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Nokia X7 Hands-on Review in DEPTH !!! A Symbian Anna phone...


Introduction

Dressed to kill and with a fresh coat of paint on the interface, the Nokia X7 is keen to show there's still fight left in Symbian. The screen is a definite high point and the stainless steel body is fashioned like a stealth jet fighter. Symbian Anna adds in features that have been lacking in the OS, closing the gap on the competition.

Nokia X7 official photos
The Nokia X7 combines stainless steel and Gorilla glass into one seriously attractive package. It boasts stereo speakers (just two, rather than four as you might think looking at it) to justify its Xseries spot and an 8MP camera with 720p video recording.
The screen impressed us quite a bit as you'll see in our hardware chapter but that's not all we liked about the hardware. The software changes are not as far-reaching as we would have liked, but there are some key developments that that give Symbian a usability boost.
Here's the short version of what the Nokia X7 is about and what didn’t work out very well.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • Penta-band 3G with 10.2 Mbps HSDPA and 2 Mbps HSUPA support
  • Stainless steel body
  • 4" 16M-color AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of 640 x 360 pixel resolution; Impressive brightness and Gorilla glass protection
  • 8 megapixel fixed-focus camera with dual-LED flash and 720p video @ 25fps recording; geotagging, face detection, smart zoom in video
  • Symbian Anna OS
  • 680 MHz ARM 11 CPU and 256 MB RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS support and free lifetime voice-guided navigation
  • Digital compass
  • microSD card slot (8GB card pre-installed)
  • DivX and XviD video support
  • Built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Stereo FM Radio with RDS
  • microUSB port
  • Flash and Java support for the web browser
  • Stereo Bluetooth 3.0
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Smart dialing and voice commands
  • Social networking integration

Main disadvantages

  • Symbian Anna is still catching up with Android and iOS
  • Uncomfortable volume rocker, SIM tray and microSD card slot
  • Camera lacks auto focus, oversharpens images
  • Relatively limited 3rd party software availability
  • No office document editing (without a paid upgrade)
  • Battery life is not on par with the best in business
Despite our complaints, this is the best that Symbian has ever looked and Nokia has picked excellent devices to carry it. While the other one, the Nokia E6, is a business phone through and through, the X7 focuses on the fun stuff. From taking photos and videos, through deeper social networking integration, to watching HD videos and browsing the web on the large 4" screen.
The Nokia X7 is something you'll want to show off to your friends. The Nokia designers have done a good job of breaking the touchscreen mould that makes so many phones look uniformly similar.
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Nokia X7 in our office
The Nokia X7 comes more as a successor to the C7 than a stand-alone version. But the C7 itself will be getting Symbian Anna soon, so the X7 needs to bring more to the battlefield than just the (admittedly great) bigger screen.
First we'll check on the arsenal in the box and then we're off to inspect the phone's angular charms. Join us on the next page to feast your eyes on the cool screen and discover the Nokia X7


Basic retail package

The Nokia X7 comes packaged with the basics but not much in terms on value-added goodies, except for an 8GB microSD card. The package includes a compact charger, a microUSB cable and a one-piece headset with Play/Pause, and Skip controls.
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The box is rather empty
The SIM tray is originally ejected and placed under the phone in a specially formed recess. You just put your SIM in the tray and slide it into the phone. The 8GB card is pre-installed so you don't need to worry about that.

Nokia X7 360-degree spin

The Nokia X7 measures 119.7 x 62.8 x 11.9 mm, well within the norm of 4" screens.. It's not that much bigger actually than the C7, which only has a 3.5" screen. The X7 weighs 146g.


Design and construction

The Nokia X7 is a gorgeous phone - it has a bold, futuristic design that gives it broad appeal but geeks will look at the angular shapes and instantly think F-117 Nighthawk. We've handled both the Dark steel and Silver steel versions and both of them look extra sharp.
The shape of the phone is rectangular with the four corners beveled. Each corner shows a grill although only two of them (the bottom ones) house actual loudspeakers. The grills look cool anyway. The mostly metallic back is rounded making the phone more comfortable to hold than an angular back would have been.
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The Nokia X7 looks like a stealth jet fighter
The front of the Nokia X7 is dominated by an amazing 4" nHD AMOLED screen. The lower pixel count is the only thing holding this display back - 360 x 640 is a bit of a stretch for a 4" diagonal. Still, the 4" SuperAMOLED of the Samsung Galaxy S only has about 10% more subpixels than the X7's AMOLED screen. The difference is by no means huge.
The screen on the X7 is also the brightest AMOLED we've tested. It's actually one of the brightest displays we've ever tested, LCDs included. The only brighter display we've seen is LG'c NOVA display, which is some 20% ahead. Still, AMOLEDs are traditionally darker than LCDs so the Nokia X7 screen blew us away. Contrast is infinite technically but that's the usual.
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The Nokia X7 and N8 displays compared
Here's the table with our brightness measurements. You can learn more about the test here.
Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
LG Optimus Black P970 0.27 332 1228 0.65 749 1161
Nokia X7 0 365 0 630
Motorola Atrix 4G 0.48 314 652 0.60 598 991
Apple iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242
HTC Sensation 0.21 173 809 0.61 438 720
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 0 263 0 395
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc 0.03 34 1078 0.33 394 1207
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 0 231 0 362
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880


Viewing angles of the screen are great and colors are lovely and vivid. Sunlight legibility is not perfect but it holds up slightly better than, say, the Samsung Galaxy S II.
The X7 screen sensitivity is as good as we’ve come to expect from capacitive units and touch feedback is very impressive.
Symmetrically placed on either side of the screen are the earpiece and the lone menu key. There are proximity and ambient light sensors hiding near the earpiece. There's no video-call camera here or call buttons. The menu key is relatively big, though it's a bit stiff.
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The earpiece and sensors on top • The menu key is the only button on the front
On top of the Nokia X7 is the uniquely shaped Power/Lock key, which also handles screen lock and the ringing profiles (upon a long press). The two wired connectivity ports are here too – the microUSB that can be used for charging and the 3.5mm audio jack.
At the bottom, there's just the mic pinhole and some labels.
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The two wired connectivity ports and the power key
The sides of the Nokia X7 are quite interesting. The left houses the two trays: one for the microSD card (top) and one for the SIM card (bottom). The right side is home to the volume rocker and the shutter key.
Let's start with the keys. They have a very low profile and both are frustratingly hard to use. Because they sit on the sloping edge of the back, every time you press one of them, your finger slides down pushing the phone up. We kept getting the feeling that sooner or later the phone was going to slip.
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microSD and SIM card slots on the left • the uncomfortable volume rocker and shutter key on the right
The trays for the SIM and microSD cards are not our favorite design decisions either. Both work the same way - you press on the dot, which cause the other end to tilt up. Then you try to pry and pull it out. That's rather annoying but the microSD slot still counts as "hot-swappable" we guess.
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The trays for the SIM and microSD cards
When you're done, you have to push the tray back in and we question the life expectancy of a slot that will see quite a bit of metal rubbing against metal. That's the price of beauty (or rather the metal body in this case).
The four corners of the Nokia X7 are fashioned into loudspeaker grills but that’s just for show - only the bottom ones actually hide loudspeakers. Having four speakers would have been impressive (and we imagine quite loud) but two work well enough.
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The bottom two are loudspeakers the other two are impostors
On the back we find the camera lens, dual-LED flash banded together on a black strip. The camera doesn’t protrude but when you put the phone down it rests on it, making it prone to scratches (there’s no lens cover).
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The 8MP camera and its dual-LED flash
Most of the back is a solid piece of brushed-finish stainless steel, with plastic elements capping the top and bottom ends of the phone (just like on the Nokia N8). The metal gives the X7 a very sturdy feel, which users like us prefer over plastic.
One downside to this is that the battery isn't user accessible - you can't carry a backup piece to extend the battery life of the X7.
Speaking of battery life, the Nokia X7's battery is quoted at up to 450 hours of stand-by (in both 2G and 3G modes) or up to six and a half hours of talk time (and only four and a half hours in 3G). Nokia also claim 6 hours of video playback (with 720p videos) and 50 hours of music playback (in offline mode).
The battery performance of the X7 isn't overly impressive. As a reference, the Nokia C7 claims to squeeze 550 hours of standby and 9 h 30 min of talk time (that's in 2G) out of the same 1200mAh BL-5K battery.
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The curved metal back of the Nokia X7
The build quality of the Nokia X7 is impressive though we don't agree with some of the design decisions (the buttons on the rounded edge of the phone and the card trays). The finish of the X7 proved delicate and quickly acquired a few scratches so you have to be careful with it (a carrying pouch in the box would have been great).
Still, there's no denying that the X7 is a beauty to look at and it's quite slim and compact. The curved back makes the phone very comfortable to hold despite the angular looks.
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Wading into Symbian Anna

The Nokia X7 is one of the first devices that sport the latest and greatest from the Symbian world - the update called Anna. It's technically a Symbian^3 edition descendant but that doesn’t quite roll of the tongue as Anna does.
Despite the big change in naming convention (going for names rather than numbers similar to Android, Ubuntu etc.), the changes to the OS itself are incremental. Nokia finally fixed text entry (though they didn’t do a perfect job of it), the browser is updated and so are other core Symbian apps. But there are still issues.
Before we go into details, have a look at this video to get a quick idea of what Anna is like.

Starting with the homescreen, we can already see what Anna is going to be like - much of the same but with more polish and a new feature here or there. The homescreen still consists of three panes. You are free to fill it up with widgets and reshuffle them as you see fit. If three panes are too much for you, you can delete the ones you don’t need but you still can't add more than three.
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Symbian Anna comes with an improved homescreen • homescreen in landscape mode
The homescreens panes are now instantaneously scrollable - it used to be that you swipe sideways and only when you are done with the gesture the screen would actually start sliding. Scrolling is mostly smooth though, the graphics are not as fluent as in high-powered Androids. Tapping the three dots at the bottom of the screen moves you one pane to the right.
You can turn the phone sideways and the widgets will automatically re-order to fit the landscape mode.
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The widget catalogue
Symbian Anna brings with it a new style for the icons in the main menu - they are now very rounded squares. It's an aesthetic change mostly, as they are just as easy to hit with your thumb as the old ones (though the 4" screen does make it easier than it was on the C7).
The main menu structure is unchanged, retaining the hierarchical folder structure. This dates back from much earlier Symbian versions and we were hoping that it would change - to get to your apps, you have to hit the menu key and go into Applications. Modern day smartphones have dozens of apps installed, so easier access to them would have been nice.
You are free to rearrange icons as you see fit so you might go for placing them all in the main folder and get a flat-ish menu system, but you have to do that manually, there's no bulk move option.
You can create custom folders too, which can help you organize your apps. All custom folders look the same however, giving no clue of what's inside like some other OSes do. A list view mode is also available but that involves much more scrolling and that’s why we preferred to leave things in grid.
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Not much has changed in the main menu
The task manager is identical to the Symbian^3 one - it shows screenshots of the running apps, up to three at a time (regardless of screen orientation). You can swipe sideways to browse between the apps and you can kill them with a single click too.
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The task manager fits only three apps at a time
A neat feature is the popup available by tapping the top right corner of the screen. It gives you a bigger clock, a shortcut to the connectivity menu, a button for battery info (charge in % and "Activate power saving" shortcut) plus notifications - e.g. missed calls, new messages and others. It just shows the number of events, it won't show you the beginning of a new text message like Android's notification area will.
You can also toggle Wi-Fi and USB connectivity settings from here.
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The popup gives quick info on events and some handy shortcuts
Performance-wise the Nokia X7 is virtually identical to the Symbian^3 models that came before it. Hardly a surprise, since it uses the same hardware and Anna is more of a feature, rather than performance update.
And even though heavy multi-taskers will frown at the 256MB of RAM we didn’t get any “Out of memory” errors even when the camera and the web browser with two active tabs were running in background.
Symbian Anna is definitely a step in the right direction, but we're afraid the competition has zoomed far ahead. While Apple and Google are trying to outdo each other with all sorts of user interface innovation, Symbian has just caught up with a few years ago.
One positive change is that there's always a Back virtual key visible, which makes navigating apps simpler.
On the other hand, the Options menu still relies on the menu/submenu structure, which is a relic of the non-touch days of Symbian and is begging to be changed to an Android-like solution (menu key that shows a panel with 6-8 buttons for the most common options, maybe a More button if you really want to dig into the settings).
There's more changes (with some more criticism) to come, but we'll discuss those in their respective sections.

Phonebook is pretty good

The Nokia X7 comes with a fully functional phonebook, which can easily be synced with your exchange account. Symbian has been offering users virtually unlimited phonebook capacity and excellent contact management for quite some time and now the Anna update also improves the SNS integration to bring it more up to date.
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The renovated phonebook for X7
Contacts can be freely ordered by first or last name. You can also set whether the contacts from the SIM card, the phone memory and the service numbers will get displayed.
Selecting some of your contacts as favorites moves them to the top of the displayed list. This saves you quite a lot of scrolling.
Editing a contact offers a great variety of preset fields and you can replicate each of them as many times as you like.
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Editing Dexter's details
You can assign personal ringtones and videos to individual contacts. If you prefer, you may group your contacts and give each group a specific ringtone.
A really nice touch when editing a contact’s details is the option to enter their address by locating it on a map.
The social network integration includes Facebook and Twitter, which should be fine for the vast majority of users. You can see the latest status update right from the contact info - or at least the first two lines of it. Tap on it to read the full message or send a reply. That takes a few seconds though as the Social app needs to load first.
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Checking out Dexter's Facebook profile through the phonebook

Excellent telephony

We didn't experience any call-related issues with the Nokia X7. Reception is solid, voice quality good on both ends of a call. The earpiece is loud enough and there were no interferences whatsoever.
Voice dialing is available on the X7 and gets activated by pressing and holding the call key on the home screen. It is fully speaker-independent and as far as we can tell performs greatly, recognizing all the names we threw at it.
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You can also use smart dialing • The X7 comes with pretty well tuned voice dialing
In noisier environments though, its effectiveness might suffer. Bear in mind too, that if you have multiple numbers assigned to a contact, the system will dial either the default number or the first in the list.
Smart dialing is also here - you just punch in a few letters from the desired contact’s name and select it from the list that comes up to initiate a call. Searching by portions of the contact's phone number doesn’t work though.
The X7 has the usual accelerometer-based feature that lets you mute the ringer by turning the phone face down is present. That same turn-to-mute trick also works for snoozing your alarm.
Thanks to the proximity sensor the screen turns off automatically when you hold the phone next to your cheek during a call.
The Nokia X7 however lacks the Active Noise cancellation feature that the Nokia C7 had.
The Nokia X7 sat our traditional loudspeaker test. The phone did well there and the Good mark it snatched means it should be loud enough for nearly every situation. More info on the test, as well as other results can be found here.
Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOverall score
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S66.6 65.966.6Below Average
LG Optimus 2X65.7 60.067.7Below Average
Google Nexus S68.166.3 69.3Average
HTC Sensation66.566.678.3Good
Nokia X766.761.880.7Good
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc66.166.378.0Good
HTC Incredible S66.566.176.7Good
Nokia N875.866.282.7Very Good
HTC Gratia73.273.683.5Excellent



Messaging wiz

The Nokia X7 can easily cater for all your messaging needs. All your incoming messages arrive in a common inbox. If you like, you can also get them sorted as conversations, in threaded view.
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The Nokia X7 messaging app
The Nokia X7 relies on a shared editor for all the types of messages. Stuff like a character counter in SMS goes without saying.
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Sending Dexter a message
Insert some multimedia content the message is automatically transformed into an MMS. In that case, the character counter turns into a data counter showing kilobytes.
The Nokia X7 email client allowed us to setup our Gmail account quite easily, including syncing the account as an Exchange Active Sync one so that we'd get all our contacts. Usually, all you need is to enter a username and a password and you will be good to go in no time. The Active Sync setup required a few manual settings though and we believe Nokia should do something about it.
Multiple email accounts and various security protocols are supported, so you can bet almost any mail service will run trouble-free on your Nokia X7.
Messages can be filtered by various criteria such as date, sender, subject, priority or even by attachments, searching is available as well.
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The email client
The client can download headers only or entire messages, and can be set to automatically check mail at a given interval. A nice feature allows you to schedule sending email next time an internet connection is available. This can save you some data charges since you can use the next available WLAN connection instead.
There is also support for attachments, signatures and basically everything you would normally need on a mobile device.

Proper portrait QWERTY at long last

The keyboard is perhaps the change in touch-enabled Symbian that we've been waiting for the longest. Portrait QWERTY is finally a viable option and more importantly it works in split screen, that is the top half of the screen is left for the app, while the bottom part is for the QWERTY.
The keys on the portrait QWERTY are a bit small, despite the available screen estate. Still, you can activate word prediction, which will fix guess the word you're trying to type and show a small popup with the word you actually typed, in case you're trying to enter something like a user name (which doesn’t have to be a valid word, in fact word prediction in this case gets in the way).
This eliminates the annoying situation of taking you out of the app and into a text edit screen and then back to the app (entering URLs in the browser and using the URL autocomplete was the most painful example). Also, you don’t have to change orientations just to use the QWERTY keyboard, which was mightily annoying.
Still, it's not perfect - several apps would popup the old text edit screen, obscuring the app even though we were using the portrait QWERTY. The Ovi store app is an example of where that happens, which was a little disappointing.
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The portrait QWERTY is one of the best parts in Symbian Anna

Solid file management

Unlike some competing platforms, Symbian handsets have always enjoyed a proper file manager. The File manager on board the X7 is a capable app that can basically do anything you can think of with your files - moving, copying renaming, sorting or sending - you name it. You can also password-protect your memory card if you see fit.
You can also search for a specific file or directory. All you need to remember is a part of the desired name and where it was located (phone memory or memory card), the Nokia X7 will find it in no time.
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The file manager
With USB On-The-Go (OTG) enabled on the Nokia X7, you can also use the file manger to access USB flash drives and even other phones connected over the optional USB cable.
X7 connected to a variety of Symbian phones, an S40 phone and a whole pack of Androids. Card readers worked too, but we had issues with none SD or microSD cards (we tried CF and Memory Stick Micro, which didn’t work).
There's no USB OTG cable included in the box, so you'll have to find one on your own.

Redesigned image gallery

The image gallery app in Nokia X7 is quite the looker. It's the updated gallery from Symbian^3 PR1.2, so it's not exactly new but we're still glad to see the change. Photos are displayed in a grid (3 columns) and you can scroll up and down (with kinetic scrolling no less).
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The X7 image gallery
Once you’ve zoomed on an image, kinetic scrolling is still there but it's hard to trigger some times and that’s sure to cost the X7 a few points. On the positive side, opting between portrait and landscape mode is automatic, thanks to the built-in accelerometer.
In addition to the familiar pinch gesture you can also zoom in by double taping, the volume rocker or even the on-screen slider.
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Zooming in on a single photo
Selection of multiple photos for deleting or sharing is available straight in the gallery. Unfortunately, sharing is only available via MMS, email or Bluetooth with no image sharing service integration. We guess that can be easily fixed by installing the necessary uploading profiles for the services you’re interested in. At least that’s how it works on non-touch Symbian smartphones.
The other features of the image gallery include the image tagging system for easier image sorting, the slide show and the albums system (again helping you sort your image database).
Overall, picture browsing is relatively fast even with 8MP pics, but zooming is somewhat slow. You need to wait for a second or two every time you start zooming in on a photo.
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The gallery does basic image editing too

Symbian^3 music player on board Anna

Symbian never had trouble with the music player features but its looks were far from impressive. With Symbian^3 however Nokia introduced a new Cover Flow-like interface, which adds the much needed eye-candy. They haven't changed anything since.
There’s automatic sorting by artist, album, genre and the option to create custom playlists straight on the phone. With the huge number of supported formats, equalizer presets and effects the feature set is complete.
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The music player is unchanged since Symbian^3
Quite naturally, the player can also be minimized to play in background. In this case you can control it through the music player widget on the homescreen, which also displays the currently running track.
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Functionality is pretty solid • Cover-flow like interface in landscape mode

Audio quality worthy of the name

The Nokia X7 is an excellent performer as far as its audio output is concerned. We wouldn't have been happy with anything less considering that this is meant to be a multimedia smartphone. But the great news is that not only is the X7 one of louder handsets out there, its output is pretty clean too.
When attached to an active external amplifier (i.e. your car stereo or your home audio system) the Nokia X7 does marvelously with no weak points whatsoever.
There wasn't much quality deterioration when we plugged in headphones either. Sure, the stereo crosstalk got a bit worse and we recorded some intermodulation distortion but both of those readings are still better than average.
And here come the full results so you can see for yourselves:
TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Nokia X7+0.06 -0.34-88.988.40.0058 0.016-89.1
Nokia X7 (headphones attached)+0.51 -0.18-88.688.50.022 0.370-60.2
Nokia N8+0.07 -0.33-89.990.00.0059 0.015-90.9
Nokia N8 (headphones attached)+0.50 -0.18-89.989.90.016 0.300-55.6
Nokia C7+0.06 -0.33-88.188.00.0069 0.017-88.9
Nokia C7 (headphones attached)+0.46 -0.21-88.188.10.017 0.362-66.2
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S+0.03 -0.04-90.790.60.014 0.019-90.6
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S (headphones attached)+0.40 -0.12-90.790.60.018 0.329-43.3
Apple iPhone 4+0.01, -0.07-90.190.00.00680.012-89.6
Apple iPhone 4 (headphones attached)+0.01, -0.07-90.490.40.00360.092-68.4

Nokia X7
Nokia X7 frequency response
You can learn more about the whole testing process here.


Video player does 720p but not subtitles

The Nokia X7 comes with a capable video player - it handled all formats we threw at it (MP4, AVI, WMV, even MKV) and 720p videos were silky smooth up to and including 720p resolution.
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Nokia X7 video player
The media player app itself only works in fullscreen landscape mode but, since anything else would have made the widescreen display useless, this is understandable. In fullscreen mode, a tap on the screen shows the controls, which are otherwise hidden. The amply sized high-contrast screen with native 16:9 aspect is also more than welcome for truly enjoying your videos.
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Watching a video on the X7
Previous Symbians used to have problems with files larger than 1.5GB or so, but the Nokia X7 handled full movies with 2GB+ size without problems.
The video player lacks subtitle support however, which is something we thought Nokia fixed (they did for the Nokia N8 with an update http://blog.gsmarena.com/nokia-n8-update-brings-subtitles-to-the-video-player-doesnt-fix-all-its-problems/). You might want to look to third party apps for that or hard code the subtitles into the video if you're re-encoding the file.
The Videos section also includes several handy apps. One is a video editor that lets you create videos and video slideshows. The otherapps here include YouTube, CNN Video, E!, National Geographic, and Paramount Pictures' Movie Teasers applications. Of course, each of them requires internet connection (over 3G/3.5G or Wi-Fi) and note that not all content is free.

FM radio comes with RDS

The FM radio on Nokia X7 has the same neat and simple interface like on its Symbian^1 and ^3 predecessors. You can search skip preset and new stations alike with sweep gestures or you can use the virtual buttons.
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The FM radio app is nice to look at and easy to use
The X7 has RDS support and automatic scanning for an alternative frequency. This means that if you travel, the X7 should hopefully be able to auto-tune to your selected radio station.
RDS is the best part of X7 radio app. The radio station name gets displayed with cool effects across the whole screen, while the rest of the readings are printed in nicely legible font at the bottom.

8 megapixels of fixed-focus

The Nokia X7 is equipped with an 8 megapixel camera for a maximum image resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels. Unfortunately the lack of autofocus continues an unfortunate trend from most other Symbians we’ve seen recently.
You get a dual-LED flash to go with the camera and a workable though not really the most user friendly interface.
There are only three shortcuts available in the viewfinder plus a slider for the digital zoom. The three shortcuts allow you to allow you to toggle camcorder and still camera, set the flash and access the rest of the customizable settings.
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The X7 camera user interface
We would have preferred a few more shortcuts to be available right on the viewfinder. Also, changing a setting harkens back to the days of tap to select, tap again to activate, which should have been long forgotten by now. For example, it takes you four taps to change the ISO - the first to open the settings menu, one to go into the ISO menu, one to select an ISO setting and one to activate it. Can you pick which step is one too many?
On the other hand, the functionality is mostly there. On the X7 you’re in charge of white balance, color tone, exposure, ISO, contrast and sharpness. You can also go for one of the preset scene modes and there is an option for creating a custom scene.
Face detection is also available on the Nokia X7. As for geotagging, it lets you record your current location in the EXIF information of the photos, using the built-in GPS.
The Nokia X7 is no champ when it comes to image quality, certainly not if you're going to enter it into the 8MP category. The very aggressive noise reduction smudges away most of the fine detail in the picture.
The subsequent sharpening stage introduces a lot of jaggies, which spoil the image quality further. You can reduce the Sharpness setting to low, which helped on previous models somewhat, and the jaggies will be less prominent - but still there.
Another issue we spotted is that the edges of the image are rather soft. Overall, we're seeing much of the same problems we saw on the C7, C6-01 and E7 trio - the photos are certainly usable, especially if you just want to share them on the Internet, but if you're looking to replace a point-and-shoot camera, the Nokia X7 isn't the best option.
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Nokia X7 camera samples (normal sharpness)
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Nokia X7 camera samples (sharpness set to 'soft')
However the major missing feature – autofocus – becomes apparent when you try taking a closeup shot. Anything closer than 50cm is a no-go. This can make shooting a page of text very hard - a photo of an A4 page can be made readable after some adjustments (mainly raising the contrast), but still, the text is quite smudgy. We should note that we mean human readable - OCR engines misread a large portion of the words.
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Nokia X7 is not really good at closeups

Photo quality comparison

The Nokia X7 enters our Photo Compare Tool to join the other 8MP shooters. The tool’s page will give you enough info on how to use it and what to look for.
The results in the synthetic benchmarks turned out surprisingly good - but that just shows that the post-processing algorithm does well in high-contrast areas (like the black lines on white background).
The white background also shows disturbing amounts of color tinting - the whole upper part of the image has a reddish tint, while the bottom is greenish. Still, the camera offers good contrast. Check out the black squares in the second chart - the top and right borders are slightly brighter or darker than the rest of the square. Some phones show those as solid color squares.
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Nokia X7 in our Photo Compare Tool



Good 720p video capture

The Nokia X7 shoots in 720p resolution at 25 fps and offers digital image stabilization. Clips are stored as MP4 files. Unlike the still camera, the video camera actually fares pretty well.
The videos are shot in pretty high bitrate - about 12Mbps. The amount of resolved detail is good enough, colors look nice and noise levels are kept reasonably low. Videos hit the 25fps target right on the mark and there are no repeated frames either.
Finally you get a smart digital zoom in video mode just like on the Nokia N8. It means that you can zoom in to about 2.5x without losing detail. It's pretty impressive if you think about it and the fact that the X7 is one of the very few handsets to have it earns it an extra point.
The video-recording capabilities of the X7 make up big time for the poor still imaging.
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Video recorder interface
Here’s a video sample from the Nokia X7 – 720p@25fps (10s, 15.6MB). That may seem a bit big for a 10 second video, but that's the price you pay for the higher bitrate.
Also, you can check out this longer sample we've uploaded to YouTube. There's one more sample - we shot our res chart and zoomed in to show you the effect.


Video quality comparison

We entered the Nokia X7 in our Video Compare Tool database too and put it head to head with other 720p mobile camcorders.
The X7 performed very well in our synthetic video quality tests. It handled the switch from light to dark very quickly and the quality remained good even in the poorly lit scene. The resolution chart also points to good resolution for a 720p video, but there's a noticeable pink spot in the middle.
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Nokia X7 in the Video Compare Tool

Good connectivity but lacks video output

The Nokia X7 is a true globe trotter. All kinds of network connectivity options are at your disposal - quad-band GPRS and EDGE along with penta-band 3G with HSPA. You can go pretty much anywhere in the world where there's GSM or UMTS signal and connect. The 3G is pretty fast too with 10.2Mbps downlink and 2Mbps uplink.
USB is version 2.0, with the standard microUSB port capable of charging the phones besides transferring data. We already covered the USB On-The-Go functionality, but just for the record, we had very little trouble connecting to USB mass storage devices - phones (including Andoids), card readers and thumb drives. Unpopular cards were a problem though but how often would you need to connect a CF card anyway.
Bluetooth connectivity is version 3.0 with stereo support and there's a WirelessN-enabled Wi-Fi radio.
The microSD card slot can be used for transferring data to and from your X7. The tray system used to house the card is quite a nuisance though.
The one disappointing side of the otherwise excellent connectivity on the Nokia X7 is the lack of microHDMI port found on the N8 and surprisingly even SD TV-Out via the 3.5mm audio jack.

Much improved web browser

The web browser has been a sore weak spot in touch-enabled Symbians so you'll be pleased to hear that Symbian Anna fixes a lot of the issues. Also, the 4" screen of the Nokia X7 makes it a great candidate to show off the best of the changes that Anna brought.
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The browser in Symbian Anna has received much needed polish
The Nokia X7 browser has good page rendering and offers some nice features such as different font sizes (5 options), auto fill-in of web forms and a password manager. Panning is relatively smooth but zooming can be a little slow at times, taking a second to redraw the page content after you zoom out.
Some of the nagging issues in the browser were fixed too - you can now open a new tab easily (why it took Nokia this long to implement this we'll never know) and it takes you only one tap to get to the popup menu with the most useful browser options (it used to take two taps, which is one too many).
Along with the popup menu's shortcut on the right of the screen, there's also an always-visible back button on the left. They are quite small and don't cover much of the screen. It used to be that you needed two taps to go back a page too - once to make the back button visible and once to press it.
Back still uses the 3D stack of page thumbnails to let you choose how many steps back you want to go (it's an option that you can turn off if you prefer to go back one step directly).
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Going landscape • the popup menu • opening new tabs is now possible
Another thing we're really pleased to see is how the QWERTY keyboard integrates with the browser. You can use the portrait QWERTY to start entering an URL and the list suggested sites pops up immediately. The previous screen required going back and forth between screens, which was pretty much unusable.
The Find-on-page feature enables keyword search. The visual history is a nice bonus that can help you find a page you've visited more easily. There's also a popup blocker.
Double tapping on a chunk of text zooms it in on screen, but again, the text doesn't auto fit to the smaller viewport and you still need to scroll sideways.
The Flash Lite 4.0 support is enough for playing Flash, but it’s not as impressive a performer as the desktop-grade Adobe Flash 10.3 for Android 2.2 and up. YouTube videos played inline in the browser but they used the mobile version (240p) of the video, which is heavily compressed. Flash games wouldn't work.
You can also choose to switch Flash off to cut down on loading times and save some data traffic.
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YouTube plays inline but only the mobile version of the video stream
Overall, Symbian Anna pushes the web browser very far ahead of what it used to be. Symbian^3 users can't get the update fast enough, the difference really is night and day. Still, the browser is not quite as good as Mobile Safari or the Android 2.2+ browser


Organizer is great

Symbian has good traditions in the Organized department and the Nokia X7 with Symbian Anna is no exception. Nokia has just tweaked a thing or two.
The calendar has four different view modes - monthly, weekly, daily and a to-do list, which allows you to check all your To-Do entries regardless of their date. There are three types of events available for setting up - Meeting, Anniversary and To-do. Each event has some specific fields of its own, and some of them allow an alarm to be activated at a preset time to act as a reminder.
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The calendar has seen some further touch optimization
The Nokia X7 also allows you to browse office documents thanks to the preinstalled Quickoffice application. The Adobe PDF reader is also here to take care of those .PDF files, while the ZIP manager allows you to deal with digital archives on the go.
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Quickoffice is here but editing costs extra
Unfortunately, the preinstalled Quickoffice version doesn’t support editing, but we doubt much of the X7 target audience will need it anyway. If you insist, you can get the paid upgrade and enable editing.
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There's also a PDF reader and a ZIP manager on board
The calculator application is very familiar but it lacks the functionality of some of its competitors. The square root is the most advanced function it handles and this is hardly an achievement. If all you do with it is split the bill at the bar though, you're more than good to go.
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The calculator is hardly the most functional around
The organizer package also includes a dictionary, voice recorder, as well as the Notes application. The good unit converter we’ve come to know from Symbian^1 is strangely gone but you can grab one yourselves from the Ovi store for free.
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The dictionary, the voice recorder and the notes app continue the organizer marathon
The alarm application allows you to set up as many alarms as you want, each with its own name, set-off day and repeat pattern. As we already mentioned, thanks to the built-in accelerometer you can also snooze the alarm by simply flipping your phone over.
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You can set an unlimited number of alarms on the X7

Social networking integration

The Nokia X7 comes with social networking integration, part of which we saw in the phone book. The Social app however is the nexus for al things social - it supports the two most popular networks, Facebook and Twitter. You can have multiple accounts on each network but only one of each can be active at a time.
The Facebook section offers extensive options with an easy to use, touch-optimized user interface. Posting a status update is simple as is attaching a photo or video (or shooting new ones on the spot) as well as adding geo-tagging information.
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Facebook integration is pretty extensive
Twitter is accessed through a similarly easy interface. There's a handy button to shorten links and you can attach photos and videos to your tweets as well.
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Twitter integration is great too
The text input field for status updates for both Facebook and Twitter covers only the top half of the screen and the portrait QWERTY fits snugly on the bottom half of the screen, which is pretty clever positioning.
A cool feature is the All Activity section that becomes available when you add both Facebook and Twitter accounts. It pools status updates from both networks into a single list. You can also post a status update on both networks simultaneously from here. Unfortunately, there's no option to post only to one of the networks - you have to go to the networks specific section to do that.
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The Social app pools all status updates into the All Activity section
Friend search also becomes available on both networks - it searches both accounts for a given name.

Ovi Store could use more apps on its shelves

Symbian is still one of the most popular smartphone OSes in the world but its application store is pretty barren compared to the two juggernauts, the iOS App Store and Android's Market.
The company has refreshed their Ovi store interface to make it more user-friendly for Symbian^3 and it's what you get on Anna too. And while the UI is indeed very handy to use, the number of apps is somewhat of a problem.
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Symbian Anna borrows the Ovi store from Symbian^3
The default screen shows a list of featured apps or you can browse the apps available in the Ovi Store by categories – Applications, Games, Audio and Video content, Personalization; or by collections – Summer Gift of Games, Chat Collection, Apps Start Kit, Travel, Tools for Professionals and Apps for Kids are the collections available at the time of this writing.
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The number of apps is increasing too
Your account profile keeps record of all the apps you have installed under My stuff. You can now also select where games and apps should be installed and where audio and video should go. That’s nice – we wish Android had that right from the start.


Ovi Maps comes with free lifetime navigation

The Nokia X7 comes with a built-in GPS receiver, which managed to get a satellite lock from a cold start (A-GPS turned off) in about two minutes. Keeping the lock from then on was not an issue for the X7 even in a dense urban environment.
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Ovi Maps gives you free lifetime voice-guided navigation over the excellent Navteq maps
As you probably know since the start of last year Nokia made their Ovi Maps navigation free for all their smartphones, which naturally includes the X7. The voice guidance is currently available in over 70 countries and over 40 different languages, with even traffic information for more than 10 of those.
In addition, Nokia did a pretty decent job of the Ovi Maps application itself, blessing it with a cool, touch-friendly interface, as well as nice features such as the Lonely planet city guide, HRS hotels and the Michelin restaurant guide.
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Lonely planet and Michelin guides
There's also 5-day weather information for cities available along with Map Reporter, which can be used to report inaccuracies you find on the map. You can choose which of those are visible in the menu, which helps avoid clutter.
With Ovi Maps 3.06 you get three different view modes including satellite and terrain maps. Those however do need an internet connection. The more regular 2D and 3D view modes are also at hand and can be used with preloaded maps. Starting with v3.06 can download maps directly from the phone, no computer needed anymore.
The route planning algorithm is also rather easy to customize to best suit your preferences. Toll roads and motorways can be avoided and so can tunnels and ferries. Routes can be set to either fastest or shortest.
Ovi Maps is also usable for pedestrian navigation or you can switch the GPS receiver off and use the phone as a hand-held map. Ovi Maps 3.06 also joins in on the location check-in craze and supports a long list of networks (but not Foursquare, understandably).

Final words

We're not exaggerating by calling the Nokia X7 one of the best Symbian-powered devices currently on the market. This used to be the biggest compliment you can pay a smartphone but the times have changed.
And in the ongoing struggle to have the best features, the X7 holds its own. The great screen and inspired design are its two biggest assets. Maybe it's time for Nokia to move on from nHD though, the resolution is a bit of a stretch on a 4" screen. Sharpness aside however, the screen on the X7 is a joy to behold.
The bold design too - people are in and out of court these days over two phones looking "rectangular with a big touchscreen in the middle". The Nokia X7 runs no risk of being mistaken - it's unique and attractive.
Symbian Anna offers only some improvements instead of a complete overhaul, but it's still enough to bring a big, perceptible change to the user experience. It's not quite on par with Android or iOS but Symbian-philes will eat it up.
All things considered however, it's hard to deny that the Nokia X7 is a reworked C7 with a better screen. When the C7 gets upgraded to Anna, the gap will really close, in terms of specs though probably less so in terms of price.
Anyway, the X7 has more than its kin to worry about - there's a whole army of big bad droids out there.
Nokia C7
Nokia C7
From the golden oldie Samsung I9000 Galaxy S (which has been updated to gingerbread and has seen its price reduced quite a bit), to affordable dual-cores like the LG Optimus 2X (which can do FullHD videos), there's a lot to choose from.
How about the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, which is quite thin but packs an eye-pleasing Reality display, or maybe the HTC Incredible S with its trademark HTC charm?
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Samsung I9000 Galaxy S • LG Optimus 2X • Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc • HTC Incredible S
If you want you can go higher - the Samsung 9100 Galaxy S II has a brilliant 4.3" SuperAMOLED Plus screen, an 8MP camera with 1080p video and a pair of the fastest CPUs we've tested yet. The HTC Sensation has a 4.3" screen and 1.2GHz dual-core CPU to offer as well, with 1080p videos on top.
If you like Nokia and you like experimenting, then we'll suggest the Nokia N9. We loved its screen, its unibody, and the first taste of MeeGo made our mouths water. It's not on the market yet but if you're not in a hurry, you really should consider waiting a while.
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Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II • HTC Sensation • Nokia N9
If the Nokia X7 came out around 2009, when the whole touchscreen thing was beginning to heat up, it would have made a killing. It still has the potential to sell but the competition will eat into its profits. We suggest you have another look at the competing phones listed here. Hard to choose, we know. The good thing is, if you believe the X7 is the one for you, you probably won't regret going for it.



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