Sony Ericsson's S500i is what we like to refer to as a "but product". It is a budget mobile handset that combines a very stylish look with a variety of features and good call quality to make a seemingly attractive proposition. But it is let-down by one very critical thing: design.
From the moment you get your hands on this product you'll understand what we mean; it feels cheap and flimsy. The slide mechanism creaks when opened and the phone groans whenever pressure is applied at the sides or front. Furthermore, we've seen many reports of users experiencing cracked keypads on this model. While we cannot confirm this specific issue first hand, it is entirely believable having handled the handset so we suggest you do some extra reading before buying.
The keypad itself is quite cramped and a little fiddly. Those with large fingers may struggle a little. Similarly the directional pad above is stiff and requires a firm press to activate. Of course all of that said, aesthetically the S500i's design is brilliant. Coming in two colours, gold and black, it is glossy and slick with blue neon lights that add a touch of the futuristic. The build is slim and lightweight and the phone rests easily inside a pocket or small bag.
In terms of features, the S500i won't compete with all the latest and greatest but it does the job for a basic handset. There are your usual organiser options along with a calendar. The music player is actually quite robust; a hand-me-down from Sony Ericsson's excellent work with the Walkman series of phones. It has shuffle and loop modes along with a five-band equaliser, although the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack really lets it down. Sound quality was quite poor from the included ear buds.
The camera has a basic 2.0-megapixel sensor. It has some cool features like white balance adjust and burst mode but there is no flash and the low resolution sensor captures some fairly poor quality images.
The EDGE network is your only real source of connectivity, but thankfully this is ample for basic Web browsing. Bluetooth is also obviously included, and supports A2DP for stereo sound through Bluetooth headphones.
Call quality was fairly good during our tests although at times there was a bit of muddiness and a slight echo on both sides. Still, it was generally adequate and audible enough.
At times we experienced some minor slow down navigating the menus, but this wasn't a big deal and functions such as typing an SMS were perfectly speedy.
One feature worth noting is the 240x320 262,000 pixel display, which offers a clear, colourful and sharp image. The included video player isn't particularly fancy, but it does the job for the occasional video clip and they look great on this screen. The unit only comes with a measly 12MB of included storage space for your media, but fortunately a Memory Stick Micro slot is available.
Battery life is quoted at nine hours talk time and 370 hours standby, both of which are fairly good figures.