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Sony Ericsson P910a (Unlocked) review: Sony Ericsson P910a (Unlocked)

Sony Ericsson P910a (Unlocked)

William O'Neal
7 min read
While we've spent a ton of ink talking about the PalmOne Treo 650 and the Motorola MPx220, the fact remains that there are quite a few smart phone options out there. Take, for example, the Sony Ericsson P910a, the successor to the likable P900. Running on the Symbian 7.0 operating system, the P910a is a full-fledged GSM device that does almost everything you can ask for. But while some smart phones are more PDA than phone and others more phone than PDA, the P910a seems to be equal parts phone, PDA, and multimedia device. With a high-resolution display, an integrated (but only VGA) camera, Bluetooth support, and massive battery life, the only thing holding back the P910a is a hefty price tag of more than $700. Of course, this device is so chock-full of features that it may actually be worth it; also, the cost should come down once the handset is picked up by a carrier.
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. Compared to standalone mobiles, the Sony Ericsson P910a is on the large side. Of course, next to other smart phones, it's right in the mix, at 2.3 by 1 by 4.5 inches and 5.5 ounces. As evidenced by its predecessor, Sony Ericsson is good at putting together well-designed products, and in this regard, the P910a is no slouch. The generous 3-inch-diagonal touch screen is vibrant and crisp (262,000 colors), and it rotates to support Landscape mode. You can't change the text size itself, but a zoom feature effectively does the trick. And though it may take a bit of acclimation, the P910a is comfortable to hold while you're talking.


Sony Ericsson P910a (Unlocked)

The Good

Amazingly long battery life; great call quality; large and vibrant screen; full QWERTY keyboard; tons of features.

The Bad

Hefty; flimsy flip-down keyboard; sluggish WAP browser; low-resolution camera.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Ericsson P910a offers road warriors a superb smart phone and multimedia alternative to devices such as the Treo 650 and the BlackBerry.

The stocky P910a isn't for the faint of heart.

Aside from the great display, the P910a's most notable feature--and the most significant change from the P900--is the flip-down QWERTY keyboard (see below). In phone mode, when the flip is up, the backside of the QWERTY keyboard is a standard numerical keypad that also boasts an OK, Back, Clear, and Menu key. Like the phone itself, the keys are silver, and the letters and numbers are white. In darker situations, seeing your way around the keypad is simple, thanks to the backlighting. Furthermore, the keys are raised such that dialing by feel is a snap. That said, there are no Talk and End keys; you'll need to use the OK button instead. While this isn't a big deal, we prefer dedicated call buttons.

When the flip is opened, you're greeted with a full QWERTY keyboard that is bound to create conversation. Though surely usable, the tiny keys are crowded together, and the flip's construction worries us. There's no truly comfortable way to type while holding the phone, and the flip mechanism seems rather fragile. We didn't perform a complete torture test, but we could imagine a situation where the flip-down keyboard could be broken. If it worries you too much, however, you can remove the keyboard via the included screwdriver and use the touch screen or the Graffiti-like handwriting-recognition feature. Another pet peeve: Unlike the numeric keypad, the keys on the QWERTY are not backlit. We also were disappointed with the keyboard's Enter button. Because it doesn't activate the highlighted Done buttons on the screen, we had to type our messages, then use the stylus to tap Done or Send. This is not terribly inconvenient, but it is silly.

Add on: Expand the P910a's storage with the Memory Stick Duo slot.

On the mobile's left spine, you'll find the power button, the headset jack, and a handy scrollwheel that not only adjusts volume during calls but also navigates through menu items on lists and the home screen. On the handset's right spine is the Memory Stick Duo slot, the stylus holder, a dedicated camera button, and a Home Screen button that fires up the integrated WAP 2.0 browser. As with the P900, the VGA camera lens and a self-portrait mirror are located on the handset's rear face.

The P910a ships with a saucer-shaped docking cradle that has a unique cable-management system for easy travel. The docking cradle has a USB 2.0 cable as well as a power cord. Once docked, the P910a sits at a nice angle that enables you to see it when it's on your desk. Unfortunately, the cradle was designed such that connecting it to the device is not a matter of simply sliding it into a slot. Instead, you must tilt the P910a to attach it to a recessed port.

The Sony Ericsson P910a has a ton of features that should please the most demanding smart phone fanatics. The Symbian 7.0 OS involves a learning curve for newbies, but it is exceptionally easy to use after some practice. The dynamic 64MB of embedded memory--a particular boon compared to the Treo 650's 22MB of user-accessible memory--lets you store as many contacts as space will allow, with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, addresses, and other information; you can hold an additional 250 names on the SIM card. Contacts can be assigned to caller groups or paired with any of 24 polyphonic ring tones or a picture for caller ID (where available). Furthermore, the phone ships with a 32MB Memory Stick Duo card. While this is a nice amount for storing photos and whatnot, anyone who plans on using the P910a as a mobile audio device will need to invest in a much larger Memory Stick Duo card (the slot can handle cards up to 1GB).

When it comes to staying connected, the P910a includes an infrared port and Bluetooth, as well as USB connectivity through the charging cradle. Any of these methods can transfer data between the device and a computer, and you can also use the Bluetooth to connect to a wireless headset or as a modem with a Bluetooth-enabled laptop. On the downside, the P910a doesn't support Wi-Fi, but since it's so easy to connect to the Web, it may ultimately not be a big issue.

The phone and handheld functions are pretty much what you'd expect from such a high-end handset, and they include a calendar, a task list, a notepad, an easy-to-use speakerphone, vibrate mode, a calculator, an alarm clock, text and multimedia messaging, a sound recorder, and Quickword and Quicksheet for viewing and editing Word and Excel documents, respectively. The P910a ships with two games, Solitaire and Chess, which you can play against another P910a user via SMS. It also sports fairly robust audio and video player applications. The integrated MP3 player produces clean sound, and the process of moving files onto the player was much improved over the P900's. You can customize the smart phone with a variety of wallpaper, color themes, and sounds, and you can download additional applications from Sony Ericsson.

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

One of the P910a's best features is its ability to sync with IMAP4 mail servers using Smartner Duality Always-on Mail for corporate e-mail support of Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. That said, however, depending on your corporate e-mail situation, getting this to work may be difficult. In other words, be prepared to enlist the help of your IT people. Comparatively speaking, getting access to corporate e-mail with devices such as the RIM BlackBerry 7750 is not only supereasy but can be done without the involvement of your IT team. Of course, the P910a also supports POP3 and SMTP e-mail and ships with a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser that makes reading Web mail such as Yahoo and Hotmail a cinch. While the WAP browser is nice, it's often slow. This, as it turns out, was more of a minor pet peeve.

We liked the P910a's photo quality.

The P910a ships with only a VGA camera, which was a bit of a disappointment, considering the growing number of megapixel camera phones on the market. Features are very much like those of the P900. You can take pictures in 640x480, 320x240, or 160x120 resolutions and with outdoor, indoor, night, or auto settings. You also control the brightness and contrast, adjust the lighting (auto, fixed, indoor, outdoor, and fluorescent), use a backlighting option, or activate a shutter sound. We missed an optical zoom and a flash, but you get a mirror for self-portraits. You can store as many pictures as will fit on the P910a's memory, and a convenient counter keeps track of how much space you have left. When finished with your shots, you can save them as wallpaper, associate them with contacts, and send them to your friends. To channel your inner artist, the P910a also comes with a fun and handy image-editing application that supports multiple file formats. The camcorder records up to an hour of video with sound in MPEG-4 format (video length increases with Memory Stick); its file-editing options are similar to the camera's.

We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson P910a in the San Francisco Bay Area on T-Mobile's network, and the handheld worked like a charm. Callers noted that our calls were clear, and from our side, while those on the other end sounded a bit hollow, they were clear as well. The P910a has a built-in speakerphone that is activated simply by opening the flip once a call has been initiated. It also worked well, with admirable audio quality and volume. Since the P910a is a multimedia workhorse, it ships with stereo headphones that double as a wired headset. Sound quality hardly diminished, and we also were pleased with calls made with our Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headset.

Battery life was excellent. Though we didn't reach the rated talk time of 13 hours, we still hit an outstanding 9 hours on a single charge. Standby time was also less than Sony Ericsson promised, but we still were pleased. We managed 10 days, compared with the rated time of 16 days. According to the FCC, the P910a has a digital SAR rating of 1.5 watts per kilogram.


Sony Ericsson P910a (Unlocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8