So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony Ericsson Z530i
- Interesting aesthetic, Small, Price
- Irritating keypad
A solid entry level handset that offers a great array of features, including an MP3 player.
Price$ 259.00 (AUD)
The Sony Ericsson's Z530i is a well rounded phone that has a virtually identical design to the entry level walkman phone, the W300i. It offers an interesting design, interchangeable face plates and all the features and connectivity you'd expect out of an entry level handset.
The design of this handset is its most notable feature. With a compact, almost bubble like shape, the Z530i stands out in the world of slim and sleek mobile phones. Measuring 90mm x 47mm x 24mm and weighing 93g it is quite small, although the thick, stumpy design means it doesn't slip into your pocket as easily as some other units.
When we first received the phone, we were shocked by the garish pink camouflage colour scheme. Upon further inspection however, we discovered this could be removed and replaced with a variety of different front and back plates. So, if you're not into using pink camouflage to hide from the counter staff in a Wendy's store, it can be replaced with something more conservative such as the silver casing.
The 65 thousand colour main display works well, although it is a little dim in direct sunlight. The phone also has a monochrome external LCD, which clearly displays a standard array of information including time, reception, battery life and any missed call or message indicators. The fact that the external display is not colour does not detract from its usefulness, and probably is a factor in keeping the price of the phone down.
Matching the design, the interface is colourful and has a fun feel to it. The icons, while not overly detailed, are displayed clearly and when combined with the 12 square grid arrangement navigation is fairly intuitive. The same praise cannot be given to the controls however. Like the W300i, the Z530i suffers from extremely small buttons and a cramped layout. The keys are circular in shape, and extremely small, and this is further exacerbated by the fact that they overlap. Inadvertent button presses are a common occurrence and even those with small fingers will struggle with this keypad. Thankfully the five-way navigational pad doesn't suffer the same problem, so surfing the interface is no problem. Two selection buttons and back and clear keys round out the controls.
All the usual features are present on the Z530i. PIM functions are available in the form of a calendar, note taker, to-do list, stopwatch, calculator and alarm clock. And, while the Z530i is not a Walkman branded phone, MP3 player functionality is provided. The player includes a five-band adjustable equaliser, sorting by artist, genre or title as well as shuffle and loop modes. Unfortunately the phone does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you'll need to listen to tunes using the supplied headphones. Access is also provided to Sony Ericsson's new PlayNow service, an iTunes-like MP3 store. Music can be downloaded directly to your phone in either MP3 or AAC format.
Reflecting this model's price tag, the Z530i only comes with a VGA camera that shoots at a resolution of 640 x 480. That said, it does come with a host of features, including burst, panorama and frame shooting modes, as well as a night mode and 4x digital zoom. None of these are enough to improve the poor quality of the pictures, but the images will more than suffice as wallpapers, or to send around to friends as MMSs.
Our other main concern with this model was the volume of its ring tones. Even at their highest setting, we often struggled to hear them when moving about in noisy, crowded areas. Compared to the tones we're used to on our other phones, they were a little too quiet for our liking. However we did find phone calls to be of a good volume, and they offered excellent clarity, with no excess stuttering or static to be heard.
Sony Ericsson quotes the battery life at nine hours talk time and 400 hours stand-by, which is slightly above average. We found these figures reasonably accurate, and wound up charging it once every three or four days.
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