Sony Ericsson's flagship smartphone reaches the infoSync testing labs. Read our full Sony Ericsson X10 review here.
Sony Ericsson X10 Overview
The Sony Ericsson X10 is a phone that offers more potential out of the box than it does advanced features. It's a swanky little device that runs an antiquated version of Android and offers a very basic web navigation experience. The Sony Ericsson X10's saving grace is its 8-megapixel camera with built-in LED flash, but at the end of our expedition with this phone, we were left feeling underwhelmed. The X10 was slow compared to the Galaxy S and Droid phones, and it lacked HD video capture. Sony Ericsson representatives tell us that the global Android upgrade will implement HD video and boost the speed of the phone, but until then it's going to be a mediocre option in a sea of power-packed smartphones. The big question is whether or not the X10 is worth holding out for—it's got Timescape, Mediascape, and a stellar Music interface. Only time will tell.
Sony Ericsson X10 Design
We've always been a fan of Sony Ericsson's eccentric approach to aesthetics, but the X10 is more of a homogenized take on the burgeoning smartphone revolution. That means the Sony Ericsson X10 is slightly shorter than a Samsung Captivate, yet thicker. The phone makes up for its slightly obtuse thickness by featuring a stylish curved back panel with smooth, seamless chassis integration. A trio of tangible Menu, Home, and Back buttons align the bottom of the phone's screen, which was surprisingly a relief after dealing with Droid and Galaxy S screen touch buttons. We liked the X10's physical buttons because it was harder to inadvertently hit one while using the phone, unlike the Galaxy S and Droid phones.
The Sony Ericsson X10 features a 4-inch 854 x 480-pixel capacitive touch screen that does the job. It's not the latest AMOLED technology characteristic of the Galaxy S phones, nor is it an iPhone Retina display. We did have a few issues with the sensitivity of the screen though. While browsing through lists of options, it's easy to accidentally select an option while swiping downward. Other times, the range of swipe was greater than we anticipated, leading us to repeatedly swipe until an action took hold. For example unlocking the phone took a few swipes to get used to because we had to bring our finger all the way up instead of using a little force and a good flick to get the job done.
The remainder of the Sony Ericsson X10's design is more of an emulation of the rest of the market's tried and true setup. There's a 3.5mm audio jack located dead center on the top along with a Power/Lock button, and USB terminal obscured by a plastic enclosure. On the right side of the phone is the meek Volume rocker and a designated Camera Shutter button. Underneath the back panel sits the MicroSD card slot, SIM card slot, and rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. Unfortunately, the battery needs to be removed in order to access the MicroSD or SIM card. The Sony Ericsson X10 can hold up to 32GB with the MicroSD card slot and ships with a 2GB MicroSD card.
Sony Ericsson X10 Navigation Experience
Android 1.6? What the heck is Android 1.6!? That's what the Sony X10 runs, and it's one of the few flagship smartphones to run the older version. Don't worry—the X10 has a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 384MB of RAM. But it's Android 1.6 that holds the phone back—creating lag and slower operation. The Sony Ericsson X10 was definitely not one of the faster models we've spent quality time with, especially compared to the new Motorola Droid 2, which runs Android 2.2. We know an Android 2.1 upgrade is heading toward the X10, but that date is undetermined, so until then, we'll just have to deal with the tortoise instead of the hare.
Despite being a slower, more stubborn phone, the Sony Ericsson X10 offers Timescape and Mediascape, which are two eccentric approaches to keeping tack of everything at once. With Timescape, every action completed on the X10—whether it's a phone call, text message, picture taken, or song listened to—is recorded in a series of categorical segments on the phone. That way, you can see every song you listened to, text you received, email you sent, etc., all easily accessible and organized in various categories. Mediascape is similar, compiling all of your videos, images, and music into three categories. You can view images in a handful of different ways—browsing by Friends, Camera Roll, Favorites, Albums, and Recently Viewed. The video below runs through Timescape and Mediascape, demonstrating how the alternative navigation systems work.
We applaud Sony Ericsson for adapting to the world of Android, yet thinking outside of the Android box. Timescape and Mediascape are certainly different ways to view your mobile life, and we actually preferred them to the Samsung Galaxy S "Buddies Now" streams. Timescape and Mediascape are much more sophisticated and classy, and it almost felt like we were transported to a different world in Super Mario Brothers 3 while using the X10—remember level 5 all the way up in the clouds? Aside from that, the Sony Ericsson X10 had a great music interface that supports MP3s, and offered the ability to assign custom sounds and tones for various notofications.
One thing we weren't crazy about was the Internet browsing experience, which lacked the ability to pinch and zoom, and tap to zoom. Instead, we were given onscreen controls that failed to expedite our browsing, so hopefully the Android 2.1 upgrade will nip that issue on the bud. The good news was that we had access to the Android Market, AT&T Hot Spots, IM, and Google Voice search. Ah, the Sony Ericsson X10 was hit or miss.
Sony Ericsson X10 Voice Quality/Reception/Battery Life
Here's another weak spot. We made numerous calls with both the Samsung Captivate and Sony Ericsson X10 from the same exact location. Both AT&T phones performed wildly different. The Sony Ericsson X10 continued to fade in and out, which was particularly upsetting while trying to give a credit card number over the phone. We also experienced static, and were forced to hang up and use a different phone, which turned out to be the Captivate. Problem solved. The Captivate not only provided more bars, but it gave us a clean, uninterrupted conversation. It's worth noting that both phones had access to a 3G network. Keep in mind that this also happens while using the 3G network to browse on the Internet—certain web pages will refuse to open or take forever to load. This was sad news.
On the bright side, the Sony Ericsson X10 gave a fairly decent battery performance, outlasting the Samsung Captivate when left overnight. Although the X10 did not match the Motorola Droid 2 in the battery life department, it still gave a valiant performance in a world of battery-sucking devices.
Sony Ericsson X10 Still Image Quality
Here is an arena where the Sony Ericsson X10 has a chance to shine with its 8-megapixel camera. Unfortunately, the X10 fell short in this department, despite the phone's 1/3.2-inch Exmor CMOS sensor—technology borrowed from the Sony's Cyber-shot line of digital cameras. With Cyber-shot technology comes on chip colum A/D conversion and dual noise reduction. However, noise was apparent in all of our images, even bright light Macro shots, which give the sensor the benefit of the doubt. Sharpness, detail, and definition were lost at sea somewhere, and definitely not present in our X10 sample shots. Another peculiar thing we encountered was a discolored block formation found in the KLR Tank image. The X10 probably reached a contrast overload with the black and white dots and spewed a purple grid formation in response.
Whatever the case, the Sony Ericsson X10 produced a mediocre image performance that ranked under the Motorola Droid 2. The Droid 2 also failed to match the Samsung Galaxy S phones and no phone we've tested has been able to beat the iPhone 4 yet this year in terms of image quality.
Video quality wasn't much different from the phone's still image performance, as the Sony Ericsson X10 produced another set of lackluster pictures—the only difference was that this time the lackluster pictures were moving. To its defense, the Sony Ericsson X10 records 720 x 480 widescreen Standard Definition videos, so it does have an excuse. But the videos are pixilated and lack vibrant colors. Sound is also not very impressive. Let's hope the HD upgrade will give the X10 a quality boost, but for now, there's nothing particularly impressive about the X10's video camera.
Sony Ericsson X10 Final Answer
So here we are, at the end of our jaunt with Sony Ericsson's flagship smartphone. It runs an old version of Android, features slow operation, antiquated Internet browsing, and a lackluster camera. On the bright side, the Sony Ericsson X10 offers some of the most advanced navigation ideas in the industry, thanks to Timescape and Mediascape. Listening to music on the X10 is like having our own MP3 player, complete with album art, and we know that an Android upgrade is set to hit the X10 any week now. That means a faster phone with HD video. Still, is an Android upgrade enough to topple the Motorola Droid 2, Samsung Captivate, or iPhone 4? Unfortunately not, and Sony Ericsson will need to do more in order to compete with those intimidating juggernauts in the future.
Price and Release Date
The Sony Ericsson X10 is available now from AT&T. It costs $150 with a new two-year contract.