Sony Ericsson P900 (AT&T) review: Sony Ericsson P900 (AT&T)

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The Good High-resolution touch-screen display ; speakerphone; solid call quality; integrated camera; plays video files; syncs with Outlook via included USB docking station; Bluetooth and IR connectivity; world phone; wireless e-mail enabled; can view and edit attachments.

The Bad MP3 transfer process not intuitive; difficult wireless e-mail setup.

The Bottom Line Despite minor glitches and a high price, Sony Ericsson's P900 offers worthy features and extensive connectivity in a trimmer package.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Review summary

Following up on the popularity of the P800, Sony Ericsson has introduced its successor, the P900. Slightly slimmer and lighter, the new model has a gray finish and pumped-up features, such as more memory and a superior 65,536-color touch-screen display. Though much improved over its predecessor, this model could go a little further in terms of design. The smart phone is available now for a hefty $850, but we expect the price to come down when a service provider begins to carry the handset.

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. For a smart phone, the Sony Ericsson P900 is reasonably compact, weighing 5.2 ounces--almost an ounce less than Handspring's Treo 600--and measuring 4.5 inches tall, 2.2 inches wide, and 0.9 inch deep, which is slimmer than its bulkier predecessor, the P800. The phone feels comfortable in the hand and not too awkward when held against the face. Most users, however, probably will want to use an optional Bluetooth headset when making and receiving calls.

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The P900 will fit in only the biggest pockets.

The urban-gray P900 sports a unique design that distinguishes it from other phones on the market. Starting with its built-in camera and removable flip-down, blue-backlit keypad, this Sony Ericsson certainly has innovative elements. The real improvement here is the spacious, 16-line, 65,536-color touch screen. But you'll find more standout design elements, including the dedicated Cam button on the right side of the phone, which launches the camera application and controls the shutter release. Below that key is a user-programmable button that bears no label and a Memory Stick Duo slot that you can use to add more storage to the device.

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The Memory Stick Duo slot is on P900's right-hand side.

Lining the left side of the P900 is a headset jack, an IR port, a power button, and a jog dial. While you can scroll through the mobile's menus with the jog dial, you'll find its most relevant function is controlling the phone features when the keypad is closed. Unlike its predecessor, the P900's touch screen works even in phone mode. You also can use the included stylus, which is stored at the top of the handset.

The mobile comes with a docking station that connects to a computer via the USB port. Like Motorola's MPx200 smart phone, the P900 has a separate lightweight charger that you can take on the road. Also included in the package are a black nylon carrying case, a 32MB Memory Stick Duo card, and an adapter.
The Sony Ericsson P900 has all the standard features, including picture caller ID (where available), conference calling, voicemail, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, 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, 24 polyphonic ring tones, a built-in speakerphone, and a voice recorder.

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The camera's lens is well placed for taking pictures.

Running the Symbian 7.0 OS and supporting J2ME applications, this phone is simple to customize and can be easily used for business. You can download apps, games, screensavers, ring tones, and MPEG-4 movie trailers from the Sony Web site for viewing with the mobile's video application. There are a few of each included in the multimedia CD, and you can even play chess against another P900 user via SMS. You can reorder the phone's menu system and select between a list-type or PDA-like graphical user interface.

As noted, the P900 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 photos as your Memory Stick Duo can handle. What's more, moving files between the 16MB of free onboard storage and the included 32MB Memory Stick was painless, and the P900 can accept up to 128MB of total storage. Once you capture images, you can save them as wallpaper or screensavers or associate them with a contact in your phone book. Like many of these devices, the P900 produces images that are mediocre at best and not suitable for printing.

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The P900's image quality is comparable to that of other VGA camera phones.

Besides the docking station, Sony Ericsson includes PC Suite and multimedia software to sync the phone with your desktop PIMs. You also can sync or beam contact info via the P900'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. For working on the go, the bundled Quickoffice application allows you to view and edit Word and Excel files sent through your e-mail.

You can send and receive corporate mail on the P900, but you'll probably need to contact your IT department to set it up correctly. The P900 handles e-mail via a redirector, so messages are synced when you either connect the Sony Ericsson with the desktop or launch the Remote Sync application from the phone. Unlike the Treo devices, the P900 doesn't have a built-in keyboard, so you'll need to use either the virtual model or the Jotter (Graffiti-like) handwriting program, both of which are less than ideal.

As advertised, the P900 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 to the mobile's memory. 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 the MP3s are loaded on the device, they're easy to find in the menu, and they sound loud and clean.
Overall, this world phone (GSM 900/1800/1900) performed well. We tested it in the San Francisco Bay Area using AT&T Wireless service and found call quality to be exceptionally good. Callers said they couldn't tell we were ringing from a cell phone. On our end, they sounded loud and clear. Additionally, the speakerphone quality was quite impressive, and callers didn't even know we were using this feature.

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The Sony Ericsson P900 comes with a compact charger and a docking station.

The P900 will work on high-speed wireless data GPRS networks. In our tests, we were able to connect just fine, and though browsing time wasn't stellar, it was noticeably faster than that of 2G phones. Pairing the Sony Ericsson with a Nokia 3620, we were also able to send and receive images via Bluetooth.

The mobile didn't fare as well in battery-life testing. Though talk time was impressive at 10 hours, 40 minutes in our tests, it was shorter than Sony Ericsson's claims of up to 16 hours. We managed close to 6.5 days of standby time. While it's not nearly as much as the company's rating of 20 days, it's still decent.

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