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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sony Ericsson W550 Cellphones Review

Sony Ericsson W550 Cellphones Review
A Walkman branded music player and spinner form factor combined, the Sony Ericsson W550 is Europe's second Walkman handset; Sindre Lia takes time to make its acquaintances.

At 99 g and 93 x 47 x 23 mm, the W550 is a bit of a pudgy phone. When turned on, the relatively small 1.8", 262K colour screen strikes one as both bright, clear and also sharp due to its resolution of 176 x 220 pixels - in fact, the screen is the exact same as those found in handsets such as the W800i and the K750i although the design of the handset makes it appear smaller.

As a spinner handset, the W550 offers a split keypad with the navigational array placed on the screen half and the numerical keypad on the lower half; a solution we're less than pleased with as it complicates one-handed operation. Furthermore, although we like the user friendly 5-way navipad of the handset, the keypad disappoints with its curved layout. On the upside, the user interface has received several noticeable upgrades, among them the Inbox now showing which SMS messages have been replied to.

The Sony Ericsson W550 snaps stills at a resolution of 1.3 Megapixels with good white balance, and performs well under poorly lit conditions when using the photo light. Compared to similar handset cameras, overall image quality proved very good with accurate colour saturation and good contrast.

In addition to its Megapixel camera and spinner form factor, the W550 also offers up phone and music functionality - either of which has its own mode. Music playback is possible in both modes, but in music mode the GSM radio is switched off. Audio quality as provided by both the W550's hardware and its bundled earphones is excellent, but the necessity of a bundled dongle to provide a 3.5 mm jack is a bit of a shame. What's worse, however, is the lack of a memory expansion slot as the 256 MB onboard memory of the W500 only holds short of 100 songs. Furthermore, the list of supported formats omits both of the most popular varieties: Apple's iTunes and Microsoft's WMA DRM-based PlaysForSure.

On a more positive note, dedicated hardware buttons for play/pause and volume control are of course available, all of which are particularly useful when in phone mode. The Walkman application relies on tag data to let users browse music by Artist and Tracks as well as create playlists, whilst music is easily transferred to the handset by means of the bundled USB cable and Disc2Phone software.

With regard to phone-related features, the W550 supports GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz networks, as well as HSCSD and GPRS. Unfortunately, EDGE support has been left out, but at least Bluetooth and Infrared are present for short-range connectivity. The W550 also sports an RDS radio, polyphonic and MP3 ringtones, SMS and MMS support, instant messaging and e-mail, WAP 2.0 support, and lastly Java MIDP 2.0 support as well as dedicated gaming buttons. The user interface also reorients to landscape mode when playing games, adding quite a bit to the enjoyable experiences provided by the included Worms, Gauntlet and Extreme Air Snowboard games.

Reception and voice quality for the Sony Ericsson W550 both proved excellent, as did its battery with approximately 4 hours of talktime and 7 days of standby time as compared to the claimed 8 hours and 15 days, respectively. When using the W550 exclusively in Walkman mode, we found the battery to last approximately 15 hours; not exactly the 30 hours promised, yet still favourable.


The Sony Ericsson W550, also known as the Sony Ericsson W550i.


The Sony Ericsson W550 is obviously an all-round handset, aiming to provide a well-rounded feature set including a 1.3 megapixel camera and 256 MB of storage whilst also incorporating relatively innovative features such as a Walkman branded music player and landscape mode gaming. The lack of a means of memory expansion is disappointing, but all in all, the Sony Ericsson W550 stands out as the most capable handset available in the crowded mid-range at the time of writing.

What's positive:
Good camera performance; user friendly five-way navipad; Walkman functionality

What's negative:
No EDGE support for high-speed data; no memory expansion slot; average keypad performance

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