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Motorola Milestone XT720 - Software, Performance and Verdict

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

The Motorola XT720 runs Android 2.1 so isn't quite up to date with the latest version but for the most part it's the full Android experience. Motorola has dropped its custom Motoblur interface, which we actually found rather impressive at the time. Instead it's a standard version of Android. As such there's plenty on offer with an excellent web browser, email access, mapping services, and social networking all onboard. And if there's anything else you'd want to add you will probably be able to find it in amongst the 100,000 or so apps in the Android MarketPlace.

Browsing around the interface, the phone's 728Mhz ARM Cortex A8 processor feels a little sluggish as menu transitions and other animations stutter across screen rather than flowing seamlessly. This is certainly annoying if you're used to the fastest handsets out there, and iPhone owners will positively baulk at the sluggishness, but with a modicum of patience it is still perfectly usable. As always Android is a bit menu heavy so it can take quite a while to learn the whereabouts of everything, and what everything does, but once learnt it's then a very powerful and capable operating system that you can setup as you please.

Extras from Motorola include Moto Car (see what they did there) which is a car-friendly interface for accessing your music, the contacts, GoogleMaps, the voice dialler, Bluetooth settings and going back to the Home Screen. It's a neat idea except that once you've tapped through to the apps, they just revert to their standard interfaces, which can be more fiddly. Also available is Phone Portal which lets you connect to your phone through Wi-Fi or USB then manage it through your PCs web browser. This is a very nice addition though it's not really compelling enough to swing our decision one way or the other.

The big seller with this phone is of course its camera and while it certainly lives up to expectations in some ways, it also falls short.

We love the addition of the shutter button as it makes simply taking your shots that much easier, while the hardware button for switching between camera, video, and viewing modes is a nice addition. Even more impressive is the presence of a red focus lamp for aiding focussing in dark situations. Its range is limited but it's certainly a damn site better than a conventional white LED. Combined with the proper Xenon flash and you have a camera the vastly outperforms those on most other smartphones. However, it's not all rosy.

While 720p video is onboard, there is no LED to light up dark scenes. Also, neither mode has the ability to touch the touchscreen to choose where to focus, like on some rivals. Most of all, though, it's simply the quality of the pictures that lets the side down. By all means they're better than what you get from most smartphones but crucially they don't make the leap into competing with dedicated compacts so enthusiasts still need not apply.

Verdict

The Motorola XT720 certainly isn’t perfect. Its shiny plastic screen isn't a patch on the best out there, its design is an acquired taste, and its performance isn't exactly stellar. However, it still a very capable smartphone with a higher than usual resolution screen, and a camera that beats most of the competition. It's also a tad cheaper than much of the competition now. So, if your priority for your next phone is for it to have a good camera then it's well worth considering.

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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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