Sony Ericsson W880i slim phone

No compromise on functionality?

The necessity for nails also applies to the camera's zoom key, a tiny slider placed at the top of the phone's right side that doubles up as the volume control when your either mid-call or running the Walkman music application. The camera's shutter button is three-quarters of the way down. Between them sit the sides of the battery hatch, which you just pull off - each side has a recess to make help you grip it. Again, fingernails are essential.

Sony Ericsson W880 - right side
Sony Ericsson's W880: finger nails necessary

At the top of the left side, opposite the zoom control, is the usual Walkman button that flips the phone between its phone screen and the on-board music player app. None of the side-mounted keys sit flush with the casing, but they aren't raised so far that they're easy to push by accident.

The numeric pad comprises 12 very slim raised metallic orange keys - the numbers and letters are printed above them. At first we thought these would be too tiny to use comfortably, but we actually found them easy to locate and press because they're well spaced apart. They're about 1 x 5mm face-on and raised a millimetre above the face of phone, and there's 3.5mm between the buttons in a given column. The height and the spacing made texting quick and accurate.

Above the keypad is the usual Walkman control array: central five-way navigator surrounded by Menu, Home, Clear, Back and soft-menu buttons all arranged in a three-adjacent-circles motif. The absence of call make and break keys was noticeable, but we quickly grew accustomed to using the soft-menus instead.

The W880's 240 x 320 display is simply gorgeous, using its range of 262,144 colours to present smooth icons and menus, all of which appear and animate smoothly and responsively. The screen doesn't half pick up fingerprints, but at least it's easy to wipe clear.

The handset contains the usual array of personal information apps, a couple of games and media playback tools. Pride of place goes to the Walkman app, which provides all the usual playback and music management features. To enhance the sound, it offers MegaBass for real thump, but there are an array of other EQ pre-sets for customising the sound - you can adjust it manually too. As phone music player apps go, the W880's isn't half bad as an iPod substitute, and it's well complemented with the bundled in-the-ear 'phones. There's one downside with these: the big plug that connects to the W880's connector on the side of the handset - it's bulky, it gets in the way, and it spoils the phone's clean lines in a way that wouldn't happen even if the same plug was fitted to the base of the phone.

Sony Ericsson W880 - left side
Sony Ericsson's W880: skinny

And while the earphones are separate from the microphone pod so you can replace them with any 3.5mm jack-equipped pair, you've still the problem of that huge black blob jutting out of the side of the W880.

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