We’ve done the K608i. We’ve done the K750i. It’s only normal to move onto the latest and greatest from mobile giant Sony Ericsson – the W800i. The W800i is the first in the company’s new range of Walkman™ handsets, bringing back to life that brand I remember oh-so-well from the 90’s. Walkman™, back then, basically meant the ability to carry your music around with you; back when it was in cassette form, and then when it became CD’s mind you. The brand has the same philosophy now, bringing your music with you… in the form of a mobile phone!
We’ve had iPod’s, MP3 players and all the rest of it for a while now, they’re nothing new. Some mobile phone companies have incorporated MP3 playback into their handsets, which is always something to take note of. But, they never took the step at making your every day mobile phone into an actual MP3 player with all the trimmings. Sony Ericsson have done it with the W800i, and the release comes just in time to be a real competitor with Motorola’s latest – the E1 ROKR, which comes with Apple® iTunes support.
Being the first to offer proper MP3 player-like functionality, how does it perform? Is it possible that Walkman-like handsets in the future will replace stand-alone MP3 players all together? Hopefully we’ll come to some conclusions in the review, so read on!
The W800i is, basically, a re-vamped version of the K750i. It’s similar in both features and physical styling, but there are some major differences. The W800i, clearly, is more multimedia-based, with the K750i focusing mainly on the camera and imaging side of things. The Walkman™ W800i differs from all other mobile handsets by having a fully functional integrated music player, which can be used with or without the actual mobile-phone functionality of the handset activated. Other than that, there is the 2mpx digital camera, new Fastport interface, Memory Stick Duo Pro expansion slot, and the latest 262,144 colour LCD display to boot.
The Walkman™ aspects of the phone are evident right from the word go. When you turn on the handset you are immediately prompted to select either to start up the phone, or access music only. The Walkman™ application of the W800i is just like your favourite media manager on your PC. It has a Now Playing window, and you can browse all your files via Artist, Playlist, Videos, or Tracks. There are equalizer options including Sony Ericsson’s own MegaBass™ system for the best quality sound, and support for shuffling and looping of tracks. With the dedicated play/pause button, walkman button, and volume up/down keys, you’ve always got access to your music in seconds.
The 2mpx camera on the W800i is just like that of the K750i; it comes with the exact same features and capabilities. The W800i’s camera is designed a bit differently to that of the K750i, which effectively “hid” the camera. The W800i shows it off loud and proud on the back of the handset with a large lens piece and one-touch active slider. The slider will automatically launch the camera application when opened, and fits in nicely with the rest of the styling of the handset. Above the actual lens is the two LED lights used as the camera flash and below is the small chrome self-portrait window.
In terms of memory, straight out of the box the W800i comes with ~544MB of memory, both external and external. The handset comes with a 512MB Memory Stick Duo Pro card and 32MB of onboard memory. This is the same amount of memory as the smaller version of the iPod shuffle -- and can store around 100-130 songs depending on encoding quality and therefore the overall file size. Sony Ericsson’s own Disc2Phone software can rip your CD’s for you and transfer them to the memory stick or internal memory. You can always do this yourself with the External Disk Drive support under Windows XP.
A new feature only seen once before (on the K750i) is the fastport data connector at the bottom of the handset. The W800i was the first handset I’ve seen this on, and I was shocked when I didn’t see the familiar charging and data ports separated! The fastport connector brings everything together into the one port, which does have its disadvantages, such as not being able to charge and use a wired headset simultaneously. The fastport supports high-speed USB data connectivity and a heap of new enhancements for Sony Ericsson phones, like the soon-to-be-reviewed MXE-60 flash attachment ;)
The 262,144 colour LCD display on the W800i is perfect for using the viewfinder application on the 2mpx camera, as well as displaying those amazing Sony Ericsson User Interface themes! The display is fully viewable in both bright (sun)light and dim light.
The Sony Ericsson W800i is a pseudo-replica of the K750i. Put side to side or on top of each other, you can see how similar they really are – and also how contrastingly different they are! The W800i, compared to the W800i, has smaller buttons and the navigational keys are laid out differently. The colour scheme is light years away from that of the K750i also. The W800i is more of a “fun” phone, with the orange colour scheme we’ll be linking with Walkman™ for a long time to come. The K750i is a “serious” handset, with sleek black lines and the classic mix of black and silver.
The W800i is branded with Walkman™ logos from head to toe. This didn’t seem to annoy me much, because the Walkman™ logo isn’t that obtrusive and doesn’t contrast badly with the rest of the handset. You will find a Walkman™ logo below the navigational keypad, on the left hand side of the handset, and on the middle soft key (aka the Walkman™ key). The entire product package is the shape of the phone, which was a great change from the usual boxes that handsets come in. You can see the box of the W800i at the top of this review, its bright orange with a large clear section in the middle, with all of the cords & accessories jammed into the top and bottom of the case.
The W800i is mainly white on the top & bottom of the handset, with the orange just occupying the middle section. The rubber Memory Stick Duo flap is orange to keep up with the theme as is the external buttons around the sides. The camera lens on the back is chrome, and has a small click button on the left hand side which opens and shuts the shutter. From the back, the W800i looks exactly like one of Sony’s digital cameras – it’s got the flashlight and all!
On the K750i the speakerphone was a large grid section on the back of the handset just above the camera shutter. On the W800i the speaker has been moved to follow the curve of the camera support on the back of the handset, just below the actual lens. None of the external buttons have been moved about on the W800i, but the navigational keys (especially the back and ‘c’ key) have been change. These two keys are much larger and the top soft keys, including the Walkman™ key, appear to be the same as the W800i except chrome and much flatter. I found that the navigational stick on the W800i was a bit too short; check the Problems/Issues section for more on this and any other issues I had with the handset.
In hand, the W800i felt very well structured and solid. The only removable part is a tiny battery cover (due to the camera being attached to the handset) at the back of the handset. It was a bit difficult to remove but easy enough to put back on. The rubber flap I mentioned earlier is firmly attached to the handset and the shutter on the camera is very tough. I was very impressed with the build of this handset. Overall, the handset weighs about 100grams and measures 100 x 46 x 20.5 mm.
User Interface & display
With a resolution of 176 x 220 pixels, the 1.8” 262,144 colour TFT LCD on the W800i is absolutely stunning! It uses the same resolution you’d find on any of today’s Smartphones, which some people have commented was a bit too small considering the media capabilities the W800i has (2mpx camera for instance). I found the display to be fine, but that’s not to say that a 240 x 320 pixel display wouldn’t have been amazing! The only problem with boosting up the display would be a boost in the overall size of the handset. One the things I liked most about the W800i is that it had so much crammed into such a small package that wasn’t bulky in your pocket. But back onto the user interface…
I’m a big fan of Sony Ericsson’s interface. They seem to be the only ones who are taking this aspect of mobile phones seriously. Most other manufacturers are sitting with the same user interfaces they used when colour-screened displays first came out. Sony Ericsson has moved along with the trends and are continually offering high quality themed user interfaces with animated icons. All this might not seem like much, but it makes your mobile experience much more enjoyable. The W800i only came with one theme which was a downside, but it was the W800i theme which matched perfectly with the external aspects of the handset. You can download more themes from the internet (just do a Google search), and Sony Ericsson even offer its own Theme Creator software. I managed to whip up a theme in just under an hour with my own backgrounds & colour scheme.
When using the W800i you’ll mainly make use of the two soft keys and 5-way navigational stick. The two soft keys are always labelled on the bottom of the screen, and pushing the navigational stick in usually means “yes,” or “accept,” depending on what the phone is asking you to do. The soft keys cannot be programmed which was a bit unfortunate, but the navigational stick when the handset is idle can be. You can change a flick to the left, right, up or down to whatever function you’d like. Just look under the Settings menu for Shortcuts. The good thing about Sony Ericsson shortcuts is that you can choose absolutely anything – when you’re selecting the shortcut the handset brings up a fake menu window where you can browse around and find anything to shortcut to. By default left is a new message, up it more shortcuts, and down is contacts.
The user interface of the W800i is very fast but once again I found that it dipped below standard when browsing large pictures like those taken with the 2mpx camera in the file manager. The only way I found to slightly speed this up was to change the view mode from 2 x 2 thumbnails to 3 x 3 thumbnails. This makes them smaller and you will note some speed increase.
The Walkman™ application of the W800i is launched either via the main menu or by the dedicated middle key. The application can browse all MP3/other audio format files over the entire external and internal menu, and display ID3 tags so you can find what you’re after easily. The only bad thing about the Walkman™ application is that it cannot be skinned with themes. This can result in a very ugly looking Walkman™ application – not much goes with bright orange!
Making and receiving calls
Nothing new here, just the same in terms of making and receiving calls. Your options are as follows: loudspeaker, earpiece, wired stereo headset, or Bluetooth wireless headset.
The W800i package comes with a stereo headset which is mainly used for the radio & listening to music, but can be used for calls also. The stereo headset has ‘buds’ at the end which fit snugly into your ear. They offer great audio quality and you’re guaranteed to have no problems hearing your music/caller in an environment of loud background noise. If you are listening to music and a call comes through, the music is automatically paused and your ring tone will start playing. When the call is over the music will start again, without any user input!
The loudspeaker on the W800i was a treat to use, it was loud and clear, of which the same goes for the audio being received by the other caller. There is external volume up/down keys on the right hand side of the W800i for easy access during a call.
When it comes to ring tones, the W800i has every base covered. For starters, they have finally incorporated the ability for the user to modify the message tone to their own audio file. Other file formats supported are polyphonic-40 MIDI, MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, M4A, and WAV files. The loudspeaker on the W800i, as I already mentioned is sensational as it is specifically designed for the playback of music files.
The W800i offers the user something new in terms of the contacts on the handset. On almost every older Sony Ericsson handset, the contact list only gave you the ability to search for a contact using one letter. On the W800i you can input up to nine consecutive letters to quickly find the exact contact you’re after. There have been reports that non-English handsets lack this functionality but I was unable to confirm nor deny this.
The W800i offers SMS/EMS, MMS, e-mail, and instant messaging options for the consumer to make the most out of with T9 predictive text input. E-mail and MMS are powered by the fast GPRS Class 10 protocol. With the integrated 2mpx digital camera with both image and video capture your MMS and e-mail messages will never be the same again!
The messaging main menu is automatically selected when you open the main menu. It’s ideally the same as all other colour-screen Sony Ericsson’s, with folders such as inbox, outbox, and drafts, templates, and so forth. For E-mail messages you must open the separate E-mail application which is found in the messaging main menu. When you select “new message” you are prompted to select text message, picture message, or voice message. Picture message is Sony Ericsson’s way of saying MMS message if you’re a little confused.
If T9 isn’t your thing, the W800i alike all phones still offers the old multi-tap method of text input. Why anyone would use this still is beyond me! If you wish to change text input method (and also case [upper/lower/sentence]) just push the ‘*’ key as many times as required. The small icon at the top will change to identify the input/case chosen. As always ‘#’ is space which may be a bit of a change from those of you who have come from other manufacturers.
I am happy to report that there was no lag with the W800i and text input, which is always something that makes my experience with a handset more enjoyable!
The Sony Ericsson W800i has all the connectivity options you need to transfer your beloved music files in seconds. Not only does it come with a USB data-cable, the handset also comes with all the software you’ll need to transfer files, synchronize, and perform all other functions. Wireless connectivity is also included as well as high-speed remote connectivity.
Staring with the remote connectivity, the W800i supports Class 10 of the GRPS protocol, HSCSD, and CSD. With combined use with the WAP 2.0 browser and GPRS you can download ring tones, games, images, and more with ease. HSCSD and CSD data allow you to connect the W800i to a PC or laptop and use it as a modem to get on the internet when you’re in range.
The fastport interface on the W800i allows the handset to be connected to a Windows or Apple system and appear as a removable drive, so you can browse the files stored explorer-like. This also gives you the ability to simply drag-and-drop files onto the external or internal memory. The handset comes with Sony Ericsson’s Disc-2-Phone software, which allows you to rip your own music CD’s and transfer the resulting files to the handset. With a USB cable in the sales package you’re set right from the word go.
The W800i has enough memory available for you to download a heap of MP3’s and other music files; with 34MB of internal memory, and 512MB of external memory in the form of Memory Stick Duo Pro. The Memory Stick Duo Pro has an adapter in the sales package which can be attached to make the memory stick compatible with supported card readers. The Memory Stick Duo Pro slot is hot swappable, meaning you can virtually remove the card at any time.
Other than USB connectivity, the W800i also has Infrared and Bluetooth support. Bluetooth can be used for both data connections and others (ie an audio headset). To use infrared with a PC or laptop you will need an infrared dongle/port. The W800i’s file browser allows you to send any file via Bluetooth or Infrared with the press of a button.
The battery life of the W800i, from Sony Ericsson, is 9hours talk time and 400hours standby time. I first though that use of the Walkman™ application would greatly reduce these approximate times, but I am happy to report that it didn’t have any huge significance on the battery life of the W800i. The 2mpx camera, if kept on viewfinder, will however lower these times, but that is only to be expected.