A device outstanding hardware that badly needs a ROM update in order to fulfill its potential.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X2 is sequel to the popular, albeit mind-bendingly expensive, Xperia X1, which was released by Sony Ericsson in 2008. The X2 is much cheaper than it's predecessor, and because the X1 was considered "state-of-the-art" at the time, little has changed this time around.
Before we get started in earnest, a quick note. There are two versions of this device: The standard X2, generally known as the X2i, and the North American version, called the X2a. I received the X2i, since the X2a isn't widely available yet. The difference is the 850 MHz band, a common distinction between North American and European/Asian market devices. However, there's an extra little difference here. Unlike the other model where the European version lacks the 850 band altogether, the standard X2 does feature support for 850 MHz, but not 850 MHz 3G. It's a subtle, but critical distinction. In my area, almost all coverage is 850, including 3G. This means the X2 doesn't get 3G coverage in areas I'm used to having it.
The X2a will feature 850 MHz 3G, fully suited for AT&T, Rogers, and most other North American carriers. However, you'll also pay a few hundred bucks more for the privilege. Since this is the only difference between the X2i? and the X2a, I'll be addressing them collectively as the X2 for the duration.
On to the meat of the review.
DESIGN & BUILD
The basic design and even most of the internal hardware specs are the same between the X2 and the older X1. Both are sliders, with horizontally-oriented sliding keyboards.
Side-sliders are never ideal for dialing, and that's definitely this model's biggest weakness. Touchscreens aren't ideal for hurried dialing. Still, it's no more uncomfortable than the iPhone, which doesn't seem to be lacking fans. And for those of us who use our devices more for Web browsing, e-mail, and data use than for voice, the X2's design provides a lot of screen space and a fine keyboard.
Generally speaking, the X2 is very well-designed. The slider mechanism feels robust and the keyboard's keys have a good click. The sort of double-beveling on them provides a good feel under the fingertips, even though the keys themselves are all pressed together.
The stylus is basic and kind of small, but it doesn't slide or collapse, which is good. For most things I simply preferred to use my fingertips, but with such a high resolution screen that's not always possible to do
accurately, so you'll definitely need to pull out the stylus from time to time.
Despite packing in a nice 800 x 480 pixel screen, the X2 is still small enough, and ergonomic enough, that you don't feel awkward putting it to your head.
Buttons and Trackpad
Although the X2 and X1 have much in common, there are some minor differences. For instance, the six angled buttons and standard directional pad on the front of X1 are gone, replaced by four membrane-type buttons and an optical-scanner trackpad.
Admittedly, I never got a chance to use the X1, but this strikes me as a downgrade. As with other optical pads I've used, the X2's directional control suffers from a complete lack of tactile feedback, making it really easy to move multiple times, and making precision difficult. It gets better once you're more accustomed to how the trackpad operates, so that you can move your finger more carefully, but it's never completely reliable. Furthermore the membrane buttons don't provide the same level of sensation that regular click type buttons do. Obviously these changes were made to try to more effectively mimic the iPhone, but frankly I would rather companies go with their own designs instead of attempting to look like something else.
Another reason to dislike the optical pad is that anything sliding over it will be read as movement, not just a finger. If the device is still on when you drop it in a pocket, you might be inadvertently inputting commands, like skipping around on your playlist, or who knows what else.
Sony Ericsson managed to find room on the otherwise compact design for a 3.5 mm headphone plug -- and I didn't realize until I used it again how much I missed not having to fuss with adapters, proprietary plugs, and all that. Just plugging in and going is such a relief.
However, the design is very practical, because that's also where the X2 keeps its TV output connector. Yes, by plugging in the special cable that comes with the device, you can hook it up to any standard TV that takes RCA plugs for both audio and video.
This smartphone comes with a wired hands-free set, of course, but this is mostly a courtesy, since it's a little awkward to set up. Bluetooth is still the way to go for most people who need a hands-free system.
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