Sony Ericsson X1 Xperia

Is Sony Ericsson's first Windows Mobile powered smartphone a contender? We find out.

The star attraction is the screen, which offers a stupendous 800 x 480 resolution, which does wonders for web browsing and even for more mundane tasks such as viewing your Contacts - you can simply see more at the same time. The X1 bests the number of pixels on the HTC Touch Pro and matches the resolution on the HTC Touch HD.

However, it does make things look a little small. What's more many applications don't like the extra screen res we were keen to try out the new Skyfire browser app only to find that it wouldn't run as 640 x 480 was the top res it would support.

Even more innovative is that the central select button also doubles acts as an actual mini- trackpad so simply scrubbing your thumb up and down lets you scroll. It does have limitations as there's no actual cursor, so there's no fine control, but you can move sideways and I soon found myself using it my main means of navigation.

Above the scrollpad are two keys for making soft-menu selections and to the sides are the call activate and end buttons. There's a dedicated 'OK' button, which makes it possible to close applications, or at least remove them from the screen, without having to resort to the stylus. These buttons are all just a touch too small though, making it all a bit more fiddly than it needs to be.

Fortunately, Sony Ericsson has done something rather remarkable with the phone dialer application - it has made it usable. Press the phone button dial button and the on screen buttons are actually large enough for you to dial, something that somehow seems to have escaped the attention of designers of previous Windows Mobile based touch screen phones.

Even better, make a call and the call End button appears as a large oblong at the bottom of the screen, making it easy to end the call. It's actually easier than using the physical buttons, which is the opposite of what's normally true.

Turn the phone on its side and the camera buttons falls neatly under the right index finger, a typical Sony Ericsson touch that differentiates it from the HTC's. One can select the spot focus by simply tapping on the screen and the on-screen controls let you select video, or send your images via SMS. The camera resolution is a decent 3-megapixels but camera lag, the rather clunky operation and what turned out to be slightly washed out images mean that its not up to the standard of Sony's more consumer focused Cybershot badged camera phones.

One of the stand-out features is naturally the sliding keyboard that emerges from underneath the screen. The continues the quality feel of the product with a silver metal look and feel. The keys are quite spread out apart but there isn't quite enough travel as I would have liked. In addition the keyboard lacks the dedicated number key row that so appealed on the HTC Touch Pro. I do like the way the screen is angled up slightly on the keyboard when you slid it out, and sensibly it doesn't topple over when you place it on a table.

Windows Mobile based smartphones these days always tend to have third party interfaces slapped over the top of them, and the X1 is no different. Sony Ericsson had hyped up the X1's 'Panels' interface but in truth they're rather disappointing. Press the panel button on the front and nine mini screens appears and you can scroll between these. Select one and it becomes the main interface. Each one offers a different look and feel and offers different functionality, with the idea that you can customise your device to have quick access to the functions you like.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.