Nokia’s had a big screen presence for a long time, and the X7, like many predecessors made a debut in one of this year’s blockbusters i.e. Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It definitely has stage presence is what I thought, and was quite eager to put it through its paces. The handset made its way to our labs and after having used it quite thoroughly for a few days here’s what I can tell you about Nokia X7.
Nokia’s latest trend for their high-end touchscreen handset seems to be ‘uni-body’. The X7 is a rather odd looking device that tapers towards the ends on both sides. Whipping it out of your pocket, you’re going to get confused as to which side is up till the screen comes on. The stainless-steel body does however, give it a very sturdy look and feel. Speaking of the screen – the 4-inch Gorilla Glass encased AMOLED touchscreen sports a 360 x 640 pixel resolution, which is quite low when compared to its peers the Optimus Black and the Samsung Galaxy S that features 480 x 800 pixel resolutions. Nevertheless, the colors are quite vivid and black levels are quite deep, although not as deep as the Optimus P970.
Widgets for all your apps on the homescreen
The X7 has the weirdest and yet oddly innovative slots for the SIM and microSD cards. The trays need to be pulled out and they’re not the easiest things to deal with. Of course, it’s not like you’d need to keep removing and re-inserting the cards, but I would still have liked them to be a bit more accessible. You need to push one side of the slot in and when the other pops out, grab and pull. I call the it the ‘pop, grab n pull’ system. A micro USB connector is located at the top near the 3.5mm handsfree socket and the power/screen lock button that’s also designed to look unconventional. The volume rocker and camera shutter release are placed on the wrong side of the curve making it quite difficult to access when required. They should also have been a bit more raised.
The headphone and power ports
Unconventional. That is the word for the X7, but it doesn’t necessarily work for it. This all metal, hardcore looking handset weighs in at 146g making it quite heavy. The built in speakers are quite loud and the bundled handsfree kit is comfortable on the ears.
Features and Performance
Symbian Anna really didn’t impress me too much, as it’s really quite like the original S60 touchscreen edition with just a few cosmetic changes. The icons are larger and have rounded edges, like on iOS, except here, brighter colours are used. Real-time scrolling’ i.e. the screen moves with your swipe isn’t really a big deal, but does make the UI seem a little more fluid. There’s a hint of lag that’s evident while accessing apps and features. I also noticed that while bringing the handset out of sleep mode, shortcut options in the desktop tabs took about 2 seconds to refresh. It seemed like the 680 MHz ARM 11 processor had a little difficulty keeping up now and then, but functioned well enough most of the time including providing a smooth transition effect when the screen changes orientation. Multi-touch zooming is also present.
The new Anna icon set is refreshing
Although Nokia has taken on a whole new visual for their virtual keypad, I’m quite disappointed with it. While Android and iOS allow you to type and view the chat/message screen simultaneously, Anna does not. It opens up a whole new page with a text field occupying one half and the keypad with rather tiny keys taking up the bottom half. This means it takes one extra key press just to reply to a chat or to send a message. In landscape mode though, the on-screen QWERTY keypad was definitely more versatile.
Comfortable to use
Nokia has still not found a way to integrate the phone book with social networking options. Once again we see Android and iOS a few steps ahead. While they do offer a certain amount of syncing to join contacts from your phone's memory with their corresponding details found via Facebook and Twitter syncing, with Anna, like all previous Symbian versions that offered this, it has to be done manually on a contact to contact basis. It’s quite time consuming, even if you have to do it just once.
Once again, I’m appalled to find a new version of an old operating system come minus media features that matter. While the native music player offers Loudness and stereo widening with a few presets thrown in, Nokia has still left out a customizable EQ function. Audio quality is crisp and clear with bass levels deep enough to enjoy without complaining too much. Personally though, I would have preferred them to be delivered at slightly higher decibel levels. Nokia has also thrown in Shazam for getting details on music you’re listening to. The FM radio was thankfully a non-issue. It did, however find only 4 out of the 9 or so available stations. Reception was not bad in most places, but just a little skewed while commuting. A photo editor is also thrown in.
Multi-touch zooming works well
Video playback was also quite average. With the ability to read DivX and XviD coded files, it managed to play a few of our test videos, but 720p came through sans audio for some reason. It was vice-versa with 1080p videos. We did not expect them to play in the first place, either. The X7 also supports FLV files, but you won’t know that till you actually go through the file manager, find them and play them from there. My FLV test files refused to show up in the video player’s list, but played quite well directly from the card. A video editor is also on board, which allows you to create slide shows for your images or make a few minor adjustments to your captured video files.
Gaming on the X7 is pretty good, and although the higher end games available for download are a bit jittery now and then, visually they look pretty good on the display and control is just about right. Needless to say, Anna has done nothing major on the media front.
The Nokia X7 does offer a decent amount of connectivity options, but nothing that would compete with even some Android devices priced at about Rs. 6,000 less. 3G and EDGE support is of course provisioned for and so is Wi-Fi connectivity, but no hotspot creation or DLNA support is provided. Other options included VPN access, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP and USB 2.0 with modem support. The new Anna browser is a breath of fresh air and is designed to support HTML5 with Flash Support. Web browsing is actually one of the X7’s better features.
AMOLED screen offers really good picture quality
Nokia’s Social app allows you to connect to Twitter and FB simultaneously and whether you like it or not, will update posts in both places if you don’t access either one separately. The Symbian version of Whatsapp is a real let down and is no where as neat or streamlined or basically as visually neat as the other OS'. Other apps for chatting on Gtalk etc. will need to be downloaded off the Ovi Store. The Setting up email accounts is as easy as it is with any other smartphone thankfully and support for Microsoft Exchange is also present. Nokia has also preloaded their YouTube, Nat Geo, Paramount Movie Trailer, CNN Video and E! video streaming apps.
Nokia Ovi Maps have been seriously beefed up and not only look better, but also seemed to function better. The UI is simplistic and getting directions is almost as simplistic as Google Maps. 3D views and add-ons like Burrp!, TravelAdvisor and Lonely Planet are well integrated into the system.
The Nokia X7 is bundled with a few extra features that are pretty standard as mobile handsets go. An alarm clock, calendar that syncs with your Microsoft Exchange account, converters, a memo pad etc. are on board. Nokia has bundled the Traveler app that provides all kinds of details from plane schedules to currency conversion and more. What is a bit of a disappointment is QuickOffice is a read only version. To edit files you’ll need to download the paid version. Text to speech is also part of the X7’s make up.
I’m not sure why Nokia’s been launching handsets these days with fixed focus cameras. The X7 is unfortunately no exception. The 8 megapixel fixed focus camera comes with a Dual LED flash and features like face detection, geo-tagging, scene modes, white balance, Exposure, ISO settings and a timer to name a few. The outdoor pictures are clear with good amount of detail, even after zooming in. The colours are good as well with no fringing seen around edges.
Plenty of options to tinker with
The X7 can also record HD video up to 720p @25fps. Overall, video recording was not bad, save for a little bit of grain in low lit conditions, but videos come out quite crisp in outdoor well lit areas.
Captures good details
We ran the X7’s 1200mAh battery from 100 per cent to dead with a video test and it ran for an impressive 8 hours and 50 minutes non-stop. All settings were kept standard including screen brightness. The next round of testing consisted of loops – 2 hours of video, 2 hours of audio, 1 hour of calling, 2.5 hours of streaming radio and then we repeat the process to see if the battery can take a licking and keep on ticking. Here, the X7 stopped just short of the call test in the second cycle. This shows that the X7 was quite a capable device.
The Bottom Line
With a price tag of Rs. 20,990, the Nokia X7 fails to compete very well with the likes of Android devices in the same range. You’d be better off with the Optimus Black, that’s slimmer and lighter (but not as sturdy) and although has a 5MP camera, at least it’s auto focus and also captures 720p videos. The Samsung Galaxy S is also a contender and both these devices also come with 1GHz processors easily making them faster and more capable. The Android Market Place also has so much more to offer than the Ovi store.
So, although Symbian Anna looks and feels a little better than the previous editions, Nokia fans will find it a little impressive. However, the rest in the smartphone community might just hope to see this 'futuristic' albeit un-conventional looking handset run a slightly better OS like maybe Windows 7. I know you’re thinking Android, but alas, that’s not going to happen.
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