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Sony Ericsson P910i smart phone

The perfect phone and PDA?

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Reg review Sony Ericsson's smart phone just keeps on getting better. A year ago, the P900 addressed many of the P800's shortcomings in a slick, business-friendly redesign. Now, a further 12 months down the line, the P910i smartens up the P900 and bumps up the spec. to boot.

First, the hardware. The P910i's memory has not only been upped to a nice 64MB - four times the P900's meagre 16MB - but a Memory Stick Duo Pro slot has been added to support more capacious add-in cards. Indeed, Sony Ericsson bundles a 32MB card. The handset's screen is the same 208 x 320 job as before, but now upgraded from 65,000 colours to 260,000. There's the same 24-voice polyphonic ringtone generator, and the P910i still provides infra-red and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, with a tri-band GSM/GPRS radio for WAN access. The digicam is still VGA resolution, and the handset's ARM CPU is once again clocked at 156MHz.

Sony Ericsson P900 and P910i
The evolution of the Sony Ericsson smart phone: the P900 (left) and the P910i (right)

The styling is slightly harsher, with the colour scheme more Terminator than before, a look enhanced by the new numeric pad that drops last year's slimline silver buttons for a grid of transparent perspex with angular, sci-fi lettering. It's an improvement, certainly, but not as much as the jump from the P800's up to the P900.

Opening out the keypad flap as far as it will go is now accompanied by a loud 'snap' as the flap locks into place. The reason for the lock is right before your eyes: the QWERTY micro keyboard mounted behind the numeric pad. Blackberry envy? Possibly, but the dinky keys address one of many users' issues with previous versions of the handset: the reliance on character recognition. CIC's JotPro is still there - and working as well as ever - but now it's not essential to fast text input.

Or so Sony Ericsson would argue - I'm not so sure. The keyboard can be used two-handed, with both thumbs typing, but it's a disconcerting experience. The flap feels too flimsy, and without the locking mechanism, the handset's top heavy body would simply fall forward over thumbs and keys. The act of moving thumbs around the pad tilts the phone back and forward, left and right as you struggle to do capitals and numbers, both of which use shift keys. Worse, spot an earlier mistake and you still have to whip out your stylus - Sony Ericsson neglected to add cursor keys.

It's easier to use with the phone held in one hand, while your press keys calculator-fashion with the index finger of the other, and it's faster. But it remains suited more to entering web addresses, SMS messages and the occasional diary entry. If you send a lot of emails, or plan to do work on long documents, you'll be better off sticking with character recognition. Or opting for a device with a bigger keypad.

The P910i runs Symbian OS 7, with a later, snazzier implementation of the UIQ 2.1 user interface that's more Windows XP to the P900's Windows 95 look and gets the Sony Ericsson UI much closer to Series 60. Using the 262,000-colour display to the full, icons have a more anti-aliased look.

Next page: Verdict

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