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Sony Ericsson P800 review: Sony Ericsson P800

Sony Ericsson P800

Joni Blecher
6 min read
When we first saw Sony Ericsson's P800 a year ago, we couldn't wait to get our hands on an actual shipping unit. Several months delayed, it is finally shipping, but in the time it took to make its way to U.S. shores, several other smart-phone contenders have hit the market. Do those other models have an edge? It's a tough call. Sony Ericsson's flagship product lives up to the hype on many levels, with high-end features such as PDA functionality, world-roaming capabilities, a large touch-screen display, a built-in camera, high-speed wireless Web access, and removable memory. Still, many users--except for hard-core gadget lovers, of course--will probably wait a bit until this one comes down from its initial asking price of $650.

Mirror image: Like the 3650, the P800 has its camera on the back.
For a smart phone, the P800 is reasonably compact, weighing (5.5 ounces) slightly less than Handspring's Treo 300 and measuring 4.6 inches deep, 2.3 inches wide, and 1 inch deep, which corresponds in size to Nokia's 3650. As with those two models, the P800 (available in Electric Blue and Mineral Gray) sports a unique design that distinguishes it from other phones on the market. Starting with its built-in camera and translucent stylus, which does double duty as a cover for the Memory Stick Duo slot, this Sony Ericsson certainly has its innovative elements.
Reminiscent of Ericsson's R380, the P800 sports a removable flip-down keypad with a spacious, 16-line, 4,096-color touchscreen that's on a par with the Sony Ericsson T68i's but isn't as crisp as the Samsung SPH-A500's. There are other standout design elements, including the dedicated Cam button on the side of the phone, which launches the camera application and acts as a shutter release when the phone is in camera mode. Below that key is a blue button that bears no label but offers one-touch wireless Web access.

Big blue: This isn't the most pocketable mobile available.

Remember me: The Memory Stick Duo slides in the side of the phone.
Lining the other side of the P800 is a proprietary headset jack, an IR port, a power button, and a jog dial. While you can use the jog dial to scroll through the mobile's menus, you'll find its most relevant function is controlling the phone features when the keypad is closed. When the P800 is in phone mode, you can control the features via only the keypad or the side jog dial. The touchscreen is deactivated, so if you try to tap the screen with the stylus to access a menu or a feature, you won't get a response. We presume the company did this intentionally, but it's still irritating. The P800 has all the standard features, including caller ID, picture ID, conference calling, voicemail, text messaging (SMS), an alarm, a phone book (you can store names and numbers on the SIM and Memory Stick Duo cards), a calendar, a calculator, a to-do list, and wireless Web access for WAP and XHTML sites. You also get voice-activated dialing and commands, as well as a built-in speakerphone and voice recorder.
Running the Symbian 7.0 OS and supporting J2ME applications, this phone is easy to customize and can easily be used for business. You can download apps, games, screensavers, polyphonic ring tones, and MPEG-4 movie trailers from the Sony Web site to view with the phone's video application. There are a few of each included in the multimedia CD, and you can even play chess against another P800 user via SMS. As with the Nokia 3650, you can reorder the phone's menu system and select between a list-type or PDA-like graphical user interface.

Picture perfect? The P800 doesn't boast the best image quality.
As noted, the P800 has an integrated VGA (640x480 resolution) digital camera. There's no built-in flash, as there is with Sanyo's SCP-5300, but we didn't miss it. You can take pictures in three different resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) with the 300,000-pixel camera and store as many pictures as your Memory Stick Duo can handle. Plus, it's painless to move files between the 12MB of free onboard storage and the Memory Stick Duo. Once you capture images, you can save them as wallpaper or screensavers. You can also associate them with a contact in your phone book. As with many of these devices, the P800's image quality is mediocre at best and not suitable for printing.

Fully loaded: The P800 comes with more extras than most mobiles these days.

Sony Ericsson includes a USB docking station, as well as PC Suite and multimedia software so that you can sync the phone with your desktop PIMs. Currently, PC Suite supports only Windows 2000, Me, and XP; if you're using Windows 98, you're out of luck. Sony Ericsson is working on a fix, but the company was unable to say when 98 will be supported. You can also sync via the phone's IR or Bluetooth connections (see the Performance section for details). Finally, this mobile sends pictures to other MMS-enabled phones on your network, and it does SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 e-mail.
You can send and receive corporate e-mail on the P800. However, you'll probably need to contact your IT department to set it up correctly. E-mail is handled via a redirector, so messages are synced either when you connect the P800 with the desktop or launch the Remote Sync application from the phone. Since there's no built-in keyboard as there is with the Treo devices, you'll need to use either the virtual keyboard or the Jotter (Graffiti-like) handwriting program, which is less than ideal.
As advertised, the P800 plays MP3s, but it doesn't handle the task too elegantly. You transfer files to the device by right-clicking the phone icon on the desktop, choosing Explore from the pop-up menu, and dragging MP3s onto the phone's memory and included Memory Stick. In our tests, file transfers over USB were slow at 0.02MB per second. (If you have a dedicated Memory Stick reader, you can circumvent this task.) Once MP3s are loaded on the device, they're easy to find in the menu, and they sound loud and clean. But the stereo headphone connection uses a proprietary jack, so you can't replace the included earbuds with bigger and better headphones.
Also included in the box is a 16MB Memory Stick Duo card, an adapter for older Memory Stick cards, a hand strap, a carrying pouch, and three styli, which is good since it's easy to lose a stylus.

Power hungry: Don't leave the charger at home if you plan on hitting the road for more than a day or two.
Overall, this world phone (GSM 1900/1800/900) performed well. We tested the mobile in the San Francisco Bay Area and found call quality to be exceptionally good. Callers said they couldn't tell we were calling from a cell phone. On our end, they sounded loud and clear. Additionally, the speakerphone quality was impressive, though, it's not as loud as Audiovox's CDM-9500. We should note that callers didn't even know we were using this feature.
The P800 didn't fare as well in battery-life testing. Talk time was impressive at 6.5 hours in our tests though significantly shorter than Sony Ericsson's claims of up to 13 hours. That said, we were disappointed with the 72 hours of standby time we squeezed out--a far cry from the company's rating of 400 hours.
The P800 will work on GPRS networks and is ready for high-speed wireless data access. In our tests, we were able to connect just fine, and while not stellar, browsing time was noticeably faster than that of 2G phones.
As for other connections, we were able to send and receive files via Bluetooth. In our tests, we paired and sent images to a Nokia 3650 and even the 12-inch Apple PowerBook G4.

Sony Ericsson P800

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8