Sony Ericsson W980i

Touch-sensitive clamshell with 8GB memory

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Sony Ericsson W980i
  • Sony Ericsson W980i
  • Sony Ericsson W980i
  • Sony Ericsson W980i

Pros

  • Design, external display and music controls, 8GB internal memory, HSDPA-capable, excellent headphones

Cons

  • No memory card slot, mediocre camera

Bottom Line

The W980i is Sony Ericsson’s most stylish clamshell yet. A great combination of style and features, 8GB of memory and excellent headphones make this one of the best music handsets currently on the market.

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A stylish flip handset featuring external touch-sensitive music controls, Sony Ericsson’s latest Walkman handset definitely looks good. The W980i is a great example of what can be achieved with a balance of style and features. It boasts 8GB of internal memory, HSDPA capabilities and a 3.2-megapixel camera.

Sony Ericsson is best known for candybar handsets, but the W980i proves it is just as capable of producing fine clamshells. The front features a glossy, black mirror-style finish with a clear plastic bezel at the bottom. The rear consists of a rubber-style, matte black surface that provides a nice contrast to the rest of the handset. The W980i is light to hold but still manages to feel reasonably well built and the flip mechanism also feels strong.

Flipped open, the interior of the W980i reveals a keypad and controls that are well spaced, in addition to an excellent display. The latter is outstanding and boasts an excellent viewing angle. It's crisp and clear for both basic text and multimedia content; it particularly shines when watching video content.

The W980i’s keypad and controls are flat, but their reasonably large size and intelligent spacing contribute to a positive user experience. One annoyance is the lack of a dedicated back button (the end call key does this job instead). A five-way navigational pad handles the grunt of the work, aided by two selection buttons and dedicated Walkman, shortcut, clear and power keys. We were extremely impressed with the interface: although it’s the same layout and design as previous Sony Ericsson models, speed is impressive, especially when scrolling through long lists.

Besides the phone's attractive design, the touch-sensitive music buttons are the standout feature of the handset. In addition to being convenient, these controls also allow full use of the phone as a music player without having to open it. The controls include a five-way navigational pad that morphs into playback buttons when needed, in addition to previous and next keys that only light up when appropriate. The controls are easy to press and vibrate slightly when used to provide a sense of tactility. The entire Walkman interface that would normally be displayed on the inside of the handset is replicated on the external screen.

Like most phones in the Walkman series, the W960i is an excellent music player. The Walkman software is intuitive to use and audio quality is reasonable. Surprisingly, the included HPM-77 ear buds are of good quality. There is no 3.5mm headphone jack, but an adapter allows any standard 3.5mm headphones to be used.

For music listening, you can tailor your audio using the five-band equaliser or presets consisting of heavy, pop, jazz, normal, unique, soul, easy and bass. The W980i also features A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) which enables you to wirelessly stream your music to a compatible pair of Bluetooth headphones. A built-in FM transmitter is ideal for use in a car, as this allows you to wirelessly stream sound from the W980i to an FM radio. There is no Memory Stick slot for extra storage, but most users should be happy with the 8GB of internal memory (the same as the base model iPhone 3G).

In addition to the standard Walkman software, the W980i includes 'Shake it!' technology which allows you to skip tracks with the flick of your wrist and TrackID, where you can record a few seconds of any song and be sent title album and artist information.

The W890i is HSDPA capable and call quality is loud and clear. The hands-free speakerphone also works effectively for both phone calls and music playback. An FM radio rounds out the entertainment options, while the 3.2-megapixel camera on the rear takes reasonable photos. Unfortunately, the camera lacks autofocus and a flash; the latter’s exclusion makes night-time photography near impossible.

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