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The C510 is not exactly the martini-sipping, lady-loving 007 of the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot range, but it's a solid 006. While it's not particularly flashy, you could take it to the ambassador's party without being embarrassed, and it's got your back when you need it, with a good range of features.
It's Sony Ericsson's first phone with face-detection technology, but the C510 isn't about innovation. The C510 is a good all-round camera phone that aims to bring Cyber-shot picture quality to the masses.
SIM-free it'll cost you about £180, but you should be able to pick it up for free on a contract soon.
The C510 is principally a camera phone. But it's a basic one, and the features reflect that. It's got a 3.2-megapixel camera, which peeps out elegantly from behind a slider with a solid mechanism that won't open in your pocket.
The camera's face-recognition software detected our faces just fine, despite our beards and glasses. The smile-detection mode, which doesn't take a picture until the subject smiles, grabbed our grins perfectly too.
But there's no xenon flash, just an LED photo light, so the camera struggles in low light. The shutter speed is decent, but not mind-blowing: we found a lag of about 2 seconds between pressing the shutter and taking the picture. But, because of the delay and lack of a proper flash, we needed good light and a steady hand to get decent results.
In bright light, the C510 takes photos with good colour reproduction, but they're slightly noisy and soft. In low light, even with the LED, we think the noise levels are too high.
The camera interface is easy to use. The menu and shortcut keys make switching settings trouble-free. It's also simple to switch from video to still photos with the navigation key.
Easy to use
In fact, we were impressed with the C510's user interface throughout. Features were clearly labelled and we were never left guessing as to what a selection would do. Messages were in plain English and perfectly comprehensible, even for non-geeks. For example, when we tried to send an empty text message, the C510 warned us and gave the following options: 'continue writing', 'don't send' and 'send anyway'.
Unfortunately, the user interface of the PC-syncing software isn't anyway near as easy to use. The phone synchronises easily and quickly, but the media manager is horrendous, as is the case with most manufacturers' applications. It supports drag and drop, but its greyish interface is vague and it's unclear what media-file types it supports. Our attempt to load WAV files failed, but we received no message to let us know why. The C510 supports transferring multimedia files with other applications, however.
The C510 isn't a smart phone by any stretch of the imagination, but Sony Ericsson has packed in a good selection of features. Although it doesn't have GPS, it comes with Google Maps installed, and uses nearby mobile-phone masts to triangulate your position. We found it to be accurate enough -- within a couple of streets, at least in central London.
The C510 also uses this location for the camera's geotagging feature, so you can put your photos on Flickr and view them on a map of where they were taken, for example.
Another appealing feature is the accelerometer. You can rotate your photos, videos and Web pages between portrait and landscape mode by turning the phone.
Surfing with the C510's browser is painless, and the Web-feeds feature is slick. It made it easy for us to grab the CNET UK RSS feed and podcast from the Web site, and the ticker feature displayed new items gracefully on the homepage as they came in. Feeds can be set to update automatically or manually, to avoid data charges.
With its good podcast capability and its FM radio, the C510 is a handy entertainment device, and its media player pumps out good sound quality. It also has YouTube built in -- although clips look rough. We compared standard-definition clips on the handset to those on a PC, and the C510 exhibited a terrible case of the jaggies. Nevertheless, along with some good-looking 3D games with motion sensors, these features mean we'd be happy to be stuck on a train with the C510.
But it's criminal that Sony Ericsson chose not to include a standard headphone jack or an adaptor. There's no way to use your own headphones with this handset, and we found that the included headphones are flimsy, with poor sound reproduction.
Loud and clear
There's only 100MB of on-board memory in the C510, so a big memory stick is a must-have accessory if you plan to take plenty of photos.
Audio quality during calls is loud and clear, as is the loudspeaker. Battery life is quoted at 400 hours of standby time and 10 hours of talk time using GSM, or 4 hours of talk time and 350 hours of standby using 3G. We found the battery life admirable -- a solid hour of chatting barely put a dent in it.
Stylish but small
The C510 looks stylish, especially in black, with smart blue accents, a good mix of matte and brushed surfaces, and a bright, clear QVGA 320x240-pixel screen. It's thin, at 12.5 mm, but feels solid and well-made.
The C510 is comfortable to hold when used as a phone, and big enough to get your hand around when taking photos. The buttons are small, though, especially the feature buttons, which are grouped tightly together. Hitting the dial or end-call buttons accurately could prove a challenge for stubby-fingered users.
With so many smart phones out there making promises they can't keep, the Sony Ericsson C510 Cyber-shot does what it says on the tin. It's an easy-to-use, attractive camera phone, with a good selection of entertainment features and a solid feel. It also has a few special features that elevate it above more-mundane rivals, like smile recognition, good Web-feed support and an auto-rotating screen. But, despite its Cyber-shot pedigree, without a flash, it's not suitable for anything but snapshots in good lighting.
Edited by Charles Kloet