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Motorola Milestone XT720 review

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

User Score

Pros

  • High resolution display
  • Camera beats competition
  • Xenon flash

Cons

  • Plastic screen
  • Uses older version of Android
  • Sluggish processor

Review Price free/subscription

Key Features: High resolution display; Xenon flash

Manufacturer: Motorola

Launched a few months ago, the Motorola Milestone XT720 is getting a little long in the tooth but with a Xenon flash for its camera, it’s instantly ahead of many other Android smartphones in at least one regard. Add in a quirky design and you have a phone that still has plenty of appeal.

Most prominent among this phone's features is its unique design. Drawing attention to its camera it has two raised sections: one on the right edge containing the shutter button and camera mode button, and one on the back emphasising the camera lens. The result is one rather lopsided-looking phone.

While this is undoubtedly a bit peculiar and indeed from the front it doesn't look overly appealing, from the back it looks just like a dedicated compact camera. We rather like this idea – if you're going to break from the norm of sleek and minimalist design, at least do it for a reason and do it with conviction. The soft touch plastic back and metal battery cover also look and feel great.

There are more positives, too, like the addition of a mini-HDMI socket on the top edge, which allows you to connect the phone straight to a TV to play back video. What's more the cable for doing this even comes in the box (something that's far from a given). Quite how often you'd actually want to do this, we're not so sure though, as the phone can't be used to playback Full HD video (i.e. you can't use this as a top quality portable media player) so its main use is really as a way of quickly showing the photos and videos you've taken with the camera, which is useful but hardly essential.

Joining the HDMI socket on the top edge is the headphone jack and power/screen lock button while the left is home to a microUSB socket and the right houses the aforementioned camera buttons and the volume control. All the buttons are a little bit mushy but you can still just about discern when they've been pressed.

One reason why you might want to watch video on a telly is because the screen on the XT720 isn't all that impressive. At 3.7in, it's just about big enough to watch reasonable length videos comfortably, and its resolution of 854 x 480 pixels is actually better than many other smartphones, packing a reasonable amount of detail on screen and looking quite sharp. However, the silvery finish is particularly prone to picking up fingerprints and catching reflections while the overall punchiness of the display leaves a lot to be desired with everything looking rather muted and flat. It gets the job done but that's about it.

The other disappointment with the screen is the fact it is finished in plastic, rather than glass. Glass screens look better, give a greater sense of quality, and feel nicer as well. What's more, we're well used to seeing them on phones at this price point so we'd expect one on this device too.

Despite our reservations, the screen seems reasonably responsive and supports multi-touch so you can pinch to zoom. However, it does have one rather massive flaw; the onscreen keyboard. It's mostly fine with reasonably quick response, good layout, and excellent word prediction. However, for some reason it has a complete blind spot when it comes the backspace key whereby it thinks you're pressing 'L' instead and you actually have to press almost wholly below the key to make it sense the right button. This is utterly, utterly, mind-meltingly, fist-clenchingly infuriating! It may be something isolated to the sample we've got so we'd suggest you go and try another sample for yourself first.

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JK

November 11, 2010, 4:22 pm

@Ed - Speaking of smartphones with better than average cameras and Xenon flashes...any idea when you'll be reviewing the Nokia N8?

RonRoyce

November 14, 2010, 3:59 am

I have this phone and think the review is a bit harsh to be honest. Its also a case of 'too little, too late' because, as you point out, this phone has been around for a while now.





Two things I will confirm first:- the problem with the delete and l key is exactly the same on mine. and the screen is all but useless in bright sunlight - unless you pump the display brightness up to max.





First off, the front 'glass' (plastic or otherwise) feels great - it does not detract from the phone at all (apart from trying to use it in bright sunlight) and, so far (I've had mine two months) there are no signs of any scratches. You might want to temper your comments with the fact that glass breaks a whole lot easier.





Second, the camera. I think you were unduly harsh on it. I compared it to many other cameraphones and its far better than all of them (N8 apart, I've not seen that in action yet). The xenon flash is streets ahead of ANY LED flash. It won't replace your dedicated camera but, as a causal snapper, its more than adequate. The only limitation is, as you correctly point out, the lack of a light for taking a video in a darkened room - but then you have xenon flash and I have yet to see a phone that has both a white LED and a xenon flash. Actually, there are only two or three phones that have a xenon flash! I notice you didn't comment on the one big flaw with the video camera - 720p is useless - I am amazed it was shipped with this feature as it barely achieves 20fps. Fortunately, the movies taken in SD mode (720x480) are very good for a camera phone.





Third, I don't see my menus 'stuttering' around the screen. They are smooth and responsive. The only time this changes is if you have lots of apps running and that goes for most phones.





Fourth, the fact the phone is vanilla android as opposed to a 'skinned' phone was the reason I bought it. Sony's android efforts are just awful and I'm not impressed by Samsung's either, plus the galaxy feels amazingly plasticky. HTC...I very nearly went there till I found this phone and I am very happy with it, especially as it is unlocked and I got a deal with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 1Gb of internet for £20 a month :-)





Battery life wasn't mentioned at all! Initially I found I was getting just over a day, but now I get two days if I use it for texting and the occasional web surf, 24 hours (or less if you use the truly excellent sat nav) if you really go mad with it. I found that using a task killer was a good plan, making sure tasks were killed after you finished with them has extended the life of each charge.





One thing I will say is that the antenna seems to have a limited range – I seem to have a few more more 'no signal' spots than I did with my Sony C902. This is something that NEVER gets talked about in reviews – that and how well the phone copes with low signal and losing/regaining signal. Why? It is so important! I found the C902 to be utterly horrendous when it came to picking up signal – sometimes you actually had to switch off the phone and restart it to get it to recognise there was a signal present!





In short, its built like a tank, works well, I like the fact its a vanilla install and, while the phone is not perfect, its worth more than a rating of 7.





It might have helped if you reviewed it when it was released.

Ed

November 14, 2010, 4:37 am

@JK: I'll try and get hold of one next week.





@RonRoyce: Purchase justification much? You say so yourself that it is far from perfect (with a number of the problems you cite being pretty fundamental) so why on earth should it get a higher score? If anything, I was generous. I acknowledge the lateness in my review but I can hardly review it retrospectively.

Martin Daler

November 14, 2010, 8:47 pm

RonRoyce raise a fair point about the lateness of the review in a market as fast moving as smartphones (isn't the XT720's successor already announced? http://www.clove.co.uk/motorol...


@Ed You say you can't review it retrospectively, which suggests that if you had reviewed it at the proper time it might have fared differently (better?) in your review. How does the tardiness of this review affect a reader's perception of this phone looking to buy one today?


There is only one real solution - review products in a timely fashion. That is what I look to this site for.

Ed

November 15, 2010, 1:05 am

@Martin Daler: That is of course what we always strive to do but it's regrettably not always possible. This device was offered to us for review and we thought it would be good to plug that gap. As for it scoring differently, it's unlikely. If anything it might have fared worse as it probably was more expensive back then.

GoldenGuy

November 15, 2010, 6:15 pm

@ Ed





I'm with Royce and Daler on this one. Out of the gates the Droid/Milestone was the smartphone to beat, and you could still do a lot worse right now, given the growing number of budget entries to the Android market.

RonRoyce

November 16, 2010, 2:27 am

@ED





I did not use the word fundamental once in my reply. If I thought the flaws were fundamental I would have returned it and not bothered replying.





I got used to the l/delete key flaw pretty quickly but I will say its surprising they haven't released an updated F/W to correct the touchscreen calibration because pretty much every other keypress is correct.





Also, the price you quote in the review is exactly what I would have paid for it 2 months ago, so no the price hasn't changed, and in fact I think it has been £320-350 since it was launched.





The negatives in my reply:





1. Screen brightness - as I said this is overcome by turning the brightness up to max.





2. The l/delete key is slightly irritating but nothing that can't be fixed in a F/W update and I got used to it pretty quickly.





3. Lack of an LED for video camera:- Name me one phone that has both a Xenon flash and an LED for low light video - I think you will find there isn't one. Therefore this is a compromise between excellent low light photo/no video or pretty much useless low light photos and videos that you can only take if you're within a foot of your chosen subject. I'll take the xenon flash thank you.





4. 720p video:- shouldn't have been included but then I haven't seen a phone that can do 720p yet so it isn't the only cameraphone with this issue.





5. Antenna:- This one is curious - because I live in a poor signal area I notice I have a few more more dead spots in my house (incidentally, my house has 3ft thick walls!) However, at least it is consistent and connects quickly when I move the phone close to a window for example. My previous phone, a Sony C902 was a complete horror for just dropping signal and refusing to reconnect unless it was restarted.





I will end with this - you gave the Samsung Galaxy 8, but after a look at that phone I felt the build quality was poor, the camera was a shocker, I found the display to be bright but surprisingly fuzzy and it was £100 more than this one, which for me was the deal breaker. If the Galaxy was worth 8 then, for the money, so is this one.

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