MSI looks to add executive chic to a winning laptop formula
Sony Ericsson W580i
- Built-in pedometer and fitness application, "ShakeIt" Walkman shuffle, 2 megapixel camera, TrackID, strong features list, battery life
- Controls, colour scheme, cramped keypad
The W580i is another above average Walkman phone. Although the design isn't our cup of tea, the built-in pedometer is a nice touch, and should ensure this is another popular handset in the range.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
Sony Ericsson's latest entry into the Walkman range is a stylish slider featuring fitness functions, a 2 megapixel camera, a 512MB Memory Stick Micro (M2) and light effects. The built in pedometer allows you to not only to track walking and running data, but shuffle music tracks in the Walkman function by simply shaking the handset.
The W580i includes the latest version of Sony Ericsson's proprietary music software, Walkman version 2.0, along with an FM radio. An icon representing each menu provides a sleek and structured feel. The tiered interface (with artists, albums, artists, tracks and playlist menus) also provides access to Sony Ericsson's download service, PlayNow. This operates in a very similar way to iTunes, allowing you to listen to samples and then download tracks to your phone or PC in MP3 or AAC format. The Walkman software also supports album art and this is automatically downloaded and added to the track each time you upload music to the phone.
TrackID is once again available on the W580i. This allows you to record a few seconds of any song you wish, through the external microphone. The recording is then sent to a music database and if the song is recognised, the title, album and artist name are sent back to you. It then allows you to download the full track if it is available. The W580i also features A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) which enables you wirelessly stream your music to a compatible pair of Bluetooth headphones.
In terms of sound quality, the W580i is on par with previous Walkman handsets, that is to say, it is quite impressive. Furthermore the included earphones produce a crisp sound with decent bass, which is a rarity for stock headphones. The headphones include an adapter which allows a standard 3.5mm pair of headphones to be used. You can also tailor your audio using the five band equaliser or the four presets including Sony's proprietary Mega Bass.
The W580i includes a built-in pedometer and a fitness menu, designed to track running and walking stats. A step count is automatically displayed on the home screen, and resets every day. Without having to do anything, the W580i automatically records your movement, and displays the results in a simple kilometre and steps format. The beauty of the fitness function though is the advanced results menu. This Java application lets you view results in a number of variations including tables, graphs, and lists. It even awards certain medals for achieving set targets, such as number of hours in a week, or number of steps taken in a single day. There is also a trivia section complete with a timed quiz, to keep you entertained.
The other use of the built-in pedometer is in the Walkman function. While listening to your music, holding down the Walkman button and shaking the unit shuffles your tracks. Although the "ShakeIt" functionality may sound like a gimmick, it really is a lot quicker than moving through lists to activate the shuffle function.
The W580i handles voice calls well; we were impressed with volume and clarity, especially in noisy environments. Using the hands-free speakerphone with some background noise isn't ideal, though. In-call options include turning on the speakerphone, transferring sound to or from a Bluetooth device, adding a call, turning off the microphone and holding the call. You can also record a conversation - the recordings are automatically saved into the music folder in the file manager menu.
The 2 megapixel camera on the rear doesn't include auto focus or a flash, but it does have 2.5x digital zoom. Although not suitable for any sort of serious photography, the W580i camera should be enough to keep users happy for the odd photo thanks to panorama, frames and burst shooting modes, night mode, a self-timer, black and white, sepia and negative effects as well as the ability to adjust white balance. The W580i can also record video (with sound thanks to the built-in microphone), but its quality is poor. Photos can be stored on either the 12MB of internal memory, or the included 512MB Memory Stick Micro (M2) card. The slot is strangely located on top of the unit, beneath an annoyingly stubborn plastic cover.
Like all Sony Ericsson handsets, the W580i offers plenty of entertainment options. In addition to the Walkman feature, there is a video player and games, as well as some of Sony Ericsson's proprietary applications such as VideoDJ, PhotoDJ and Music DJ. There's also remote control and sound recording functions as well as Bluetooth 2.0 and USB 2.0 connectivity. A USB cable is included in the sales package, along with the latest version of the PC Suite software.
The W580i supports SMS, MMS and email messaging with T9 predictive text input. The Sony Ericsson email client supports POP3 and IMAP protocols and it is capable of managing several accounts simultaneously. Users can choose to download only headers or headers and text, and the W580i can automatically check for new emails at a preset time. There is also a host of organiser features - calendar, tasks, notes, alarms, calculator, synchronisation, timer and stopwatch amongst them.
While we usually like Sony Ericsson's design choices, the colour scheme and controls of the W580i left us scratching our heads. The unit itself is a comfortable size and cups nicely in your hands, but the black, white and orange finish combined with the and bright light effects (which can be changed to a number of different patterns and colours) don't really match. The matte finish was a nice touch though, and should ensure that the W580i turns a few heads.
Controls consist of a five-way navigational pad (with Walkman controls), two selection buttons, back and clear keys and dedicated buttons for Walkman and shortcuts. Unfortunately, the user experience isn't the best, as the navigational pad is stubborn and creaks when you press downwards, while the other buttons are flat and firm, requiring a fair bit of pressure to activate. Further, the keypad is a little cramped, so messaging isn't as effective as it should be.
Battery life is excellent according to Sony Ericsson figures, quoted at nine hours of talk time and 370 hours of standby time. On average, we usually charged the handset every three days, depending on usage patterns.
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