Motorola MILESTONE XT720 review: Android sidearm

GSMArena team, 24 August 2010.
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Decent retail package

First thing first, let’s look what’s hiding in the box. Along with the handset itself, you will find the increasingly popular two-piece charger-data cable combo. The socket outlet charger head couples with the USB cable to create a full featured charger. USB charging is enabled too.

The nice surprises are the supplied HDMI cable and the generous 8GB microSD card. That kind of cable is still rare and it’s nice of Motorola to save users some bucks by including it in the package.

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The contents of the retail package

The headphones and the usual bunch of paperwork are the other items in the box. It’s a one-piece headset meaning that if you want to replace the headphones you will lose the remote.

Motorola MILESTONE XT720 360-degree spin

The Motorola MILESTONE XT720 is slightly above the average size of a handset with a 3.7” touchscreen. At 116 x 60.9 x 10.9 mm, it is quite comfortable to handle, helped by the unusually curved shapes. We do like the styling of the Motorola XT720 and think the design accents actually make sense.

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The Motorola MILESTONE XT720 next to the iPhone 3G

Up front, the bezel looks bigger than you’d expect, creating an impression of badly used space. Let’s not forget though that an 8MP module and a Xenon flash do need a lot of room.

The handset is on the heavier side at 142 grams. That’s a little more than the Nexus One and notably heavier than the Galaxy S. The XT720 is not that much lighter than the steel-covered original MILESTONE with its side-sliding QWERTY keyboard. And while we certainly appreciate the solid feel we think a warning is due here.

Design and construction

The MILESTONE XT720 is not just another slab of a phone. The asymmetric face is certain to pique your curiosity and the unusually sculpted rear does send the right message: fine tech inside, raw power on the outside. Photos may not tell the whole story but the XT720 is certainly a phone for those who like to be surprised.

The graphite mirror finish up front doesn’t seem to match the blue rubbery back but it’s a contrast that we like. And the unusual shapes do well to highlight the phone’s top features. The clean straight line of the façade interrupted to form a bump. And there you go – the shutter key is there, comfortably raised and ready for action. Around back, the phone is shaped so that the 8MP camera lens and the Xenon module are prominently raised. The Motorola XT720 is a high-end cameraphone and wants to leave you in no doubt about that.

Unlike most design experiments that dare challenge the standard, the final result is quite convincing. The great choice of materials also helps the unusual styling. Most of the handset’s case is made of metal.

The steel plates on the back are covered with a rubbery coating that’s nice and soft to touch and virtually fingerprint resistant. It doesn’t really give any better grip but the handset is comfortable enough to hold anyway.

The front of the handset is dominated by the 3.7” widescreen LCD display with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. The capacitive unit has great response, with crisp and vibrant images indoors. The brightness is very good and the contrast levels are decent, though not particularly impressive.

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The display is great indoors but fails under direct sunlight

Unfortunately the sunlight legibility of the Motorola MILESTONE XT720 display is a letdown. When outside on a bright sunny day, you can hardly make out what’s on the display and that certainly hurts usability.

Above the display we find a triangle of sensors that vaguely resembles Predator’s 3-point laser sight from the classic movie. The vertical pair are proximity sensors in charge of locking the touchscreen during calls. The single one at the side picks up the ambient light to automatically adjust screen brightness. Next to them are the earpiece and the Motorola logo.

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The sensors above the display and the earpiece

Underneath the display are four capacitive keys in charge of Android navigation: contextual menu key, Home key, back and search buttons. The XT720 doesn’t have hardware Call keys.

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The keys below the display are touch-sensitive too

The last things to note up front are the three backlit icons placed vertically on the “chin” in the bottom right corner. Each of those has a LED underneath, indicating the imaging mode currently in use: gallery, still camera or camcorder.

On the side of handset – exactly at the raised bit is the dedicated imaging button to switch between the gallery and the two camera modes. Right next to it is a thin but reasonably tactile camera key – soft and responsive, with distinct half press. Further up on that right hand side is the volume rocker.

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The right side controls: volume rocker, gallery button and shutter key

The left side of Motorola MILESTONE XT720 features the microUSB port, which is used for both data transfers and charging. It’s covered by a small plastic flap.

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The microUSB port is under a small cover on the left

There is a similar cover for the microHDMI port which is on the top of the handset, next to the exposed 3.5mm audio jack and the power/lock button.

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The top: Power/lock key, 3.5mm audio jack and HDMI port

The bottom of the Motorola MILESTONE XT720 is completely bare, but for the microphone pinhole.

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The mouthpiece is all there is to see at the bottom

The back on the other hand is rather crowded. Here we find the 8 megapixel camera lens, an AF assist light and the xenon flash unit. The loudspeaker is also here, with a prominent black grill in the lower half of the phone. The final noteworthy element here is the second microphone used for noise-cancelling.

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The 8 megapixel camera comes with xenon

Removing the battery cover reveals the hot-swappable microSD card slot and the BP6X Li-Po battery. It is said to provide up to 750 hours of stand-by or 13 and a half hours of talk-time in a 2G network, which sounds pretty impressive. In 3G mode the respective numbers are quite good too at up to 576 hours of standby and 6 and a half hours of talk time.

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Taking a peek under the hood

In real life, the MILESTONE XT720 lasted for just under two days of moderate use. We took over a dozen photos, browsed the web for just under an hour over Wi-Fi and spent about 30 minutes on the other phone features each day.

The build quality of the Motorola MILESTONE XT720 is excellent and the handset seems built to last. To dispel any doubts you might have, the phone is also quite comfortable to handle. Most importantly though, the XT720 is a device with personality. We liked the contrast between the front and rear, the surprising mix of advanced technology and old-school looking angular design.

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The Motorola XT720 held in hand

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