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Motorola Milestone XT720 review: Hands-on with the HDMI-sporting Android phone

Meet the Milestone XT720: a new Android phone with an 8-megapixel camera, HDMI out, a xenon flash and a full touchscreen in place of the old Milestone's pull-out keyboard

We were huge fans of Motorola's barnstorming Milestone phone when it came to the UK at the end of last year, but six months on, its rudeboy gold trim and pull-out Qwerty keyboard are looking decidedly dated. Good job, then, that Motorola has just confirmed the imminent arrival of a brand-new Milestone, the Milestone XT720.

It's a variant of the Korea-only Motorola Motoroi, which is now winging its way to the UK under the Milestone banner. It'll be available to pre-order SIM-free from as soon as this Friday, with a proper launch only weeks away.

With its angular, quirky shape, 8-megapixel camera -- with xenon flash don'cha know -- HDMI output and Android 2.1 running under the hood, the XT720 raises our curiosity to dangerously high levels. Fortunately, Motorola let us have a quick play around with its newest creation. Keep reading for all the specs, photos and our first impressions...

Curves in all the right places

The XT720 features this distinctive sticky-out 'chin' on one side -- the idea being to make the phone feel more like a camera when it's nestled in your hand. We like the style: it gives the phone a unique look without bulking it out too much. Note the dedicated camera button, and seperate button for cycling through camera modes.

HDMI-love you

Along the top of the XT720 you'll find a phone-lock key, a 3.5mm headphone socket and -- joy of joys -- an HDMI output. We make no secret of our love for HDMI connectivity, so the ability to output the phone's pics and video to an HD-enabled TV makes us very happy. We didn't get a chance to test this feature ourselves, but we were shown a demo. Video looked pretty good when played through a telly, though bear in mind the higher quality the video content, the more likely you are to encounter stuttery playback, as the phone's processor strains to keep up.

Xenon-master

That's an 8-megapixel camera right there, which also serves as a 720p HD camcorder. The footage we saw looked pretty sharp, and the XT720 shoots video at an impressive 24fps. Additionally, this is the first Android smart phone to feature a xenon flash, and also boasts auto-focus and a 10x digital zoom.

Look, sir -- droids!

 

 

Here we see the XT720 in its natural environment -- chilling out, propped up against a saucer. This new iteration of the Milestone is running Android version 2.1, which is a step up from the old model's 2.0. It's not quite cutting edge, and you may have to wait a while before the XT720 gets upgraded to the latest version of Android, 2.2, which offers support for Flash player 10.1.

Motoblur has been given the cold shoulder this time. First seen on the Dext, Motoblur is Motorola's user interface, which sits on top of the Android operating system and pulls together all your contacts in one place. Motoblur is popular with some users for this feature, much less so with others for getting in the way and slowing things down. Whether or not its absence puts you off this new device is something you'll have to look deep inside your own heart to decide.

The Milestone XT720 is running on the ARM Cortex-A8 processor, which runs at a maximum speed of 720MHz, though Motorola has capped its actual processing speed at 550MHz, presumably in an effort to save battery. That's rather slow -- the HTC Desire has a 1GHz processor, by contrast -- and we noticed a little lag when performing simple tasks such as scrolling through menus and opening apps.

Pool of reflection

We have mixed feelings about the XT720's display. On the one hand, a truly gargantuan (well, 3.7-inch anyway) WVGA screen with a maximum resolution of 480x854 pixels is not to be sniffed at. On the other hand, as this picture clearly illustrates, the screen is staggeringly reflective. Motorola has given the XT720 several coats of gloss paint, and then varnished it. Twice. All of which means that if the XT720 so much as glances at a light source, the display becomes an unviewable mess of reflections. Watching video outside will probably not be practical, unless you really enjoy seeing close-up mirror-images of the inside of your own nose.

The XT720 comes with an 8GB microSD card in the box, though if that's too small for you, it's expandable up to a meaty 32GB. 

Mere slip of a thing

At 10.9mm thick, the XT720 is agreeably slim, and will slip comfortably into your pocket with no complaints (apart from those pesky Carphone Warehouse security staff). On-board you'll find a suite of Google applications, including Maps, Gmail and YouTube. Motorola's own GPS navigation software Motonav also makes an appearance.

All grown up

Here we have the Milestone XT720 hanging out with its older brother, the original Milestone. We have our concerns about this new device, but even with a few early gripes, it's not hard to see this is most definitely progress for Moto. Stay tuned for the full review in coming weeks.

The Motorola Milestone XT720 will be available later this month, but pricing and carrier information is yet to be announced.