The Xperia X1. Useful.

I have been on the market for a new mobile phone for some time. I have been scouring the net for advice, read reviews, and ended up wanting a Nokia E71. Unfortunately this little machine wasn’t available for individual accounts at Vodavone here in the UK.  So, I had to think again. A Motorola phone was out the question after my V3x flaked out on me too often (mainly hardware problems with the USB port).  An Apple Iphone was an interesting choice, but too many of my fellow train travellers already had one and were obviously always struggling with emailing using the touch screen. On top of that I already own a Ipod touch AND resolved to get out of my “Apple only” policy that kept me locked in for too long in Steve’s steely embrace. With my reliance on Apple products gone, I was free to pick and choose anything that would work (i.e. synchronize) across the operating systems and machines I own (Ubuntu/OpenBSD/Windows/Ipod(s)).

With the E71, Motorola and the Iphone out of the question, there was really only Sony, LG, Samsung, HTC and the Android left. The Android – while geeky – is just plain ugly and rather enormous. As I wanted a ‘proper’ external keyboard (I never really achieved proper texting speeds on a numeric keypad), only some of the more exotic HTCs and the Xperia were left. I had a Sony before and was always impressed by its solid build, so the Xperia it had to be (yes, I know, built by HTC, but there you go) .]


Image courtesy of Paul at

First impressions: it’s much smaller than the ads make you believe. It’s also pretty good looking. The slide out mechanism of the keyboard is easy to use with only one hand and the keyboard is ok even with my enormous sausage fingers. I was a bit apprehensive about using Windows Mobile 6.1, but so far it seems to be doing ok. It is responsive, the email client Opera Webbrowser works well, and the panels are just gorgeous. The connectivity options are mindboggling:  GSM, UMTS, HSDPA, Wifi, Bluetooth, Carrier Pigeon (with an extra carrier bag). This baby does everything. The Camera is pretty spiffing and easy to use: just hold the phone horizontally between your hands and off you go. Autofocus works well.  Here’s a little pic I shot in Inverary:


Now that’s not bad for a phone camera. Not bad at all. It’s quite intuitive to use as well. There are plenty of apps out there for Windows Mobile, and thanks to DVD-Rip  and my built in 4GB MicroSD card I have 3 movies on there at any time. It also has an FM Radio.

Am I happy with it?

Yes. It has given me as much functionality as I need with some cool software, has not locked me into Apple and  plays my movies, my music, manages my contacts, does my email and even can take my phonecalls.

What else do I need?

Acer Aspire One instead of EEEpc. Oh well.

Right.  Turns out my online supplier of geeky goods actually sold out of the desired EEE. Just as all the other computer retailers around me in the south east of England. So I ordered an Aspire One. To be exact, the Aspire One A150-AB (Why in the world do makers of laptops come up with these weird and seemingy random model numbers?). This baby sports 1 GB ram, a chunky 120GB HD and Linpus Lite, their netbook Linux flavour, a derivative of Fedora 8. That would be another Linux flavour to get used to. Sigh. So one day the nice man from Amazon knocked on my door and brought a small but eagerly awaited package.

The Aspire is undoubtedly attractive and feels better designed and made than the best girlfriend’s first generation EEE. The keyboard and the screen especially are superior to the EEE, and there is a multicard reader that’s coming in handy.

Still compact, but larger than a Star Trek VI mug.

Apart from the multicard reader there’s 3 USB Slots, an external VGA plug, and an additional slot for more SD cards. It boots up in seconds and apart from a mild whirring noise when the little fan is trying to cool Intel’s Atom processor pretty quiet (though not as silent as the girlfriend’s eee).

It’s pleasant on the eye, balances well on my lap and fits perfectly into my work bag. Unfortunately the batttery is completely pish. While watching Little Britain USA (which, btw was rubbish) the battery drained almost cmpletely, and I presume that under full load the battery wouldn’t last longer than an hour. No comparison to my Macbook that would happily run for 5 hours. So no long train journeys or flights to New Zealand in economy class then.

As mentioned before, Acer is selling the One with Linpus lite, a Fedora 8 derivative. This is quite similar in apperance to the EEE’s Xandros flavour, just with worse applications. I have no idea who had the idea of leaving out Skype (it does have a webcam, you know), VLC and Thunderbird and instead use some other unusuable crap. So my first job was to get used to Fedora’s weird package manager, ‘yum’. I now have all the necessary apps installed, and available via XFCE’s ‘advanced menu’, but still have to remove the annoying apps and then edit the desktop file to add the right icons. I am quite happy to do that, but I can see the best girlfriend ever struggling with that task.  I have no idea what Acer’s software engineers were smoking when putting the One’s software package together, but here they certainly messed up.  Another minus was the lack of the GIMP and the fact that so far my trusty TX1-Powershot is not being recognised by the crappy photomanager.

So, after 3 days with the Aspire, what are the first thoughts?

Well designed hardware that is let down by a crap battery and a software package that is lacking in functionality compared to the EEE’s far superior Xandros flavour. I am pretty sure that very soon Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron will make a guest appearance, but for now I am just happy that I have replaced the Macbook with a credit-crunch model (the Aspire costs exactly a third) and that I can again watch movies and listen to my music.