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Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 This Android phone puts a fun spin on the OS and sports a good camera, but there are better alternatives.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

by Brian Neal on August 13, 2010

Talk about a bold departure from the stock Android experience. When you first turn the Xperia X10 on, it doesn't even look like a Google phone. That's because Sony Ericsson didn't just skin the OS; what you see on its 4-inch screen looks and feels completely different than anything else on the market. This phone's unique Timescape feature lets you flip through social networking updates like a deck of cards, and its Mediascape app neatly organizes your music, photos, and videos--including online content. We also like the Xperia X10's 8-megapixel camera, which borrows fun features from Sony's standalone digicams like face and smile detection. Unfortunately, this 1-GHz smart phone doesn't feel nearly as fast as its clock speed, and it runs the now ancient Android 1.6 OS. So is its $149 price tag reasonable for the features you get, or should you just step up to the Samsung Captivate or iPhone 4?

Design

With its 4-inch scratch-resistant, shatter-proof glass display, the Xperia X10 is nicely balanced between the 3.5-inch iPhone 4 and the larger 4.3-inch Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G. At 4.7 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches and 4.8 ounces, it's slightly shorter but thicker and heavier than the 4.5-ounce Captivate. The X10 is also the same weight as the iPhone 4. However, the iPhone 4 has a much more elegant glass and steel design.
On the plus side, the back is comprised of high-grade soft touch material similar to the Droid X, making it easy to grip. There are no buttons on the left of the phone, but to the right are nicely raised volume buttons and a dedicated camera shutter. On top is a power button and flap-covered mini USB port, with a 3.5mm headphone jack wedged between. For novice Android users, the Xperia X10's three physical buttons (Menu, Home, Back) may seem like standard fare, but the lack of a dedicated search button was a nuisance. We found ourselves reaching for the nonexistent search button often while e-mailing and web browsing, and realized just how much we've come to rely on it.
To make matters worse, the small white LED lights between the buttons barely help to distinguish them in dark conditions. And why use a square icon instead of a Home icon for home? Beneath the phone is the microphone, and on the back is an 8-MP camera accompanied by a light that Sony Ericsson wouldn't dare call an LED flash (we'll touch upon this later).

Display

The Xperia X10 has a 4-inch WVGA 854 x 480-pixel resolution display that's big and bright when the setting is cranked to the max. While not as crisp or colorful as the Super AMOLED display on the Captivate or the iPhone 4's Retina display, the Xperia X10 still does a good job of displaying multimedia content such as videos and pictures. Web sites looked good on the device as well, and the extra screen estate came in handy when dealing with the virtual keyboard.

Keyboard

The Xperia X10's sole reliance on Google's default Android keyboard is a bit of a bummer. Typing in landscape mode was fine and mostly error-free, but entering portrait mode felt too cramped. We recommend installing Swiftkey beta from the Android Market as an alternative to Google's keyboard.
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