A chunky slider device, it looks stylish but lacks substance – it feels somewhat plasticy and there is a lack of distinction between keys.
The Sony Ericsson menu system is reliable and easy to get to grips with and the camera shortcuts certainly speed things up.
The five-megapixel camera is the main attraction, the quality of which surpasses many high-end versions, and the navigational features are also very capable.
Internet speeds were good, the camera was top-notch, particularly as you can zoom while in recording mode. In terms of GPS, the C903 was quick to secure a satellite fix but signal was lost on more than one occasion.
Battery life was above average.
The Sony Ericsson is a capable replacement for the more expensive high-end phones. We think it’s a great shame that the Cyber-shot range is being retired.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:55:55 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
A mid-range handset with an excellent five-megapixel camera.
While the navigational credentials should be applauded, we often lost our satellite fix.
With Sony Ericsson due to introduce its ‘Entertainment Unlimited brand of handset, it would appear that the Cyber-shot and Walkman ranges that have served it so well could soon be taking a back seat. So, with a tinge of sadness we wiped away the tears and got to grips with the Sony Ericsson C903.
A slider handset packed with a host of features centred around the five-megapixel camera, the C903 is somewhat on the chunky side. The front fascia is fairly busy with numerous keys, including a shortcut key and two hard keys surrounding a sharp edged D-pad, all located under the 2.4-inch screen.
Slide the phone open and you’ll be greeted with a correlated keypad. We can’t help but feel substance has been sacrificed for style, as while the shadowy design looks impressive, it feels plasticy and there’s no distinction between each numeric key. Despite our reservations over the hardware of the phone, Sony Ericsson’s reliable menu system is present and correct with the welcome addition that, each time you move to another icon you will be greeted with a short, vibrating pulse.
At the bottom of the phone is a switch that locks the back of the handset on. Remove this to insert any memory cards – thankfully you don’t need to switch off the phone.
Talking of the back of the handset, Sony Ericsson has protected the camera lens with a sliding mechanism that stretches from one end of the phone to the other. We’re big advocates for the need to protect lenses, but while we like the fact that this feature allows you to access the camera without having to slide the phone open, we preferred the more discreet slide cover seen on the C905.
Once the camera has been fired up, the D-pad transforms into four snapper shortcuts, which illuminate blue. For example, press it to the right to switch on the flash, or down for the timer. It has a standard LED flash, but we were pleased with the pictures we took in the dark and it can be used when shooting film, too. The video recorder deserves special praise for its ability to zoom in and out while recording as well as an impressive ability to pick up audio. When shooting stills, you also have a host of options in terms of scenes and features. The document mode was particularly useful for capturing business card information. BestPic was another favourite of ours, taking four photos before and four after your ‘main’ shot, giving you a choice of nine snaps.
The C903’s sat nav capabilities proved a mixed bag. We quickly secured a satellite fix, but we lost our signal on more than one occasion as we wandered around London’s streets. When using Google Maps, we were also baffled by some of the suggested routes, which affectively led us in circles. That said, the integrated Street View continues to impress, and Sony Ericsson’s own NearMe application is excellent for finding the closest cinema complete with show times, or a nearby restaurant. If you’re willing to pay for it, Wayfinder Navigator is also on board (the first three months are free), which will give voice guidance.
While the internet experience impressed with pages loading quickly, the omission of Wi-Fi may deter some, and the mouse cursor could have been more fluid.
The Sony Ericsson C903 is a competent alternative if you’re not prepared to shell out the pennies for a higher-end handset. We weren’t big fans of the design, most notably the awkward keypad. However, the five-megapixel camera excels, and as long as you manage to maintain a satellite fix, your navigational needs are well catered for. On this basis, we for one will be sad to see the Cyber-shot range retire.