The W995 feels sturdy in your hand, and the brushed aluminium fascia coupled with a matt plastic back lends the phone a solid, attractive look.
The touch-screen is the best we have seen so far from Sony Ericsson and the camera is easy to take pictures with. However, the Media Go arena is time consuming due to the phone lacking DivX and Xvid support.
The 3.5mm audio jack is a very welcome addition, and to finally find a phone with a good music player AND a decent camera is a real coup.
The Media Go software is probably the W995's biggest letdown, but the eight-megapixel camera is up there with the best and the music player's not too shabby either.
Battery life was average.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:55:40 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
3.5mm audio jack, excellent audio quality, effective equalisers and integrated BBC iPlayer
Converting videos is slow at 30 minutes or more, no DivX/Xvid video support, screen doesn't support widescreen format, image stabiliser is ineffective, and video recording is limited to WQVGA
Finally, a mobile phone manufacturer has paired an excellent music player with a camera that doesn't suck. After years of the Cyber-shot and Walkman lines existing as separate entities, Sony Ericsson has finally taken a top-notch music phone and slotted in a high-grade lens, and added eight megapixels, auto-focus and an LED flash to boot. Is the W995 the closest to perfection yet, or are we still searching for that perfect combination of camera, music player and phone?
When reading the spec list you'd be forgiven for thinking the W995 has the dimensions of a brick, but Sony Ericsson has done a handsome job of keeping everything trim, smooth, and infinitely sleek with the W995. At 97x49x15mm, it's no bigger than your average slider phone, and with a brushed aluminium face, and a tough, matt plastic back, the W995 feels sturdy and solid in your hand.
The user interface (UI) is yet another refinement to the Sony Ericsson menu system, complete with pleasing icons and bouncing animations, as well as being intuitive in its design. Though the 262,000 colour, TFT screen is one of the best we've seen on a Sony Ericsson, it is disappointing for a flagship model, especially when put against the new AMOLED screens that are starting to appear on high-end LG and Samsung media-centric handsets. The refresh rate when you move to a new menu seems slow, and the screen's fade attribute is of the 'see and stutter' kind, as opposed to fading smoothly.
The W995 is one of the most feature-heavy handsets we've seen in a long time. Dual-band HSDPA, Walkman player 4.0, eight-megapixel camera with auto-focus, face recognition, image and video stabiliser and geo-tagging, DLNA-certified Wi-Fi, A-GPS, an 8GB MemoryStick Micro - the list goes on.
Perhaps the most important addition is Media Go, a program for Microsoft
Windows users that acts as a hub connecting the W995 (other enabled handsets will soon include the Sony Ercisson Satio and Aino smartphones) to your home PC network. The software allows you to rip audio CDs, convert existing music to MP3 or MP4 format, view and transfer pictures and videos taken with your phone and - here's the big one - convert existing videos to a format suitable for your phone. This means you can stream them to your handset via Wi-Fi or 3G whenever the mood takes you. Sony Ericsson has also promised access to full movie downloads from the PlayNow arena at 'some point in the future'. However, the relatively small 2.6-inch screen makes this a rather moot feature.
The W995 inherits the Walkman 4.0 music player with shake control and SensMe, the first a rather gimmicky feature, the latter a playlist creator based on the 'mood' of the songs in your music collection. Sound quality is excellent, and the supplied earphones are top-notch. Perhaps the most exciting thing about music on the W995 is that it is the first Sony Ericsson phone to come with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, meaning you don't just have to use the proprietary Sony ones included in the box. The device also comes equipped with a set of stereo speakers, located at the top and bottom of the handset, while the supplied stand also sports a pair of (slightly) better sounding tweeters.
The Sony Ericsson C905 may have proved just how good camera phones have become, but the W995's camera falls short in some areas. Firstly, image quality is merely adequate, as a high megapixel count does not equate to superior image quality. The camera's image processor over-sharpens images, giving them a slightly fake quality, and noise is apparent once you upload your photos to a PC and view them on a monitor. We're also still without ISO controls, something we missed on the Cyber-shot C905 as well. The W995 includes an LED flash, and, despite its downfalls, taking photos on the W995 is painless, and the controls are well designed.
For all its promises, Media Go is one area that is another letdown. You have to re-encode most videos to run on the phone, which takes around 45 minutes for a standard 90 minute film. You can't just throw a Divx or Xvid video at it, which is annoying because practically all videos are encoded in those two formats. Clearly, re-encoding your entire video collection just to watch them on a screen smaller than a credit card is not an attractive prospect. Secondly, the W995's screen doesn't have the widescreen aspect ratio that most videos have, meaning most films are going to look a little squashed.
As a Walkman phone, the W995 is a step towards making Sony Ericsson handsets as easy to use as an iPhone and iTunes. There is potential in Media Go, but in reality we faced a few difficulties setting up. It's close, but until Sony Ericsson realises that a hybrid Cybershot-Walkman phone need not cannibalise sales in either market segment, we're all suffering from this gap in the market.