Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 review: Larger than life

GSMArena team, 26 March 2010.
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Another iPhone copycat package

It’s been just a week since we saw the tiny retail box of the Motorola BACKFLIP, and here goes another one. In fact, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 comes in an even smaller box, one that’s certainly not giving away the elaborate device hiding inside. It’s interesting how the minimalist retail package Apple chose for the first iPhone has now been copied by so many other manufacturers.

The cardboard box packs a charger and a microUSB cable. There is also a two-piece headset, but you are not limited to using this since the XPERIA X10 has a standard 3.5 mm jack.

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 unboxed

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 360-degree spin

Nobody would possibly expect the XPERIA X10 to be compact. The 4-inch monster of a display occupying most of the front is the obvious reason for all the design decision-making. OK, the X10 is big – it measures 119 x 63 x 13 mm, which almost matches the HTC HD2. But almost is the key word here.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 weighs 20 grams less than the HD2 because of its plastic body, and that’s very noticeable in the hand. Despite the lack of metal on the casing, the X10 is solidly built, but that’s something we’ll go into a little bit more detail about later.

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 next to the XPERIA X10 mini and Apple iPhone 3G

One thing’s for sure though: the physical differences between the XPERIA X10 and its mini version tell the whole story. It’s impressive to see how small touchscreen smartphones can get. But equally impressive – if you ask us – what the XPERIA X10 can do for you in terms of screen and media.

A screen to like

Being a full-touch handset the Ericsson XPERIA X10 had little room to maneuver on design. The huge touchscreen covers most of the front, while the back is pretty plain. The rounded edges certainly make it more palm-friendly – essential for a handset this size. The asymmetric chrome accents on the side are subtle and elegant. Any more than that would’ve been improper.

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The subtle styling makes sense on a handset this size

There’s also a white XPERIA X10 and that sure will be a sight to see. The black one we’re reviewing is obviously the more mature and conservative option. It’s a smartphone and it’s a multimedia phone – it doesn’t need to follow a formal business dress code. But again, the sheer size of it doesn’t really allow too much embellishment.

The 4" capacitive touchscreen unit has a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and great picture quality. Of course, that 65K-color limitation of the Android 1.6 Donut takes its toll occasionally, but unless it's single-color gradients that you are looking at, it won't really bother you in day-to-day use.

The default UI blue graphics have been carefully chosen not to reveal this weak spot. But don’t worry, Android 2.1 is fully capable of supporting 16M colors and Sony Ericsson promise it will come to the XPERIA X10 soon.

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 display

Contrast is excellent and the sunlight legibility is the best we’ve seen on a Sony Ericsson handset. In fact out there in the bright sun, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is as good as the Apple iPhone. The X10 brightness is just a bit subdued but the image is vibrant and clean. A well-deserved thumbs up for the XPERIA X10 screen.

The sensitivity of the display is great as well - just as you would expect in a capacitive touchscreen. The snappy Snapdragon also matters here as the real response of the system is dependent on the screen and the processor in equal measures.

As far as multi-touch support is concerned, Android 1.6 isn’t capable of working with those kind of gestures. Our hopes go for Android v2.1 - which has native multi-touch implementation - so we might see some of that if the X10 gets an upgrade. Multi-touch support is only a prerequisite for pinch zooming, it’s go to be implemented additionally to work.

Update: Sony Ericsson have officially confirmed that multi-touch the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 cannot be enabled because of hardware limitations.

Eye for detail

As usual above the display we find the centrally placed earpiece. The ambient light sensor is hidden on its left, a small status LED on the right.

The three keys below the display are nicely tactile with soft press and adequate feedback. Left to right, you get a Menu key, Home, and a Back key. Capacitive controls are trendy lately but the XPERIA X10 just took to long to be caught in this trend. There must be enough people anyway who do prefer hardware buttons and the X10 certainly won’t let them down.

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The earpiece at the top of the screen • the Menu, Homescreen and Back buttons under the display

The right side of the handset features the shutter key and volume rocker, which also doubles as a zoom control. Those are both a bit small, but with very distinct and comfortable press.

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Camera key and volume rocker/zoom lever on the right

The left side of Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 features no controls whatsoever. Looking carefully you may find the tiny loudspeaker cleft here. Another aperture further down is possibly the mouthpiece.

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Nothing much to see on the left, except for the loudspeaker

The top of the X10 hosts the 3.5mm audio jack, power key and the microUSB port. The universal connector is covered by a small plastic lid. The audio jack has no protection and you should clean it once in a while to avoid problems.

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The microUSB slot is covered by a plastic lid, unlike the 3.5mm jack

At the bottom of Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 there's a pretty large whole. That is where the lanyard should go if you use one.

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The lanyard eyelet

The back of the handset features the 8 megapixel camera lens and the LED flash. As you might have guessed taking photos in low light is not the XPERIA X10’s strongest feature with this type of flash, but the occasional close-range shot of your buddies might be saved by the tiny LED.

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The 8 megapixel camera is only treated to a LED flash

Unfortunately, there is no protection for the camera lens, so you should be particularly careful not to scratch it. It's recessed enough but any sharp objects in your pocket might get dangerously close.

The microSD card slot is under the battery and that means it's not hot-swappable. Having to restart the handset every time we need to access the card is not really our favorite thing but Sony Ericsson obviously didn't find room for it elsewhere.

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The microSD card slot is under the battery cover

The build quality of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is solid. The matt plastic on the back is quite fingerprint resistant and soft to touch. It's only the front panel that takes on an increasingly smudgy appearance as the day goes by.

Although there are no metallic parts to strengthen the overall build quality, this actually turns out to be a good thing. The plastic used to craft the X10 body is excellent: strong and of very high quality. There are no creaks at all, and every single part of the body fits perfectly in its place. Thanks to the lack of metal the X10 is lighter than the HTC HD2 but doesn’t lose out in terms of design.

We really like the rounded edges on the back – the human curvature as called by Sony Ericsson design team. They can easily make you believe that the phone is slimmer than it is. XPERIA X10 is about the size of the original HTC Touch HD (but much lighter) so you can guess its size is very much pushing the limits of convenient single hand operation. We can however assure you, it feels perfectly comfortable in hand.

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The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 held in hand

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