Sony Ericsson P1i
- Design, Business card reader, 3-way scroll wheel and back button, Wi-Fi, 3.2 megapixel camera, 1GB M2 card included
- No HSDPA, No 3.5mm headphone jack, Steep learning curve for keyboard and interface, Small stylus
The P1i is packed to the brim with features, and its only real downside is the unconventional keyboard, as well as an interface that will take some time to grasp. If you can get your head around each of them you're left with an excellent device on the whole.
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
We've been waiting a long time for Sony Ericsson's latest addition to its P Series range of smart phones. The long-awaited P990i was released in some overseas regions, but it was scrapped completely in Australia. Finally, the P1i has arrived, a 3G capable smart phone featuring a 3.2 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, an updated UIQ 3.1 Symbian operating system, and a 20 button QWERTY keyboard and touch screen.
The most interesting feature of the P1i is the 20 button QWERTY keyboard. Also seen on the M600i, this unique keyboard has two letters assigned to each button. For example, the letters Q and W and symbols ! and / are on the first button. When typing on the keyboard, you press the left side of the button for Q and the right side if you want W (use the shift key if you need the symbols). The middle three rows of keys double as a standard numerical pad. It sounds complicated and does take some time to get used to; after more than a week of testing, we still only managed to type messages and emails slowly, making plenty of mistakes along the way. The small size of the keys makes typing an affair for the more dexterous users only, and can be frustrating.
The P1i uses the updated Symbian 9.1, UIQ 3.1 platform and a lot of the bugs from the previous version have been ironed out. Performance isn't lightning but it's certainly at the quicker end of the scale for a smart phone. The P1i performs well in everyday tasks, though on occasions it does struggle with multiple applications open. Potential buyers be warned; the Symbian OS (just like the P1i keyboard) does take a bit of time and patience to grasp, especially if you're used to Windows Mobile interfaces, for example.
The convenient three-way scroll wheel and back button on the left hand side is a huge help, but the most annoying aspect of the interface is moving between tabs; this requires either using the stylus (or your finger), or pressing the left and right arrow keys next to the spacebar button. The latter is rather troublesome as it moves your thumb away from the scroll wheel and back button, and slows down the user experience.
The P1i is a monster in terms of connectivity; in addition to 3G capabilities, it also features USB 2.0, Bluetooth 2.0 (with the A2DP profile for streaming music wirelessly), and Wi-Fi 802.11b. Connectivity should be more than sufficient for most users, but our one complaint is the lack of HSDPA; this addition would have made the P1i one of the most feature packed smart phones ever released.
Equipped with 160MB of internal memory available to the end user, the P1i also has a well-concealed M2 (Memory Stick Micro) expansion slot, located on the right side of the phone. Sony Ericsson impressively includes a 1GB M2 card in the sales package for all Australian units, but the P1i supports M2 cards up to 4GB in size.
While the M600i lacked a camera, the P1i has gone all out with a 3.2 megapixel camera featuring auto focus, a flash and 3x digital zoom. It can also record video at up to 320x240 pixels. The photos produced by the camera aren't exactly on par with the K810i's Cyber-shot camera, but they are quite good for a mobile phone. In particular, the flash makes night time photography worthwhile, and we can't say this for many other camera phones on the market.
A business card reader is an excellent, if not always efficient feature of the P1i. Using the camera, you can take a photo of a business card and the information will automatically be stored in your phonebook. Unfortunately, it is a hit and miss affair, as the right amount of light is needed to be able to process the information, and we were sometimes forced to take the photo a few times to get it right.
The P1i features a range of useful applications, from the standard PIM functions like calculator, calendar, converter, stopwatch and timer to more advanced offerings like Quickoffice (for editing Word and Excel documents) and PDF+ for viewing and editing PDF files. There's also a video and music player (MP3 and AAC files supported), FM radio, sound recorder, picture viewer and MusicDJ application for editing and creating polyphonic ring tones. Unfortunately, the P1i doesn't have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and no adapter is included in the sales package (you can purchase this separately). Files can be transferred to and from the P1i with the included, proprietary USB cable, or via Bluetooth connectivity.
The P1i supports push e-mail in addition to standard SMS and MMS messaging. Push e-mail delivers any new e-mail messages to the phone just like a normal SMS message. This means you are able to receive and access your e-mails whenever you want, not just when they are sent. We accessed the e-mail function using a standard Yahoo! account and it worked without any issues.
Although the unique keyboard is fairly compact, the P1i is still a chunky size, measuring 106mm x 55mm x 17 mm and weighing 124g. It's not too big by any means, especially in smart phone terms, but it's certainly large and bulky enough to fill your pocket. We like the brushed silver and black colour scheme, as it gives the P1i a touch of class. Overall, it feels both well built and stylish, and the gloss black sides and screen surrounds are a nice touch.
In addition to the keyboard, the P1i uses a convenient three-way scroll wheel and adjacent back button, located on the left hand side of the phone. This jog dial makes screen navigation very simple; it can be rolled up or down and pressed inwards like a regular button. It is used to scroll through lists, adjust sound volume or move through a multimedia message. It's a very effective way of navigating through the phone without constantly having to reach for the stylus.
The P1i touch screen is large and clear and is capable of displaying 262,144 colours. It has a respectable viewing angle and can be comfortably read in direct sunlight, although its glossy nature does tend to reflect light, especially when indoors. The touch screen can be operated via the included stylus or even by your finger. The annoyingly small stylus is securely tucked in at the top left of the unit, and Sony Ericsson even includes a spare, so you shouldn't have to worry about losing it.
Sony Ericsson rates the P1i battery life at an average 3.5 hours of talk time and 250 hours standby time using a 3G network. The figures increase to 10 hours talk and 440 hours standby time on a standard GSM network. We found ourselves changing the handset every two to three days on average, which is quite good for a smart phone with this many features. A convenient dock for charging and synchronising is also included.
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