Our first impression of the the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 is that it's identical to its younger sibling, the W150. If it wasn't for the small engraving that reads '10.1 megapixels' on the front of the W170, we wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Despite being initially underwhelmed, we found there was more to this £170 snapper than met the eye.
The W170 comes in cherry red or silver with a brushed metal effect to the frame. It's quite plain on the front and back; there's a raised bezel around the screen and viewfinder giving it a clunky appearance. The viewfinder is small and the screen distractingly stays on when using it, but it's clear and moves in and out with the zoom.
The controls are cluttered. The 69mm (2.7-inch), 230,000-dot LCD screen is large enough, but a thick black bezel pushes the controls too far over. There are at least two buttons too many: a dedicated slideshow-launching button that could have simply been an option in the playback menu and a menu button that accesses shooting options. The latter is handy, but its function could've been assigned to the OK button in the centre of the clickpad that doesn't do anything in normal mode.
Meanwhile, there's no delete button -- it's the first option in the playback menu, so there's an extra button-push involved and it could initially fox anyone looking for the little rubbish bin icon. You do get a handy option to delete multiple selected images or all images taken on the same date, which is more subtle than a delete all option.
The flat zoom rocker lets down the long zoom. We can't stand flat rocker switches, especially when they're as small and unresponsive as this one. But despite the underwhelming physical controls, the menus are excellent. Options pop out from a sidebar, leaving room on the screen for simple captions to explain the feature and for the adjustment to be previewed on screen.
Along with the viewfinder, the W170 boasts a couple of features you wouldn't find on many compacts. It has a versatile 5x optical zoom lens with a satisfyingly wide 28mm focal length, equivalent to a 35mm film camera, although this is let down by the poor zoom rocker.
Face detection is included, continuing the trend for souped-up face-tracking features. Clever subject tracking follows a face as it moves around the frame, allowing you to recompose your images. There's also the option to prioritise childrens' or adults' faces. These options are all repeated for smiling faces, so you can, for example, focus on smiling children. The shutter's sensitivity to smiles can be adjusted, although we have no idea why you'd want to.