The Sony Ericsson W580i is the latest mid-range handset for the multimedia-focused Walkman range. The handset was announced back at the CTIA Wireless Trade Show in March in the US.
Unlike the majority of Walkman handsets, the W580i does not have 3G network connectivity, instead opting for complete support for 2G network bands. The EDGE data protocol is also included (as well as GRPS), making the W580i highly suitable for American 2G services.
On the other hand, the W580i is very much a Walkman phone – complete with all the usual Walkman branding, integrated Walkman music player, support for large memory expansion, and a high quality loudspeaker.
There are only two other slider handsets in the Walkman range: the W850i and the W550i. The W580i (as the model number suggests) sits somewhere in between these two models. Nothing overly impressive is brought to the table in the W580i, but the tried, tested, and saught-after features are included.
The slim-line profile of the W580i is definitely one of its highlight features – the handset measures just 99 x 47 x 14mm, and weighs only 94 grams. Most other Walkman handsets are much larger than this, not to mention heavier. The W580i has coloured LED’s hidden in the sides of the handset, which flash to a user-selected light sequence when a call or message comes through.
As I mentioned earlier, 3G connectivity was dropped in this model for GSM 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz connectivity. GPRS and EDGE data protocols are supported for packet data access. The Access NetFront browser is pre-installed for browsing the web, and the messaging application supports RSS feeds for syndicated content.
The usual 240 x 320 pixel TFT LCD display is used in the W580i, with support for up to 262,144 colours.
A pitiful 12MB of internal flash memory is supplied in the W580i. The handset does support Memory Stick Micro cards, up to 2GB in size. A 512MB card is supplied in the Australian sales package.
The W850i is available in four different sales package colour schemes: style white, boulevard black, urban grey, and metro pink. Everyone should be able to choose a colour scheme they enjoy with this range.
One of the slimmer handsets, in the Walkman range the W580i measures 99 x 47 x 14mm when closed. It weighs less than 100grams and the slider form factor is extremely pocket-friendly. The handset is not completely flat – there is a slight ‘tick’ at the bottom end. This makes removing the battery cover a little tricky, but the look of it is something new and interesting.
The W580i locks into place with a satisfying click when opened and closed and it is highly unlikely the handset will open up while in your pocket or in your bag. I did however notice that when you slide the handset up to open it or down to close it, the actual display panel moves up and down. I’ve gone into more detail about this potentially alarming issue in the Problems and Issues section of this article.
The Fastport connector has moved from the bottom of the handset to the left hand side, most probably due to space restrictions at the bottom of the handset. The left hand side of the W580i houses the volume up and down buttons. The on/off button is located at the top of the handset, along with the Memory Stick Micro memory card slot.
Attached to the sides of the top section of the slider are coloured LED lights which flash in a user-specified sequence when a call or message is coming through. You cannot see the LED’s when the handset is closed, but due to the space between the two sections the effect is much the same as when the slider is open.
Below the display on the front of the slider are the two soft keys, 5-way navigational/Walkman controller pad, return key, cancel key, dedicated Walkman button, and the My Shortcuts button. There’s also a large Sony Ericsson and Walkman logo, which we’ve all no doubt come to expect.
User interface & display
The TFT LCD display can produce up to 262,144 colours within its 240 x 320 pixel resolution (2 inches). Up to 8 lines of text (and 3 service lines) can be shown in most applications. While messaging or browsing web sites the font size can be lowered to display more text.
The main menu consists of 12 icons: PlayNow, Internet, Entertainment, Fitness, Messaging, Walkman, File manager, Phonebook, Camera, Calls, Organizer, and Settings. As you go deeper into the menu system you will notice that some menus are tab-based, such as the settings menu. This allows the handset to display a large amount of links without occupying too much space or making it too difficult to find.
Pressing the My Shortcuts button below the right soft key brings up the activity menu. The list of shortcuts that are displayed can be edited if you wish. This menu is tabbed, so moving across the tabs you will find Internet shortcuts/bookmarks, new events (missed calls, new messages, etc), and running applications - which you can end if you wish.
Themes can be applied to the user interface to spice things up. Five themes are pre-installed on the internal memory, and you can download more via the Internet browser or transfer them from a PC to the handset. Some themes modify the menu layout, but most just change the colour scheme, wallpaper and screensaver images.
The user interface is tainted by lag in some areas, but most users won’t be too bothered. For more on this, check the problems and issues section of this review.
Making and receiving calls
As a 2G handset, the W580i only supports audio calling. A stereo headset is included in the sales package, and the W580i also has an integrated speakerphone. Bluetooth headsets can also be used with the handset. The microphone is located on the bottom section of the slider, so even if the handset is closed when you take a call the microphone is still in an optimum position.
The volume of the speakerphone is adequate, but it could be louder. Earpiece volume is great, even at ¾ volume. The volume up/down buttons are located on the left hand side of the handset for easy access.
The only problem I had with the W580i related to calling is the delay after picking up an incoming call. I’ve had this problem with other Sony Ericsson handsets before, but usually the issue goes away in subsequent handsets… but now it’s back!
Basically what happens is when you press the pick-up button, or slide the handset open to answer, there is a delay of a second or two before the audio from the W580i’s microphone is actually transmitted. If you’re like me, and say “hello” as soon as you answer a call, you’re going to have to change your ways.
SMS/EMS, MMS, e-mail, and instant messaging is supported by the Sony Ericsson W580i. RSS feed support is also built into the messaging application, allowing you to syndicate news items from popular websites without downloading large Internet pages.
Sony Ericsson’s messaging interface hasn’t changed much in recent times, and there’s no need for it. It’s stable, fast, and extremely easy to use. When starting a new message, the handset prompts you to select text message, picture message (aka SMS), voice message, or e-mail. A voice message is simply an MMS message with a voice clip attachment that the W580i helps you record. E-mail messaging must be set up manually before you can utilize its functionality.
The actual message composition window is simple – the text input method and case is shown in the top left hand side, and the rest of the display is left for the message body. In MMS mode this changes slightly as a row of icons for adding videos, pictures, audio, and other items is displayed across the bottom of the screen.
Incoming MMS and SMS messages are stored in the one common inbox. This keeps things easy to manage, especially when deleting messages. The e-mail side of messaging is kept to its own separate section, as are RSS feeds.
T9 predictive text in local regional languages is pre-installed on the W580i. If you don’t like T9, you can always switch to the old multi-tap method of text input.
The W580i provides Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Sony Ericsson have not included infrared on this handset, which although handy, is way past its use-by date. The sales package comes with a Fastport USB data-cable, which can be used to connect to a PC for data transfer, or directly to a printer for image printing (using the PictBridge standard). GPRS and EDGE data protocols are supported for over-the-air data transfer.
When the handset is connected via USB, the usual mode selection box is displayed. A selection must be made between file transfer mode, phone mode, or print mode. In file transfer mode the USB Mass Storage Device profile is activated, providing easy access to the W580i’s files without having to install the Sony Ericsson drivers. Strangely, in this mode only the Memory Stick shows up, and not the internal memory.
Phone mode is for use with Sony Ericsson’s PC Suite. The software allows you to synchronize and transfer files to and from the handset.
The Bluetooth radio built in to the W580i is version 2.0 compatible, and supports EDR. The following profiles are supported by the handset: A2DP (stereo audio), Basic Imaging, Basic Printing, Dial-up Networking, File Transfer, Generic Access, Generic Object Exchange, Handsfree, Headset, HID, JSR-82 Java API, Object Push, Personal Area Network, Serial Port, Service Discovery, Synchronization, and SyncML OBEX profile.
GPRS and EDGE 2G data profiles provide access to the online world while on the go. EDGE is faster than GPRS, and used a lot in the Americas. The W580i has an integrated Access NetFront browser and also supports RSS feeds (through the Messaging application).
The W580i’s highlight multimedia application is the Walkman media player. Version 2.0 is used on the W580i, the same version on other recent Walkman handsets. The player supports a wide range of audio file formats, album art, ID3 tags, and has many additional features. The handset also comes with a video player, TrackID service, VideoDJ, PhotoDJ, MusicDJ, and an integrated FM stereo radio.
Just below the left hand soft key on the front of the W580i is the dedicated Walkman button. Pressing it will launch the player over any other open application. Each time the application starts, it scans the internal and external memory for new files to add to the library. The main player window displays artist name, track name, album name, album art (if provided), time-related tags, and a small graphical representation of the navigational pad, which in Walkman mode acts as the control panel.
MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WAV, WMA, and M4A audio file formats are supported. Files with a variable bit rate (VBR) are also supported. OMA DRM 2.0 is supported by the W580i, enabling you to download/transfer copyright protected music purchased from online stores to the handset.
Advanced functions of the Walkman player include stereo widening, visualizations, skins, a 5-band equalizer, and a shuffle and loop mode for play list playback. Play lists can be transferred from a compatible computer to the handset.
The loudspeaker volume is adequate for music playback, and Sony Ericsson have included a headset in the sales package for listening to your music privately. The great thing about the headset is that a 2.5mm audio jack is placed on the control panel for you to use your own headphones.
Sony Ericsson’s TrackID service is used to determine the title, artist, and album name of an audio file sent to the service. The microphone on the W580i is used to record a small clip, which is then sent off via GPRS or EDGE (data charges will apply). If the track is identified, a message containing all the relevant info will be sent to you.
The usual PhotoDJ/VideoDJ/MusicDJ application suite is pre-installed on the W580i. The applications provide basic editing (or in MusicDJ’s case, creating) of popular audio, video, and image formats. Using MusicDJ you can create your own polyphonic ring tones, which can then be used on the handset or sent to friends. PhotoDJ allows you to modify images and apply effects such as black and white, sepia, and solarization. You can also use it to edit red eye, and adjust brightness and contrast. VideoDJ can be used to trim down video clips captured with the integrated 2mpx camera, or join several clips together.
The W580i performs quite well, outdoing both the Sony Ericsson P1i and M600i in both 1.0 and 2.0 tests. The handset does suffer in 3D applications though, as indicated by the JBenchmark 3D scores.
Organiser features on the W580i include an alarm clock, calendar, task manager, note taker, synchronization manager, timer, stopwatch, calculator, and code memo functionality. The handset can synchronize over-the-air or locally with a compatible computer using Bluetooth or USB connectivity.
Java applications are supported by the W580i. The following are benchmarks achieved by the JBenchmark testing suite:
||HQ: 171; LQ: 229
For the most part the W580i scores well in this area. However, I did notice one issue during my time with the handset, which was a little alarming.
When sliding the handset open or closed, I usually put my thumb on the display and push up/down. I would suspect most users would do this, as there is not any groove like some other slider handsets use, giving you some support in opening or closing the handset. Never the less, when sliding the handset I found that the display panel actually moves about in its position – both upwards and downwards.
I can’t see this having any effect in the short-term, but in the long term the display panel could get very loose and there is always the possibility of it breaking or the connectors becoming loose. Perhaps that is just me being pessimistic - but I’ve never noticed this on any other slider handsets in my time as a mobile phone reviewer.
In the W580i’s sales package is a 900mAh lithium-polymer battery pack. Sony Ericsson claim the battery will keep the handset up and running for 350 hours (standby), and up to 9 hours of talk time. Music playback time has not been estimated.
During my time with the W580i I found I was able to get around 2 days of regular usage out of the handset before having to recharge. Processor-intensive applications like the camera and Java games will chew up the battery faster than other ‘light’ applications. The battery can be charged via USB, in both Mass Storage and Phone mode.
As a side note, the battery cover is not the easiest to slide off, due to the ‘flick’ at the bottom of the handset.