With an 8.1-megapixel camera, a 4.1in touchscreen, a slick-looking customised install of Google Android, and more internal smartphone goodies than you can shake a stick at, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 certainly looks on paper to be a barn-storming mobile phone. The question is: does it live up to its promise.
First things first, this is an elegant device thanks to an uncluttered symmetrical front, subtle chrome trim on the sides, and matt black plastic back – we particularly like the single line formed by the Sony Ericsson and Xperia logos, the camera flash, and the camera. We also immediately notice the presence of both a normal headphone jack and a micro-USB socket, which are features often (and highly annoyingly) substituted with a proprietary connector on Sony Ericsson devices. The flap over the micro-USB socket is a bit awkward and fiddly but it's not a deal breaker.
The number of buttons and their positioning also pleases. The front is home to just three buttons: Menu, Home, and Back. This is in contrast to many Android phones that include a button for opening the search function and either a D-pad or a roller ball for moving around the phone without using the touchscreen – features that are mostly superfluous though can come in handy if, say, it's raining and the touchscreen isn't responding properly. In an ideal world the Menu button could also be removed, as a well designed touch-based operating system shouldn't need a hardware control for this, but this is a minor niggle.
An unlock/power button sits on the top edge and a volume/zoom rocker switch and camera button on the right. You don't, however, get a hardware mute switch like you do on the iPhone – a feature we thought would have caught on by now.
So in terms of external features, the X10 holds up well but sadly when it comes to build quality it isn't quite so impressive. This is largely down to a plastic screen, which instantly gives it a cheaper feel than devices like the iPhone 3GS and HTC Desire that use glass screens. Its buttons also feel rather mushy and wobbly, making them unsatisfying to press. Also, its pointy corners dig into your hand, which is a basic ergonomics fail!