Sony Ericsson W810i Walkman phone
The iconic music phone series' latest addition
Review The W810i is Sony Ericsson's latest Walkman model, but it shares most of its features with the older K750i and the W800i. There are some major enhancements, especially if you intend to use it as your MP3 player. The play controls have been vastly improved and there's now a dedicated button that launches the Walkman music player, but is all this enough to convince people to buy the phone?
To be honest, if you already own a K750i or a W800i then the W810i won't be much of an upgrade. Sure, the W810i is much improved as a music player, but the screen resolution is still a fairly paltry 176 x 220 pixels, which just can't compete with the latest 240 x 320 devices from Sony Ericsson's competitors. The camera is also stuck at two megapixels, but sadly there's no lens protection this time around. Auto focus and an LED flash are also present.
Some of the internal workings have been upgraded, and the W810i is a quad-band GSM phone with support for EDGE, although not all UK networks supports EDGE as yet. The internal memory has been decreased from 34 to 20MB, although there's a 512MB MemoryStick Pro Duo in the box, so there shouldn't be any problems with space.
At 10 x 4.6 x 2cm and 99g in weight, the W810i is about average size and it is comfortable to hold. Gone is the joystick of the W800i and in its place is a four-way pad with a button in the middle. At first it looks like the middle control is a joystick, but it's a select and play/pause button. To move around in the menus you press the outer ring, which also doubles up as volume up/down and for skipping forward/backwards between tracks or fast forward/reverse inside a track.
On the left of the navigation pad is the dedicated Walkman button which is bright metallic orange and which launches the music playback application. Next to it is one of the soft keys that corresponds to the current screen option and just below that is the back button. On the right-hand side is the second soft key and the clear key as well as the short cut menu button that gives you instant access to your shortcut list of applications.
They keypad is more akin to the W800i's than the K750i's pad, which in my view is a good thing. The buttons are fairly small but well spaced so they're still easy to use without the risk of pressing two buttons at once. A play/pause button is also located on the left-hand side - the as per the two previous models - which might seem odd, but it means you can pause your music without having to launch the Walkman application. Also on the left-hand side is the Memory Stick Pro slot, which is covered by a small, hard-to-open rubber flap.
A power button and infrared window are located at the top of the phone. The right-hand side is home to the volume button which also doubles up as the digital zoom controls for the integrated camera. This is also where the camera shutter button is located. At the bottom of the W810i is the multi function port to which you attach the charger or any accessories like the bundled headphones or the USB cable.
The supplied headset has the mobile phone connector at end, a microphone at the other and about a meter of cable in between. The microphone part also sports a 3.5mm audio jack so you can use any type of headphones with your handset while retaining the ability to answer calls.
The supplied headphones sounded surprisingly good, much better than any other phone-bunded headsets I've listened to. They're of the new sound-blocking type with exchangeable rubber grommets to make them fit different sizes of ear canal. Just be aware that they block out a lot of external noise, so pay extra attention when you cross the road. You can also switch the phone on in music-only mode, which means that you can use it during flights - this also extends the battery life during music playback.
Uploading music on the W810i is best done by taking out the memory card and plugging in into a memory card reader connected to your PC. The reason for this is that the phone only supports USB 1.1 which is very slow if you transfer large amounts of music across. When you connect the W810i to your PC there are two different modes to select: file transfer or phone mode. In transfer mode, the W810i works as a USB mass storage device, while in phone mode you can use the supplied software to sync your contacts, calendar and more.
However, don't try to do bulk file transfers in phone mode, as you have to press accept on the phone for every file you transfer across which gets quite annoying. Sony Ericsson supplies a fairly easy to use sync application, and the Disc2Phone software makes it easy to rip CDs or transfer music from your hard drive across to the phone, as long as you can live with the USB 1.1 speed limitations.
General usage is pretty straightforward if you're accustomed to the current Sony Ericsson user interface, but if you're not, expect to spend some time getting used to its idiosyncracies.
In addition to the music playback capabilities, the W810i also features an FM radio with RDS. To use this you need to connect the headphones, which act as the FM antenna. There are also a couple of pre-installed games and various other "fun" applications. The built-in web browser is pretty decent and you can download applications in the background while still being able to browse WAP or web pages.
There's support for Bluetooth, of course, and Sony Ericsson has added support for stereo Bluetooth headsets and a wide range of synchronisation and connection profiles.
The W810i is a well featured phone, especially if you're looking for a device that you can use as your MP3 player and backup digital camera. A higher resolution screen would've made it an even better device, but as you can get the W810i free on pretty much any connection in the UK I can't really grumble too much. Expect to pay in the region of £275 for the W810i without a contract. ®