Pros: Large VGA touchscreen, Elegant brushed metal body, HSDPA and WiFi Connectivity, Excellent media player
Cons: Very expensive, Somewhat laggy WinMo performance, Panels UI doesn't offer much just yet, Wonky combination D-Pad/Optical Mouse, QWERTY keys have very short travel
Sony Ericsson's flagship Xperia X1 is their first Windows Mobile handset, and it's been a long time in the making. I first got my hands on the device back at CTIA in April, but specs and spy shots of the X1 had been kicking around the industry and blogosphere for months before that. Had X1 actually hit the market back in April it might have seemed more innovative; here in December it honestly just seems like another device running on a platform that's really starting to show its age: There's only so much you can do to dress up WIndows Mobile 6 at this point.
The X1 is also an expensive beast. Sony Ericsson launched the X1a here in the US at a retail price of $799.99. Seeing as the phone is currently only available unlocked and direct from Sony, there's no "on contract" price to ease the pain with a carrier subsidy. Pit the X1 against the similar HTC Touch Pro or Fuze from AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint, and you may have a hard time convincing all but the most die-hard SE fans that the extra coin is worth it. Pit X1 against an unlocked Touch Pro or Nokia's new N97 (with its launch price of roughly $700 USD unlocked) and you'll have a fairer fight on your hands - at least in the eyes of American consumers who'd rather pay less up front at the expense of comitting to a two-year contract.
Putting all of that aside to judge the phone on its own merits, I'm still not blown away. The X1 is nice, don't get me wrong, but while it shines in terms of its "extras," it's okay but not great when it comes to the core competencies of a Windows Mobile smartphone. The luxurious brushed metal finished, large, high-resolution VGA display, and quality 3.2MP camera are all nice, but the action on the QWERTY thumboard is less than great and the touchscreen itself is resistive plastic and not capactive hardened glass like the latest state-of-the-art devices. While I like the idea of a combination optical mouse and clickable D-Pad for navigation, SE's implementation of the concept definitely took a little getting used to. My review sample also exhibited a bit of wobble when the screen was slid shut, though I did like the angle of display to keyboard in the open position; credit SE and HTC (who had a hand in building the X1) for their innovative "arc slider" design here.
Performance was pretty standard for a current Windows Mobile 6.1 device. I experienced some lags and screen redraw issues when launching and switching between apps, but there weren't any major problems or hair-pulling delays to speak of ? at least not relative to performing the same tasks on a Touch Pro or Samsung Omnia (two other recent high-end WinMo handsets). Radio connecitivity and GPS performance were quite good, and the widescreen display, 3.5mm audio jack, and Walkman/PSP-inspired media player app proved a great troika for multimedia consumption.