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Sony Ericsson S710a (AT&T) review: Sony Ericsson S710a (AT&T)

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Cover up: The S710a's lens has a sliding door.

The S710's 1-megapixel camera ranks as one of the most user-friendly implementations we've seen on a cell phone. In addition to the cool cameralike ergonomics, the menus are arranged horizontally on the bottom of the display. It's yet another nice touch that makes the S710a fun and simple to use. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and use the 8X digital zoom, a self-timer, a flash, and a multishot option. Image-editing options include a night mode, four picture effects, and four white-balance settings. You also can choose from three shutter sounds, but there's no silent option. You can take as many pictures as will fit on the 32MB of shared memory or tap into the Memory Stick Duo slot.

The camera records MPEG-4 videos with sound. Length is limited by the available memory, and clips can be shot at 176x144 or 128x96. Because editing options are similar to those in photo mode, we had much more to play with compared to other video phones. We also like that you can set the camera to turn off automatically after a few minutes of inactivity. The additional multimedia options pleased us as well. You get Music DJ for composing your own ring tones, and the handset can play MP3s.

The S710a can be personalized with a variety of wallpaper, themes, screensavers, and start-up animations. The mobile comes with two Java (J2ME)-enabled games (Darts and Super Real Tennis), but more of all the above are available for download.

We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson S710a in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was very good, with plenty of volume and clarity. We had few problems maintaining a signal, but callers could tell we were using a cell phone. Sound quality for the music was fine--nothing like a standalone MP3 player, but it will do in a pinch. We were very impressed, however, by the sound quality through the included stereo headphones. Moreover, we had no problem pairing the mobile to the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headset and enjoyed good call quality.

Battery life was mixed. Though we managed a strong six hours of continuous talk time (one hour short of the promised talk time), the battery petered out quickly when making a series of calls. Standby time was 9 days, compared with the promised time of 12.5 days. According to the FCC, the S710a has a digital SAR rating of 0.88 watts per kilogram.

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