easy and painless to use. To that end, we'd like to take this opportunity to focus on some of the handset's more critical functions, namely calling and navigating. In a fringe area of AT&T coverage, we compared the X1's reception with that of the iPhone 3G, and unfortunately, our findings weren't all that copacetic for Sony Ericsson's offering. In areas where we could eke out a call on EDGE with two bars on the iPhone 3G (with no crackling, drops, etc.), we couldn't with the X1. In fact, we found it constantly hopping in and out of 3G, EDGE and GPRS (yes, seriously) as it attempted in vain to secure a solid signal. Worse still, a number of calls made with four bars of 3G echoed uncontrollably to the point where we were forced to hang up, move to a different area, and try the call again.
That being said, call quality and reception in major metropolitan areas (or areas of very good AT&T coverage) was second to none. There was no hissing, no echoing, no crackling. Everyone that we called affirmed that we sounded fantastic, and we replied back that they sounded as handsome as ever. The takeaway? Those who know
they live in an AT&T fringe zone may want to think twice about snagging the X1. Fringe reception was simply too poor for us live with, and anyone you'd end up calling frequently would probably agree. Of course, we now know that an AT&T femtocell (read: a mini cell tower for your house, to put it simply) trial is slated to get going
later this year, so maybe there's hope for you yet.
As for its GPS capabilities, we've nothing but the highest of praise. The Google Maps application loaded up quickly, and the handset managed to get an accurate lock of our indoor location in just under 1.5 minutes. Walking about, we found that the blue orb followed along accurately, and basic navigating tests left us impressed. We know, it's hard to go wrong with Google Maps, but at least we know the GPS module in this thing is up to the task.
We also ran a quick 3G speed test in Opera just to give you all an idea of how quickly it could suck down data via AT&T's 3G network. Our DSLReports tests displayed the following (tests shown in the order they were conducted):
348 kbit/sec; 0.433s latency; 23.91s download time of a 1MB file.
748 kbit/sec; 0.71s latency; 11.564s download time of a 1MB file.
589 kbit/sec; 0.696s latency; 14.604s download time of a 1MB file.
We never hooked the XPERIA X1 up to any sort of drain tester, nor did we outsource this portion of the review to a robotic yapper who could track talk time down to the nanosecond, but we did go about our days doing what we imagine most cellphone owners would do in order to bring you the following. With moderate usage of 3G data and a moderate amount of talking / texting, we squeezed just under two full days out of the X1.
More specifically, we chatted for a few hours, surfed the web for an hour or so, sent a few dozen angry text messages while in gridlocked traffic and left it completely unplugged (while still on) around the clock before seeing it choke out its last breath around 22 hours later. In all honestly, we were taken aback by the battery life of the XPERIA X1. We've owned WinMo devices in the past that wouldn't last a solid day with moderate usage, so to us, just making it 'til bedtime is a feat in and of itself. Granted, the X1's not razor thin or anything, and the 1,500mAh battery is surely on the large size, but we never felt as if the phone was made bulkier simply to extend its life between charges.
So, here we are. The moment of truth. The section you probably blazed down to without even ingesting any of the minutiae that resides above. Is the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 worth your time and money ($799.99, to be precise)? As with any handset, that obviously depends on your needs, but those looking specifically for a Windows Mobile-powered device should give this long (long!) awaited device a serious look. For starters, the HTC design is truly world class. You'll be hard pressed to find a sexier phone in all aspects than this one here, and let's face it, design matters this day and age.
Our only major cautions before buying blind revolve around the lackluster reception in fringe areas of coverage and the lag / hiccups associated with WinMo 6.1. There's hardly anything more frustrating with a new handset than the inability to reliably make / take calls and the inability to navigate effortlessly around every nook and cranny of an operating system without four reboots per day. SE's Panels UI holds some real promise, but until it becomes more seamlessly integrated (meaning less lag in every respect), we can't say it's a game-changing inclusion.
In almost every other way, though, the XPERIA X1 shines. The battery life is stellar, the browsing in Opera is delightful, the VGA resolution is drool-worthy and the integrated camera isn't too shabby, either. This here truly is a case of matching up the pros and cons with your specific needs and determining which list outweighs the other. Now, if someone figures out how to get Android
up and running on this thing, we wouldn't say a "wholehearted recommendation" would be too far from the realm of feasibility.