Sony Ericsson W880i review:

Sony Ericsson W880i

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 12 user reviews

The Good Slim design; Walkman Player 2.0; 3G connectivity; ability to post pictures on Blogger.

The Bad Small keys on the keypad; lack of auto-focus and flash on the camera.

The Bottom Line The W880i looks fantastic and is so slim you'll barely notice it in your pocket. It comes with a 1GB card that lets you store about 240 of your favourite songs and a music player that sounds great. Unfortunately, it features a tiny and very fiddly navigation key and very small keys on the keypad, which make using it very frustrating

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7.5 Overall

The W880i Walkman phone is Sony Ericsson's thinnest phone to date and is also one of the slimmest 3G handsets we've seen so far. Similar to Samsung's X820, the W880i slips into practically any pocket and at 71g it certainly won't weigh you down.

This music mobile comes with a 1GB memory card that will let you store up to 240 MP3 tracks. There's also a 2-megapixel camera on the back and a secondary VGA camera on the front for video calling. The W880i is currently available for free on a monthly contract or for about £330 SIM-free. If the keys weren't so tricky to use, we'd recommend it in a heartbeat.

Thin is definitely in and Sony Ericsson has finally created a product that can combat the likes of Motorola and Samsung's ultra-slim offerings. Coming in at 9.4mm thick and weighing a mere 71g, the W880i is almost unnoticeable when stuffed in a bag or down a trouser pocket.

The W880i is thinner than the spine of a CD case

Unlike some thin phones, the W880i doesn't feel like it's on the verge of snapping, thanks to its sturdy build quality.

The W880i comes in two different colour combinations. Our black and orange review model has a matte metallic finish on the front and a rear made from plastic that feels like rubber. You can also buy one with a funky stainless steel-like finish.

The screen, keypad and camera layout is similar to most of Sony Ericsson's other candybar phones, but there are some notable differences. The screen, although it's bright and sharp, is on the small side, and the 2-megapixel camera on the back doesn't have an LED photo light or portrait mirror.

The most significant annoyance, however, is the keypad. The number and letter keys on the keypad are very difficult to press as they are little bigger than grains of rice and are far too close together. The four-way navigation key is also small, so it's easy to press the wrong part of the button. 

The W880i's navigation key and keypad are small and fiddly to use

While some of the design constraints are unavoidable due to the W880i's size, the small keypad is a serious problem that could have been fixed with larger buttons. We also wonder if the screen could have been made a little larger, but overall it's the tiny keys that really let the W880i down.

The W880i is a Walkman phone, so everything is centred around music, right down to the dedicated music button that takes you straight to the Walkman player.

The Walkman player supports the most popular file formats, including MP3 and AAC files. It displays the track, artist and album name and can be set to play tracks in shuffle and repeat mode, and there's an equaliser you can adjust. Another good featre is that it can display album art, and visualisations too.

Uploading tracks is relatively straightforward using the Disc2Phone software and we didn't have any problems uploading a 13-track Kaiser Chiefs album. If you do have any problems uploading music then our guide to getting music on to your Walkman phone might help.

To listen to music, you can either use the provided headphones or your own pair via the 3.5mm in-line adaptor. You can also use the loudspeaker to listen to music, but the sound quality, while loud, is bad and will only annoy everyone around you.

Alternatively, you can connect a pair of stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) headphones and listen to your music wirelessly. The only problem we found with doing this is that the battery drained very quickly.

Sony Ericsson has kindly bundled a 1GB Memory Stick Micro (M2) card in the box that lets you store about 240 MP3 files, but you can also use it to store data too, as the W880i can be set to act as a mass storage device.

You can also use the card to store a whole bunch of photos and videos that you can take using the 2-megapixel camera on the back. The camera is a little disappointing to use since there's no auto-focus, flash or LED photo light.

Once you have taken a picture you can send it to your friends over Bluetooth or download it to your computer using the provided USB cable. There's also the useful ability to send it to a Blogger blog straight from your phone, which is great if you want to publish photos online very quickly and share your thoughts with loads of people.

You can download photos and other content using the W880i's 3G connectivity, which also lets you make video calls using the VGA camera on the front of the phone, and browse the Web at speeds of up to 384Kbps in areas with good 3G coverage.

The screen is too small for browsing the Web properly, but you can connect a laptop via the provided USB cable and use it as a modem.

Install Sony Ericsson's PC suite and you can synchronise your Outlook contacts, calendar, tasks, notes and Internet Explorer bookmarks with the mobile. You can also use it to look through files, photos and videos stored on the W880i.

Other features on the W880i include a flight mode, an RSS feed reader, MMS and SMS messaging, an email client, a calendar, an alarm clock, tasks, a voice recorder, a Bluetooth remote, a video player, Java games, a timer, a stopwatch, a calculator, a file manager and over-the-air synchronisation.

The W880i comes in silver and black or orange and black casing

The audio quality on the W880i's Walkman Player is great. Music sounds crisp and you can set the volume quite high without any significant distortions at the high or low end. We particularly like the MegaBass option in the equaliser that really pumps up the bass.

Listening to music over the loudspeaker should be avoided if you don't want to annoy people around you -- or yourself, as it's very tinny. You can listen to music with a pair of stereo Bluetooth headphones, which sounded fine but drained the battery much faster than using a wired pair.

Audio quality during calls was good and there was no distortion or muffling, but we would have liked it if you could turn up the speaker volume a little more. The speakerphone mode was acceptable, but we recommend you use the provided pair of headphones and in-line mic to make hands-free calls as it sounds much better.

The 2-megapixel camera didn't overly impress us due to the lack of auto-focus and flash or LED photo light. If you just want to take the odd photo as a memento or send a photo to a friend via MMS then it's okay. If, however, you want to print out larger pictures or look at them on a large screen then you might well be disappointed.

Pictures taken in low light weren't great, even with the night mode turned on. Pictures taken in good light looked okay on the W880i's small screen, but when we viewed them on a computer screen they were blurry, particularly if you don't hold your hand totally still when you take a picture.

Battery life lasted for about two days of moderate use before we had to recharge it. We found that turning off the 3G connectivity and setting it to GSM only saved a lot of battery, as did dimming the screen's brightness.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide

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