Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sony Ericsson W880i

It was started by Motorola and continued – or shall we say, finished – by Samsung. Phones have gotten crazy thin over the last few years and in a few more, I’m sure they’re going to be one-dimensional. Everyone has been busy squeezing the lard out of their phones, but one brand showed no interest in this trend. Sony Ericsson has been making fat phones for years. Some of them look very good and sound amazing, but they’re still fat. That has now changed with the new, much anticipated W880i Walkman phone, previously popular as the 'Ai' concept.

Will the slim new W880i prove to be a threat to Samsung’s ultra-slim line of handsets? Does it carry on the Sony Ericsson legacy of great multimedia performance in this near-half size avatar? Let’s find out.

In the looks department, the W880i falls as far away from the Sony Ericsson tree as possible. First, of course, is the thickness of the phone which is a thin 9.4mm – less than half that of some popular Sony Ericsson handsets. After that, the entire front face of the phone is a silver, brushed-metal finish, which is again not seen in any Sony Ericsson GSM/3G phone till date. The front face is silver and the back is a rubbery black. The rear has minimum elements, so this phone isn’t a 'dual-front' phone because the back looks just like a back – it’s black

The keypad of the W880i is a cause for concern. Each of the number and symbol keys are simply half-centimeter 'lines' that CANNOT be pressed individually by fingers – you need to use your thumbnails and you need to use them vertically, since the keys are horizontal lines. This is extremely odd, but the good news is that it won’t take you too long to get used to it. I’ve been using the phone for a few weeks and it’s become a very natural process for me. The soft keys, back, cancel keys etc. are a little bigger, being small arcs of a circle. The soft keys slope downwards, while the back and cancel keys slope upwards. These buttons are not too difficult to get used to, but the keys in the middle of these – the web and the shortcut keys – are too small and placed too close to the bigger keys, so you WILL end up starting the web browser or bringing up the shortcut menu accidentally while navigating through the phone.

The other buttons on the W880i are the tiniest of the lot. The orange Walkman key on the left of the phone, the camera/shutter key on the right of the phone and the volume rocker, also on the right of the phone. The keys are flush with the side of the phone, so not only are they easy to miss, they’re also difficult to press, even with your nails. The camera button is a bigger problem when used as a shutter button – because it’s so difficult to press, an effort to do so will move the phone, leading to a blurred or off-frame shot.

The display on the W880i is high resolution (QVGA; 240x320), but it’s just 1.8 inches small, which is smaller than the cheap Samsung E250’s 2-inch display that’s less than half this resolution. The unnecessarily high resolution makes the screen look just as good as a 176x220 at the same size. It would have been a better idea to include a lower res screen to drive the cost down. Other than that, the display is great. The 256k screen shows vibrant color and sunlight doesn’t blind the display completely.

Even though this phone now costs a lot more than the K790i which has a 3.2 megapixel camera, the W880i has only a 2-megapixel camera like the K750i. The camera is also very plain – with no auto-focus or any other extra feature available. It doesn’t even come with an LED flash, let alone a Xenon flash like the K790i. Quality of the pictures was good, but only in good lighting. The absence of an LED light means you should really avoid taking pictures in low light. I took some pictures at a friend’s birthday celebration at Henry Thams and all I got the next morning was 1600x1200 pixels of black.

With a little more talking than I usually do, I got around 3 days off a single charge on this phone. I think that’s pretty good, but I hardly used the camera during this time (The birthday pics were taken on another charge). I did listen to a bit of music and I did a whole lot of TrackID and web browsingI guess that qualifies as decent battery life.

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