Sony Ericsson M600i review: Sony Ericsson M600i
Sony Ericsson's M600i candy bar smartphone promises 3G, Symbian OS and touchscreen display in a sleek, compact package.
There's no denying the M600i is a smartphone, with a jog-dial, stylus, touchscreen interface and a modified QWERTY keypad alerting users this is no ordinary handset. Available in a black or white case, it has a stark and blockish build that is relatively small for a PDA-phone. It slips comfortably into your pocket, with its slimline dimensions of 105mm by 54mm by 15mm, and is surprisingly lightweight at only 112 grams.
Its shell is essentially identical to Sony Ericsson's upcoming W950i Walkman phone, with the only obvious difference being the M600i's business-oriented keypad and features. Each key on the M600i's QWERTY layout has two characters located on the lower half, which are accessed by pressing on either the left or right side. Most keys also share their real estate with special characters or numbers, which can be accessed by pressing the ALT key to swap from text entry to symbol or numerical mode. It's tricky to get the a hang of it at first, but we found it faster to type messages on the M600i's keypad compared to using dictionary mode on a regular mobile phone, where you constantly have to spell out new words.
A Blackberry-esque jog-dial and back button on the left side of the M600i provide easy access through menus and messages. On the right side is a hot-swappable Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot -- a 64MB card is bundled in the box -- and a Web browser shortcut. It took us a while to find the power button on the M600i, which is concealed by the infrared port at the top of the phone, opposite the holder for the stylus on the edge. A proprietary connectivity port is located on a the bottom of the handset. Sony Ericsson supplies a charger, USB cable and stereo headset in the kit.
The M600i is a 3G-capable phone with Bluetooth 2.0, GPRS, infrared and USB 2.0 for connectivity. With the relatively rare Symbian OS v9.1 UIQ 3 powering the M600i, there is a slight learning curve for those unaccustomed to the interface, however Sony Ericsson P910i users should feel right at home. 80MB of internal memory provides ample storage for applications and user data, supplemented by the M2 expansion port. Messaging options include e-mail, SMS and MMS, and aside from the dual function keypad, text entry options also include an onscreen virtual keyboard and handwriting recognition.
The home screen basically functions as a summary of your mobile existence, showing the number of e-mails and messages in your inbox; calendar appointments and tasks for the day; and recently missed calls. When switching on or off the M600i, a flight mode option is presented so you can access organiser functions without disobeying airline rules banning the use of mobile phones.
Exchange Active Sync allows push synchronisation of their e-mail, calendar and contacts for companies on Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. While we've listed the lack of a camera as a sore point in our summary, it could be a boon for organisations where confidentiality and security is paramount. Rounding out its business features is the Quickoffice suite for editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and a PDF viewer.
Balancing work with leisure, the M600i has a music and a video player with support for a plethora of formats including MP3, AAC, MPEG-4, MP3, 3GPP and Real Media. However, Windows Media Player fans won't be able to listen to WMA tracks. Even though you can't take photos with the M600i, it nonetheless has a picture viewer for any snaps you've downloaded or received via MMS or Bluetooth. We found a handful of applications pre-loaded on the M2 card in the box, the best of the bunch being Gameloft's Pro Golf 2005 3D. Sony Ericsson's PC Suite software supports Windows -- no Mac or Linux support, yet -- letting you sync Outlook, Lotus Notes and Internet Explorer.
We never fully got the hang of dual-key QWERTY text input, but found it more efficient and precise than handwriting recognition, which is about on par with Palm and Windows-based handhelds. Those used to banging out text messages on numerical keypads will need some time to adjust, mainly for punctuation marks and symbols which are scattered all over the place. The combination of the M600i's big screen and beautifully easy-to-use interface saw us rarely using the stylus, as you can just press menu options with your fingers. A zoom function allows those hard-of-sight to bump everything up a notch in size.
Web browsing comes courtesy of Opera 8, which does a fantastic job rendering wide sites on small screens. Keyboard shortcuts help Net junkies access bookmarks, full screen mode and toggle images for faster page loading. Our review M600i unit came with bookmarks for all carriers' Web portals, as well as Sony Ericsson specific sites where you can download themes, ringtones, pictures and applications -- some are free or free-to-try, but operator data charges still apply. An on-board password manager saves re-typing login details for frequently used sites.
The M600i's RSS reader can aggregate updates to your favourites Web sites in one place, but we'd like Sony Ericsson to start customising the default feeds for specific regions -- how about CNET.com.au's RSS feed for Australian models? By default our M600i's reader featured BBC Top Stories and a duo of Sony Ericsson download and news feeds. It's easy to add new feeds, though.
Low battery alerts pop up a couple of hours before the M600i conks out, which generally happens after three or four days of regular use. Standby time is up to just over 10 days on 3G and 14 days on GSM, according to Sony Ericsson. Talk time is rated at 7.5 hours on GSM, but drops right down to 2.5 hours when using 3G.