Sony Ericsson W890i in-depth review -

Look and feel

While light to hold, the W890i despite its svelte appearance feels as though it could withstand the odd knock, thanks in part to its metal casing. Available in three different colours, this is a handset to be proud of.

Features

The most powerful handset to date from Sony Ericsson's Walkman range, the W890i packs in HSDPA internet capabilities, a 3.2-megapixel camera, Google Maps, RSS feeds and a bundled in 2GB memory card.

Ease of use

The large screen means menu icons are clearly displayed, while the numeric keys, despite being a tad fiddly, are long enough that you should be able to differentiate between them.

Performance

The 3.6Mbps HSDPA, makes surfing the web and downloads an electric experience, while the improved 3.2-megapixel camera is another standout improvement. As the fulcrum of the device, thankfully the built-in walkman player doesn't disappoint.

Battery life

An incredible 570 minutes of talktime and 360 hours' standby time, means the Sony Ericsson W890i packs a ton of juice in its slim body.

 Sony Ericsson W890i Review -
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:51:59 PM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

10

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

As has become expected from the Walkman range, the music features are excellent, but it?s the ultra-fast HSDPA that really sets the W890i apart.

Cons:

The Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot range provides much better cameras.

Having been announced back in November last year, the launch of the Sony Ericsson W890i has been a long time coming. Mobile Choice has eagerly awaited the latest addition to the popular Walkman range, but will the W890i prove to be a cut above the rest, or just another music phone?

 

With its slim chassis and supreme music capabilities, we were big fans of the über-slim Sony Ericsson W880i and, thankfully, the W890i flaunts some exciting new flourishes without sacrificing the original’s crowd-pleasing style.

 

With HSDPA, Google Maps, a 3.2-megapixel camera and a bundled 2GB memory card, the W890i packs more features than its predecessor, while keeping its svelte appearance. Available in espresso black, mocha brown or sparkling silver, the metallic casing gives the handset a robust feel, despite only weighing 78g.

 

There’s also a useful battery cover lock, operated by two switches on either side of the handset, which make it easy to remove the battery cover and adds to the secure and reliable feel of the phone. Flick the switches and the back cover gently pops out. It’s a simple idea that means you won’t be chipping your fingernails attempting to dislodge the rear casing, as is the case with so many handsets.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – busy keypad

Housing a two-inch screen, the W890i is great for viewing webpages and photos because it’s large, bright and clear, although we expect fingerprints to be a common grievance. As the numeric keys are relatively shallow, some may find them to be a tad on the fiddly side. However, the keys compensate by being wider.

 

Beneath the display, you’ll find the multi-function navigation soft keys. One key trebles up as a call key, a selection key and a shortcut key, while the other multitasks as a back button, selection key and a clear button. In between these keys, you’ll find the navigation key that doubles up as the Walkman controls. So there’s a lot going on in a relatively small space. Elsewhere on the phone, however, the keys have more room to breathe. A Walkman key on one flank gives you direct access to the excellent built-in music player. On the right flank you’ll find the dedicated camera key – that needs to be held down for a sustained period – and the camera zoom/volume controls.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – musical maestro

This is a Walkman phone, so top music credentials come as standard. Although there’s no 3.5mm jack port, Sony Ericsson has seen fit to bundle in a 3.5mm adapter, so you can add your own cans. And, while the W890i also supports A2DP (Stereo Bluetooth), to use the phone’s FM radio you will have to use the provided headphones as these double up as the radio’s antenna.

 

Unfortunately, as seems to be the trend with Sony Ericsson handsets, the manufacturer has opted to place the port for the headphones (which is also where you plug in the charger and USB cable) on the side of the headset, rather than more conveniently placed on the top.

 

This is a real nuisance when you have the phone in your pocket, as it makes locating the headphone slot more awkward. Despite this shortcoming, the sound quality is crisp and clear, and the music features are neatly laid out. You can showcase your music according to artist, album or even year, and the SensMe feature allows you to create music playlists according to your mood.

 

For those unfamiliar with Walkman phones, the W890i’s TrackID feature allows you to identify the artist and title of a song by simply recording a brief sample from the built-in FM radio or from an external music device. TrackID will then, via the internet, report back both the name of the song and the artist, thus improving your musical knowledge in the process. The fast 3.6Mbps HSDPA connection makes this a speedy process.

 

The W890i also comes with Sony Ericsson’s new improved PlayNow download service, which allows you to download ringtones and games, as well as full-track music. Although, it has to be said the selection of music available is limited. Meanwhile, MusicDJ allows you to create your own ringtones Mark Ronson-style, while the FM radio can save up to 20 stations.

 

The W890i comes bundled with a 2GB memory card, which is a gigabyte more than you get with the W880i and plenty of room to store a decent music collection. The W890i supports MP3 and AAC digital formats and, if you store your music in the latter, you’ll squeeze in around 1,800 tracks. Frustratingly, to access the phone’s memory card slot, you will need to remove the back using the battery cover switches. Thankfully the slot is not under the battery so the phone doesn’t need to be switched off when inserting or changing cards.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – upgraded camera

Further W890i enhancements include the upgrade from a two-megapixel camera (with the W880i) to a 3.2-megapixel snapper.

 

This is only the second time Sony Ericsson has included a camera of this scope in any of its Walkman range, the only other being the slightly disappointing W960i. Taking into account the W890i’s slim build, this is no mean feat and we are pleased by the results. The large screen helps, but the camera is also fitted with an array of features that will help you capture some cracking pics. Failing that, you can always rely on the handset’s PhotoFix function. With the option of correcting your pics either manually or automatically, PhotoFix sharpens up your pictures by adjusting the light, white balance or colour of the original picture. See the PhotoFix pics below to see just how much even our amateur Photoshop-style handiwork improved the photos.

 

The Sony Ericsson W890i also comes with a capable video camera. Capable of recording video in QVGA at 30 frames per second (i.e DVD quality), the W890i is a competent mobile camcorder, even though it doesn’t have quite the same abilities of the Cyber-shot range.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – HSDPA internet speeds

The W890i is only the second Walkman handset after the W910i to boast HSDPA data download speeds, which is a real boost for web browsing and music downloads. What’s more, on-board services like PlayNow and TrackID are instantaneous. Surfing the net is also an absolute joy, with downloads and page content hitting the large two-inch screen at a broadband-like rate. Pages can be viewed in a variety of ways from portrait to landscape – which makes the most of the large screen – or text only.

 

To test the W890i’s internet capabilities, we streamed a number of videos from YouTube and found the videos streamed instantly without any juddering. The handset allows you to play videos in three sizes − original, auto-fit, and full screen. And, while the results were impressive enough in each format, we did find the original size provided the best quality of picture. In the larger auto-fit and full-screen modes we found the videos became slightly pixellated.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – zoom webpages

The W890i also allows you to pan and zoom on webpages, meaning you can focus in on a particular block of text or image. To use pan and zoom when browsing the internet, simply press the # key which will enable you to move around the frame with the navigation key. In order to use this function, however, you will need to turn the Smart-Fit option off.

 

The handset also allows you to send web links via text message, picture message or Bluetooth, and you can also save pictures on the web by clicking options, tools and then save picture. Any pictures you do save can then be found in the Pictures folder of your media album and then sent as a picture message or email, either via Bluetooth or to your own personal blog.

 

With the phone’s RSS reader (or web feeds, as Sony Ericsson refers to them), you will be alerted to any new content or updates on selected webpages. A small orange icon at the top of the page will highlight websites that allow this facility, while a list of available websites that provide RSS feeds is shown on the handset’s homepage.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i - Google Maps

Sony Ericsson has kindly bundled the excellent Google Maps into the W890i. Although the phone is not fitted with a GPS receiver, Google Maps can locate your position to within 1,700m. Using the process of triangulation, Google Maps locates the three nearest cells to you and gives a ‘guestimate’ of your position.

 

When testing the service, our position was pinpointed to about two streets away, which won’t impress secret service agents, but is pretty good for getting your bearings. You can also do a local search for pubs, restaurants or cafés, plan a route from one postcode to another and receive traffic info. Although navigating via the map view might be more practical, the satellite view has a real novelty factor and we can bank on you zooming into your own back garden with a degree of certainty. If you require a more accurate location of your position via satellite, the GPS Enabler HGE-100 is compatible with the W890i, although this will need to be purchased separately.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – are you game?

With the arrival of Nokia’s N-Gage gaming arena, games are getting richer, more clever and more popular with mobile users. Not to be outdone, Sony Ericsson has pre-loaded three excellent games on the W890i; SIMS 2, Lumines Block Challenge, and Tennis Multiplay. The strongest of the bunch is arguably the SIMS series – known to millions of PC gamers around the world – which sees you take control of a virtual person or ‘Sim’ whom you’re responsible for guiding through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. It’s like playing God, but without the long hours. Despite being scaled down to mobile format, SIMS 2 loses none of its magic and translates really well to the W890i.

 

Lumines Block Challenge is a fun, addictive puzzle game of the Tetris mould that also boasts a cracking soundtrack. Sega’s Tennis Multiplay (AKA Sony Ericsson WTA Tour) sees you take on various female tennis players on the circuit as you strive to better your ranking and stats by winning various tournaments. The game play is engaging enough, while trying to overcome the likes of Lindsay Davenport makes Tennis Multiplay a challenging addition to the mobile gaming world.

 

Sony Ericsson W980i – the verdict

The Sony Ericsson W880i was a particular favourite of Mobile Choice. Not only did it win Best Music Phone at our 2007 annual consumer awards, it was also shortlisted for Phone of the Year.

 

With the W890i, Sony Ericsson has taken a very good phone and made it great, taking all that was good with the original − its size, its slimline design, its music capabilities, its all-round feature set – and created an even better handset.

 

Thanks to HSDPA, an improved 3.2-megapixel camera, a marathon battery life, Google Maps and a 2GB memory card bundled in for good measure, the Sony Ericsson W890i is a very powerful phone which looks fabulous.