For all practical purposes: Sony Ericsson W800iMikey 19 comments
The timing could not have been more perfect. I was in the market for an MP3 player although the thought of carrying around said hardware and my mobile phone was not pleasant. My partner and I received a letter from our phone carrier advising we can upgrade our phones. I checked out the available phones and noticed the Sony Ericsson W800i; which is being pimped by Sony as the first real world practical attempt at combining a mobile phone with a high quality MP3 player.
A little research soon sold me on the idea, as every review I read gave the W800i top marks. After using the phone for several days now, I concur with the general consensus. So here is my review for the Sony Ericsson W800i.
- Sony Ericsson W800i Handset
- 512MB Memory Stick PRO Duo
- Memory Stick adaptor
- Memory Stick adaptor case
- Li-ion Battery
- Ear buds
- Ear bud adapter (for use with any standard headphones)
- Data Cable
- Headphone cable yank prevention
- User Manual
The orange/cream form factor is nice eye candy and different to anything else on the market, although it does resemble previous Sony Ericsson models. It is hard to believe there is so much in such a small phone, with half a gig of ram and a 2 megapixel digital camera.
The Li-ion Battery slotted in easily and charging took around 2.5 hours. When fully charged and switched on you are prompted to choose between using the handset with full functionality or as a dedicated MP3 player (with phone functions disabled). This prompt appears every time you restart the phone.
The handset is solidly constructed and any fear I had of damaging it due to mishandling (spelled 'dropping from a great height') was quickly forgotten.
Wow. The screen is one of the best I have seen on a mobile device, rivalling that of any Pocket PC, albeit a smaller resolution at 176 x 220. Extremely vibrant and the text is clearly readable thanks to some good use of font styling. Images and video are both clear and crisp.
Keypad and controls
My only real complaint with the phone is with the keypad, which for reasons unbeknownst to everyone except the phone architects; believe our primary appendages resemble that of a 5 year old child's.
The numeric keys are nearly flush with the body of the phone and are spaced less than 1mm apart horizontally, although there is clearly enough room to space them at least 2 mm apart. But in the mobile phone world aesthetics often override practical functionality.
Above the keypad are larger more prominent buttons, used for navigating and operating the interface. A small controller sits between them which is used in a similar fashion to a joystick, but with only 4 directions. The controller is a little too small for my thumbs (and I have small thumbs!) but my veteran Sony Ericsson using colleagues assure me I will get used to this and wonder how I ever got by before without it. Until then, I'll fumble my way around.
The top left of the phone has a pause/play button for starting/stopping music and video and on the opposite side is the volume up/down controls. This placement was a little annoying when using one hand to operate the controls, as when I go to change volume my thumb has to rest on the opposite side and I found I constantly pressed the pause button instead. Sitting just below is the button to record video and photos. The power button is located in the top right and is sunken to avoid accidental activation. The back of the phone has a quick release slider which exposes the camera lens.
The still camera
Simply the best camera I have seen in a mobile phone and at 2 megapixel quality to boot. Sure it's a far cry from the 5 megapixel models we are all used to, but this is contained within the confines of a very small phone, and the image quality is good enough for print.
Several options are available including image size, quality, light, night mode, shoot mode, self timer, effects, storage location and you can even enable marco for close up photography. The video camera records smoothly and has the same options available.
Picture and video quality is amazing for a phone. Click here for a real world example (not a preconceived setup marketing still) I took this morning. Just point and click.
One thing I did notice when using the camera is it actually feels like you are using a camera, not like using a phone with a camera. You rotate it left 90 degrees and the LCD becomes your viewing screen and the push button is on top and lens out front - just like a conventional camera.
The video camera
Once again this is impressive. Frame rates and image quality are far better than your average mobile phone but I would not entertain the idea of replacing my Sony MiniDV camera.
...is not dead. Using the provided Disc to Phone software, music files can easily be transferred to the handset memory card. You specify a bitrate if you want to reduce those 196kbps MP3's to 128kbps for smaller file size.
Something I did discover is that the audio player gathers data from the ID2 tags embedded in the music files, so if they are not set up correctly, you may have difficulty finding them where you expected. This is because of the nature in which the Walkman displays the music, which is in the Artists, Tracks and Albums format. The actual file name of your MP3's are ignored in favour of the IDs tags.
Google to the rescue and I easily located a free IDtag editing program and sorted out the naming of my files, uploaded to the handset and the Walkman instantly had my Queens of the Stone age and Foo Fighters organised correctly.
Unsurprisingly the audio playback is superb (this is Sony after all) using the supplied high quality ear buds, which incidentally also function as a hands free set. There are several EQ presets but you can also manually change the 5 band sliders. Bass response is amazingly deep but the high end seems average. Having said that, I do actually suffer from Tinnitus which has inhibited my ability to detect high-end frequencies as easily as I used to, so the Walkman may not be at fault here.
Worth mentioning is the quality of the ear buds. Headphones have always been of concern to me as I always find them uncomfortable enough to distract me from the music. Maybe I have small ears? I have never really put any more thought into it. But these are not like your conventional earphones which rely on pressing against your ear to stay on place. Instead they are small enough to fall further into your ear canal and consequently block out all outside noise, leaving nothing but the audible delight of Ulrich Shnauss. Now if they could invent Tinnitus noise cancelling headphones I would be even more impressed.
Radio reception is only possible with the ear buds plugged in as the cable is used as an antenna. I was quickly able to locate Triple J (99.3) and assign it as a favourite station. If there were any other radio stations worth listening to I would have programmed them, but alas there is not.
This impressed me a lot. Using any standard video to 3PG converter, I was able to load several full length episodes of The Simpsons and Blackadder using a higher than normal bitrate of 256,000kpbs at 25frames per second. Playback was as smooth as can be. As the W800i can clearly play back video so nicely, it is a mystery why its video capture can not be as nice.
Games and applications
2 games are preinstalled (Puzzle Slider and Qud Drop) and load quickly and play smoothly. Using the data cable I was able to upload several more free games and applications sourced from Google. These installed with minimal fuss.
Although far from an iPod killer, the Sony Ericsson W800i is one impressive piece of kit. And for people like me who are content to carry around only 150 songs or a couple of full length movies, this is more than adequate. If you want more, slap in a larger memory card. With all your phone and media needs in a single impressive package, Sony has a clear winner on their hands.
- Compact, light and stylish
- 512mb storage right out of the box
- 2 megapixel camera
- Good quality video camera
- Quality ear buds
- Amazing audio quality
- Vibrant colour screen
- Intuitive interface
- Bluetooth, Infrared and USB connectivity
- Excellent software and documentation
- USB data cable also charges the handset
- Proprietary Sony memory duo only
- Thumb control a little small
- Numeric keypad not physically defined enough
- Curious play/pause and volume up/down button positioning