Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sony Ericsson W850i
- Well built, Light effects, Updated Walkman software, TrackID service, A2DP, Sound quality and included headphones.
- Sunken navigational pad and small controls.
Sony Ericsson continues to set high standards with their current range and the W850i is no exception. If you can look past the uncomfortable navigational pad, this is an excellent 3G phone.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
The Sony Ericsson W850i is the eighth phone in the successful Walkman range and continues to build upon the solid foundations laid by previous models. The 3G W850i is the first slider phone in the Walkman series and offers a unique control system with cool light effects, a 2 megapixel camera and an all new Walkman interface.
The W850i is the first Walkman phone to use the updated version of Sony Ericsson's proprietary music software, version 2.0. Although there wasn't much wrong with the previous software, the new edition offers some welcome features, headed by a swift new look. The list format remains, but an icon representing each menu has been added for a sleeker and more structured feel. It still uses the previous tiered system (with artists, albums, artists, tracks and playlist menus) but now adds access to Sony Ericsson's new download service PlayNow, as well as Planet 3 music if you are connected to the 3 Mobile network in Australia. The PlayNow download service 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. Also included in the new software is album art support; when you transfer music from your PC to the W850i, any available album art is automatically downloaded and added to the track.
TrackID is also available and is one of the coolest features we've seen on a phone. This allows you to record a few seconds of any song you wish, either through the external microphone or the built in FM radio. 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 W850i also features A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) which enables you wirelessly stream your music to a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
In terms of sound quality, the W850i was on par with previous Walkman handsets, with audio quality quite notable for a mobile phone. We were impressed with the included earphones as well; their sound was generally crisp and warm and bass was good. The headphones include an adapter which allows a standard 3.5mm headphone jack 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 first thing you'll notice about the W850i is the controls - there is a large orange button directly underneath the screen and this is used to start the Walkman application. Pressing it opens your music player and brings the phone to life with a bright orange backlight, which also extends over to the navigational pad. When the Walkman application is not running, the buttons have a more sedate, soft white backlight. The control pad looks as though it's a touchpad, but unfortunately this isn't the case. Instead, the buttons on the sunken five-way navigational pad require a firm press to operate. We didn't like the design simply due to the fact that your thumb sinks into the phone; it becomes quite uncomfortable to use, especially when scrolling through menu items.
The rest of the controls on the W850i are fairly standard, with two selection buttons, back and clear keys, and dedicated music and shortcut buttons. Those with large fingers may have some issues pressing these buttons as they are a tiny circular shape and do require a firmer than usual press to activate. The W850i fairs better with its keypad, offering clearly separated buttons that are slightly raised, so it's comfortable for typing out quick SMS messages.
Although some of the controls may be a little disappointing, we couldn't really fault the W850i for much else. This is another excellent phone, helped by a clear, crisp display as well as a simple, yet extremely effective user interface. The screen also performed surprisingly well outdoors even in direct sunlight and had an impressive viewing angle.
Measuring 98mm x 47mm x 21mm, the W850i is on the smaller side for a 3G phone, although it isn't as slim as some recent handsets on the market. We really liked the sliding mechanism; it is responsive without feeling loose and gives the impression of a well built handset. At 116g though, it isn't as light as we would have liked.
Although the W850i is a Walkman phone, it still includes a number of excellent features, headed by a 2 megapixel camera. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't include autofocus or a flash, but there is a light for night shots as well as 4x digital zoom. Although not suitable for any sort of serious photography, the W850i camera should keep users happy for the odd photo thanks to panorama, frames and burst shooting modes, night mode, a self-timer, sepia and negative effects as well as the ability to adjust white balance. The W850i can also record video (with sound thanks to the built-in microphone), but its quality is below average at best. Photos can be stored on either the 16MB of internal memory, or the included 1GB Memory Stick DUO - the slot is located beneath a rubber cover on top of the handset.
The W850i also offers plenty of entertainment options. In addition to the Walkman feature, there is also an FM radio and video player 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. Bluetooth, infrared and USB connectivity are all part of the W850i and a USB cable is included in the sales package along with the latest version of Sony Ericsson's PC Suite software. There is also a front mounted VGA camera for video calling, although you can't use this for still photography with the camera. In terms of messaging, there is support for standard SMS, MMS and email messaging with T9 predictive text input.
Battery life is fairly standard according to Sony Ericsson's figures with seven hours of talk time and up to 350 hours of standby time. With moderate usage, you should only have to charge the W850i every three nights, which is quite a good result for a 3G handset with this many features.
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