Nokia hasn't had the best run with Symbian devices. Even after the Symbianˆ3 update, the N8 was still perceived as a smartphone with more flaws than advantages, and the much-hyped E7 ‘Communicator' didn't receive a very warm welcome either. Symbian Anna brought to the fore two new handsets – Nokia E6 and X7. Despite Anna not living up to my expectations, I thought the E6 was a great, affordable business phone.
The X7 is an entirely different ballgame altogether. Nokia's first entertainment, and primarily gaming device, I was apprehensive about how a Symbian interface coupled with the Ovi store would do the phone justice. But I was in for a surprise.
I knew the X7 had a four-inch screen, but I wasn't prepared for the rest of the phone. Big, chunky and heavy, this isn't a phone that you can discreetly slip into your pair of skinny's. The heavy duty AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass display is framed in a shiny black bezel, with just one elongated physical button at bottom-centre. The four corners of the phone slope away from the edges and are encased with grille-covers, two of which cleverly conceal the speakers. The back panel is divided into three by the brushed aluminium plate in the centre, which forms the un-removable battery cover. Two flaps on the left side open to reveal slots for the SIM and micro SD card. These work with some strange mechanism that requires you to push the flap inwards to release a tray, which you then have to wiggle out of the slot – an unnecessarily complicated procedure. The right side of the phone holds a volume rocker switch and a physical camera button.
The phone can be charged through the micro USB port on the top panel (no, you can't use your usual Nokia thin-pin charger on this one), where the 3.5mm headphone jack is also located.
If you thought the design and form factor of the X7 was a bit unconventional, it's only because Nokia has good reason for it. The X7 has been marketed as a complete entertainment device, and that's exactly what it is. The phone is really well suited to gaming, and here's why.
The sloped, grilled edges provide excellent grip and are comfortable for a marathon gaming session. The weight of the handset is actually a positive for gaming as well, because it feels sturdier to hold compared to the slim beauties that slip through your fingers.
The stereo speakers I mentioned provide some of the best sound I've heard on a smartphone so far, and they don't get muffled during gaming either. The Ovi store has a bunch of new games designed specifically for the X7, and they're all HD too which is great. I downloaded Assassin's Creed, GT Racing, Avatar and Guitar Rock Tour 2. There are also a bunch of other games to try, including Need for Speed and Angry Birds.
The touch sensitivity of the screen is quite good, although it does get unresponsive at times. I think that's more a problem of the phone freezing though. I had the phone freeze on more than one occasion when I was multitasking, and the only way to get it to start working again was to press the power button or just let it be for a few minutes. The back panel also tends to get quite warm when this happens.
. The X7s AMOLED display is really impressive for watching videos. The 360x640 screen played back HD videos with amazing clarity, with no lag or judder. Videos start right back where you pause them when you return to the Videos app, and the speakers provide phenomenal sound – better than what I've even heard on some tablets.
The music app works pretty well too, and there's a nice widget for the homescreen as well, which you can see in the product shot.
I watched a few HD videos on YouTube, although the app is actually a shortcut to the mobile site, and it is quite disappointing.
One area where Nokia still lags is social network integration. There's still the lack of dedicated apps for Twitter and Facebook. I used the Ovi Social app, but it doesn't refresh automatically all the time, neither does it provide alerts of new notifications. I faced a similar problem with the email app, which often wouldn't notify me of new emails. A few times it even got stuck - a problem that was resolved only when I restarted the phone.
A positive of the phone that deserves mention is its camera. Although not as hefty as the N8's, the X7 packs in an 8-meg cam with dual-LED flash. The camera takes great shots. However, at times, the flash caused photos to look a bit washed out. There are a bunch of manual controls available to tweak, plus a handful of scene modes. It is also capable of 720p HD video recording.
The X7 runs on Symbian Anna, which I had also experienced when I reviewed the E6 earlier. The phone has three customisable homescreens, and you can personalise them with individual wallpapers. On each homescreen are three touch buttons – for options, call and a button to switch between homescreens – unnecessary considering you can just swipe between them.
The colourful new icons take some getting used to before you can point them out, because they aren't labelled, and I still get confused between the videos and music app.
The keyboard on the X7 wasn't very accurate, and word prediction/correction isn't intuitive to use. For example, you can configure it to auto correct a word as you type, but it also displays the uncorrected version, which you can tap to select. It's a bit complicated, and sometimes I had to jab at the screen to select the version of the word I wanted. Even though the keyboard is roomy, I made too many errors in portrait mode, but thankfully I had a much better experience typing in landscape orientation.
The X7 isn't great in the processing power department – it comes endowed with only 256MB RAM and a 680 MHz ARM 11 processor. Nokia really needs to up the ante on this to become a serious competitor in the smartphones category – even the tiny Xperia Ray which is in the same price bracket as X7 had a 1GHz processor. The specs are evident in the performance of the phone, which froze too often and slowed down when multi-tasking.
The one positive was the battery life, which was really good. At the end of 24 hours of heavy usage involving a couple of hours of calls, messaging, social networking and gaming, I still had about two bars left on the battery indicator.
Call quality was also excellent, and unlike its other cousins, the X7's proximity sensor worked fine. I didn't face any problems with overheating during long calls either.
I wouldn't recommend the X7 for someone who wants a great business phone or for whom email is essential. I would recommend it for someone who wanted a pure entertainment device – a phone that's great for gaming, watching videos, and of course has good call quality. The X7 is by no means the complete package, but with great hardware, a bunch of good features and a very competitive price tag, it definitely makes the cut.
Love: Good screen, build and battery life
Hate: Mid-level processor, occasional freezes, average keyboard