Review posted July 19, 2006 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Why limit yourself to only 100 songs? Sony Ericsson answers that question with the Walkman phone series that can load up a lot more tracks than Motorola's iTunes phones. And the latest Walkman phone in the US, the Sony Ericsson W810i can handle even more than the previous Walkman model the W600i. The W810i package includes a 512MB Memory Stick Duo card and is compatible with cards up to 2 GB. It has great phone reception, a bright and colorful 1.9” LCD, integrated Bluetooth 2.0 and an FM radio. The slimmed-down candy bar body is much smaller, more mainstream and more attractive than the W600i. And it’s got a 2 megapixel camera that takes even better photos than the Sony Ericsson S710a and comes close to the Nokia N90 on occasion.
The Sony Ericsson W810i is a quad band GSM world phone with GPRS for data and EDGE support. It’s available unlocked directly from Sony Ericsson’s web site and Cingular is now offering it.
Design and Ergonomics
Compared to the Sony Ericsson S710a and the W600i, the W810i strikes one as a much smaller phone. Slightly bigger in length and width than an iPod nano but shorter and narrower than the Motorola SLVR L7, the Sony Ericsson W810i is the right size for a candy bar phone at 3.9 inches long and 1.8 inches wide. Though thicker than both the iPod nano and the SLVR L6 at .8” the W810i feels very good in the hand. Contrasting from the flashy S710a and the Nike running shoe orange colored W600i, the W810i is unassuming at first glance with a matte black body that’s dotted with a few silver buttons and dark orange accents. But look closely you will appreciate the stylish and masculine design that speaks of quality.
The W810i and the iPod nano
A 1.9” bright display dominates the W810i’s front face. Below it, you will find two circular button clusters that flank the 5-way directional pad. The left circle includes the left selection key that has different functions depending on which application you are in, the music player launch key and the “back” button. The right circle has the right selection key, the activity menu key and the C key which functions like a delete key and mute button while in a call. Below these controls you’ll find the number pad which lights up in orange when you press a key. The number pad backlight is brightest in the middle and the outermost keys backlighting is a bit too faint. Naturally you will find the earpiece on top of the display and a light sensor on the right of the earpiece.
On top of the phone you will find the power on/off button and an IR port and on the bottom the microphone and the stereo headset and sync/charge Fast port. The controls on the right side of the phone include the camera shutter button and zoom in and out buttons that also function as volume up and down when not in the camera application. On the left side you will find the play/pause button and the Memory Stick Duo slot which has a rubber cover.
The back of the phone, like many Sony Ericsson phones, resembles a Sony Cybershot digital camera with camera lens on the right side of the phone (you will hold the phone in landscape mode when shooting pictures and videos). Two very bright (by phone standards) flash lights sit above the camera lens and illuminate quite well for about 2-3 feet. Below the lens you will find a three-hole speaker grill and a self-portrait mirror in orange color. The battery door is on the back and the SIM card tray live directly under the battery.
Phone Features and Reception
The Sony Ericsson W810i is a quad band GSM world phone that operates on 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands and will work anywhere in the world GSM networks are available. For data the W810i has EDGE and GPRS support. Cingular began offering the W810i at the end of September 2006 in the US. If you're not a Cngular customer you can buy the unlock version from Sony Ericsson for $499.
The Sony Ericsson W810i gets full bars reception on Cingular in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, though it didn’t surprise us since this area is ripe with GSM cell towers. The voice quality in both incoming and outgoing calls is excellent! The speakerphone is loud and should effectively handle group calls in office and moderately noisy environments. The Sony Ericsson supports popular phone features such as voice dialing (on the phone and via Bluetooth headset), speed dial (1-9, though 1 is default for voice mail), magic word, call forwarding, call rejecting, call waiting and conference calls.
The Sony Ericsson comes with 7 profiles and you can set fixed dialing options, restricted dialing options and add an additional voice line to the phone. In Contacts application you can access Options menu to find special numbers such as my number, my fax number and manage your speed dials. Should you need to silence the ringer quickly, press the # key, and you can lock the keypad by going into Settings/Locks.
The W810i has GPRS for data with EDGE support. You can access the Sony Ericsson portal for browsing and purchasing music using the bundled Netfront WAP browser. Using a Cingular SIM with EDGE coverage WAP sites loaded quickly.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The phone has a super bright 1.9 inch screen that’s capable of displaying 262K colors. All the bundled themes look zingy and if you use the photos taken with the built-in camera as wallpapers or screen savers you will be pleased by the sharp and bright images. The display also functions as the viewfinder for the camera and will switch to landscape mode when the camera app is turned on. Photos and videos look excellent on the display.
Playing 3D games with such a lovely screen is a pleasure. Sony Ericsson bundles two games: JC Does Texas, a Western Stuntman game, and QuadraPop, a Tetris clone that uses music notes as blocks. You can get additional JAVA games from your carrier or game developers as well as from Handango.com. The 3D games performed very well on the W810i.
Naturally music is the focus of the W810i as it’s billed as one of the Walkman phones. Sony Ericsson made a strong effort to provide the best possible hardware and software possible at this price point. Like the W600i, the W810i has a dedicated hardware button to launch the music player. You can find the button easily on the left circular nav pad which is the only button in orange on the W810i. The music player has some basic features such as playlists, information about the selected track, turn on shuffle or loop and play with the equalizer. The Sony Ericsson has a bass enhancement feature called Mega Bass, and when it’s turned on, it will boost the bass volume above all other channels. How does the music sound via the built-in loudspeakers and via the stereo headphones? Not bad for a phone, but not as good as the audio quality on the iPod. The audio coming out of the speakers has good volume and decent sound. It’s great for conference calls and playing music if you don’t have a pair of stereo headset or external speakers.The audio via the included Sony Ericsson stereo earbud headphones is good by phone standards. If you mainly play rock and pop music, you will like what you hear via the headset (Candlebox sounded quite good to me). If you are into classical music, you will notice the sound via the headphones is as full and smooth on both the high instruments and the deeper brass, though Dvorak’s Symphony 9 in E Minor sounded better on the iPod nano. And that’s not the headphones’ fault either. We use the W810i earbuds on the iPod, and the headphones beats out the Sony MDR-EX71 earbuds, offering with much fuller sound. You can also play music on portable speakers using the optional phone-to-stereo cables and portable speakers sold separately.
The included stereo earbud headphones
Ripping music and transferring tracks to the W810i is part of the fun experience with this phone. The W810i supports MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, MIDI, IMY, EMY and WAV (16 kHz max sample rate) and 3gpp streaming files. The Sony Ericsson comes with Disc2Phone software and USB cable which allow you to rip tracks from music CDs and transfer them to the phone via the cable. Very fast and simple.
Other audio features include a built-in FM radio, flight mode for playing music only without turning on the phone, MusicDJ for create your own ringtones, purchasing music and ringtones from Sony Ericsson’s web site and more.
For video playback, the Sony Ericsson supports MPEG4 and 3gp videos and comes with VideoDJ which is a video editing tool that allows you to add sound tracks and insert other clips to current videos that are ported to the phone or taken by the phone’s camera.
It might not seem fitting to chat so much about the camera on the W810i is when the phone is billed as a Walkman music phone. But the 2.0 megapixel built-in camera is one of the best we’ve seen on a phone currently sold on the US market with a sharp lens and software that give you very high quality photos. The camera software’s user interface will make sense to most anyone, even if he or she never read a word in the manual.
The built-in camera has a relatively large lens (AF 4.8mm 1:2.8) with two bright flash bulbs above and an orange colored self-portrait mirror below. You can launch the camera by either going into Menu/Camera or by holding down on the camera shutter button. The camera uses the W810i screen as the viewfinder and has two soft keys for viewing photos/videos and changing settings. The settings are easy to follow and you can personalize the settings in all features the camera has to offer.
You can take photos up to 1632 x 1224 which is higher resolution than the W600i and the S710a’s 1.3 MP cameras. The lens has auto-focus feature, and you can zoom in and out by using the volume up and down button when in the camera mode. You can take normal still pictures or panorama photos by turning on the Panorama mode. The panorama mode allows you to take a series of pictures and stitch them together. You can select macro mode for close-up shots, night mode for low-light conditions; you’ve a self-timer, special effects (black & white, negative, sepia and solaria), white balance settings (auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent and incandescent), picture quality settings, shutter sounds, time and date stamps and options to save the photos to the internal memory or the Memory Stick. All options are easy to access and quick to change.
Sample photos taken at the highest resolution and unedited other than resized to fit this page.
For shooting videos, you can choose a lower quality for MMS or a higher quality for viewing on bigger screens. There are two resolutions you can choose from for shooting videos: the smaller size at 128 x 96 or the large size at 176 x 144.
When we reviewed it, the quality of the Sony Ericsson S710a photos impressed us. How quickly things progress: the W810i improves upon the S710a camera not only in resolution but also the quality of the photos. Still images taken with the W810i are some of the best we’ve seen among camera phone photos with balanced colors and light in both outdoor and indoor shots. The colors are fairly accurate and have good saturation even in direct sunlight that will overwhelm most US camera phones. In low light settings the bright flashlights improve the picture quality noticeably with much less grain and noise. If you are buying the phone for the music features, you will be pleasantly surprised by how good the camera is.
The videos taken in high quality mode with the W810i in 3gp are color saturated and accurate. The camera will brighten up videos taken in low light conditions. You won’t see the ghosting or blockiness common to many camera phones. Audio is in sync with video and you can take the videos of any length as long as you have the storage space.
The Sony Ericsson W810i has integrated Bluetooth v2.0 that supports many popular Bluetooth profiles including DUN, Basic Image and Print Profiles, File Transfer Profile, Object Exchange Profile, Synchronization Profile, Handsfree and Handset Profiles and more.
Transferring files from desktop to the Sony Ericsson is a breeze. It takes about a minute to transfer a 5MB file from the desktop to the phone and thanks to multitasking you can receive calls while transferring files via Bluetooth in the background. Once the file is transferred and saved, you can choose to view the file or play the sound (if your file is a music file). You can get through file transfer by following the user friendly software on the W810i.
The Sony Ericsson W810i supports both Handsfree and Headset profile headsets. We tested a few Bluetooth headsets with the W810i, all paired with the phone easily. Using the Cardo Scala 500 Bluetooth headset, the incoming voice quality was very good and volume adequate for an office and moderately noisy environment. The outgoing voice volume is on the low side, but voice quality is very good. The range reached about 15 feet before you start to hear crackling. Using the Jabra FreeSpeak BT250, the incoming voice is equally good as the Scala but the volume is much higher via the Jabra. The outgoing voice volume seems higher than the Scala 500 as well. Range between the phone and headset reached about 12 feet. The Sony Ericsson also supports the A2DP Bluetooth profile for high quality stereo audio, a feature that’s not yet popular on the phones sold in the US but should see rapid growth this year. With the A2DP support you can tunnel the music to Bluetooth stereo headphones, however we tested the phone with both the Bluetake iPhono Plus Bluetooth stereo headset and the IO Gear Bluetooth stereo headset, and neither could pipe music through, only voice calls went through the headsets.
The Sony Ericsson W810i has a user replaceable rechargeable battery. The 900 mAh Li-Polymer battery (Sony Ericsson standard BST-37, 3.6v) performed admirably when playing music with cell radio and Bluetooth radio turned on. We got over 9 hours of MP3 playback on a charge. The Bluetooth radio and the camera don’t use much juice, but talking on the phone and playing 3D games drain power quicker than other tasks. The claimed talk time is 8 hours, we only got about 6.5 hours of talk time. The claim standby time is 14 days if you don’t use the phone much at all, and that seems to be on target in our tests. You can charge the W810i using the included A/C charger or use the in-vehicle charger sold separately.
In addition to the fun multimedia applications, you get PIM applications, a file manager, messaging and a WAP browser. The PIM apps include Contacts which supports multiple numbers for a contact, picture ID, unique ringtone and voice command; Calendar which has monthly view, weekly view and day view; Tasks and Notes application which have the very basic features.
The Messaging application works with both SMS/MMS messages and email messages. The SMS supports templates and the MMS allows you to send and receive pictures/videos. The email client in Messaging works with POP3/IMAP4 servers and allows you to download headers and set the interval for checking email.
The Access Netfront WAP browser works fine when accessing WAP sites. The speed is more than adequate for WAP sites, but don’t expect anything beyond the WAP content as the browser can’t handle it.
To sync your contacts, calendar items, tasks and notes via USB on a PC, install the included PC Suite. It’s always a good idea to check Sony Ericsson’s web site for an updated version of PC Suite which is free to download. If you haven’t used PC Suite lately, you should check it out. The software has been overhauled and it’s now a reliable method for synchronizing your phone and your desktop. Some of the new features also make it a viable application to manage, sort and add the information to your phone.
The Sony Ericsson W810i will make a photo buff happy and keep music junkies jazzed. The phone has a great user interface, is easy to use and is attractive. Most important, it has very good voice quality and reception.
Pro: Smaller form factor that feels very nice in the hand and a fashionable black body that will appeal to a wider audience than the W600i’s bright orange. 2.0 megapixel camera that takes great photos and videos, with strong camera software that has an excellent UI. Good phone reception. A nice set of software both on the phone and the PC make it easy to rip and transfer music tracks. Bluetooth is solid for transferring files and working with Bluetooth headsets. Very nice to get a 512MB Memory Stick Duo card with the phone and the capability to upgrade to 2GB storage for photos and music.
Con: The backlight on the number pad could be brighter around the edges. The limited features in the WAP browser won’t be attractive to the web surfers who need more than WAP content.
Price: $499 unlocked, $149 with 2 year contract from Cingular
Display:262K color TFT screen. Screen size diag: 1.9". Resolution: 176 x 220 pixels.
Battery:Sony Ericsson Standard BST-37 Li-Polymer rechargeable battery. 900 mAh capacity. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time is 8 hours and claimed standby time is 14 and half days.
Performance:23 megs of internal memory, undisclosed CPU.
Size: 3.9 x 1.8 x 0.8 inches. Weight: 3.5 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band world phone supporting the 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands. EDGE and GPRS for data.
Camera:2.0 MP camera with auto-focus and 4x digital zoom. Also records video clips with audio. Picture resolutions range from 160 x 120 to 1632 x 1224 and videos can be taken at 176 x 144 and 128 x 96 resolutions.
Audio:Built in speaker, mic and a Sony Ericsson's proprietary Fast port stereo headset connector. Supports polyphonic ringtones, MIDI and MP3/ACC audio. Mega Bass software included to boost the bass. Supports MPEG4 video with Media Player bundled on the phone. Vibrating alerts supported.
Networking:Bluetooth and IR.
Software:Sony Ericsson OS. Bundled applications include Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Messaging (supports SMS, MMS and email), WAP/xHTML browser, Media Player and Image gallery. Also included are two JAVA games, MusicDJ, VideoDJ, PhotoDJ Sound recorder and calculator applications. The desktop companion CD includes software for syncing with PC, File Manager, Image Editor, MMS Home Studio and Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 Starter Edition are included.
Expansion:1 Memory Stick Pro Duo slot. 512 meg card included with the phone.
In the Box:The phone with battery and a 512MB Memory Stick Duo, an A/C charger, a stereo headset, USB cable PC suite companion CD and user manuals.