Just the other day I attended the Nokia Developer Conference where the message that was re-iterated again and again was how the Nokia-Windows Phone tie-up will define the future and how awesome everything will be. It feels a little strange therefore to be reviewing a Nokia smartphone that's still using Symbian rather than basking in the golden light of Windows Phone. I hadn't used a Nokia smartphone since I reviewed the E7 and the X7 serves as a stark example of how old Symbian feels amidst the latest and greatest from Google and Apple.
The X7 stands alongside the E7 as the phones with the largest screens from Nokia. At 4-inches, the X7's AMOLED display has all the firepower to be a great display. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, Nokia decided to cap the resolution at nHD (360x640 pixels). The X7 also appears to have an underpowered processor at 680MHz and just 256MB of RAM. The X7 also comes with an 8GB microSD card and supports cards up to 32GB. Imaging is taken care of by an 8MP fixed focus camera with a dual-LED flash that can also shoot 720p videos.
The X7 comes with the free Nokia Maps app which gives you turn-by-turn navigation with voice support. The app has excellent support for Indian maps and is great to use. Looking at how most Android phones don't come with a full-fledged navigation app to work with Google Maps, the X7 offers a very good deal indeed. Since it is a Symbian device, the X7 supports the Nokia App Store. The store may not have the numbers that the Android Market and the iOS Store boast of but it nonetheless has plenty of quality localised apps to download.
The X7 runs Symbian Anna, an update to Symbian^3 that could be found on phones like the N8 and the E7 at time of release. There isn't a great deal different in Anna and the changes are incremental. These include a QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode, a new Web browser and a UI with some new design elements (such as better looking app icons).
Design & Usability
One thing I'll admit is that Symbian has become much better in handling touch input. This is apparent when you scroll through the three home screens and the entire process is quite smooth. The haptic feedback also complements touch input and the touch accuracy helps in typing on both the portrait and landscape keyboards.
Unfortunately, the X7's UI is still very old-school as compared to the new Android phones and iPhones. Almost everything from writing a message to creating a task to adding shortcuts to the home screen requires too many clicks. Also, accessing apps means that you have to go to multiple folders within folders and while you can move the icons around, doing so takes too much time since you can only do it one icon at a time.
There are also a couple of irritating bugs in the UI such as the screen locking during calls so that I couldn't access in-call functions without first unlocking the device. Also, after a call gets over, the screen reverts to locked which means you can see notifications on screen but can't access them until you unlock the device.
I liked the X7's smart dialling feature since it was quick and let me call people without diving into my contacts book. Call quality was also fine although there were times when the phone would lose network connectivity without reason. The X7 also has terrible battery life which was my biggest complaint with the phone. Regularly, the phone's battery would peter out by evening after an entire night of charging.
The X7 looks quite unique and while many people may like the "futuristic" design, I am not a fan. To me the phone resembled the futuristic aesthetics of the 80's with its sharp angular edges and I really didn't think the 80's were really all that fashionable what with all the plastic bangles, shoulder-pads and big hair. However, I can't complain about the phone's build quality which is solid and the metal back feels good to hold. The X7 uses slide-out trays for the microSD card and the SIM (you can't remove the battery) which are difficult to pry out at first, and later just feel flimsy.
The 4-inch screen is large and the fact that it's AMOLED means that colours look rich. However, the low resolution means that the display quality still isn't as good as on other AMOLED screens.
Browsing & Multimedia
The new browser adds some nice features to the X7 including better rendering and smoother touch response and a more efficient way of opening links in a new tab. However heavier web pages weren't very smooth especially with Flash video playing on the page.
The X7 falters in shooting still images as a result of Nokia's continued reliance on fixed-focus cameras on phones that cost this much. Photos of subjects in the distance still look good but with strangely muted colours but indoor photos with subjects much closer to the camera don't look good at all. The camera however manages to shoot very good looking 720p videos without any frame-rate issues but, again, with muted colour levels.
Images shot with the X7
The X7 is very good at playing both audio and video files. Audio output is loud through the earphones and the music player is great to use. As long as you don't throw 1080p videos at it, the X7 plays them all with distinction.