Sony Ericsson w910i review

By Michell Bak at Unofficial Sony Ericsson Blog

Sony Ericsson W910i can be considered a big brother to the mid-end W580 Walkman phone. Both are pretty thin and have got the slider form factor. However where W910i really separates itself from the W580 is in terms of features, design and pleasure of usage. W910i is the first phone to have Walkman 3.0 with new music features and it’s also one of Sony Ericsson’s débutantes at using the A200 operating system.

Advantages

  • Quad-band GSM, EDGE, UMTS & tri-band HSDPA
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (with A2DP support)
  • Excellent, large 2.4 inch TFT display
  • New A200 platform with exciting new features
  • Walkman 3.0
  • Very thin and sexy slider design
  • Excellent keypad with good tactile feedback
  • 1 GB MemoryStick Micro M2 and music accessory comes bundled

Disadvantages

  • No WLAN
  • Poor camera

When comparing W910i to the older – yet just as stylish – W880, there is a clear resemblance in terms of material quality, feel in hand and design. Both are extremely well designed and feel very good in your palm. They’re also both well built and thin. W910i is and will be a trend setter – just like the W880 was.

W910i compared to the thinnest ever Walkman phone, the W880

W910i comes in a fancy, relatively small see-through plastic box showing off the phone and a USB MemoryStick Micro card reader, that comes along with the phone. Also included in with my W910i was a 1 gigabyte MemoryStick Micro memory card, a Walkman stereo headset (in a sexy red colour!), a 3.5 mm. jack output cable (MMC-70), a charger, manuals, papers and a Walkman software CD.

12.5 millimetres of pure sexiness

W910i is a slider phone with a mid section depth of only 12.5 millimetres. The design is rather curvy and it curves at the end of the phone, which gives you a good grip of the phone and makes it easier to slide it open. The materials being used in W910i are quite good as well – it looks like it’s some sort of metal and it does feel like it as well, but unfortunately I think it’s only plastic. The surface is shiny and it simply looks sexy – especially the red one, in my opinion!

The soft keys and the alphanumeric keypad are really great to use and of good size! The tactile feedback is excellent, but sometimes it does leave a feeling of “did I press or not?”. The buttons on the alphanumeric keypad are relatively close to each other, so people with large hands could have a slight problem with using them. I’ve got pretty large hands myself, but haven’t encountered any problems with that.


W910i front – sexy design and a good keypad

Sony Ericsson W910i is Sony Ericsson’s thinnest slider and measures a mere 12.5 millimetres as said earlier on. Complete dimensions are 99 x 50 x 12.5 millimetres. It weighs 86 grams and feels pretty light.

W910i’s back is designed with a lock for the battery cover at the bottom – near the speaker (which is located at the bottom, too!). The camera is located at the top of the phone. I’m a little concerned about this as the camera lens isn’t at level with the rest of the rear making it vulnerable to scratches.


W910i back – loud speaker at the bottom, camera at the top and a silver Walkman logo

The slider mechanism of W910i feels quite sturdy although it’s a tiny bit wobbly when opened. Far from nothing serious, though. The spring is excellent and works like a charm. It has the ‘click’ sound when sliding up and down – just how it’s supposed to be!


The slider mechanism is quite sturdy and the spring is excellent

As said earlier on, W910i is really thin when considered it’s a slider. This is why the keys on the sides are quite small. Anyhow, the left side of the phone doesn’t feature anything but a FastPort connector used for transferring files, listening to music, etc. The right side is the ‘crowded’ side with the camera shutter key, memory card (M2) slot and volume / zoom controls.

W910i sides – connector on the left side, camera shutter key, memory slot and volume keys on the right

The curved bottom of the phone has nothing but a Walkman logo and text to it, but in my opinion this is quite nice and makes it look great. The top of the phone has a small on/off button and a Walkman button for fast access to the Walkman player.


Walkman logo at the bottom of the phone, Walkman button on the top along with the on/off button

The W910i has a battery cover lock, which you have to unlock before being able to remove the battery cover. It’s quite nice and works very well. Once unlocked you can easily remove the cover and have access to the battery, SIM card and various phone informations like the IMEI number and production week. The SIM card is a bit hard to get out once inserted – I think it would be an advantage to have smaller hands and fingers here. The battery is a BST-39 and official standby battery life is 400 hours, while you can talk up to 9 hours on a fully charged battery. I haven’t tested the talk time (would be impossible for a guy – and probably pretty pricey as well!), but the overall battery life is quite impressive; about three days of power usage before depleted on a ~90% charge.

Battery cover lock, battery & SIM card

Show-off user interface

I have always been a fan of Sony Ericsson’s user interface and menus. The user interface is really easy to get started with, normally quite fast to browse through and there are lots of nice effects and extras like Flash (Lite) menus and wallpapers.


Standby screen • normal menu • Flash menu

The W910i is no different. The Flash implementation in W910i is by far the best I have ever seen on any Sony Ericsson phone. Not only are the three themes (five themes in total) with Flash menu and Flash wallpaper really nice to look at, they also move correspondently to the phone’s movements (thanks to the built-in accelerometer). This means that if you tip the W910i left when using the ‘Soundscape’ theme, the wallpaper and menu animations will go left. Tip it right and they’ll go right. When navigating back and forth with the Flash themes, the phone will also vibrate if this setting is turned on. Hardly useful for anything, but a fun detail.
The menu is usually a 3 x 4 icon grid but some of the themes with Flash menus change this making it either horizontal or like a circle.


Activity menu • Settings

W910i is running the A200 software platform, which is the new version of Sony Ericsson’s most used operating system (used for feature phones only). The new software platform means that there’s no longer any dedicated back-button on the phone – instead you’ll have to use the right soft key now. The Choose-button is located at the centre soft key and the Settings-button is now at the left soft key instead of the right side in former versions. Another thing that has changed is the addition of dedicated call and end-buttons, so you’ll no longer have to use the soft keys to accept incoming calls or hang up. Furthermore the W910i has the regular Activity menu-button, which will bring up the Activity menu at any point in time, where you have direct access to running applications, games, new events, short cuts and Internet bookmarks. All in all the new software platform is working quite well, although it’s a bit more heavy on the processor of the phone resulting in a slightly worse performance than older phones running the A100 software platform. I am sure this will be fixed in a firmware update, though.

Built-in applications, organizer and more

The phone comes with two pre installed Java applications – Audible and Music Mate 4. ‘Audible’ is an application that allows you to download magazines, books, news papers and podcasts to your phone making you capable of listening to it whenever you want. I must admit that I have not tried out this application fully, because I’m simply not that interested in doing any of the above things. ‘Music Mate 4′ on the other hand is a really funny application. With it you can create your own music and beats. The idea alone is really cool, but how about adding motion sensor support to it and assign directions to an instrument? This is exactly what Sony Ericsson has done and this makes the application really cool – shake it and produce music! Here’s a video to show how it works.

The ‘Organizer’ can be found in the menu. It holds several important things such as the file manager, alarms, calendar, notes, timer, stop watch and calculator. The file manager is without doubt the best file manager on any feature phone out there – I’d even say it beats some smart phone file managers. It’s possible to set up to 5 different alarms and you can choose which days for them to ring on, when and if it’s a returning alarm or not. I’m very pleased with the alarm and find it at good use every day for getting out of bed! :-)
The calendar is quite good and gives a good overview of the highlighted month or week. There are quite a few settings and stuff to fill out when making a new post and I personally don’t feel like I’m missing anything. The notes application can be used for creating notes that can then be shown on the wallpaper. The calculator is rather simple and can be used for dividing, multiplying, subtracting, adding and percent calculations. The length of calculations is limited to 9 digits. The last noticeable thing is the password protector application where you have to set up a password and then you can store your secret informations, passwords and alike in there in case you should forget about a password.

File manager • pictures in file manager • alarms


Calculator • calendar • standby note

If you go to the ‘Entertainment’ spot in the menu you’ll see three “DJ”-applications; VideoDJ, PhotoDJ & MusicDJ. Each can be used for creating and optimizing the chosen media – i.e. you can edit and create videos with text, colours and effects with VideoDJ, while PhotoDJ can be used for fixing and editing photos and at last you can create your own polyphonic tunes with MusicDJ. TrackID is a service that can recognize music, but more about that later. There is also a Bluetooth remote control application for managing i.e. your computer or a presentation via Bluetooth. It’s also possible to record sound with W910i – this application is also found in ‘Entertainment’.


Entertainment menu • MusicDJ • PhotoDJ


TrackID • VideoDJ

The last and probably also the best application on W910i is the Media application, which’ user interface reminds you of the user interface of PSP. It’s slick and it looks good. You can use the D-pad for navigating through this menu. The menu interface rotates accordingly to the phone, so if you’re holding the phone in landscape while using this application, the user interface will also be in landscape mode.

The photo and music part of this application is rocking, but there is a problem with playback of video files on W910i. Some video files can be quite laggy and the audio is out of sync by several seconds. This isn’t exactly nice and is an annoying firmware bug, that should be fixed as soon as possible!


Media menu in portrait and landscape mode


Browsing the music and photo part of the Media menu

Camera – excellent colours, bad performance

W910i has a 2 mega pixel fixed focus camera on the back. Fixed focus means that the focus of the camera can’t be set, making it impossible to get high quality close-ups and hard to get pretty landscape pictures without having a great loss of detail like leaves on a tree being really blurry and almost fading into each other. The camera is also lacking a flash.


Camera interface and photo viewing

The camera interface is the new and was introduced with the A200 software platform. It reminds you of the K850’s camera interface, but lots of features are missing and the design is different. The new interface has a nice feature when browsing through the settings – if you hover any setting it’ll automatically pop-up as a sub menu. This is much easier than having to press every icon before being able to set the settings.


The camera short cut overview

The prior amount of short cuts mapped to a selected number of buttons on the keypad are missing. All you can do now is press ‘0′ to bring up a help window, where it is shown that the two gaming keys above the screen (A & B, as they are called) will act like Shoot mode-short cut and Night mode-short cut. Furthermore you are able to change the lighting settings (± 2.0 lux) and of course use the digital zoom – however this can’t be used in full 2 mega pixel resolution and will only give you a maximal zoom of 2.5 x in VGA resolution (0.3 mega pixel) only. It also seems like there is a zoom bug, because the phone gets extremely laggy when using the digital zoom. The up and down navigation keys can be used for switching between Camera, Video recorder and finally the photo gallery, where your last shot will be showcased. Here is a total overview of Settings on W910i camera:

  • Shoot mode – Normal, Panorama, Frames & Burst
  • Picture size – 2 MP (1600 x 1200 pixels), 1 MP (1280 x 960 pixels) & VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
  • Night mode – Off & On
  • Self-timer – Off & On
  • White balance – Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent & Incandescent
  • Effects – Off, Black & white, Negative & Sepia
  • Settings – Picture quality (Fine & Normal), Review (On & Off), Save to (Mem. card & Phone mem.), Auto rotate (On & Off), Shutter sound (Sound 1, Sound 2, Sound 3, Sound 4 & Off) & Reset counter.

OK, enough about the settings and general camera background info. Lets have a look at how the W910i’s pictures come out (press to enlarge).


W910i camera samples

As you can see it is very clear that there’s a great loss of detail in the pictures. Areas with lots of details often get blurred out both detail and colour wise – sometimes it might even look like a water coloured painting or an effect that has been applied to the photo. In order to snap the best photos with W910i you’ll have to do it in great light conditions (preferably around noon on a bright summer day) and the subject has to be about 1 meter away from the camera (because of the fixed focus). W910i doesn’t manage dark environments that well not only because a flash is lacking, but also because the shutter speed is very slow making the pictures blurry. Although the phone tries to prevent this by turning up the ISO level (and thereby also the amount of noise), it fails terribly at doing so. Luckily W910i comes with PhotoFix which can do minor fixing regarding to light and colours, but this rarely works out the way you want and you’ll have to manually edit the photo in PhotoDJ afterwards to get the best result. None of this can be recommended though as it’s all digital processing and making a dark photo more bright will only cause more noise.


Camcorder user interface

Videos can be recording in a maximum resolution of 320 x 240 pixels (QVGA) and with 15 frames per second. The quality is fairly good, but can’t be compared to other alternatives on the market that can record in both a higher resolution, better quality and a better frame rate. Just about all photo settings can be used in video mode, too.

You can find a video sample here and here.


Photo album • X-Pict Story in action

The photo viewer is excellent and is found in the Media menu just like the audio and video player is. You can browse through different categories – latest photos, camera album, photo tags and at last pictures, where all pictures from the “Picture” folder in file manager is shown. If you choose to browse the camera album, the photos will be sorted by month. There are nice effects in the album, like when pressing a thumbnail picture, it’ll smoothly enlarge and end up filling up the display. You can tag the photos (i.e. if you’ve been to the zoo, then it’ll be easier to find only the photos from the zoo) and there’s also an option to play a slide show of the photos. X-Pict Story is the name of the slide show application and it enables lots of effects when the slide show is playing. You can listen to moody melodies and there are also quite a few effects on the photos, like panning and zooming.

Triumphs as a music phone

W910i has the new Walkman 3.0 music player. The most noticeable changes compared to version 2.0 is the enhanced navigation, overview and addition of a few features such as SensMe and ShakeControl.
SensMe is used for splitting up songs into different categories depending on mood and tempo. In my opinion it’s pretty useless and it requires that the media software, that comes with the W910i, has analysed all the songs and transferred them to the phone through the same software. It doesn’t sound like being much of a problem, but this piece of software is extremely RAM hungry, imprecise, laggy and slow! It’s about five times faster to transfer to files without the software, but then songs can’t be used with SensMe.
ShakeControl is a rather nifty feature, which makes use of the built-in accelerometer in W910i. Just hold down the Walkman-button on the top of the phone while the music is playing and start shaking the phone like a mad dog! For every shake, the phone will change song. Again, this is probably just meant as a show-off feature and it is easier to randomize the play list and then press the D-pad for the next song.


SensMe

So lets start the music playing… The phone accepts most audio codecs – M4A, MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV, WMA, etc., so there shouldn’t be any problems on this front. If you’re not happy about the way the music is being played, you can always choose to set a equalizer setting or do a manual one. It also features MegaBass. You can hide the Walkman player if you want, so you can do other things while listening to music. A single press on the Walkman button at the top will minimize it and another press will open it again. The player is really nice looking and very easy to use. It’ll take you less than a minute to get familiar with everything.


Player main menu • Walkman player • equalizer settings

So, what’s the audio quality like? Generally it’s very good, but when it’s at full volume it can get a bit distorted. You should try to keep it at 6 (6,5) / 8 in terms of volume level. At this volume level the audio is clear and good. The bass is nice, too.

It is possible to change the visualization to either display to album cover or one of five different visualizations (waves, Walkman lines, inner twirl, circles, album lines) or no visualization at all. It is of course also possible to use a repeat and randomize feature when listening to music.

The light in the soft keys changes to orange when Walkman is open

A cool feature is that when entering the Walkman player the light in the soft keys and around turns orange instead of the normal green/red/white colours.


FM radio with RDS • TrackID in action

W910i has a built-in FM radio, too, which works when a headset is plugged in. It’s very good and because of the RDS you won’t loss the signal when driving around – it’ll automatically find the local frequency for the radio show, you were listening to. You can save up to 20 radio frequencies (can be done automatically). There are quite a few settings and the radio can be considered one of the best ever on a mobile phone. TrackID, as mentioned earlier, is a feature that can be used with the radio. It’ll sample a few seconds of the song on the radio, send the sample off to Gracenote and finally return with details about the song, artist, album, a link to purchase the song (operator dependent), etc. All in all, it works very nicely.

Gaming is a true pleasure

The W910i comes bundled with three games: Lumines Block Challenge, Marble Madness and V-Rally 3D. The two last ones are 3D games and are in my opinion also the most exciting ones, but for the sake of good, lets start off with Lumines Block Challenge.


Lumines Block Challenge

Lumines Block Challenge is a puzzle game, where the object of the game is to match up falling blocks and create patterns. I never really found out to to play the game because it seemed so awfully boring (sorry, Gameloft!). The game has gotten good reviews, though, so it might just be me.


Marble Madness

Marble Madness is an exciting game, which is also bundled on W910i’s camera focused sibling, the K850. The object of the game is to steer a big marble through a set of challenges before finally getting it in the goal area. There are lots of levels and bonus levels, and when a challenge (a series of five levels) has been completed, you will be awarded with special content like wallpapers and a ring tone. The marble can be controlled using either the keypad or the built-in motion sensor in W910i. The easiest way is by using the keypad, but the other option is way cooler and so much more fun! The graphics of the game are quite good.


V-Rally 3D

V-Rally 3D is in my opinion the best game of them all and I have been playing this game for a year or so (had it on some of my previous phones as well)! It is a racing game, as you might have guessed already, and it is simply one of the best ever. There are 12 different racing tracks (3 countries) split up in four different championships. To start off with there’s only one championship unlocked, but when this gets completed, another one will be unlocked and so will one new car and three new tracks be. There is a total of four different cars in the game. The game play is excellent and makes use of very few controls. In the game there is a voice warning you when you should be careful of how the upcoming road is and when to turn left, right and such. It’s a nice feature, but can get a bit annoying. The graphics are excellent with exception of the world textures, that could have been done slightly better.

Well connected

As I started off with review by saying, the W910i is a Quad-band GSM phone with EDGE, UMTS & tri-band 3.6 Mbps HSDPA-support. Furthermore it has Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (transfer speeds at about 130 KB/s) and it supports A2DP, which is the stereo audio streaming Bluetooth profile. It supports USB 2.0, which works fine and fast in USB mass storage mode.


Netfront web browser in landscape mode • Google search

The web browser in W910i is NetFront 3.4 and it seems to be working OK for minor things and browsing mobile formatted websites. It can handle full HTML websites as well but not all are shown correctly on the display. I must say that I had expected more from this web browser, but it is without doubt the best when comparing to the alternatives in other feature phones. The web browser has a Google search feature, so you can do a Google search at all time.


RSS feeds overview • adding a new feed

W910i has a RSS reader built-in, which can be found under Messaging in the menu. This one works very well and you have the option to display the RSS feeds on the standby screen, which is cool.


Email menu • reading the default welcoming email on the phone

I have yet to set up my email accounts on W910i, so I can’t really comment on that. However, according to several other reviews, the email client has been enhanced, and I certainly liked the old one, so I doubt the new one will be worse!

The world in your phone book

The phone book of W910i has room for up to 1000 contacts and a total of 7000 numbers. I doubt anybody will ever make use of all that room for telephone numbers, but W910i’s got the storage room for it. Contacts can be stored with full informations including numerous different types of telephone numbers, email addresses, website, name, picture, special ring tone, work and private related informations about postal address, title and so on. Finally there’s also the option to add a date for the contact’s birthday – this date can then be put in the calendar and the phone will remind you that the contact’s birthday is coming up.
W910i has a nice feature called SmartSearch where you can easily find any contact, or telephone number very fast. Simply type in either letters or numbers in standby mode and the phone will generate a list of matches accordingly to your input. So, if you’d want to find me and my name simply was set to be “Michell Bak” in your phone book, simply press 6 (for ‘M’), 4 (for ‘i’), 2 (for ‘c’) and so on. I could also type in 2 (for ‘B’), 2 (for ‘A’) and 5 (for ‘K’) and then my name would pop up on the list again because of my surname. Same thing would happen if I started typing in a telephone number assigned to this contact.


The phone book is excellent and easy to use

Overall, the phone book in W910i is very good and on par with the one in most smartphones out there.

Messaging monster

W910i has everything you need to be connected to your friends and family day and night. Under Messaging in the menu you’ll find the SMS and MMS management, where everything on this area happens. You can create either a MMS or an SMS. The MMS editor is the best I’ve ever seen on a mobile phone and Sony Ericsson’s editor can do lots of things with the MMS messages. The SMS editor is also the best on any phone and so is the built-in T9. Sony Ericsson makes use of the best T9 system and you can add words of your own, if you want to. W910i supports EMS, which means you can send text messages with smilies, small sounds and even funny animations. Of course the other phone has to support EMS, as well, before being able to view the content, but most phones support it these days.


Messaging an example of an SMS message


Messaging settings messaging management

In messaging settings you can set just about anything regarding to the SMS, MMS and email settings, data accounts and such. In the SMS part of settings, you can edit the retry time (for how long the phone will try to send a message), an option to ask for a reply and so on. Once again, messaging is Sony Ericsson’s territory and no one comes close to beat Sony Ericsson’s (almost) perfection on this area.

Calling up a Sony Ericsson executive

Calling up people on W910i is quite easy. The new A200 software platform has introduced the call and hang up buttons, like in the old days, and these are being used for calls this day today. Those and only those – you won’t be able to use the soft keys to end a call or pick up a phone call.


Calling on the W910i – yes, that is Aldo Liguori from Sony Ericsson ;-)

The sound quality during calls is really good and clear. The volume seems to be high enough while still not being too high – there’s no risk of annoying people around you. It’s a bit different when video calling, though, where the sound quality isn’t that great and neither is the picture (only tried it on UMTS).


Video calling call list

You can manage your calls on the phone and set the various call settings like speed dialling. The call list holds the last 30 calls (in and outgoing).

Conclusion

Sony Ericsson W910i has proved to be a brilliant phone with above average features and a music part like no other. The new A200 platform has worked flawlessly on my W910i and I haven’t experienced any bugs with it whatsoever, whereas K850 has a few.

W910i has a good variety of connections, but as a music phone it is lacking WLAN and a better web browser, so you can buy and listen to music on-line without getting a huge phone bill. But considering the price of this baby (which is low – about 250 GBP at the moment) I can perfectly understand why WLAN hasn’t been implemented.

The battery of the phone is excellent and I have only been required to charge it three times during the last 10 days. I am a heavy user, and W910i has really been put to the test and comes out with an A+ in battery life.

So to anyone out there, who are thinking about getting this phone, I can do nothing but recommend it. It is indeed great and an excellent buy for your girl friend or to make your friends jealous like you’ve never seen them before!

Compare Sony Ericsson W910i mobile phone deals in UK: w910i black, w910i havana, w910i red, w910i white gold

[Review based on firmware revision R1CA039]

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