We still remember when we first saw images of the X1 after its HTC beginning to look sleeker, but nothing at the time looked like the X1. The arc-slider and full QWERTY keypad were eye-catching, and the 3-inch touchscreen looked stunning.. At the time Windows Mobile smartphones were shrugging off its bulky size and boring business looks, with phones from
For once, the photoshopped images haven't lied. The X1 is every bit as stunning in the flesh (or in the brushed metal, as the case may be). The arc-slider slips fluidly on its rails with a satisfying snap when opened or closed. The four-row QWERTY keyboard is excellent, even if it seems a tad too small at first glance. Using the keyboard is easy, even at night, thanks to its bright backlighting and well spaced buttons. Unlike many keyboards on smartphones the X1 dedicates buttons to common punctuation, saving you from having to dip into symbol menus to find an "@" symbol for email addresses, etc.
The touchscreen has a WVGA resoltuion (800x480) which is 2.5 times higher than that of the iPhone 3G. This sounds like a good thing, and for watching videos it is; however, we've found this resolution fills the screen with sharp, but tiny characters. Some menus, like the alphabetical listing in the contacts menu, is entirely illegible because the letters become so small. Even with the fonts adjusted to the largest setting we've still struggled to read some elements of the screen.
Importantly, this means the X1 isn't a finger-friendly touchscreen. During our testing, we've relied on the stylus for input more than with any touchscreen we've seen for a long time. This is disappointing; using the stylus significantly slows down input and hampers the usability of a touchscreen phone.
Sony Ericsson is putting a lot of faith in its extensive Windows Mobile skin called the Xperia Panels. While companies like HTC also skin WiMo with a custom interface to increase ease of use, the Xperia Panels is a system offering numerous interface options. Out of the box, the X1 has seven panels pre-installed with more panels available from a Sony Ericsson web portal.
Our first impressions of the Panels weren't particularly favourable. The seven pre-installed Panels range from being too cluttered to use to being utterly useless. For example, one of the more attractive panels featuring three swimming goldfish barely shows notifications and offers no shortcuts to frequently used apps — hardly an interface you'll leave active for very long.
It wasn't until we downloaded a Facebook panel and another by Windows Mobile moddersthat we saw how excellent this system could be. The Spb Panel acts exactly like the one the company designed for all Windows Mobile handsets, and the Facebook Panel is as good as any app on the iPhone — in fact, it looks more like an iPhone app than a WiMo app.