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Sony Ericsson W880i
- Extremely thin design, brushed steel surface, 2 megapixel camera, push email support, Memory Stick Micro (M2) support with 1GB card included, Walkman function, Track ID, A2DP
- Keypad and controls quite small, in-call volume could be louder, no FM radio
The W880i is quite simply an outstanding mobile phone. A lack of FM radio and small controls isn't enough to detract from the overall class and quality of this unit.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
Simply a stunning piece of industrial design, Sony Ericsson's latest entry into the Walkman range is one of the thinnest 3G mobile phones ever released. The W880i features a sleek, brushed steel face, a 2 megapixel camera, push email support, and a 1GB Memory Stick Micro (M2) - all of this squeezed into a device measuring just 9.4mm thin.
The W880i includes the latest version of Sony Ericsson's proprietary music software, Walkman version 2.0. The new edition offers some welcome features, as well as a stylish new look. 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. 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 W880i, any available album art is automatically downloaded and added to the track.
TrackID is also available on the W880i 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, through the external microphone. 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 W880i 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 W880i is on par with previous Walkman handsets. For a mobile phone its audio quality is quite notable and the included earphones produced a crisp and warm sound with good bass. 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 W880i handled voice calls fairly well, although we did note that in-call volume could have been much louder. Its fine for using the phone to your ear, but using the hands-free speakerphone with some background noise isn't ideal. In-call options include turning on the speakerphone, adding a call, switching to video, turning off the microphone and holding the call. The W880i also allows you to record a conversation, but again, volume could have been louder. Recordings are automatically saved into the music folder under the file manager menu.
The W880i is a 3G phone, so it includes dual cameras - a 2 megapixel camera on the rear for taking photographs and a VGA camera on the front for video calling (which can't be used for taking photos). Unfortunately, the camera doesn't include auto focus or a flash, but it does have 2.5x digital zoom. Although not suitable for any sort of serious photography, the W880i camera should be enough to keep users happy for the odd photo thanks to panorama, frames and burst shooting modes, night mode, a 10 second self-timer, black and white, sepia and negative effects as well as the ability to adjust white balance. The W880i 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 Micro (M2). The slot is located beneath a rubber cover on the left side of the handset.
The W880i also offers plenty of entertainment options. In addition to the Walkman feature, there is a video player and games, 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 as well as Bluetooth 2.0 and USB 2.0 connectivity, with Sony Ericsson including a USB cable in the sales package, along with the latest version of their PC Suite software. Unfortunately there is no included FM radio.
Push email support is a feature of the W880i, and it also offers regular SMS and MMS messaging with T9 predictive text input. The Sony Ericsson email client supports POP3 and IMAP protocols and it is capable of managing several accounts simultaneously. Users can choose to download only headers or headers and text, and the W880i can automatically check for new emails at a preset time.
One cool feature of the W880i is the ability to blog. In a couple of easy steps you can take a photo, write a small snippet of text and publish it on the internet as a blog - all through the phone itself. You get your own free personal blog website with blogger.com when you purchase the W880i and it only takes a minute or two to publish. The W880i also includes a host of organiser features - calendar, tasks, notes, alarms, calculator, synchronisation, timer and stopwatch amongst them.
The W880i has to be seen to be believed. Resembling an iPod at first glance, it has dimensions of just 103mm x 46.5mm x 9.4 mm and a weight of 71g. It is a delight to hold in your hand and easily slides into a pocket or bag. The brushed steel finish gives a feel of excellent build quality, sophistication and class. The W880i is guaranteed to be a real head turner, with most simply marvelling at its slim build.
Being so compact, the W880i naturally has small controls and buttons. These consist of a five-way navigational pad (with Walkman controls), two selection buttons, back and clear keys and dedicated buttons for Internet and shortcuts. While it took some time to get comfortable with the small controls, after a full weeks use we were happy with its usability. Obviously most would prefer larger keys, but once users are familiar with the phone's interface, they work quite well. Our only complaint was with the Internet key; we regularly bumped it accidentally while using the back or selection keys.
The W880i's keypad consists of three clearly defined rows of thin, chrome keys. Although small, they are very responsive, and the generous spacing between keys means that users should be able to achieve reasonable, if not lightning fast messaging speeds. Both the keypad and controls have a bright, white backlight, so using the phone in the dark isn't a problem. Despite being so thin, Sony Ericsson hasn't failed to include any controls. The W880i includes a volume slider and dedicated camera button on its left, and a dedicated Walkman button on the right.
Battery life is about average according to Sony Ericsson figures, quoted at six and a half hours of talk time on a standard GSM network and three hours using a 3G network. Users will get approximately 425 hours of standby time, regardless of network. On average, we charged the handset every two or three days, depending on usage patterns.
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