Sony Ericsson W850i
Luffy Tuesday, January 23, 2007 Technology
The Walkman branded phones from Sony Ericsson previously were just few in numbers as in the models. Now there are so many to choose from that the expensive Walkman phones from Sony Ericsson better have something really worthwhile to extract those hard earned bucks from the pockets.
The W850i was the first Walkman phone to feature the Walkman Player v2.0 and is the first attempt by the company at the slider form-factor. So let's see how well Sony Ericsson can handle slider phones.
The W850i is after all a Walkman phone and hence the standard walkman accessories make for a rich package. The entire package wasn't given to us and hence we don't have an image of the box contents.
Sony Ericsson W850i
Stereo Portable Handsfree (with 3 pairs of buds)
1GB Memory Stick Pro Duo
Memory Stick Pro Adaptor
CD and Manual
Build and Design
The Sony Ericsson W850i is the first attempt by the company at making a slider phone. It is a brave move by the company to make a slider of a premium Walkman branded phone. The W850i weighs just 116 grams with dimensions 98 x 47 x 21 mm. It's slightly on the bulky side and because of which one could find it heavy.
The phone has a large 256K color screen with a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. The slider has 9 buttons on the surface and a D-Pad as well. The 9 buttons are pre-defined i.e. Back, Clear, Internet, and Activity Menu.
There is a button which doesn't seem like a button but it is nevertheless. It is long orange strip under a silver separator between the screen and the button section. The button is basically the Walkman Player hotkey.
There are two buttons placed on either side above the screen; these buttons are get customized according to the task being performed. For defaults, the one on the left is for viewing the Camera Album contents in landscape and the button to the right is to view same as thumbnails.
Else when in the Camera Mode the right button is a shortcut to starting the flash light and the one to the left is to choose the Photo Mode.
In between these two buttons is the earpiece grill, which also has the secondary camera for video calls.
The center of the button section below the screen houses the D-Pad, which isn't obvious for a D-Pad (just like the orange strip for the Walkman button.) The D-Pad takes some time getting used to as the direction buttons of the D-Pad are bulbs.
The D-Pad feels like a plastic, which is hard-cushioned and hence difficult to press initially; but hopefully over time you'd get used to it considering the big bucks you're going to shell out.
There are two more buttons that are the standard dual buttons below the screen on either side and while the one to the left displays the call list, the one to the right displays the menu.
These two buttons also double as an Answer Call and Cancel/Reject Call buttons. Around the phone are just a few buttons; on the right side are the volume controls and the camera hotkey.
The camera hotkey, when kept pressed for about 2 seconds, activates the camera but for that the keypad has to be unlocked. Below the Camera hotkey is the Infra-red port.
At the top of the phone is the Power ON/OFF button, which also doubles as a Profile selector. This button glows red in the initial charge of the phone when the phone's battery has been completely drained. Beside the power button is the memory card slot, which has a dust cover. Below the phone is the pop-port as seen in most phones.
The back of the phone houses the 2 MP camera. The camera of the phone doesn't have any lens cover or shutter. The camera has a flashlight and a tiny self portrait mirror on one side; while on the other side is the phone's loud-speaker.
The back of the phone has a very odd-looking matt finish; this finish adds to the phone's premium look. There is a design on the back of the phone done with clear circles (impressed.) The speaker has a Walkman logo done in silver, which makes it look all classy.
On opening the phone, you'll see the keypad of the phone, which is very comfortable and can be used with utmost ease. The sliding mechanism of the W850i is very good; there is no feel of it being delicate.
The whole build of the phone reflects the same and I must say that it is a job well done with regards to build of the phone. On sliding open the phone and turning it around you will notice a design of circles which is continued even behind the screen with the Walkman branding engraved on flashy steel.
The most prominent thing about the W850i is the updated Walkman Player v2.0. The v2.0 player has seen a lot of controversy; as even after it has been introduced we still have Walkman phones releasing with the older version. The new version has a nice black theme rather than the stringent orange color.
The Walkman Player now supports Album Art and Visualizations along with Artist, Album, and Track information. The screen of the player shows a lot of details than in the previous version. Track No., Total number of tracks, playback status, and song length are displayed in the first half of the screen. Beside all of these is the Visualization box.
This is where the support for Album Art and Visualizations comes in, so now you can have the Album Art showing in a small box on the screen or in that very same box you can have visualizations playing. Hopefully someday we'll be able to add to the default visualizations for now you just have two options.
Then below comes the progress bar of the song and at the end immediately below the progress bar there are symbols displaying shuffle, loop, and the equalizer preset icons. Then with some space below the progress bar, the Artist name, Track Name, Album Name and then the signs of what the D-Pad has now changed into are displayed.
The W850i is the only Walkman phone which has beat detection. The beat detection helps in the unique feature of Light Effects. The lights blink according to the beat of the music. A similar feature was noticed in the Nokia 3220, which used to blink when the phone rang.
The sorting of music also is different from the standard Walkman phones. There is a Music folder on your memory card where you place your music. There is no need to place it in two levels of folders like in the previous version; so, you can transfer your music to the card even more easily without too much of a trouble.
The Walkman v2.0 not only brought the cosmetic changes but even an improvement in the sound quality. The music now sounds more distilled. The Equalizer presets Normal, Bass, MegaBass, Voice, Treble Boost, and the Manual as well sound better. The MegaBass equalizer preset has also been tweaked; so, now instead of just thumping bass, it purifies the bass according to the song beat.
Now all of these improvements are only noticed when listening to high bitrate encoded MP3s. You won't be able to figure out the difference listening to low bitrate or average bitrate MP3s. So if you have a collection of low bitrate encoded MP3s, then its better you settle in for a cheaper Walkman phone or else you'll just end-up as a show-off. There is a stereo widening option, which takes effect only when the phone has been attached to a good set of speakers else the volume of the song just turns down.
The phone comes bundled with the standard stereo Walkman earplugs. I guess by now most know about the sound quality of these earplugs or must have heard about it from friends. The same earplugs are bundled with the W850i as well.
The earplugs could fall under the negatives because they cancel most of the sound from the environment and that could lead to dangerous situations; even cause death. For e.g. a person enjoying his/her music on a Walkman phone (except W710) using the provided earplugs while crossing the road could meet the gates of hell/heaven.
The speaker of the W850i is the loudest after the W550i.
The W550i is just plain loud while the W850i sounds much better.
The FM on the W850i works only with the headsets plugged in. The FM quality is really good and provides a good reception in places even with bad reception.
The W850i has a 2MP camera. This camera unfortunately isn't the auto-focus camera seen in the K750i or the W800/W810.
Instead the W850i's cam is something similar to the downgraded W800i; W700i. The camera starts by pressing the hotkey on the side for about 2 seconds, keeping in mind that the keypad has been unlocked. If not then just slide open the phone and press the camera hotkey to start the camera.
The interface of the camera is based on the K790/K800 camera interface and somehow gives you the feeling that the W850i was meant to house the same 3.2 MP camera. But then something just changed their minds and they put in a crappy non-autofocus 2 MP camera in there.
The 2 MP camera of the phone produced noisy pictures even in the bright conditions. The night mode of the camera with the help of the OLED was just about average not really worth the big bucks you pay. The camera doesn't have a macro-mode and hence it's not possible to take good portrait snaps. All it has is a night mode, Panorama mode, Burst mode, and frames to click 4 snaps in one click.
There are no praises in store for the video either. The video of the W850i is the outdated QCIF (176x144) format. It's about time Sony Ericsson get their act together and bring out some phones with CIF video recording capabilities.
The W850i has the same interface seen in most of the newly released Sony Ericsson handsets. These phones have a smart interface and even support multitasking. The presence of Java MIDP 2.0 helps in the multitasking abilities of these phones. Today's non-Symbian phones are able to provide almost similar functionality.
At the same time, they are able to maintain the smoothness of the interface while Symbian proves laggy. The W850i holds 16 MB of internal memory and is quite sufficient to keep all smooth unless you completely utilize all of it.
The phone is mostly based on the same interface used in the K790i/K800, except for the newer Walkman player. Talking about the Walkman player I miss the Play/Pause button located on the side of most Walkman phones.
That means now you have to unlock the keypad to Play/Pause the music. While the keypad is locked, all you can do is increase/decrease volume and go to previous/next song. The phone has a flight mode; so, you have to disconnect yourself from work to enjoy your music.
Back to the normal stuff, the phone has a capacity of 1000 contacts with 4 numbers each and a wide array of details such as under "New Contact " you can add in a lot of details apart from the name and the contact's contact (number :P).
You can add the email address, picture, ringtone, voice commands. You can even have the details to the address of the contact's Workplance/Home as per the following: title, company, street, city, state, zip code, and country. Finally you can add the Birthdate and some personal info that helps you remember that contact (Wife: The biggest mistake of my life.) The phone stores 30 received, dialed, and missed calls each.
The W850i has a list of connectivity options, but it doesn't provide for all that one would expect in a phone. The W850i is the 3G version of this Walkman phone; this phone skips EDGE and HSCSD for 3G. You can make video calls and connect to 3G networks. But in a country like India, I think, it would have been better to only launch the W830i that has EDGE and no 3G.
The W850i has GPRS Class 10 for browsing the internet and no EDGE connection, which is much faster than GPRS. It has Bluetooth v2.0, infrared, and USB v2.0 for faster transfers between phones and PC. The Bluetooth 2.0 also supports A2DP profile, which is the stereo Bluetooth capability.
So you can tune into your music/FM and even answer calls. The W850i supports one of the best A2DP headsets of Sony Ericsson, which displays song list, name of the caller, etc, and even has the best quality of music with good amount of battery life.
The W850i connects to your PC through the similar pop-port fashion. The USB connection is USB v2.0; so transfers are pretty quick. When connected to the PC, the phone goes into an offline mode; so, it's not possible to dial or receive calls or even listen to music.
The phone doesn't require drivers to work when connected to the PC. It works like a mass storage device and shows up as two Removable drives in Windows Explorer. But the fact that you'd have to carry the cable around with you does hinder its mass-storage abilities.
The W850i has a Li-Po 950 mAh battery, which is really good. According to claims the phone has 350 hours of standby time and 7 hours of talktime. In reality the phone worked comfortably for 4 days with loads of music hours and about an hour of talktime each day.
The battery life always seemed to amaze me; the last 10% of the battery seemed like never ending. It just used to keep going on and on. Switching the phone to Flight Mode or using it as just a music player provided even more comfort to the battery.
I never even faced a battery low warning in 4 days of continuous usage and no charging at all. The phone even charges through USB, but during those 4 days I used a memory card reader to transfer files.
The W850i sells for around Rs. 20,000 with a one-year warranty. It is too expensive even considering the newer Walkman player and the 1GB Pro Duo card provided. If it featured M2 memory, the high price tag was justifiable.
Even the newer player requires you to hold a rich collection of music (as in high bitrate encoded MP3s to enjoy the difference.) At that price, it would have been ideal to house a 3.2 MP camera instead we have a 2 MP non-autofocus camera.
All these points could be taken out of the equation if you are looking for a Walkman slider else it's not really worth the money you'd invest. But nevertheless not my pick.