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Review : Nokia X7 [Part 1]

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First of all, a big thanks to womworld for providing the Nokia X7 for this review. Nokia X7 is part of the Nokia’s X-series lineup that focuses on multimedia more than anything else and it is evident from the specification of X7. X7 is currently priced around Rs 20,500 in India and runs Symbian S^3 operating system updated to Anna (PR 2.0), which brings a portrait qwerty, better browser, new icon-set, better photo application, etc. Let’s not waste time and head to the review now. You can get the specifications over here.

Package content:

The Good:

  • Slimmer package
  • Premium quality headset with in-line music controls.
  • 8GB memory card included

The Bad:

  • No USB OTG cable or TV-Out cable
  • User manuals are not useful

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This is how the retail pack of the X7 looks like. Good to see that Nokia has moved to the smaller packaging (similar to what HTC and Apple uses). On sliding the inner carton, the X7 greets you by baring it’s huge display and this would be the time when you realize how beautiful this phone is (unlike it’s visual non-appeal in ads and photos on the internet).

X7 has an unibody shell and hence the SIM card and memory card slots are given on the left side of the device (we will come to the design part later). The reason why I mentioned this here is because the SIM card adapter is placed right below the phone. The process of inserting the SIM is simple. Slide the SIM card into the adapter and slide the adapter in the SIM slot. The packaging includes the user manuals, a USB charger, a pair of in-ear headset with two extra sets of buds (small and large size while medium is attached to the IEM) and a data cable.

Overall, I have liked the quality of the accessories provided with the phone. Given the price, they should have included USB OTG and/or TV Out cable.

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What you get in the package:

  • Phone
  • SIM card and memory card adapters
  • 8GB memory card
  • USB Cable
  • USB charger
  • In-ear headset
  • Two extra sets of ear buds (small and large sized)
  • Instruction manuals

Design:

The Good:

  • Top notch build quality
  • Terrific looks
  • Gorilla glass
  • Dual loud speaker (at the bottom, the top speaker grills are for symmetry)
  • Dedicated camera key
  • Home hard-key moved to the center, unlike N8’s
  • Ergonomically good

The Bad:

  • Battery cannot be replaced by user
  • Flimsy implementation of SIM and memory card adapters
  • Volume rocker and camera key placement
  • Should have placed call/hang keys as there are ample space left below the display
  • Feels a bit heavy

There are phones that are sturdy and look ugly and there are phones that look sexy but can’t survive a fall. Then, there are phones that look sexy and built to last. X7 is one such phone. The phone feels sturdy and is sexier than you would expect. The angled corners with speaker grills looks odd in the pictures but in reality adds to the looks. In fact, it looks much better than most competing smartphones. It has a unibody designed and the battery is not user replacable. This is something that I really hate. When the handset stopped responding, I had to run for my laptop to ask friends on twitter how to soft reboot the phone. Also, there were instances where I was helpless when the battery ran out of juice while I was on road. I always carry an extra battery with my N900 to avoid such situations and it isn’t possible in case of the X7. On the dimension side, the phone is 11.9 mm thick which is just perfect and the curved back gives a perfect fit in hand. At 146 gms, it feels a bit heavy in hand.

The face of the phone is dominated by 4” AMOLED display. The only physical button below the display functions as home key and long press is used to display active applications. The plethora of sensors is at the top, next to the ear-piece. One aspect that I didn’t like here is the lack of front facing camera for video chat. Nokia is the brand that jumped the video calling bandwagon much earlier than most manufacturers. Yet, they omitted front facing camera on a phone that costs 20 grand.

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The right side of the phone hosts volume rocker and dedicated camera key. There is a minor issue here. Due to the curved panel, it takes a while to get used to these keys as they sit on the curve. It was a bit annoying for me but quickly got used to the placement.

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On the left side, there are slots for memory card and the SIM card. Nokia has provided adapters to insert SIM and memory card and trust me, it is a real pain to pull the adapters out (though this is something that we hardly do). When you click on the dotted area of the adapter, the other side is pushed out as shown below and then you need to pull the adapter out.

The problem here is that the adapters feel a bit weak and those with minute amount of patience will end up damaging the adapter or injure their head if they bang the phone to their head. Given the sturdiness of the phone, we suggest you not to throw the phone at anything in frustration as it can cause serious amount of damage to those objects.

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At the top, there is 3.5 mm audio port, power button and micro-USB port.

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The bottom of the phone is clean with only the microphone placed at the center.

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Back of the phone is protected by brushed metal which is pretty strong yet looks terrific. Do note that it is not scratch proof and can catch lot of scratches in no time. The 8 mp EDoF camera with dual LED flash is placed at the top half. Similar to N8’s body, X7’s top rear and bottom rear have plastic shell. Probably, this is where the wireless antennae are placed as metal can result in signal reception issues.

Overall, with few glitches here and there, I am extremely happy with the design. Once, I accidentally dropped the phone from a height of 3 ft and there was no damage at all to the phone, not even a single scratch. That reminded me of those good old days with Nokia 3310/3315.

The AMOLED panel (not CBD though), protected by gorilla glass generates deep blacks and is damn bright. Turn up the brightness to 100% in dark environment and it can make you turn your eyes away. The viewing angles are good; touch response is awesome and accurate. There were some times though when there was a bit of stiffness but that is more due to the OS than the panel. The only negative here is with the resolution. To maintain uniformity, Nokia has opted for nHD resolution, which is a bit less for 4” real estate. But when you start playing videos, you forget about everything as it is a treat to watch 720p videos on this one. More on that later.

Here are a couple of pictures of the phone sitting next to Optimus Black, N900 and Milestone:

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Processing power:

The ARM 11 680 MHz coupled with Broadcom BCM2727 GPU does the job really well. The 256 MB of RAM though does not seem enough as there was occasional lag and few ‘out of memory’ errors. Thanks to the amazing GPU, games run without any lag, though the game loading time is far higher than what you see on phones like SGS and Desire. There is 1 GB of ROM onboard and you can put most of those apps (except games) in there for better performance. I don’t care about the speed of CPU but they should’ve put a bit more RAM. An 8 GB microSD is bundled with the phone. I would suggest you to get a higher speed (class 10 at least) memory card as that improves application load times and performance by couple of notches and your music/videos will load faster.

Calling and contacts:

The Good:

  • Excellent call quality
  • Very good network reception
  • Premium quality headset with in-line remote
  • Loud dual stereo speakers at the bottom corners
  • Excellent call management
  • Contacts get social networking integration

The Bad:

  • Black and white color scheme for call management screen

Call management:

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You can make a call by dialing a number or by entering name of the contact stored in your phone.

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Speed dial can be accessed and setup using the options menu. Once the speed dial is setup, long press of a number will dial to the contact assigned to that number. The big green tab is used to access call history (dialed, received and missed calls) and you can set the log duration to a max of 30 days (0 days, 1 day, 10 and 30). Do note that a simple press on a number/contact in log screen will call to that number while a long press gives you option to save/call/text/delete the number while.

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The missed calls can also be checked from the notification area (top left corner) too. Not much has changed in Anna’s Contacts Manager. This is divided into three parts (contact list, Communicator and groups). Adding and removing contacts is done the simple and has not changed from previous Symbian versions  and you can sync the contacts to your Ovi account.

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The social networking integration works well. For every contact, below the name/photo there is a tab ‘social networks’. Clicking on this tab will open the Nokia Social application and search for your contact in the networks (only twitter and Facebook for now). Once found, the contact’s social detail is added to the contact card. Now you can see the contact’s social network updates in his contact page as shown below and you use the contact’s picture listed in social network profile as his/her profile picture in your phone.

You can edit the contact detail after opening the contact and though Options -> Edit. Similar to S^3, there is lot of detail that can be added to a contact like name, multiple contact numbers, social/chat ids, important dates, family member detail etc. If you have added detail like gtalk/icq/yahoo ids, you can initiate chat right from the contacts application by clicking on the relevant contact and then on relevant chat window. Nokia Chat is the default chat application but you can change this from the settings menu.

The process and the UI may not be as fluid as that in Android but it does the job well. The only gripe for me was the black and white interface, which looks really boring. This, though, can be changed by installing themes.

Messaging:

The Good:

  • Threaded conversations
  • portrait qwerty is a big relief
  • MMS supported with wide range of attachment types

The Bad:

  • Not so intuitive interface (poor selection of font and design)

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By default the conversations are sorted by date. And each conversation appears in threaded timeline. There isn’t much to explain in this area as, well, it is used only to send/receive texts.

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Now, Nokia has pitched this device as a multimedia powerhouse, which is what we are going to check now.

Music Player/Playback:    

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The Good:

  • Amazing audio quality
  • Bundled headset add extra oomph to the quality
  • 6 Equalizer presets
  • Supports addition of music by drag and drop from PC
  • Lag free UI with no slowness while accessing album artwork
  • excellent playlist support
  • Linked to Music Store
  • Excellent podcast support
  • Play media using USB OTG.

The Bad:

  • No sorting based on Album names (artists and albums sorting)
  • No manual equalizer
  • Stereo Widening and Loudness settings are useless
  • Lack of Open source and powerful codecs like ogg, flac

This is one area that Nokia has pioneered. X7’s music player is simple and easy to use with no lag at all. How do you copy the media to the phone? Well, there is more than one way.

  1. Use Nokia Ovi Music application in PC
  2. Simply drag and drop music to phone’s SD card and refresh the library in the phone’s music application.
  3. Download from Ovi Music Store to the phone directly (not applicable to everyone)
  4. Use MTP supported music organizer in PC (wmp, media monkey) etc to transfer music to phone

There is another interesting way to copy music. X7 supports USB OTG, which means that you can connect a mass storage device to X7 using the USB OTG cable (not included in the box, need to be purchased) and play/copy media from this device. You can connect another phone that has mass storage mode to connect to X7 and copy the content to/from that phone.

When it comes to music playback quality, I would rate X7 among the best. I prefer listening to music without setting equalizer and the output is pretty clean and there is lot of detail. Do add a bigger capacity microSD card and you will be able to ditch your media player (if you are using one). The bundled in-ear headset is good enough for normal use and the music playback controls helps a lot. One issue with the headset is that it is difficult to get a seal and it tends to fall off due to lack of grip. So, you can forget about jogging while using this headset, Also, if you are an audiophile, you must ditch this headset and get a quality third party IEM and you will be surprised at the audio quality.

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There are six equalizer presets and there are options to increase loudness and there is some stereo widening, which I don’t think is that useful as it muddies the quality. Playback of music through the in-built loud speakers is decent. Unless you are in a noisy environment, they should be good enough. Coming to the codec support, X7 supports MP3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB codes. I felt a bit disappointed here by the lack of lossless audio formats like FLAC and Wave.

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The interface is simple, the default view being Artist and Album view. You can also change the view to list songs and genres and you can view the list of podcasts. X7 displays your music collection in a list view or in a list n cover flow view (similar to iTunes application) while in landscape mode, it switches to full screen cover flow. Thanks to the excellent touch sensitivity, sliding through the cover flow is excellent; the kinetic scroll animation is fluid and lag free. A tap on the album/artist takes you to a split screen with top ¼ showing coverflow while the remaining screen showing list of songs and option to start playing in shuffle mode. While long press on a song gives you options to add to playlist or delete etc, the same action does nothing in landscape coverflow mode.

There is one problem though. The sort by Artist and Album gives priority to Artist which won’t work well with Bollywood or Indian regional OSTs as there is more than one artist and as a result there will be more than one entry in the list for such OSTs. Also, it would’ve been great if there was a search feature as it something that I use a lot on my N900 if I quickly want to play a favorite number.

FM Radio:

The Good:

  • Excellent signal reception
  • Superb audio clarity/quality
  • Accurate scanning

The Bad:

  • Absolutely nothing. Can say, boring interface (black and white)

What happens when a device has extremely good signal reception and top notch audio quality? Tune in to any radio station on X7 and you will know the answer. The first time I opened the radio application, I was asked to scan for radio stations. It took just under 15 seconds to scan and list 9 FM stations, which is ridiculously fast. And thanks to RDS, every station is assigned the name automatically and there is nice animation showing the currently played FM frequency and the station name. One can shift through channels using finger swipe (left/right swipe to browse through saved channels and swipe up/down to scan for previous/next active FM frequency) or you can go to the channel list and pick the channel you want to listen to. It is not the UI though that amazed me, it’s the audio quality. I wouldn’t compare it to the lossless or high quality compressed music files that I use but when compared to other phones, the quality is much better. I hardly use FM but with this phone, I am listening to more amount of FM broadcast than the local content.

Video Playback:

The Good:

  • 4” AMOLED makes videos look great
  • 720p playback
  • DivX/Xvid integration

The Bad:

  • Weight of the phone makes it slightly uncomfortable to hold the phone for long while watching movie(s). kickstand would’ve been great
  • No HDMI out and no Dolby support which N8 that costs just 1k more has.
  • No resume function.

The first video that I have played is the trailer of Transformers 3 in 720p and WOW. HD content + 4” AMOLED + amazing audio quality places this phone alongside the absolute best. Some say that Nokia smartphones doesn’t have a GHz processor and they don’t have the processing power. Before you say that again, go and see how effortlessly X7 plays 720p videos. Even during heavy multitasking with a web browser, four square, mail, maps, Skype, twitter apps running in the background, there was extremely minimal lag (a 2.5 minute 720p video played really well with half a second delay happening four to five time). This is something that we would not do often but just shows the processing prowess, thanks to excellent OS optimization and clever selection of h/w (ARM 11 coupled with BCM2727 multimedia processor).

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Similar to Radio application, there is not much to videos application. The main screen shows options to go directly to last watched video, captured videos (on this phone), other videos (full list of videos that are not captured on the phone) and link to Ovi video store (download and watch video clips).

There is a video editor that you can use to edit the videos or create videos from your pictures and videos. You can add subtitles to existing videos, cut the video clips, add transition effects between videos and pictures, define how long a picture is displayed in a video, add audio track to video etc. Not a major video editing application but is definitely a fun to use. One thing that this phone lacks is HDMI out. The phone can play 720p videos but there is no HDMI port and Nokia is not providing TV Out cable too which is a shame given that this is a multimedia phone.

Camera:

The Good:

  • 8 MP lens with dual LED flash
  • 720p video recording
  • Improved camera application UI
  • Lot of settings (color tone, white balance, exposure, ISO, contrast, sharpness etc can be changed on the fly)
  • 5 different scene modes and a user defined mode

The Bad:

  • Lack of autofocus
  • Macro not possible
  • Average still image quality

X7’s camera is EDoF camera. There is no focus and you can forget about macro’s. The still image quality is above average but hey, it can record videos at 720p and the video recording quality is gorgeous. The dual LED flash helps in dark environment but only when the subject is close.

The camera application is decent and there are lot of settings that you can play with like colour tone, white balance, exposure, light sensitivity, contrast, sharpness etc. Once you change the settings, you can save them in a User preset and if you are too lazy to change these settings, you can use the pre-defined presets.

The picture quality is good but is far behind N8’s. Now, here are few 720p videos:

The video recording quality is far better. The colors look great, there is no loss of detail and more importantly it is 720p. If I were you, I would use it more for videos than for taking still images.

Image Gallery application:

The Good:

  • Easy to use
  • Share to social networks
  • Lot of options to edit pictures

The Bad:

  • Nothing in particular

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The image gallery is decent. It isn’t extraordinary nor is ordinary. The default view lists images in a grid while a tap on image will open the image to view/edit. Good thing is that the application supports pinch to zoom and the viewer shifts to landscape mode when you turn the phone.

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Once you open the image, you can send the image via Bluetooth/mms/mail or you can share it on social networking sites like twitter and Facebook.

Swiping across the album is very smooth and similar to music application, there is no lag at all. There is a huge list of editing options. I am not going explain in detail about these options but here are few images that show some of these options:

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While you are in the gallery view, you can create and edit tags to the images, add/edit albums by clicking on the middle tab of right pane. These tags can be used to attach to images.

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Overall, the application is more than enough if you want to make only slight changes and to share images with friends etc.

Gaming:

The Good:

  • Very good game performance, no lag thanks to powerful GPU
  • Supports HD gaming
  • Very good gaming catalogue available on Ovi store
  • Terrific touch response, thanks to quality touch panel

The Bad:

  • Games load a bit slow, due to 256 MB of RAM and low speed CPU
  • No HDMI port to connect the phone to TV

Personally, I hate playing games on a Smartphone. It kills the battery and without proper gaming hard key controls, it is highly unergonomic. Anyways, for those who like this, there is ample number of games available on Ovi store. There are fun games like Angry Birds and some serious stuff like Assassin’s Creed, H.A.W.X. The phone comes preloaded with Asphalt 5 and Galaxy on Fire. Both are decent games but more serious games need to be purchased. I only tried demo versions of H.A.W.X. and NFS Shift and Assassin’s creed and it is enjoyable (from a neutral point of view) though my fingers started screaming for mercy after a while.

This brings an end to the multimedia aspects of this phone. I will cover less interesting areas in the second part (like general UI, navigation, email, Ovi store, social networking, web browsing etc).

X7 was termed as multimedia Smartphone by Nokia and it does the job exceedingly well. There are only a few devices that can match X7 in this area and I do mean it. Trust me on this one, when compared to X7, most droids fall flat when it comes to multimedia performance.

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