Sony Ericsson Z710i
Except for a color change, the Z710i is strikingly similar to the Sony Ericsson W710i Walkman. It has the same flip phone design with the looped antenna on the top of the rear flap. Like its predecessor, it's a tad boxy (3.4 by 1.9 by 1.0 inches). But it's a pleasant shape on the whole and it has a comfortable and solid (3.6 ounces) feel in the hand. The dark-gray color scheme is attractive, and it also comes in a lighter "metallic sand" version as well.
Compared with the W710i, the Z710i's exterior features are both improved and somewhat disappointing at the same time. We'll start with the bad news first. We dinged the W710i for its bland external display and we're going to have to do the same with the Z710i. Like its predecessor, the display is very large (1.5 inches) but the monochrome resolution means it doesn't support photo caller ID. It also won't act as a viewfinder for self-portraits, but Sony Ericsson redeemed itself this time around by adding a self-portrait mirror to the camera lens just above (there's still no flash though). You can change the backlighting time, and though the brightness isn't customizable the display remains visible in direct light.
On the upside, the display is great for using the music player with the phone closed. Since there's so much room, you can see the name of the song, the artist, and the album, plus the time remaining on the current track. Sony Ericsson also wins points for the music player buttons on the front flap. Though they're smaller than the music controls on the W710i and they lack the same rubberized texture, they're still easy to use. They can be a bit too sensitive, but the handy sliding control on the left spine locks the controls to prevent them being pressed accidentally.
The Z710's interior shares much in common with the W710i as well. In typical Sony Ericsson style, the display is thoroughly spectacular. It measures two inches diagonally (176x220 pixels) and supports 262,144 colors. Everything from text to photos to graphics shows up beautifully, even in direct light. Sony Ericsson's simple menu system also looks good. Only the brightness and the clock style are customizable, but the text size should be large enough for most users.
Below the display and the sturdy hinge is the well-designed navigation array. A large, tactile four-way toggle with a central OK button is surrounded by two soft keys, dedicated Clear and Back controls, and a shortcut for the Web browser. You can program the toggle to give one-touch access to four functions while another dedicated control opens a secondary menu of user-defined shortcuts. As with other Sony Ericsson handsets, the Z710i lacks Talk and End buttons; instead the soft keys perform those functions. Sony Ericsson is getting better with its keypads and the Z710i shows the company's progress. Though similar to the W710i in design, they don't feel as cheap and aren't as slippery. The raised keys are large and are lit by a bright backlighting. Just below the keypad are the Power button and a dedicated messaging control. Both keys are a bit small, but it's not a huge deal.
The ZZ10's feature set closely follows that of its predecessor. The phone book holds a healthy 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, a job title and company, work and home street addresses, a birth date, and notes. And if you have more than 1,000 friends, the SIM card holds an additional 250 names. You can assign contacts to a group or pair them with one of 15 polyphonic ringtones. You can assign a photo or video ringtones as well, but keep in mind that they won't show up on the external display.
Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a timer, a world clock, a stopwatch, a calculator, and a voice memo recorder (space is limited by the available memory.) On the high-end side, the Z710i comes with a speakerphone (usable after you make a call), PC syncing, full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, push e-mail, a code memo for storing sensitive information, modem capability, and USB mass storage support.
Though it's not an official Walkman phone, the Z710i has just about the same music player, which is a good thing. Sony Ericsson is no slouch when it comes to music phones and the Z710i shows the company's strengths. It supports a broad range of formats, including MP3, MP4, 3 AAC, and WAV files. Opening the player takes you directly to the main menu, where you can organize music by artist, track name, or playlist. Settings include album/song shuffle and loop, stereo widening, and an equalizer. Unlike other Sony Ericsson music phones, however, the Z710i doesn't offer Sony's Mega Bass.
Switching between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music automatically stops when you receive a call. Hang up and press the dedicated music key, and your song picks up from the point you left off. There's an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone turned off, and you can minimize the player while using other functions. The interface is a bit utilitarian but we don't need fancy graphics to enjoy our tunes. And for even more music fun, the Z710i features an FM radio with 20 presets.
Our Z710i's internal memory is on the low side--just 18MB--but some alternate versions may have as little as 10MB. And keep in mind that, since it's shared with other applications, your actual storage space may be less. If you're planning to use the music player frequently, we recommend investing in a Memory Stick Micro for extra space; our test phone came with a 64MB card but larger cards are available. Getting music on the phone is relatively easy using the included USB cable and Sony Ericsson Disc2Phone and PC suite software. The Disc2Phone software is unchanged from previous Walkman phones. As such, it's quite spartan, but it's easy to understand (see Performance for more information).
The user-friendly 2-megapixel camera shoots photos in three sizes (2-megapixel, 1-megapixel, and standard VGA). Other options include two quality settings, three color effects, a night mode, white balance and brightness adjustments, 12 fun frames, a 2.5x zoom (smaller then the W710i), and four shutter sounds (there's no silent option). There's also a self-timer, a multishot mode, a time and date stamp, and an option for taking panoramic shots. When finished with your shots, you can save them to the phone or send them to a friend in a multimedia message. We don't like that the phone has to downsize a 2-megapixel photo in order to send it. Alternatively, you can use the USB cable and PC software to transfer a photo to a computer for printing. Overall photo quality was decent with vivid, sharp colors and distinct object outlines. On the other hand, it's disappointing that the Z710i doesn't have a flash. A PhotoDJ lets you edit your photos while the software includes a starter edition of Adobe Photoshop.