Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 review: Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

Of course, Timescape also requires you to take an interest in what your friends and contacts are doing at a given moment. If you don't, then Timescape isn't much worth your time. On the upside, you can limit which information flows into the feature. So, if you're only looking for a list of calls you can choose to just show those. But if that's the case, you might as well just use the Recent Calls list in the phone dialer. Timescape also can show recent photos you've shot and your favorite tracks from the music player, but we don't quite understand the benefit of having media mixed in with your test messages.

Contacts and calendar
Like with other Android phones, you can sync your Gmail contacts instantly. The size of the X10's phone book is limited by the available memory, but each entry can store multiple fields for phone numbers, street addresses, work information, e-mails, URLs, instant-messaging handles, nicknames, and notes. You also can add a photo and see a friend's Facebook and Twitter status if he or she has an account with either service. But the X10 doesn't stop there. When viewing an individual contact, you can see the call log between you and that person and a list of all text messages. That's a nice touch.

Unlike MotoBlur, however, Timescape doesn't have a direct option for importing your contacts from social media services and e-mail accounts outside of Gmail. The X10 offers you a couple of options for getting there, but they require more steps. You can link Facebook and Twitter friends only to existing phone book contacts. You can't go the other way around and add friends only listed in Facebook. Alternatively, you can add Facebook friends to your Gmail contacts and then import them, but that process is laborious as well.

The calendar app has the UXP skin, but it still has the basic Android design. Of course, you can sync with your Gmail calendar after you register your Google account. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one right on the phone. You also can sync contacts and the calendar with the Sony Ericsson Sync service. Unfortunately, the X10 doesn't offer direct Outlook calendar, notes, and contacts syncing. Instead you must use the Moxier app that comes preinstalled on the phone. It works well enough, though we'd prefer not going through a middleman.

E-mail and messaging
Besides Gmail and the usual text and multimedia messaging, the X10 is capable of syncing with other POP3 accounts. But like with the Nexus One we weren't able use the easy set-up method to add Yahoo and accounts. We were successful when we used the manual setup, but that requires you to know information like the incoming and outgoing server settings. If we were conspiracy theorists, we'd say that Google is intentionally making it difficult to use Yahoo e-mail in an effort to push you to Gmail. But whatever the reason, it's inconvenient.

We also weren't able to add our CNET Outlook Web Access account (OWA) using the X10's standard e-mail app. We've never had such a problem on other Android phones, so this one really left us confused. Fortunately, Moxier Mail did the trick--and frankly, its direct push experience is better--but we shouldn't have a problem either way. We also were disappointed that Timescape doesn't offer a unified in-box. That's one of our favorite features of MotoBlur.

The X10 has an 8.1-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in four resolutions and choose from a variety of "scene" modes (night, portrait, landscape, etc.). Other camera options include face detection, autofocus, a macro setting, a flash, a self-timer, four white-balance settings, spot metering, an image stabilizer, geotagging, a brightness meter, smile detection, and a digital zoom. There's almost no shutter lag if you press the control firmly.

The X10's camera and flash are located on its rear face.

Photo quality is decent, though not a sharp as we'd like. Photos were rather dim so you should use the flash whenever you don't have optimal lighting. There also was a bit of image noise. When you're done shooting, you can transfer your photos off the phone or store them on the handset's internal memory. You get a very respectable 1GB of shared space and the X10 will accommodate microSD cards up to 16GB (an 8GB card comes with the phone). And for viewing stored photos, we like the "filmstrip" interface.

The X10's photo quality is good, but not great.

The camcorder shoots clips in five resolutions including a wide VGA and a format for uploading to YouTube. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 14 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode. Editing options are similar to the still camera. Video quality is fine, but not amazing.

The music player is accessed through the X1's Mediascape app. Similar to Timescape, Mediascape displays your photos, videos, and music tracks in one convenient place. The infinity feature also works here, though it shows all the photos and videos shot on the same day and all music tracks by a single artist. The interface is attractive and easy to use, and a bit less busy than Timescape.

The music player is improved over other Android phones. It displays album art and you can access shuffle and repeat modes, set favorites, send the track in a message, and designate a track as a ringtone. Loading music on the phone is quite easy whether you're using a USB cable or a memory card. Thanks to Android's efficient USB transfer/storage and PC syncing support, our PC recognized the X10 right when we plugged it in. The X10 also comes integrated with Sony Ericsson's PlayNow feature and a TrackID app. Music quality is admirable. The external speaker gets loud enough, but the sound gets distorted the higher you go. We recommend headphones for the best experience.

Google and other features
Other features include a calculator, a full duplex speakerphone, voice dialing, A2DP stereo Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. A helpful electronic user guide is accessible through the main menu and we're thrilled that the X10 has an OfficeSuite file manager. The browser has a standard Android design, but you can replace it with another browser, if you'd like.

You'll also find the full slate of Google applications like YouTube, Google Voice, and Google Talk. Google Maps offers the standard features, plus a variety of map layers (traffic, transit lines, etc.), a link to Wikipedia, and Google Latitude. Of course, you can get directions through Google Maps, and the X10 has Wisepilot for real-time voice-guided directions. One game is onboard (Quadrapop) and you can get more apps and games through the Android Market. The integrated Facebook for Android app lets you access the service outside of Timescape.

Thanks to the X10's 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, the handset is very fast. There was no lag when opening most applications, accessing menus and pulling up the main menu from the home screen. The Timescape feature can take up to four seconds to get started, but that's to be expected on such a graphics-heavy app.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was generally admirable. The signal was strong and clear, the volume was loud, and voices sounded natural. At the higher volumes there was a slight audible hiss on some calls, but it wasn't a big problem.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine. Most could tell we were using a cell phone, but we didn't get many complaints outside of the hiss that we also heard. A couple of our friends said that unless we spoke directly into the microphone they had trouble hearing us when we were in noisy places. As such, the X10 has a sensitive sweet spot. Speakerphone calls were quite good with loud volume and little audio distortion. We also had a good experience with a Bluetooth headset.

As mentioned earlier, the X10 offers variable data performance, particularly in the Timescape application. Updates from Facebook often failed to load, and we received an error message in the notifications bar. Though the next update always worked, it still was bothersome that we encountered problems. And even when the update did work, it took several minutes to load. Timescape appears to suck a lot of the phone's energy so we were glad that you can set the frequency of Timescape updates.

The X10 supports worldwide 3G bands (UMTS/HSPA 850/1800 in North America), so it is compatible with AT&T networks. We're not sure why we encountered so many problems. The Web browser performed marginally better, but it still wasn't top notch. The issues could very well be with the carrier, but it's most likely a combination of both. We'd be interested to try it on a different carrier.

The X10 has a rated battery life of 10 hours 2G talk time and 8 hours 3G talk time. Promised standby time is 17.7 days. It has a talk time of 9 hours and 2 minutes in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the X10 has a digital SAR of 1.43 watts per kilogram.

What you'll pay

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