Focus on Sony Ericsson P1i: part one

Sony Ericsson Pseries Symbian smartphones have amassed a loyal following since the first incarnation, the P800i, rocked up in 2002. However their dedication was severely tested on the last P990i model that initially arrived riddled with OS instability and nasty bugs. Sony Ericsson's next P-series incarnation, the P1i, is looking to restore some faith and you get the feeling the manufacturer has learnt from the P990i disappointments, launching a revamped P-series and vastly feature improved smartie that's cooking right from the off.

Anyone who uses a P990i or even seen it in the flesh will know it's a brute. No such worries with the P1i. Sony Ericsson's designers have gutted the format that's served the Pseries over four incarnations and taken its design cues from the M600i messenger phone. The P1i parades a more streamlined torso and is in fact 25% more compact than its predecessor. At 124g it just about qualifies as pocketable but you will still feel a bulge in the trouser pouch or inside suit pocket. Of course such a major redesign means compromises have been made; the P990i's full but miniature QWERTY keyboard has been replaced by the dual-function variety seen on the M600i. Otherwise it's meticulously constructed with a solid metallic and soft paint combo.

It's no surprise to see Sony Ericsson persevere with the Symbian UIQ platform, it bought the rights to the OS after all, but this Symbian flavour isn't to everyone's tastes. Navigation is directed via a stylus-driven touch-screen but outside of this marginal technique, actual operation around the interface isn't particularly troublesome. Previous P series users will have to adjust to not having a mechanised numerical keypad with the important soft and command keys appearing onscreen, while newcomers will need time to familiarise themselves with the Symbian UIQ quirks but generally its pretty intuitive to master. Also remember the Symbian UIQ platform is open to third party apps with over 350 currently available.

An easy-to-use left-sided jog dial and accompanying handy back key are your other navigational aids while sitting on the right is a dedicated customisable shortcut key for up to seven preconfigured main features. The collapsible Today menu showing emails, message inbox, calendar and tasks is present and correct but Sony Ericsson has also expanded the P990i's five customisable homescreen shortcut icons to 15. You can assign pretty much any function, no matter how obscure, to this collapsible menu system, so accessing the main menu almost become a redundant activity.

To get the P1i more efficient Sony Ericsson has allocated double the RAM memory (128MB) and a faster processor that's four times speedier than the previous model. This allows more effective multitasking and numerous applications to be open and working simultaneously without affecting its performance. Touch the task manager icon in the top left hand corner and this will tell you what programmes are running but the P1i could seemingly handled over ten without losing its thread.

So the P1i is pretty user-friendly and Sony Ericsson has added some neat new touches to improve its overall performance. In our second look at the P1i we see if its still got sound business and organisational sense and if that dual-function keyboard is a tough cookie to operate.

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