Sendo X

  • Editors' rating
    8.2 Excellent

Pros

  • Pocket-friendly size and weight
  • integrated Bluetooth
  • camera with ‘flash’
  • operator customisable via the Now! screen

Cons

  • Operator customisable (will operators lock the Now! screen?)
  • some of the (plentiful) file viewers are impractical

The Sendo X has had something of a chequered history. Following Sendo’s ill-fated partnership with Microsoft, which was meant to result in the Z100 Windows-based smartphone, the X is a venture with Symbian, whose OS 6.1 is overlain with Nokia's Series 60 platform. We published a preview when the X was officially launched back in November last year, not realising there would be more than six months' wait until we could deliver a full review.

The delay between announcement and reviewable hardware is not the end of the story. Even now, having used a Sendo X for a week, we can’t give you a complete review. Although the phone has officially shipped in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, no UK operator announcement has been made (although we understand that agreements have been signed). This means that the unit we have is ‘vanilla’, and lacks any customisation that network operators can apply -- we'll keep you updated on developments. We expect the Sendo X to cost around £350 SIM-free, and about half that with an operator contract.

Design
Unusually among smartphones, which tend to be bigger and bulkier than regular mobiles, the Sendo X is relatively small and light, measuring 48mm wide by 110mm deep by 23mm high and weighing 120g. That's precisely the same weight and nearly the same size as Orange’s recently launched Windows Mobile-based SPV C500. It feels a little heavier in the pocket compared to an ordinary ‘unsmart’ phone, but not unduly so. Much of the front is occupied by the 176-by-220-pixel screen, beneath which sits a panel with two soft keys, four shortcut buttons (for accessing the Series 60 menu area, Call, End, and Clear), a 5-way joypad and finally the number pad. The number keys are elongated and we found them difficult to hit, while the joypad has a severe indent that we found somewhat uncomfortable, although it does resist being pressed accidentally. The back of the device houses a lens for the built-in camera, a mirror to help you compose self-portraits and -- a first for a smartphone -- a flash unit. The earphone connector is on the left-hand side of the device, although we prefer the top edge, where ‘connector stress’ is minimised when the phone is stowed in a pocket. An SD/MMC card can be used to augment the 32MB of on-board storage. The slot is only accessible if you remove the battery cover, but you don’t need to remove the battery to insert or remove cards, allowing Sendo to describe the arrangement as ‘hot swappable’.

Features
Sendo has crammed a multitudes of features into the X, hence the advertising mantra ‘See, Hear, Connect and Do’, or ‘See More, Hear More, Connect More and Do More’. For business users, data synchronisation with a PC is obviously crucial. Various PIM applications are supported by the desktop PC Connect software, including Outlook, Lotus Notes and Lotus Organiser. Unusually, Outlook Express is supported for email synchronisation and the Windows Address Book for contacts, so even those running the free software that comes with Windows can share data with the Sendo X. We had no trouble setting up the PC Connect software and dropping our contacts and diary from Outlook into it. From there it's a simple step to using the built-in speech recognition software to find a contact and dial it. Activated by a button on the right-hand edge, voice commands were not always accurately recognised, but we were impressed nonetheless. The Sendo X can read a range of document formats. Preinstalled on ROM are viewers for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and Zipped documents. Further formats -- up to 40 in all -- can be accessed by installing the document viewer from the supplied CD. These include WordPerfect, HTML, Quattro Pro, Visio and a large range of graphics formats. Trying it with PDFs and Excel spreadsheets was a little frustrating: rendering even a small (15KB) PDF on-screen took time, and although our 24KB Excel file opened quickly enough, it was virtually impossible to interpret on the Sendo X’s small screen. There is a graphics coprocessor that controls screen activity and helps make rendering fast and efficient. The easiest way to see this in action quickly is to pan with the camera, which delivers smooth visuals. The Sendo X delivers very good sound quality, and the supplied headset (which has a 2.5mm jack) is acceptable. The digital camera grabs images and video, and incorporates a 4X digital zoom. The ‘first’ here is the inclusion of a flash -- although we use the term with caution, as it's not a flash that a camera user would recognise. Rather, it's a very bright LED that shines on the subject. On test, as you might expect, it worked well for indoor close-ups, but it's not suitable for use outdoors or for subjects more than a couple of metres away. The screen is a few pixels larger than usual for a Series 60/Symbian OS 6 phone. Nokia’s 6600, for example, has a 176-by-208-pixel display, while the Sendo X's measures 176 by 220. The extra few pixels of height are not accessible to applications, but are there to provide a constantly visible status bar, showing things like remaining battery life, signal strength, new MMS, SMS, Bluetooth status, and more. One of Sendo’s key selling points for the X is the Now! screen. This is an alternative to the Series 60 application menu and launcher (also present), and is probably the development that users and operators will appreciate the most. The Now! screen is actually a suite of screens, or ‘panes’ as Sendo calls them. You can set up as many as you like, and move between them using the joypad. Panes can link to a range of resources, including applications, Web and WAP pages, and personal information. Operators can configure their own panes, allowing operator services to be bundled together for quick access. The Sendo X incorporates the elements you’d expect from a feature-rich mobile phone these days. It is tri-band, supports GPRS, polyphonic ringtones, SMS, MMS, email, WAP and Web. The built-in Bluetooth should please business users, allowing the Sendo X to be used as a modem with a notebook, and also catering for handsfree conversations via a Bluetooth headset.

Performance
After using it for a week, we found the Sendo X to be a very impressive device. Sendo has built in a lot of functionality, offered tweaks and extras to operators, and produced something that looks like a basic phone but actually delivers a host of multimedia and productivity applications. We even tried a keyboard accessory and found data entry to be pretty straightforward. However, there are some niggles. As mentioned above, we had no trouble setting up PC Connect and getting it to synchronise with Outlook for diary and contacts. But Sendo needs to provide a longer connecting cable to accommodate users (like us) whose USB hub lives on the floor -- the cable would not stretch far enough to allow the phone to be positioned optimally on the desk. We found the document readers to be unacceptably slow at rendering at times, and some data types (Excel, for example) are simply inappropriate for the Sendo X’s screen. And we don’t like the joypad. Talktime is claimed at 4-7 hours. We found that extended usage during our testing week required a daily charge to be sure of continued operation, but this isn't out of line with the current crop of smartphones.

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