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Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Nokia X6/X6 16 Gb
Live images of the Nokia X6
In this review I decided to examine 2 devices at once: the original X6 with 32Gb storage that went on sale in December 2009 and the model that is set to arrive by the end of February, the X6 16Gb. The only aspects these two differ in are the amount of storage, color schemes and price tags. So I thought it'd make more sense to review them both in one sitting, rather than churn out two nearly identical articles.
The success of the Nokia 5800 has prompted the company to create another model of this breed, that was supposed to replace its predecessor in the hearts of consumers. And that's how it would have come to pass, had it not been for Nokia's desire to launch a more expensive version of the X6 tagged with "Comes with Music". As a result this midrange phone, by far not a top-of-the-line offering, got its price tag padded by a bundled headset and "Comes with Music" subscription. In fact, because of that it could no longer meet the description of a mid-tier model. But since the X6 was supposed to be Nokia's key offering for the first half of 2010, accompanied by an aggressive marketing campaign, they opted to give no weight to these considerations.
The scheme with two versions of the same phone where one of them is overpriced has already been tested with the Nokia N97 and N97 mini. The gist of it is this: the first model, that can be readily regarded as a beta version, comes out and retails for quite a bit of money, then all its major flaws get fixed, and storage space reduced in its counterpart with a lighter price tag and a handful of upgrades that make it superior to the predecessor in almost every aspect, barring its memory volume. So from now on, if you ever decide to buy a top-of-the-line phone from Nokia, think twice, whether in three months' time you'll see the same device on the shelves with a more affordable price tag and a lot of useful updates. That's a dangerous trend that can get consumers to think that buying new things means serving as free beta-testers for others, which is a role very few would love to play. Even today the Nokia X6 16Gb's final price tag is yet to be determined, as the X6's sales turned out to be not as stunning, even though this kind of performance had been expected. If you take a calculator in your hands for a second and try to figure out the price of the X6's sales package, you'll see that its sibling should be at at least 120-140 euro cheaper, which is pretty good news for the X6 16Gb, as at this rate it'll fit right into the mid price-bracket and offer decent price/quality ratio.
Nokia views both models as sequels to the 5800, expanding their touchscreen-enabled line-up and serving as their new flagships among music-playing phones. The next flagship solution in the Nokia X-series (XpressMusic now has its own index) will see release in the second half of 2010, more towards Christmas. Curiously enough, they'll put the same scheme to work. I have to note, though, that its release date is still pretty far off, so a lot of things can and probably will change, maybe the junior phone will get cancelled altogether, which would make a lot of sense, since such practices don't look appropriate when used repeatedly.
Over at Nokia they also believe that some users of the Nokia 6300, Nokia N73, Nokia N95 8Gb, might go for the Nokia X6. In Nokia's positioning chart these target audiences are called Technology Stylist and Style Leader. This brings us to the next point - the X6 is a fashion-savvy phone among all other things. But for some reason in this case the word "fashion" is meant in the context of the materials used in it - metal edges, glass plate covering the screen and so on. But none of these things can really tell you much about this phone's design. In my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense when people confuse design with materials used. No doubt, the X6 has a certain distinctive feel to it, whether or not it's unique - that's the question. I, for one, get a strong feeling that it has a lot in common with Samsung's solutions that have exactly the same metal inserts. Although that's nothing but my own opinion, as on closer examination you'll definitely find a multitude of differences, or at least enough of them to say that the X6 has nothing to do with Samsung's trademark designs.
Samsung Omnia Lite:
So, the bottom line is this: the Nokia X6 is not a bare music-playing phone, it also fits the bill as a fashion-conscious phone. But if you disregard Nokia's own view of the model, you'll see that it's an okay music-minded phone, offered with "Comes with Music" at first, and then stripped off it. And its second iteration looks much more interesting and appealing.
The phone is made out of plastic, which is not bad at all. Its much-hyped metal accents are in fact strips of metal on the sides. The next material in the mix is "glass", covering the screen, although in reality it's a composite material (I'm not going to say "plastic", because it's not), similar to that used by other phone makers, including Apple. The glass base splits into pieces on impact, leaving an impression of a typical hardened glass. However it's coated with an extra layer that is prone to scraches, in contrast to the ordinary glass. The owners of the iPhone or Apple Touch know that there is no way they can avoid an occasional scratch or two. And the X6 is no different in this respect.
The gap above the glass cover is a true dust-magnet, and after two weeks of use a good deal of this dust slipped onto the screen. The bad news is that there is no way to clean it off, so some neatniks will certainly get irritated by this fact.
Above the screen sits the lens of the forward-facing camera. All buttons here are mechanical, which is great news, as their touch-sensitive counterparts would have been fiddly to use. Much like the Nokia 5800, there is a touch-sensitive menu shortcut located on top of the display.
Housed on the left-hand side is a mysterious slot that doesn't accept memory cards - in fact the X6 doesn't even work with them. As it turns out, this is the SIM-card bed. In theory, you can eject the SIM card while the phone is still on. But to do this you'll have to use a pair of pincers. So the ordinary way to do that would be to remove the battery and pull a small trigger inside. Personally, I have no idea why they would need to implement this setup.
The Nokia X6's right side features the volume rocker, camera button and the display lock slider. Unlike other touch phones, the slider here doesn't feel loose, as it is recessed into the casing. While this makes it a bit awkward to use, it sure helps its reliability.
Housed on the left-hand side are the stereo speakers covered by a metal grill. They are pretty loud, even louder than those found on the Nokia N97, in my opinion.
The top end of the X6 plays host to the 2mm charger socket and microUSB slot. To our great disappointment, the handset doesn't charge via microUSB! It'd seem Nokia have already made up their mind that their phones can recharge like that, but here we go again. Finally, there is the 3.5 mm audio jack sitting next to the power button.
The phone's underside features the camera lens with a protruding ring that wears out in about two weeks' time, which is something you'd expect from this setup, so I won't call it a "defect". What is infinitely more annoying is that the thin battery cover tends to creak quite a bit. Furthermore, if you have a habit of changing your SIM card often enough, it'll loosen up and become difficult to snap shut. A metal plate would be more than welcome here.
The phone measures 111х51х13.8 mm and weighs 122 grams. The X6 is fairly small, and will easily fit not only into your hand, but pockets as well. Not much else to say here.
Nokia X6 vs Sony Ericsson Aino:
The phone will come in a choice of two colors - black and blue (black casing/red inserts and white casing/blue inserts).
In its turn, the Nokia X6 16Gb will be available in 3 color: black (Black/Black), white with pink highlights (White/Pink), white with yellow highlights (White/Yellow).
This is one of Nokia's first handsets to come featured with a capacitive screen. I'm getting an impression that they decided to catch up and surpass the Apple iPhone, for the transition to this display type will be swift and concern all kinds of phones. As of today, all other touchscreen-enabled phones from Nokia sport resistive displays. As far as the X6's capacitive screen goes, you won't be able to get any reaction from it if you tap it with a stylus, pencil, pen or other objects - it works only with fingers. All in all, it's no different from the Apple iPhone's screen, not even in terms of sensitivity - a light touch will suffice in most cases.
When I changed my N97 for the Nokia X6, I had to spend two weeks getting used to its display (which was expected). Eventually, I managed to force myself to come to grips with the X6's screen, so that most of my typos miraculously disappeared, although at first misclicks were extremely common. Honestly, I have no logical explanation for this phenomenon; the X6 doesn't look like a text-friendly phone, and there's more to it than just my habit of using resistive displays. The Apple iPhone offers much smoother experience, even the Nokia 5800 with its on-screen keyboard beats the brand-new X6 on this front.
Other display specs match those of the Nokia 5800 - it offers great picture quality, diagonal (3.2 inches) and resolution (16:9 aspect ratio, 640x360 pixel resolution). The X6 can also show up to 16 million colors, that make for a very bright and eye-candy picture.
The screen's layout changes automatically depending on how you hold the phone. It takes a second or even less for the screen to turn. Plus there is a proximity sensor.
The sunlight legibility was not an issue with the X6's display. At the same time under direct sunlight it tended to fade, although in this respect it was little to no different from the iPhone. Its screen can display up to 14 text lines and 3 service lines. All in all, it's perfect for watching videos, browsing photos and large lists.
The X6's front fascia features three mechanical buttons: Call, End and Menu. Pressing the End key in any menu will bring you one level up in the directory tree. The phone allows two methods of text input (two types of keyboards, to be precise).
There is a conventional keyboard that mimics the keypad setup used in candybar phones. It works only in the portrait orientation and is easy to handle with only one hand.
And then there is your standard QWERTY thumbboard that pops up only in the landscape mode. All in all, it's pretty comfortable to use and allows typing with both hands.
When the predictive input mode is on, words get underlined and by clicking on them you'll be able to choose other variants.
The X6's haptic feedback works in the same vien as Samsung's VibeZ technology. The phone produces a tangible vibration confirming each press, although it doesn't give you a feeling that you've just "pressed" a button.
The handset utilizes a 1320 mAh Li-Ion battery (BL-5J). The X6 is rated for 11.5 hours of talk time (GSM) and 420 hours of standby. Music time - up to 35 hours, video recording time (top resolution and quality settings) - up to 210 minutes, video playback time - up to 4 hours.
The handset's battery life averaged 2 days in our tests, when we used the X6 for about one hour of calls, a dozen or two snaps, several minutes of video, and around an hour of music/radio. It takes the X6 around one hour to charge from empty to full.
Below is our chart of battery times we managed to squeeze out of the X6:
The device comes equipped with 128 Mb of RAM, after first launch you will get around 45 Mb of free memory at your disposal, plus there are 265 Mb on top of that reserved on the phone's Disk C for your personal data. The bulk of its memory, however, is available on Disk D (around 30 Gb).
The X6 allows the user to store applications on Disk C, which is definitely great news. However even this measure doesn't solve the problem with frequent application crashes. Furthermore, they haven't fixed the issue when launching the phone's browser makes all other apps close.
USB. Using the USB settings you can choose one of the following modes:
The X6's data transfer speeds top out at 5 Mb/s, the phone doesn't recharge itself over USB.
Bluetooth. The phone comes with Bluetooth v2.0, with support for EDR. The following profiles are supported:
The top speed you can get with the X6's Bluetooth connection is around 100 Kb/s. We also tested its A2DP profile in pair with the Sony Ericsson DS970 headset, which worked just fine - we managed our play list, skipped within tracks and adjusted volume seamlessly, however we couldn't make current track's title show up on the headset's display.
Wi-Fi. This handset comes armed with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 g) support. All security standards are supported, including WEP , WPA , WPA 2, with other advanced settings available. The X6 boasts the WiFi Wizard, which can search and tap into available networks in background mode.
The X6 makes use of Nokia Maps 3.0, along with A-GPS and bundled GPS receiver.
The X6 comes equipped with a 5 MP autofocus-enabled camera coupled with a two-section LED flash (range: up to 3 meters). It's almost no different from the module found in the N97, except for the missing lens shutter, that used to scratch the lens itself.
Its technical specifications are as follows:
The X6's top resolution is Print 5M - large, which stands for 2592x1944 pixels and image size of 700Kb-2Mb. The user can also make use of the following resolution settings:
It takes the X6 around 3-4 seconds to save a shot in any of the above resolutions if you have enabled the after-shoot view. Or 1-2 seconds in case you are ready to take another snap right after that (in the latter case all images are saved from the buffer).
Color tones. Since these overlays can be applied to any snap in a standard graphics editor, it won't be wise of you to enable them for taking a shot on the X6. There are four effects available - Sepia, Black & White, Vivid, Negative.
Exposure compensation. This parameter is adjusted at a 0.33 step here; it will prove useful for shooting objects with dominating light or dark tones.
White balance. The X6's camera does very well in the auto mode, though you can manually adjust the white balance and choose one of the following settings - Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent.
Video recording. When recording video with X6, there are considerably fewer settings, than in the still image mode. There is a software image stabilizer that was first introduced in the Nokia N80. You can adjust the white balance, choosing from Automatic, Sun, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent. The overlay pool includes Sepia, Black&White, Negative. There are only two shooting modes - auto or night mode. Maximum resolution - 640x480 pixels (mpeg4), you can also mute sound, although there is no way you can adjust the X6's FPS, which is locked at 30. The handset allows recording videos until you run out of free memory.
The X6 comes equipped with a bog-standard Nokia's music player, but before we get to it, let us say a couple of words about the headphones it comes bundled with. The X6 32Gb comes boxed with the WP-500 - a pair of huge clip-on earphones that look ridiculous, even though their audio quality is decent. Now, the main question - how many style-conscious people opt to wear clip-ons in the street? Or maybe they use them in their cars? No, and no. There will be a handful of youngsters who'll stick to them because "they came in the box", but they'll be the minority, make no mistake about that. The vast majority of the X6 owners will put the WP-500 away and plug in their own earphones. And that will be it.
Realizing the particulars of this situation, Nokia have decided to throw in the WH-701 into the X6 16 Gb's sales package - the headset that was first introduced with the N97 Mini. Great earphones, very convenient remote control - I use them myself, and while they aren't as good at playing music as the WH-500, they are way more suitable for day-to-day use.
Now for the player's drawbacks, some of which have rocked me to my core. First, you can't use your remote control to make the X6 start playing anything while you're at the standby screen. You have to have the music widget or the player itself running. Sometimes it feels like while the rest of the world has already moved into the 21st century, the X6 still can't make it out of 19th. Thankfully, though, you'll be able to use the remote control to skip forward and backward or jump between tracks.
Podcasts have got their own filter, but in many cases the X6 displays their duration incorrectly, especially for those files that were uploaded directly into the phone. Oftentimes you'll see the music widget showing you current play time as 23.31/10.21, which is laughable. It's worth noting that that's the problem of the widget itself, as the music player is, thankfully, free of such bugs.
Speaking of which, the X6's music player has got a handful of its own problems, including one, completely outrageous. For some reason Nokia's developers have deprived a 32Gb music-minded phone from the Search function in its music player! The best you can do is jump around the track list using the alphabet shortcuts.
The X6 does have a capable Search application that can find all types of files stored in the phone, including music tracks, but that's not a way-out - this feature is a must-have for any adequate music player, and what's more, it would have made infinitely more sense there than a link to Nokia's music store.
Also there is a lot of noise when jumping between DRM-protected tracks - I've come to think of it as a procedure during which the X6 checks the validity of your license. Unfortunately there is no way to avoid that and because of that the X6 gets a bit sluggish.
Since we're talking about licenses - there is a whole plate of problems with OVI Suite on PC. This behemoth of an application can make even the most powerful PC freeze. Attempting to listen to DRM-protected content prompts the app to upload some dlls that hog all the available memory you have in no time. If you're lucky, it'll stay up and running for 2-3 hours, and if you're unlucky… 10 minutes at most and then it's gone. My favorite part, however, is how the phone freezes when you have some music playing and attempt to view photos or open the browser at the same time - it simply runs out of memory.
Now let's move on to more conventional things. The following formats are supported: AAC, AAC+, eAAC, eAAC+, MP3, MP4, M4A, WMA, Mobile XMF, SP-MIDI, AMR (NB-AMR), MIDI Tones (poly 64), RealAudio 7,8,10, True tones (WB-AMR), WAV. MP3-files with various bit rates, including VBR, are seamlessly played back by the N81. Upon synchronization with Windows Media Player 11 and higher, you can take advantage of protected DRM-files (Janus DRM).
Equalizers. When the equalizer settings are modified the audio experience varies considerably. Every one of the 6 pre-installed equalizers features 8 bands and is fully user-manageable, save for the default settings. The list of presets is as follows - Bass Booster, Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rock. In the Sound Settings you can adjust sound balance, Stereo Widening and Loudness.
The handset has random and repeat (all or one track) playback modes. When the standby screen is active is displays information about the currently playing track.
Bringing up the Music Menu allows you to browse all tracks, playlists and sort the library by artists, albums, genres and composers. The music library (or the track list) gets updated automatically on every successful synchronization with a PC via Nokia PC Suite except if you use a memory card with pre-loaded tracks. Make sure you check out the Library Detail option.
Podcasting – podcasts are now integrated right into the music player, whereas previously they were placed in a separate application. You can access podcasts either from the player's menu or launch the application separately, which will give you access to the library, Nokia's podcast catalogue, search, synchronization settings and so on. You can also choose to get your subscribed podcasts uploaded automatically (within the home network or via some specific access point). All in all this app is a breeze to navigate around and quite useful at that.
Music store – allows you to access the Nokia Music Store to buy tracks, albums and download them to your device.
FM-radio – the X6 comes bundled with a pretty standard radio application that offers to pick your region when first launched (this choice will affect the FM frequencies you'll have access to later on). Among its features are RDS, auto tuning and some neat visual enhancements.
The Nokia X6 32Gb sports "Comes With Music" service among all other things.
DJ Playlist. This feature is loosely based on Sony Ericsson's SenseMe, where you pick your mood and the phone generates a fitting playlist. DJ Playlist employs the same principle, however it saves you the hassle of processing all files on a PC beforehand - here all you need to do is launch a small application that will do all the work right on the phone. On the face of it, it works just fine, however I strongly advise against listening to the music from this app's interface - just save the playlist and launch it in the music player. Why so? Well, for some bizarre reason Nokia's developers have decided that the standard music player is too much for DJ Playlist needs, and have implemented no-frills music playing interface. In other words - more memory, less features.
The X6 is your standard S60 5th edition based device. You can learn more about the OS in our dedicated article.
As far as extra applications go, the X6 comes packaged with 3 games - Asphalt 4, Dj Mix Tour, Spore.
It also features a separate mail client that can handle html, in addition to the one located in the Messaging menu. Curiously, this app will tell you that it's in face shareware, however its trial license duration or price are nowhere to be found.
For your convenience we have put all the differences between the X6 and N97 Mini into one chart.
The chart above is based on the X6 32 Gb and Mini current price tags. However, the X6 16 Gb will be at least 100 Euros cheaper, right? Which brings us to its probable price point of 350 Euro - a reasonable amount that will make it an appealing offering. Also this gap will serve another purpose, separating the X6 16Gb and N97 Mini, as the latter is a superior solution in every respect, whereas the X6 is merely a mid-range device. The fact that it used to retail for this much was simply a result of its premium sales package, rather than it being deliberately targeted at this particular price-bracket, where it can't even give the iPhone 3G a good run for its money, let alone the 3Gs.
Nokia X6 vs Nokia N97 Mini:
In terms of reception quality the X6 was nearly flawless during our tests. Calls were pretty loud and distinguishable in most environments. Although it's worth mentioning that some tunes sound a tad muffled. On the other hand, the phone's vibro alert wasn't strong enough, and was quite hard to feel.
One thing you need to realize is that the X6 bundled "Comes With Music" service is this phone's most expensive package designed with only one goal in mind - to try and squeeze the most out of the market during the phone's first months on the shelves. Now that the first waves of interest are long gone, the X6's sales have dipped down, even after a not-so impressive start. On the other hand, the launch of the X6 16Gb, whose price tag will be a hundred Euros lighter, will bring the X6 back into the limelight. Now let's move on to the technical aspects.
As far the music department is concerned, the X6 has a long way to go, and I can't find any reasonable explanation for this fact. It's has got a lot of shortcomings that will definitely get addressed in the upcoming firmware updates. But how long will it take to fix all these infantile flaws? I don't know, maybe six months, like it was the case with the Nokia N97, whose major problems are yet to be solved (memory leaks and constantly rebooting widgets). Unfortunately, the developers' hands are tied by the phone's 128 Mb of RAM, and in these circumstances they will have a hard time fixing all the holes in it. I'm not even sure they'll succeed any time soon.
On the other hand, people who tend to use their phones only for making calls and occasional music sessions, and generally leave 60-70% of their smartphone's capabilities untouched, will probably find all these issues pretty farfetched. At the end of the day it's more about what you are going to do with your phone. For example, some still consider the Nokia N97 one of the most stable phones out there. So it's up to you to decide what you need and what you'll be willing to put up with.
Published 10 February 2010
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