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Review: Nokia X7

[This review originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]
By Steven Vea

There’s no doubt that touchscreen smartphones have been the go-to mobile phone today. With several manufacturers clearly dominating the market, let’s see how beloved industry veteran Nokia shapes out, with one of their latest releases, the X7.

The greatest selling point of this smartphone is its highly attractive exterior. The X7 has a sleek minimalist design that embodies the air of an executive’s mobile. Its predominantly rectangular form is accentuated with slightly slanted edges and a smooth curved metal backplate, that gives it a modern and futuristic look. Although the X7 is also quite heavy for a smartphone, this helps make it feel lavish, expensive, and ruggedly solid.

When looking at the X7, you’ll notice almost every port or button is smoothly concealed in its sleek design. On the top you’ll find the port for the microUSB/charger, 3.5mm jack and the power button. When you turn it around to view its backplate, all you will see is the 8MP camera, the volume rocker, camera button, and the slots for the microSD and SIM card.

While the metal backplate certainly looks great, taking off the cover for the SIM card slot posed quite a great challenge—unhinging and re-inserting  it took several frustrating minutes to achieve.  Moreover, since the backplate is sealed tight, you will be unable to access the battery, which poses the question of how to replace it. Unhinging the microSD slot, on the other hand, was curiously and satisfyingly easy.

Turning the X7 around for normal use greets us with a bright and well-illuminated 4-inch AMOLED display, which is thankfully protected by Gorilla glass. Overall, the display is visually impressive—colors are vivid and details are crisp, making widgets and icons appear to pop out from the screen. Located directly below the gorgeous 360×640 resolution display is the sole physical button on the front side of the X7, which serves as the HOME/BACK key.

Running on the Symbian Anna OS, users navigate via 3 familiar homescreens, which can be scrolled by touch-sliding sideways or by tapping on a button in the bottom center.  The homescreens are fully customizable as well, so you can place shortcuts to your favorite widgets and applications. Additionally, there are two touch function buttons on the bottom left and right, which serve as a shortcut to Options and as a Call/Exit button.

The touchscreen on the X7 is responsive, but perhaps a little too responsive for my taste. The slanted edges of the body and the miniscule space between the display and the phone’s edges tend to repeatedly cause undesired touch commands. To effectively use the phone, it seemed more practical to either place it on a flat surface or to cradle it in the palm of my hand and “poke” at it (for lack of a better term).  Moreover, it was quite difficult to type with the X7 because of two reasons: the touch keys are too small and too sensitive. It disappointingly took a great deal of effort to compose messages, even when used in landscape orientation.
However, general navigation and performing mundane actions were satisfactory on the X7. Although at times a little sluggish and seemingly counter-intuitive, what is a great selling point is its excellent battery life. With constant use (including consistent Wi-Fi), it was able to last roughly two days before requiring to be recharged, which is impressive.

Moreover, its 8-megapixel rear-facing camera shoots crisp photos, and has great post-processing options installed such as color filters and “bubble” fish-eye emulators. But you can expect hurdles in finding a decent way to hold the phone without any unwanted grazes to the touchscreen.

In short, I personally found myself wanting more with the X7. Its great aesthetic design had my hopes up, but after getting around to using it, this particular mobile fell short of my personal expectations from a titan manufacturer such as Nokia. Here’s to hoping that subsequent releases will feature vast improvements.

Dimensions: 119.7 x 62.8 x 11.9 mm
Weight: 146 g
Display:  4.0 inches, AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 360 x 640 pixels, Gorilla glass
Audio: Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack
Memory: 8GB included (32GB max), 256 MB RAM, 1 GB ROM,
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP, 3G, HSDPA
Ports: 3.5mm jack, microUSB 2.0
Camera: 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, dual-LED flash
Video:  720p@25fps
CPU: 680 MHz ARM 11 processor

What’s Hot:
-          Great aesthetic design
-          Excellent battery life

What’s Not:
-          Dodgy OS
-          Over sensitive touch response

Bottomline: The Nokia X7 is a good phone, but could have been a lot better.
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