The T290i features a bright 4096-colour display with a 101x80 pixel screen. The graphics are not impressive and it's expectedly not as colourful as those with a 65K or 262K display, but its enough for a clear view of messages and games. Measuring 101.5 x 43.9 x 19mm, the 79.2 gram phone is light and easy to carry around.
A four-way navigation control and two central select buttons are located above the keypad. We find the buttons to be a tad too tiny for the fingers and a bit tedious to press. The navigation control can be difficult to manipulate and requires a lot of precision to ensure right button is pressed.
The menu is arranged in Sony Ericsson's accustomed style, which is user friendly and intuitive.
Although the handset lacks a camera, the Sony Ericsson T290i is camera-ready. We were not able to test it ourselves but the Sony Ericsson Web site indicates that users can buy the snap-on camera accessory to take photos. However, do not expect your photos to be displayed in real life colour on the T290i's 4K display.
The T290i is capable of sending e-mail, MMS, EMS and long SMS. It also features a speaker phone, alarm clock, events calendar, sleep mode, vibrating alert and sound recorder.
Predictive text input is present in for easy text messaging. It is possible to attach pictures for specific contacts in the phonebook as well as specific ringtones.
Mobile games on the T290i include V-Rally2, which reminds us of car racing games of a bygone era, just like the platform game Deep Abyss. But still, the games are entertaining enough to pass time. When you get tired of a game, the T290i permits game downloads via the Sony Ericsson Fun and Downloads GPRS function.
Connectivity is limited with the T290i without infrared and Bluetooth. But then again, what do you expect with a entry-level phone?
The T290i's battery life was remarkably good and lasted for at least three days. However, this is with limited call use and heavy SMS. On the flipside, it probably wouldn't last as long with heavy call use are limited text messaging.
We found the T290i's speaker to be clear when making phone calls. However, typing text messages and manipulating the keypad and navigation keys can be very tricky. It might just be the review unit we received, but we found that pressing keys took a lot of effort thus making text messaging more tedious than it already is.
GPRS and WAP connections are slow by nature. This, however, is a phone not designed for easy or fast WAP services. Get a high-end phone if wireless services are what you need.
Overall, the T290i may just be able to separate itself from other entry-level phones out there. For first time users who want nothing more than to text message and make phone calls, this is probably the phone for you. Although its features are very basic, it has the potential to be used as a camera phone and more with its various accessories. However, make sure you consider the additional costs when buying these accessories.