Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Sony Ericsson W550i
- Successful music interface from the W800i, intuitive keypad lock, 1.3 megapixel camera, comfortable keypad, 256MB of internal memory
- No memory expansion options, screen could be a little larger, quite large and bulky, useless handle adds unnecessary size
The W550i is a cheaper alternative to the W800i and retains most of its big brothers features while adding a new swivel design most suited to gaming.
Price$ 559.00 (AUD)
The Sony Ericsson W550i is the second phone in the new Walkman range and is a replacement for the now defunct S800i, utilising the same swivel design seen on its predecessor.
Steering away from the candy bar W800i, the W550i aims to please a more selective crowd, providing 3D gaming with a landscape screen, thanks to its swivel design. The phone slides away from its keypad and clicks into place for standard use, while it can be swiveled halfway to make use of an ergonomic control system most suitably used for gaming. We prefer the previous standard candy bar design, simply due to the fact that constantly swiveling open the phone is an annoying and tiresome process. We also didn't understand the need for the large handle at the bottom of the swivel which adds to the bulkiness of the unit and doesn't serve any real purpose.
Once swiveled open, the W550i reveals a sleek, frosted keypad, with the keys separated into three distinct lines. It has been noted that the keypad is a major improvement over the W800i, with the keys slightly raised to make messaging a more comfortable experience. The rest of the controls are located underneath the display, housing two selection buttons, a 4-way navigational pad, Back and Clear buttons and dedicated Walkman and Internet keys. For the most part, the controls are responsive and work well, although we didn't like the unconventional and uncomfortable 4-way pad, which is raised in certain areas. What we did like was the intuitive keypad lock slider key, located on the left hand side of the phone. To lock the keypad, you simply slide the small key once and slide it again to unlock it. No more pressing multiple keys to lock and unlock your phone.
The 1.8 inch LCD display was delightfully crisp and clear and was visible in most lighting conditions, although it could have been a little larger in size. The W550i retains the highly intuitive and user friendly menu seen in the W800i, which is welcome news for Sony Ericsson fans and as with it's big brother, pressing the dedicated Walkman button at any stage brings up the Music menu. Any media loaded onto the device is automatically sorted into Now Playing, Artists, Tracks, Playlists and Videos folders, which cuts out the hassle of grouping files. Playlist support remains, and this is as easy as marking which files you want to add to a new playlist, while sending files to another phone or computer can again be done from within the Walkman menu. Unfortunately, you need to use the supplied software to rename tracks, as this can't be done from within the handset. Overall, the W550i retains the successful music features first seen on the W800i.
Sound quality is excellent and to our surprise, the included headphones produced notable quality audio. We were disappointed with Sony Ericsson's failure to include a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, but the supplied adapter allows you to plug in any set of headphones and is more than enough to suggest this won't be a significant problem. The adapter also includes a microphone, which means you can use any set of headphones as a hands-free system.
The W550i contains a whopping 256MB of internal memory, which is the most we've seen on any mobile phone we've reviewed. Unfortunately, the excitement of this is let down by the fact that there is no option for expansion with a memory card slot, as seen on the W800i. This is definitely the W550i's biggest drawback and those looking forward to filling their new mobile with their entire music collection will be disappointed. A phone marketed as an MP3 player should really be able to store more than this amount of data but at this fairly reasonable price, we can perhaps see why the memory slot wasn't included.
On the back of the phone is a 1.3 Megapixel camera with flash. Disappointingly, the autofocus feature and lens cover seen on the W800i are not included on the W550i. This notwithstanding , the camera snaps respectable pictures at Small (160x120), Medium (640x480) and Large (1632x1224) resolutions and can shoot panorama, frames and burst. Effects include Black and White, Negative, Sepia and Solarise, while white balance can also be adjusted.
Once again, we didn't particularly like the inability to turn off the shutter sound, even when the phone is on silent- but this seems to be a deliberate safety feature. We were also perplexed with the fact that you can't use the camera unless the phone is swiveled close - strange considering that opening the phone doesn't hinder the camera lens since it's housed on the rear of the unit.
The W550 includes three mobile games - Extreme Air Snowboarding 3D, Gauntlet and Worms Forts 3. The swivel factor is definitely an advantage during gaming, especially as the games are able to be displayed in landscape format. There are two buttons located at the top of the screen which are used specifically for gaming and with the screen rotated halfway, they come in very handy.
The W550i is fairly well equipped with standard mobile features, providing support for SMS, Email and MMS messaging and T9 is standard. Tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900MHz), Bluetooth and Infrared connectivity are also provided, while the W550i contains the call functions including Missed, Received and Last Dialled. The unit also contains a built-in handsfree speakerphone as well as voice activated dialling. We didn't have any issues with the call quality, but the volume could have been a little louder, especially on the speakerphone. Battery life was notable, especially considering the Walkman capabilities. The W550i was rated up to 8.5 hours, with 400 hours of standby time, certainly above average.
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