Large, touch-sensitive screen, keyboard, scroll wheel -- we are obviously in smart phone territory here. And for a 3G handset the M600i is remarkably small. We could hardly believe that it was a 3G handset at first, given that it's 57 by 107 by 15mm in size and weighs just 112g. You'll find very basic fashion phones that weigh almost as much and offer far, far less in terms of capability.
Two things that let this handset down slightly, though, are the absence of any camera and the relatively complex UIQ user interface. There is no way around the former, but you'll learn to deal with the latter.
The Sony Ericsson M600i costs £350 SIM free.
Sony Ericsson's M600i is available in black or white, and either way it looks stunning with its slim, minimalist design.
The two key attributes that mark it out as a smart phone for the serious user stare you in the face as soon as you take it out of the box. The generously sized 320x240-pixel touch-sensitive screen occupies far more of the front fascia than you think it has a right to, given the other attribute -- a keyboard.
Its keys are large and most share two of the A to Z letters. They are also rockers -- hitting them on the left or right edge gets the letter you want. It's very easy to get used to.
As an alternative, you can write on the touch screen or tap at menus and options to move around. You'll also find a scroll wheel on the left edge. It lets you move up and down through the options, or make a selection by pushing it inwards.
Screen and keyboard are the only features on the front of the casing. There is no navigation key, no select buttons and no call and end keys. This is possible because of the touch screen and the scroll wheel, and it means in general the design looks clean.
Round the edges, though, there are some bits and pieces -- on the bottom is the proprietary port you need to use to attach mains power connector, headphones and the PC data cable. This does mean you can't use the headset and charge the M600i at the same time.
On the top edge is the power switch and infrared port, while the left edge houses the scroll wheel and a back button, as well as the slot for the stylus. On the right edge is a shortcut button pre-programmed to take you to the device's Web browser, but which you can assign to other jobs, and a covered slot for a memory expansion card.
The M600i runs Symbian UIQ, which is not an operating system we see very often. Sony Ericsson has a near monopoly on it having used it in the P series smart phones, and we'll see it again shortly in the P990i, but while it is a little shy and retiring, it is a very competent operating system designed to cater for the higher end smart phone user.
Many smart phone applications require you to enter text. Both keyboard entry and handwriting recognition take advantage of a neat predictive text system, and we found it pretty fast to get words into the device. When you want to dial a phone number, you just go to the main screen and tap it out. The numbers are shown as large blue characters on the relevant keys.
The M600i is a 3G handset, but one with a self-imposed restriction: there isn't a camera, so you can't take photos or make video calls. This isn't unheard of in the smart phone market -- Nokia has just released thewithout a camera, and the BlackBerry handsets are equally blind.
Since the M600i doesn't take pictures, the 3G capability is mainly for fast data communications, such as email collection and Web browsing. The latter is catered for by the very capable Opera browser.
Music playback is supported, and the sound quality through the loudspeaker is pretty good, and can be tweaked for tone via the equaliser. There is 60MB of built-in memory and you can expand on this with a memory card. Sony Ericsson has chosen Memory Stick Micro for this job, a new type of card that is about the same size as a microSD card and just as awkward to handle. The M600i comes with a 64MB card, which takes the memory to over a healthy 100MB.
There is a wealth of built-in software -- a calendar and contact manager, the music player, the Web browser, an RSS reader, a picture viewer and a couple of games: QuadraPop, a very nice Tetris clone; and Vijay Singh Pro Golf 2005 3D. The latter, in particular, shows off the screen and the 3G graphics capability. If the provided ringtones aren't up to standard you can use MusicDJ to create your own.
For the more productivity minded there is a PDF viewer and the QuickOffice suite for producing, as well as reading, documents and spreadsheets. Companies will like the wide-ranging support for corporate email systems.
Desktop software runs to the usual Symbian PC Suite for Outlook synchronisation. When it comes to getting music onto the M600i, the Disc2Phone software can reduce the bitrate of your tunes on the fly.
The biggest issue with the M600i is getting used to the vast array of software on board and learning to make the most of it. Depending on your needs and previous experience with more complex handsets, you may find your early learning curve is a little steep.
We had no problems making or hearing audio calls, and the speakerphone is loud and clear, too. 3G data access was fast and effective.
Battery life was very good. We never felt we were restricted while using the M600i, and recharging every couple of days was good enough. If you are a keen Bluetooth, music or 3G user you may find you want to recharge daily, though.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield