Motorola Milestone XT720

First there was the Motorola Milestone (or Droid as it was known in the US), but what if you didn't like a slideout keyboard? What if you wanted a touchscreen interface, but still wanted to stay Moto friendly?

Motorola has listened to those QWERTY keyboard naysayers and launched the Motorola Milestone XT720 or just Motorola XT720 depending on whom you talk to - but is it any good?

The Motorola Milestone XT720 is the company's latest flagship handset that hopes to build on the success of the Motorola Milestone, first launched in the UK in December.

Fast forward 9 months and the new handset has ditched the slideout keyboard, some of that thickness and weight and grabbed itself a facelift at the same time.

While you still get the same 3.7-inch screen, the front of the phone's design has been changed; with a rather strange sticky-outy-bit now protruding from the top right hand side when you look at it landscape mode.

That protruding bit serves no purpose other than to give space for three lights, which alert you to the camera option you are currently in (gallery, camera or camcorder), and presumably to extenuate the fact that there are dedicated camera and camera mode buttons to press.

We can see why Motorola is keen to shout - they've packed in an 8-megapixel sensor on board complete with Xenon flash, making this better than any other Android handset on the market - when it comes to camera capabilities. The HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S only have 5-megapixel sensors remember, but more on that later.

But the carbuncle isn't the only design difference, as the phone sits strangely between two different styles almost as if the front and the back weren't created by the same team.

The back, you see, is virtually identical to the Motorola Milestone complete with its hard edges, slightly rubberised feel and grill (albeit not gold). The front in contrast is all shiny chrome and glass with smooth curves and glowing lights.

Get past the curves and hard edges and there are plenty of buttons and sockets to get familiar with. The front offers four touch sensitive buttons; menu, home, back, and search while the sides offer the usual volume up and down, as well as dedicated camera and camera mode buttons that we've already mentioned.

On the socket front, the phone sports USB, a HDMI out (mini), and a 3.5mm headphones jack. Inside there is a microSD card slot that isn't hot swappable - in that you have to take off the back cover to access it - but you can access it without having to remove the battery. You'll get an 8GB card in the box.

The rest of the inside reads like your standard flagship mobile phone: Wi-Fi, 3G, HSDPA and Bluetooth connectivity. There is also GPS for navigation, an FM radio, 256MB of RAM, 512MB of ROM and an accelerometer for switching between portrait and landscape mode automatically.

On the multimedia side you get that 8-megapixel camera, and 720p video recording - very handy indeed.

But then Motorola goes and shoots itself in the foot by thinking they can get away with a 550Mhz processor, rather than a 1Ghz Snapdragon offering.

The result means that it's never got enough power, and never enough to cope with all the things that you'll want to do with it.

It's not that the Motorola Milestone XT720 is slow, it's just that it's never quite fast enough and that left us wanting.

Get over that - not that you ever will, but we've got to still tell you about the rest of the phone - and that 8-megapixel camera is pretty impressive offering you plenty when it comes to capturing your favourite moments.

That includes face detection, image stabilisation, the ability to set the ISO between 100 - 800, multi-shot mode and a series of scene modes like macro and portrait.

A mechanical shutter boosts capture performance times and the touch to focus feature is very easy to use, allowing you to drag the focus to where you want it rather than opt for the centre of the screen.

Pictures themselves are good with the camera coping well in most situations. This isn't going to replace your DSLR, but it will replace your basic compact from a couple of years ago.

While the colours are virtually spot on, it's the focus that lets it down as the XT720's capabilities with the images tend to come out soft in most cases. We also found a fair bit of noise in our images when there was a block of one colour.  

As for the video you'll get 720p recording resolution, whilst the HDMI out means you can connect it to a HD-Ready TV and enjoy still images and video on the big screen. While that sounds great, in practice, it only serves to perpetuate the problems the camera has, as the camcorder element suffers from the same softness that affects the still photos.

Rather than install Motoblur as found in the company's other recent Android handset, the Motorola Flipout, the Motorola Milestone XT720 gets Android 2.1 without any fuss.

That means there is no built-in social networking, however you do still get a trial version of MotoNav and the company's new Phone Portal app that lets you access and manage your phone’s data from any browser through a USB or Wi-Fi connection on your PC or Mac.

Other software of note includes the HTML5 ready browser that supports multi-touch and voice search as standard. There is an MP3 player, but it's nothing to write home about.

Call quality was good with nothing out of the ordinary to report.

Verdict

Had the Milestone XT720 packed a Snapdragon 1Ghz processor inside rather than the 550Mhz offering, this review would have ended very differently.

While the design won't be to everyone's liking, the camera and capabilities of the other tech included in the handset could have made this a fantastic phone to challenge the HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S.

As it is, however, the Motorola Milestone XT720 comes across as an also ran, rather than a true competitor to the current cream of the crop.

It's a shame, because that camera has good potential.



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