The Sony Ericsson Z530i is the upgraded version of the Sony Ericsson Z520i. Both phones have the same form factor and loop aerial, along with similar specs, but this handset has a new keypad and expandable memory slot. We're not convinced by the fish-scale design of the keypad but we're over the moon about the increase in storage space.
The Sony Ericsson Z530i is available free on contract from Carphone Warehouse, O2 and Vodafone.Design
Above the screen is a 0.3-megapixel (VGA) camera and portrait mirror. The rest of the front section consists of a black rubber-like cover that can be removed and changed, allowing you to customise the phone. On the top left side of the phone there's a large volume button and on the top right side is an infrared port.
The back of the phone houses the loudspeaker and a black battery cover that can also be removed. On the top of the back section is a loop aerial that is very similar to the Z520i's, but rounder and smoother. The charging port is located on the bottom of the phone and doubles up as the headset and USB port.
Once you open up the phone, you'll see the 128x160-pixel screen that is surrounded by a silver border similar to the external screen and also displays the model number and Sony Ericsson name. The hinge that attaches the screen to the keypad is particularly chunky and looks out of place.
Just below the hinge is the four-way navigation button with a mirrored OK button in the middle. We found the navigation button easy to use but the OK button was too small and squashed to be used comfortably. Although we managed to select the right options with it, we couldn't help tapping the navigation button at the same time, which was annoying.
Either side of the navigation key are soft keys -- the top left key gives you access to call information and the top right takes you to the menu. The bottom left soft key is takes you back one page and the bottom right is the cancel key.
The alphanumeric keypad that is underneath the navigation key, is unique and features mirrored circular keys that overlap each other like fish scales. This makes it difficult to distinguish between them at times, and if you have large thumbs you might press find it awkward to press the correct keys.
Underneath the alphanumeric keypad are two more keys. The bottom left gives you access to shortcuts, calendar events and WAP browser bookmarks. The bottom right is the power button. We found both of these keys are rather small and would have preferred it if they were bigger.
At first the Z530i seems like a very similar phone to its predecessor. The camera has a 0.3-megapixel (VGA) sensor identical to the Z520i's that can take still shots and videos. Other features that haven't changed include SMS and MMS messaging, infrared, Bluetooth, GPRS, voice dialling, speakerphone, WAP browser, email client, polyphonic ringtones, wallpapers, themes and exchangeable covers.
We were pleased to see that Sony Ericsson has addressed one of our major complaints -- the Z520i only had 16MB of internal memory and no memory card slot, so you couldn't make the most of its multimedia features. The Z530i has 28MB of internal memory and an expandable Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot so you can store up to 1GB of music, photos and video on it.
Although this might seem like a small change, the addition of a memory card slot is significant. We liked the fact that the Z520i had so many connectivity options but cringed when we saw how little storage space it had. There's no point being able to transfer files in a variety of ways if there isn't much space to store them.
Audio on calls was clear and there was no muffling or distortion when making or receiving calls. When we made a test call the person at the end of the line could be heard clearly and they could hear us clearly too. The speakerphone is loud enough to provide a decent hands-free alternative and could be heard clearly in the office.
The camera picture quality was poor and images appeared blurry and discoloured. When we took a picture there was a blue halo that seemed to surround any object near a light source. On-screen the images looked blurred and pixellated.
Battery life is quoted at around 540 minutes talk time and 400 hours on standby.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield