Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 review

£490
Price when reviewed

It’s a tough world for phone manufacturers. How do you differentiate your latest device from the endless shelves of other phones, especially when you’re often using the same operating system? For Sony Ericsson and the all-new Xperia X10, its answer comes in pairs: a striking piece of hardware, including a glorious 4in screen, plus its own software built on top of Google Android: Timescape and Mediascape.

Timescape is the more useful of the two. As with many other pieces of modern phone software, it’s primarily there to help you see what your friends and colleagues have been up to, with the usual stream of tweets and Facebook updates available.

However, Sony Ericsson adds a couple of nice twists. One is that it doesn’t stop with social networking: it also lets you quickly browse through the photos you’ve taken, calls you’ve received, and music you’ve played. It can even merge all those disparate elements into one stream.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

It’s a nice idea, but there are a couple of frustrations. These activities are shown as a series of cards curving down from top to bottom, and there’s only room for seven on the display – what’s more, you can’t even see the whole message, just the first few words. To actually read a tweet, for example, you have to tap on the card.

The other problem is that all those swooshing card effects need a lot of processing power to keep them swooshing smoothly, and while the effect was stutter-free if that’s all we were doing, as soon as a couple of other programs were puttering away in the background the animation started to stutter.

Mediascape is less interesting; in essence, it’s just a single place to access music, photos and videos. While that’s useful, it’s hardly a reason to buy one smartphone over any other. What could push you towards unearthing your wallet is when you come to actually watch a video – because the screen on this device is lovely.

Screen idol

With a resolution of 480 x 854, it technically surpasses the definition of a standard TV and approaches HD; and if you download the right sort of video to the Xperia X10 then you’ll soon be engrossed. In fact, its biggest problem is that the screen is so good it shows up the compression of poorly encoded video.

With the right video, it’s a high-quality portable player whose only limitation is storage: Sony Ericsson includes an 8GB microSD card, but load up a couple of videos and this soon fills. One other minor niggle is that if and when you do want to swap out cards, you’ll need to remove the battery first.

If this is a niggling problem, what comes next is a potential deal-breaker. Despite a capacitive screen, Sony Ericsson includes only Android 1.6 on this release of the Xperia X10 – it promises Android 2 as an update later this year – and as a result there’s no multitouch support. That’s a particular annoyance when browsing the web: anyone who’s used the iPhone’s browser will know just how much you come to rely on pinch zoom to navigate pages. It’s a crying shame, as the Xperia’s screen packs in an impressive amount of detail when browsing.

We also found the screen annoyingly unresponsive on occasion. For example, to unlock the Xperia you press down on the onscreen Unlock arrow and then swish your finger in an upwards arc, but if you don’t apply the right amount of pressure it’s all too easy to accidentally “let go” of the arrow. Likewise, if you choose to use the Xperia X10 as an alarm clock then you may find it takes several presses before the Dismiss button responds.

Physical

Dimensions 63 x 13 x 119mm (WDH)
Weight 135g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

Camera megapixel rating 8.1mp
Front-facing camera? no
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.0in
Resolution 480 x 854
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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