When it was unveiled, the Xperia X1 was ridiculously advanced. In late 2008, no other devices could touch it. It’s a testament to how ahead of its time the X1 was that it’s successor has specs with few changes almost 18 months later.
However, while nothing could touch the X1, the Xperia X2 is not high end like its parent. While there are other comparable devices from HTC and others, the X2 still manages to impress. Its 528 MHz processor is probably the lowest end component in it. And for reasons unknown, Sony Ericsson lowered the memory from 512 MB of flash to 256 MB.
Wireless and More
What else is inside that compact little case? Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, GSM/HSPA, of course. Can’t have a high end gadget without those.
The GPS system supports geo-tagging, so that you can embed GPS coordinates into photos you take with the 8 MP camera. I already mentioned the TV output capability via the included adapter cable.
We’ve also got the little things, like the built-in accelerometer and a microSD/SDHC slot — the latter of which comes already filled with a 4 GB card out of the box. Not the largest thing in the world, but enough to get you started if you don’t already have one.
And there’s an FM radio receiver with RDS, which we’ll hear about a little more under software.
Overall, my opinion of the X2’s hardware and design is positive. Despite a less-than-ideal directional controller, the device itself is compact, feels great in the hand, has a solid keyboard, and is well-balanced. I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of an ergonomically sound side-sliding device.
…And here’s the onion. Although the Xperia X2 has awe-inspiring hardware, its software fails to match up.
Let’s start from the most basic impression one gets after using the device. Despite having a 528 MHz processor, it lacks in overall speed. It’s got the same processor speed as the HTC Touch Pro, but the Touch Pro has a smooth and easy-to-use interface, while the X2 consistently lags, is slow to change screens, and generally feels frustrating.
But the even bigger problem is this: Sony Ericsson’s integrated software bundle is simply not good. The “panels” interface that is provided with the phone is needlessly complicated, featuring an unintuitive means of switching between views that lets the user get lost trying to navigate around his device.
The developers also added some unnecessary layers in between the user and simple functions like playing music. I’m not exactly endorsing the old “tap counter” approach to developing a user interface, but you do at least have to ask yourself, is adding more software helping or hurting the complexity of performing simple tasks?
It doesn’t help that Windows Mobile 6.5 Pro has several bad design decisions in it, like the hex grid for the application launcher, which isn’t attuned to how a normal person looks at a list of items and which gets really messy when you switch to landscape mode, since icons can be juggled around in a completely counterintuitive way. It would have been nice if Microsoft had provided an option to switch back to the “classic” icon view. As it stands, they’re forcing bad UI decisions on the rest of us because they feel like being avant-garde.
The bottom line is that the software, in clear contrast to the hardware, feels unfinished. This sense, like they rushed the X2 out the door before the debugging was really done, is heightened by the fact that the internal FM radio doesn’t work. It won’t be available to the user until the first official system software update hits the streets.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: Sony Ericsson has already released the schedule for two upcoming software updates to this Xperia model. One will be released in March, which will include the FM radio and a number of other things like faster GPS fixes that should have been done before the device left the factory. The second, slated for May, is simply marked as including Windows Mobile 6.5.3.
Whether these updates will fix the problem, no one can say. I certainly hope so.
On the bright side, Sony Ericsson increased the camera resolution from 3 megapixels to a whopping 8 MPx.
Like many high-end phone cameras now, this one has auto-focus, making it practically a “real” digital camera. Of course, the quality is a little less than what you’d get from of a dedicated camera, and the “flash” (a small LED) is so weak that it’s a non-issue when it comes to lighting. Still, the X2 can take some awe-inspiring pictures compared to your average camera phone.