Sony Ericsson W800i review

It turns mobile music up loud

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Our Verdict

Don't let the W800i's bright colour scheme and Walkman brand put you off; a great all-round handset

For

  • Generous 512Mb card supplied

    Excellent in low light

    Excellent build quality

    Superb photo features

Against

  • Tiny joystick is a bit fiddly

    Night shots are grainy

Have camera phones already had their day? With the launch of Motorola's ROKR iTunes handset and now this Walkman-branded phone from Sony Ericsson, it seems as if MP3s have replaced JPEGs as the fashionable file format du jour.

Sony's new W800i has a juicy, if not eyewatering orange colour scheme that emphasises its 'fun' credentials, but there's still plenty of serious power under the hood.

With a 2-megapixel camera, good photo and video features and more than generous 512Mb card supplied, this certainly isn't a camera phone for kids.

The W800i has a candy-bar design, with comfortable rounded edges and a modest 99g weight. With its large 1.8-inch LCD, the keypad is inevitably on the small side for text and number input, although the main softkey controls are a bit bigger. The tiny joystick is also on the fiddly side, but it does keep menu navigation speedy.

Flipping the camera over and sliding the lens cover open activates Photo mode, which switches the screen to landscape format. Hit the Settings button to call up the W800i's photo features - maximum image size is 1,632x1,224 pixels - just a few dots short of 2-megapixels.

Drive modes offer a very zippy (3fps) burst of up to four VGA snaps or a Panorama mode that stitches together three VGA-ish images. The result is a bit clumsy but impressively quick and fine for instant landscapes or group shots.

You can also adjust white balance and exposure compensation (up to 2EV in either direction) and turn on a fairly useless Macro mode. With sensitivity going up to ISO800, the W800i is excellent in low light, but night shots are grainy unless you activate Night mode, which lengthens shutter speed to 1/5 second.

For even better results, activate the twin LEDs for powerful illumination that's closer to pure white light than many other blueish cameraphone lights.

Daylight

In daylight, however, images from the autofocus lens are some of the best 2-megapixel cameraphone snaps we've seen. Colours are calm rather than garish and detail is reproduced where possible but allowed to fade off naturally where the tiny lens just can't resolve it.

There's some trouble with noise and distortion, but nothing you can't live with. Multimedia mogul The W800i's 176x144-pixel movies are memory efficient but jerky. Much better are the photo and video editors bundled on the phone, with which you can trim clips, add text, colour effects and frames.

On the Walkman side of things, MP3s can be dragged and dropped on to the memory card, and audio quality is amazing. A dedicated Walkman button lets you access music or FM radio instantly. Other than that, the W800i has good connectivity: Bluetooth, IR, USB and above all, that huge 512Mb Memory Stick card for hundreds of snaps and tunes.

Call quality is good, although the selection of ringtones is ghastly. Ultimately, this is much more than just a talking music player and represents one of the best cameraphones on the market. Mark Harris