Focus on Sony Ericsson P1i: part three

As you can see the Pseries have always been primarily business-orientated devices but Sony Ericsson is heavily leaning towards a more multimedia and funtime vibe with the P1i, fitting a 3.2megapixel camera with autofocus (see box out), QVGA-quality video recording capabilities, built-in music player with Stereo Bluetooth support and a more accomplished web browser.

The web browsing experience is much more seamless than before using the Opera 8 browser to fit the web pages neatly onto the three-inch QVGA-quality screen. Of course you can set it to show how the full page in all its HTML glory plus switch viewing orientation to landscape. The P1i will find the best available connection for internet surfer starting with Wi-Fi, then down the pecking order to 3G and onto GPRS. Web pages load like the clappers over Wi-Fi but 3G is still sufficiently brisk if your outside hotspot range.

Sony Ericsson has also introduced two new tricks to make web browsing far friendlier including a tab system so you can open separate websites on different pages simultaneously and easily flit between them plus setting up RSS feeds is much easier with the browser flagging up compatible websites to hook up with.

While it may not have the whiz bang graphics of a Walkman phone, the P1's music player still delivers a strong audio performance. You can sort through your tunes via artists, albums, tracks and playlists (these can be create on the fly) and you have at eleven equaliser settings at your disposal to ramp up the sound. We found the Megabass setting perfect for adding a bit of drive and meat to the fidelity. Hooking up Bluetooth headphone is also a breeze with our MOTOROKR S9's connecting in seconds and we were treated to a voluminous and feisty sound.

The built-in FM radio with RDS is also comprehensive, automatically searching and presetting the top 15 radio shows including BBC programmes, Virgin, Capital and XFM. You can activate the RDS (Radio Data System) feature for news and traffic announcements and it automatically switches channels when these are broadcasting elsewhere. Of course you have to plug in the supplied headphones with the integrated aerial before you can start listening but there's also an auto-retuning setting when the signal falters.

By including a 3.2-megapixel camera you can tell Sony Ericsson is trying to stretch the P1i's appeal beyond the business fraternity and attract those multimedia hungry early adopters. The P990i featured a two-megapixel lens so it feels like a natural set-up. The camera manages to include autofocus and macro for close-ups but sadly isn't packing a Xenon flash. Instead you get a flash that's in between xenon and a crude LED flash light but its illumination performance is still uneven and inconsistent to really improve your snaps in low lighting conditions. It's fine when it hits the spot but more often the results are hit and miss.

A dedicated side shutter key fires up the camera and enables you to operate and hold the P1i like a proper digital camera. The user-interface is understandably based around the lucid Cyber-shot phone system as seen in the K800i, K810i and K550i but this time navigating via the touch-screen. This isn't particularly ideal or convenient, especially when you're wielding a stylus and sometimes we found our fingers too fat to work the fiddly scrolling and commands. The jog wheel can be used to scroll through the settings options and this is far easier than using the touch-screen.

The P1i offers all the photographic settings like white balance, shoot mode, night mode, self-timer and a smattering of effects. A 3x digital zoom is also available for prowling in for close-ups but remember picture quality deteriorates the further you zoom in. You won't be disappointed with the final photos and they're just about comparable in quality to its K800i and K810i Cyber-shot cousins. The P1i delivers a good level of detail and contrast (especially on macro mode), strong colour and tones and keen focus.


The P1i feels like a zenith of sorts for the Pseries smartphone range. It's culmination of the work Sony Ericsson has put into its smartphone series resulting in a more realised device with superior multimedia weaponry. The Sony Ericsson P1i is definitely a contender for smartphone of the year.

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