Nokia X7-00: Heavyweight entertainer
Nokia X7-00 comes ahead to take the lead from its predecessor X6-00, which was the first Nokia touchscreen to feature a capacitive touchscreen. It is surprising to see the X-series smartphone get the taste of Symbian Anna even before the company's flagship device N8.tech reviews Updated: Sep 09, 2011 19:55 IST
Before we move ahead, let's have a quick look at this beast's specs.
* 4" AMOLED Capacitive Touchscreen
* D resolution(640x360 pixels) at a ratio of 16:9
* 680MHz Processor (Broadcom GPU)
* MP EDoF Camera with Dual LED flash,HD Video recording (720p)
* Pentaband (GSM+WCDAMA) Connectivity,GPS/A-GPS
* Bluetooth 3.0,WLAN b/g/n,GPRS/EDGE/HSDPA(upto 10.2 Mbps),FM Radio
* MicroUSB connector (Data+Charging),USB On-the-Go,3.5mm connector
* MicroSD card support upto 32GB, shipped with 8GB
* Runs on latest Symbian Anna
* Support for DivX/Xvid videos,H.264 codecs
Nokia has taken a minimalistic approach with X7-00's packaging. The phone's box is really small.In-box contents are standard microUSB charger, data cable, headphones and quick start manuals. Nokia has not wasted 'pages' on big, fully fledged user manuals. Instead they have put it on phone itself. 8GB microSD card comes inside the phone itself.
Nokia likes to experiment with design and on X7 those curves look especially good. Most of the front is taken by 4" AMOLED screen which is also scratch resistant thanks to Gorilla Glass. Above this mammoth screen there is a notch which accommodates earpiece, ambient and proximity sensors. There's no front cam on X7 so making it less interesting for video calling. X7 is full touch Symbian phone. There's just one, 'Menu' key below screen apart from Volume Rocker/Zoom button and Shutter key on right back edge of the phone, which are quite essential. On left back edge there are microSD card slot [top] and SIM card slot [bottom]. On top of the phone there is a microUSB port, a 3.5mm jack and a power switch. X7 lacks microHDMI port. In our opinion this is a serious drawback for X-series device which aims at entertainment. And while is E7 is business class device it still has a microHDMI port. On bottom of X7 there's virtually nothing except for some logos. There's no dedicated device lock/unlock slider like we saw on N8 so you'll have to use power key or Menu key to activate display and then tap on on-screen 'Unlock' button to finally unlock it.}
So it adds one extra step there.The entire phone is made up of stainless steel (obviously except for front) and back of the phone has brushed metal finish. On its back there's 8MP EDoF camera accompanied by dual LED flash. Did we mention there is 1200 mAh battery underneath that metal back which powers the device?
There are grills on all four corners but only two of them have real speakers under them. We didn't know this fact until we played a song.Well it looks robotic. This kind of design has its own pros and cons. It doesn't suppresses sound when you hold phone in your hand but reduction in the area around screen near those grills also causes frequent touches on screen by inner palm. We'd have liked if speaker arrangement was like one on top and another at bottom. It would have made better sense while watching movies. Nonetheless speakers are loud enough,clear and truly represent X-series.
The only thing we didn't like is hardware menu key though it's really not hard to press. We'd have liked capacitive buttons instead like we saw on HTC 7 Mozart. When perceived differently capacitive buttons can ruin touch experience too if they are too sensitive and might take you out of your apps too frequently. So it's the matter of personal taste.
Display of X7 is excellent. It had to be so since its AMOLED display and those are known only for their excellence. Though it's not something what you get on Samsung top-dogs like Galaxy S or Galaxy S2 (which have S-AMOLED and S-AMOLED Plus displays respectively) it's still comparable and much better than LCD units. You get superior viewing angles, deep blacks with the display on X7. So your friends too can enjoy movies with you. Another thing is that AMOLED displays save your battery power too by turning off LEDs in particular area when you're using dark backgrounds.
But we really liked the design of X7 truly representing the X-series.
Comparing Nokia X7 with Samsung Galaxy Ace
X7 comes with latest iteration of Symbian i.e. Symbian Anna. Apart from X7, E6 is the only other phone which has Symbian Anna. Symbian^3 itself was the right step forward in making Symbian more competitive OS and Symbian Anna is a leap ahead. Symbian Anna features the similar Symbian interface which we know from years so you'll feel home while using X7. Symbian Anna brings its own set features like the much awaited split-screen QWERTY to Symbian touch phones. This time virtual QWERTY keyboard can be used in portrait mode which was not possible in versions prior to Anna.
Starting from home screen, it's unchanged even in Symbian Anna. There are still just 3 home screen panes which can accommodate total of 18 widgets with 6 per pane. Widgets are fixed size widgets. You can't add more home screens. Adding widgets to home screen is much simpler task than adding a shortcut to home screen. Adding a shortcut to home screen is really painful task. To tell you the truth it uses the 'app shortcut' widget which has space for 4 shortcuts. It takes 9 steps to put an app shortcut on home screen. Competitive OS platforms like Android OS or WP7 does the same job in 1 or 2 taps. Screen rotation works throughout the interface and it's refined and flawless. It's available even on home screen unlike the competing platforms which won't let you do that. But landscape orientation occurs in only one direction i.e. clock-wise and not anti-clock wise. We've seen WP7 doing it though not on home screen.
Main menu is traditional Symbian with ability to add folder and folders inside folder, the features which are not available on competing platforms like Android or WP7 or even iOS. Having ability to put your apps in different folders is great as opposed to panes or lists on other platforms which grow as you install more and more apps making it hard to find needed app quickly. Our major concern about whole UI is that it's still designed with non-touch Symbian in mind. The good example of this is the extensive use on-screen 'Options' soft-key, the on-screen counterpart of the'Options' softkey on non-touch Symbian. Using 'tap-hold' for options makes sense on touch phones for functions which need to be accessed quickly and option soft-key can be used to show more options if needed. And still options are arranged as options->sub options, doesn't quite gives ease in operation.
Phonebook on X7 is unlimited; you can store as much contacts you feel. Phonebook also has social network integration but it's not the best. You can attach your contacts Facebook or Twitter profile directly inside phonebook. But still you can see only status updates in phonebook and you'll need to tap on it to see profile. To display the social profile it'll launch the OVI Social app. You can also add various details to your contacts like their email ids and web addresses. Besides there's no way you can directly sync your Facebook contacts with phonebook. WP7 has a feature which lets you directly sync your Facebook account with your phone just like another email account. Quite convenient, isn't it?
The dialer has smart dial associated which will let you find your contacts quickly. You can also voice commands to find your contacts by just calling their names. All you have to do is long press on-screen 'Call' softkey.
Messaging is the best we have seen on touch phones. Everything except for emails can be viewed directly from messaging. It has ability to view messages either by Conversations (IM style) view or traditional Inbox/Sent view. Traditional Inbox can now be kept tidier. It groups your messages according to day/date they were received on and creates a tree structure of day/dates which can be expanded or collapsed by simply tapping on them. Same goes for sent folder. This makes searching for your messages very fast. Those items received over Bluetooth are also categorized in the same way.
We'd have liked if there was a fast way to add recipients in your message. To add one you have to tap on 'To' button and whole phonebook appears and then you've to select your recipients. Implementing smart dialing like solution there would have been better.
Email client on Symbian Anna is plainly said best. It can handle all your email accounts. It has support for major email service providers so you just need to input your ID and password and you're ready to go. Still you can manually configure account settings if your email service provider is not listed. It can display all your emails in full HTML view.
It organizes your emails very properly and finding the one you need won't be any problem there. For every email account you can have widget which you can put on homscreen. It'll then display your new emails and will open particular inbox too. You can see all generic folders from your email account but if in case the desired folder isn't there you can add it too.
With Symbian Anna, Symbian phones are getting improved text input solution. It introduces portrait QWERTY keyboard and now keyboard is split-screen too. That means when using virtual keyboard half of the screen will be available for app while rest half will be used for on-screen keyboard. Earlier (upto S^3) to feed in some text it'd open another box where you will have to type your text. Though Symbian Anna gives split-screen to users it's not the best experience especially in portrait mode. Portrait QWERTY fails to take advantage of big 4" screen. Buttons feels too tiny. Result is lots of spelling mistakes.
But thanks to prediction option it saves you from those mistakes. Apart from onscreen buttons being tiny, button preview also disappears very quickly, space bar which is usually placed in last row on any keyboard is placed in the row above the last one and in last row there are two directional keys. We actually ended up pressing those directional buttons instead of space bar and made even more mistakes. Nokia could eliminate those buttons by using 'tap-hold-move' logic for cursor as in WP7 or use marker in Android or ultimately put them on second page of on-screen keyboard. And this split screen QWERTY is not compatible with all apps. Some apps still open that 'extra' box to enter text. A classic example of this could be latest client of Nokia's own OVI Store or even Notes app.
Image Gallery a.k.a. Photos app has got refreshed UI too. Viewing photos is now more pleasant. Besides refreshed UI it also enhances the usability of the app. You can now quickly share photos to your social networks. There are no 3D looks available for gallery and we miss them alot. We still remember the experimental 'Photo Browser' app by Nokia which had cool looks and effects. Image editing is available straight from the gallery and the image editor is enough for doing most of the basic image editing tasks. 4" 'AMOLED' adds extra space to viewing photos and videos. Though there's separate 'Video' app available for viewing videos on device, they can still be seen from 'Photos' app. But it's more of convenience than drawback and we don't have any problems with it.
Symbian Anna also brings new browser which is supposed to enhance browsing experience. It also offers kinetic scrolling, pinch zooming apart from tap zooming. We tested it the browser. It couldn't handle 'heavy' desktop sites very well. It'd lag while scrolling those sites or when made the even little gesture to scroll the page it'd scroll more than necessary. We guess it's more of software problem than hardware because the same hardware could handle HD videos quite efficiently. Flash Lite 4 is also there to display flash content on sites but as its name says it's suitable only for viewing lightweight flash content. Trying to load heavy site would make browser slow. We tried desktop version of YouTube and it couldn't load in X7 browser but mobile flash version of YouTube performed very well. We could watch videos there without any problem. The browser UI is also changed in 'Anna'. Now you need to tap just one on-screen key to access various options unlike Symbian^3 browser. Entering address is just a tap away too. As soon as start typing list previously visited sites appears and it also suggests suffixes like .com, .org etc. We just hope that with next update browser will handle desktop-grade sites more properly and we would advise improving kinetic scrolling too.
New browser in Symbian Anna also has HTML5 support but it's not fully implemented. We tried loading HTML5 interface of Google+ web app and it worked perfectly. But the browser couldn't play inline video elements which is included in HTML5 specifications.
The browser interface is minimal like on Android. You can access all major settings quickly by tapping on onscreen 'Options' button.Nokia X7 was quite fast on loading sites. On all type of data connections like GPRS/3G and WiFi it performed and we're happy with its performance.
As an X-series device X7 is a complete entertaining device. The main aim of the any X-series device is to churn out better music than competition and X7 doesn't fail at its word. On both loudspeakers and headphones sound quality was very good. Nokia really knows how to make music oriented devices. Loudspeakers are loud and clear enough when you are watching movie with friends. But real fun starts when plug headphones into your ears. We'll say it has exceptional sound quality. It produced even lightest of the beat with perfection, we could hear them all. Effect rendering was also awesome. No doubt that music on X7 feels good to ears but watching movies is like 'living it' along with that mammoth 4" screen. Kudos to Nokias.
There's Music Player which will display songs from your entire device. It has the same previously seen coverflow like UI to scroll through albums. The 'Equalizer' is the only downside of such a good music device. It has 6-presets but you can't modify them or add your owns. We hope Nokia will fix this in feature.
Videos app displays all the videos on device and lets you play them. Nokia X7 can handle HD videos with upto 720p resolution without any lag at all. There's no or very little lag while rewinding or fast forwarding HD videos, with other low resolution videos it's quite fast, lag free. You'll be shocked to hear that but all this was possible on 680MHz processor and 'just' 256MBs of RAM. Many of the competing OSs will not able to render their regular UI flawlessly and some may even refuse to start at all with same specs. It's the optimization of Symbian which makes all these possible. We're even able to watch same HD videos with some 13 apps open in background. The pre-loaded Transformer Teaser video (HD, 720p), was just 2 mins 32 seconds in duration and 88MBs in size. So this should give you idea about how well Symbian is optimized. There's dedicated 'Video Editor' app available too to create slideshows and/or movies.
If you feel that you're done with all songs on your X7 then you have 'three' ways to get even more music. First theirs is a Radio (with RDS) available on X7 which will let you listen to local radio stations. If you think local is not enough then you can turn on the 'Internet Radio' and listen to plenty of internet radio stations in different languages or genres. You can also grab the music from OVI Music.
Along with this there are BBC iPlayer, Virgin Player, CNN Videos to get more contents.
When we are talking about X7 and entertainment Gaming is the obvious part of the package. X7 comes preloaded with Galaxy on Fire and Asphalt 5 HD. Both the games are really graphic intensive yet they run smooth. Both of them also make full use of accelerometer which makes them more addictive. And again 4" AMOLED screen has thebest performance to offer.
We're covering camera separately because it's not the primary aim of X7. That's the reason Nokia shipped it with 8MP EDoF (fixed focus) camera, that's our guess. Well camera on X7 is good for quick photos. But nevertheless image quality was good for fixed focus camera. It fails to resolve details properly but then it's not the main job. As expected everything seems to be in focus. Because its focus range is from 50cm and above it's not suitable for macro photography. So don't imagine using it for capturing dew on leaves or scanning documents. But it does HD videos better than still photography. We were quite impressed with the video quality. The dual LED flash on X7 is very powerful. Photos taken in dark feel like they were taken with lights on in room. It can be also used while recording videos in dark.
Camera interface has got complete overhaul. You can access major settings like ISO setting,Scene mode etc. from viewfinder itself. Only few settings like resolution and get-tagging setting need an extra step to reach them.
Regarding image quality, everything beyond 50cm looks good but not till infinity. The problem with camera is that it uses aggressive noise reduction which also causes to lose details in image. And since the camera module on X7 is EDoF one, it doesn't support macro mode so using it for scanning your documents won't yield good results. Colors in images were not over saturated and colors were almost close to reality.
So camera on X7 is good only for taking casual photos in your birthday party. Don't expect it to great job when you to capture some nature around.
Personal Information Organization
The great file manager is the novelty of Symbian phones. It's like no other. It'd do all file handling jobs quite easily and we doubt if you'll need any third party file manager. Backup and Restore option is directly available from File Manager.
The Nokia X7 also has support for USB On-The-Go i.e. you can use X7 as USB host device and connect other USB devices such as flash drives, card readers and phones (which support mass storage function). You can then read-write content on this devices. In our testing X7 could read all flash drives, card readers and mobile phones including Android phones. We could use all type of cards including SD cards. We used Samsung Galaxy Ace and turned on Mass Storage function on it. We could surf through entire file system on its memory card. It may not work with your portable HDDs since they require more power and we doubt if anyone will ever connect them to mobile.
As with Windows, Symbian Anna too gives you option to safely remove your USB devices.
Calculator app is very basic. There isn't scientific or any other mode to expand its functionality. It's suitable for first grader who does basic math. So if your life involves playing with large numbers then you better search for some other app.
Calendar is very useful and indeed a feature-rich app. It has Day, Week, and Month views. You can also have multiple calendars which along with their entries are indicated with different colors. You can have personal calendar full of birthday parties and business calendar with corporate meetings.
Clock app which is present onboard is also very nice. It doubles up as world clock too. You can set repeated alarms too.
Apps on X7
There's QuickOffice suite present complete with Adobe Reader. The QuickOffice suite offers 'reader' only for viewing your files and it has support for MS Office 2007 files. You can purchase license to enable editing capabilities.
No company would afford to sell phones without Social Networking abilities and Nokia isn't an exception. To take care of your SNS services it comes preloaded with OVI Social app. It can handle Facebook and Twitter accounts. There's support for multiple accounts (per service) but only one remains active. We're not quite happy with its performance. First of all it was slow, and then kinetic scrolling was also terrible. While using Twitter with OVI Social replies made to tweets would be shown as individual tweets instead of conversation view on web or in other clients. It could lead to misunderstanding sometimes. For Twitter there's very reputed alternative available and that is Gravity but you'll have to pay for it. Another strange thing we noticed that it couldn't run when there wasn't SIM card in phone. This must, must be fixed.
To get more apps and games (and themes, ringtones etc.) there's OVI Store to serve you. Nokia understood the role apps and apps store in competitive mobile industry and has taken rights steps. OVI Store has been improved very much though there are still some quirks which need to be fixed. Mainly categories in OVI Stores should be recreated wisely. Since Symbian Anna is quite new the application availability is somewhat limited but it shouldn't be very long before those apps become available in OVI Store. Surprisingly some apps which were designed for non-touch Symbian also worked. Still you can install app in traditional way i.e. using .SIS files. There are Qt based apps available too since Symbian Anna support Qt.
OVI Store UI is good in terms ease of use. You can view and manage all your apps directly from 'My Account' menu. You can also decide where your apps and other content go after downloading. We wish if it had option to uninstall apps too for apps downloaded through OVI Store.
Another problem we faced with OVI Store was broken installations. Even the apps created would fail to install properly or would start just once after installation. We guess Nokia Smart Installer is responsible for that. We'd have also liked if OVI Store itself was able to check and update all apps on phone instead of making user to manually download and install new versions of apps.
To navigate your way through there's OVI Maps present onboard. It's completely free and comes with free voice guided navigation. On X7 you can download maps directly on phone without need of PC. It can use GPS with A-GPS and Wi-Fi network to determine your position. In our experience it could get GPS lock in less than 2 minutes.
Then there are various tools present on X7 which can be useful in enterprise environment too like Dictionary app, MS Communicator client, Zip manager to handle archives, Message Reader. There's F-Secure Anti Theft app present too which will protect your precious data if your phone gets stolen.
Performance of X7 has been very well. Most tech savvy people won't believe that it runs on just 680MHz processor and 256MBs of RAM and still outperforms any other high-end handset out there. Many of you will hesitate to agree but no other handset on market can record or play 720p HD videos with these specs. All thanks to Symbian.Smooth touchscreen gives extra points to X7.
We faced lags very rarely and when we faced they happen to come from software side instead of hardware side. For example, Nokia's OVI Social app was extremely slow to respond and buggy too. After using the whole smooth UI of Symbian Anna it ruined our enjoyment. Nokia should improve it as soon as possible. As mentioned earlier even new browser included in Symian Anna wasn't upto the mark. It had problem with handling sites with lots of dynamic (e.g. Flash) content though it could handle big static sites flawlessly. All OVI services need great overhaul except for OVI Maps which are best in market and complete with free voice guided navigation. It could get GPS lock within a minute or so. OVI Music is just restricted browser. Look at its interface; it's not even an app.
Calling was typical Nokia with no call drops or whatsoever. We felt that it was little less loud on earpiece. We didn't even find any issues with network reception and yeah we didn't have to hold it any specific position to receive signals.
Task manager on Symbian Anna was indeed powerful. It's remained unchanged from Symbian^3 but we must admit it was quick and smooth. In any orientation it shows thumbnails of three running apps. You can access rest of the running apps by scrolling through the thumbnails. We used Task Manager for switching task and we could swap between many open apps very quickly and without much delay. We didn't need Task Manager for killing any app but for sake of tasting we did it too. Yes we 'used' it to 'kill' apps. And mind you it executed our orders quickly. However heavy app we threw at it, it killed them in maximum 3 seconds. And we see this as very big improvement over all editions of Symbian.
Battery life of X7 isn't best in segment. For a device like X7 1200 mAh battery feels too short. For average user it should pull for whole day before low battery notification starts popping up. But if you're heavy user whose use include 18/6 if not 24/7 interenet connectivity, lots of calls, music then you'll probably need to charge it twice a day. Besides battery isn't user replaceable so you can't carry extra battery or use high power one. Nokia should have gone for minimum 1500 mash battery for X7. There's a way to get maximum of that battery by activating Power Saving mode. But it'll also lower the brightness to the minimum and will force the phone to use 2G networks only.
Nokia X7 is very good device indeed further enhanced by Symbian Anna. It's not the smartphone flagship for Nokia nor will it try to pose as one. The main aim of X7 is to give boost to X-series and it's got the pure X-series DNA. But competition has already going ahead very fast and what could stop Nokia X7 from being the 'seller' is the price segment it is put in. At the time of writing this review it was priced at 22K which is slightly higher than companies all round performer N8 which is especially admired for its amazing camera abilities. With Symbian Anna update which is due for late August the gap on software will really end. There's no difference hardware wise except for bigger 4" screen. So Nokia should have put it sub 20K segment. But wait there's already Nokia C7 waiting to eat into sales of X7 so it's going to have some serious in-house competition.
And when it steps out there's whole bunch of droids ready to give X7 some run. In sub 20K range there are some good Androids available. LG Optimus Black is the first phone to come to our minds and then Google Nexus S, famous for 'pure Google' experience. Quite old but still a powerhouse, Samsung Galaxy S is also worth taking a note but lack of any kind of camera flash just doesn't satisfy. But all of them offer better photography than X7 while still being compact enough.
While Symbian Ann is a worthy update, the OS itself has become a dying breed now. No doubt the build quality of the phone is much superior compared to the E71 and the rest flocking the market, in the same price segment. And yet X7 fails to differentiate itself much from its siblings. The phone definitely needs a better speaker, bumped up camera and be priced at least belore the flagship N8 before they can get it right.
First Published: Sep 05, 2011 18:54 IST