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Sony Ericsson Z550i review: Sony Ericsson Z550i

This phone does the basics well and adds a sprinkling of extra features, but we did have some issues relating to textual dysfunction.

Ella Morton
Ella was an Associate Editor at CNET Australia.
Ella Morton
3 min read

Looking at Sony Ericsson's current clamshell family (including the youth-focused, party-happy W300i and the achingly cool Z610i), we'd label the Z550i the chic but not showy cousin.


Sony Ericsson Z550i

The Good

Solid construction and chic design. Good balance of business and fun.

The Bad

Top buttons sometimes stopped responding when phone was opened quickly. Phone not optimised for the Web and music features it offers.

The Bottom Line

The Z550i is a chic but sensible lower-end phone that does the basics well and adds a sprinkling of extras. We'd rate it higher if not for a significant text-related performance problem.

The design is more businesslike than the Walkman branded or mirror-surfaced models, with a brushed metal casing and black accents contributing to the overall sedate look. With dimensions of 45 x 20 x 88mm and a weight of 93 grams, the phone is a compact little number that will sit stealthily in a pocket.

Opening up the clamshell reveals an equally sedate keypad, with comfortably spaced plastic buttons and a round metal navigation button crowning the number keys. Send and End keys, also sleek in brushed metal, flank this circular part.

The 176 x 220-pixel main display looked to be doing justice to all of its 262,000 colours, and passed the sunlight visibility test.

The outer LCD is unusual for its shape and placement -- instead of being a mini version of the internal display, the Z550i's screen is vertically oriented, and at 128 x 36 pixels, more of a strip. Missed call notifications and new message alerts scroll across the screen in purple, along with the name of the person contacting you (or number if they don't occupy a space in your phonebook).

Sony Ericsson has taken a bet each way with the Z550i, offering a sprinkling of business features along with some basic lifestyle and entertainment offerings. For the corporate-minded, push e-mail gets a look-in, as does a sync-able calendar and HTML browser. When you're sick of all the work stuff, you can take snapshots with the 1.3-megapixel camera, play games and listen to music via the media player. The problem is that the phone isn't really optimised for the features it offers -- for example, you'd need to purchase a memory card to be able to store more than a handful of songs, and the screen is too small for anything more than a cursory glance at the Web.

Reflected in the relatively low price is the lack of supplied accessories -- as mentioned before, there may be a memory expansion slot, but you won't find a Memory Stick Micro in the box. There's also no data cable for transferring files to a PC via USB. The dearth of data cable won't be a drama for Bluetooth-enabled users, but those fond of transferring great wads of data between phone and PC -- or storing MP3s on their phone -- won't be happy with the 25MB of onboard memory.

Other features include an FM radio, media player, and Sony Ericsson's diverting DJ range of software, which allows you to edit images, videos and audio files.

Sony Ericsson has come up with some winning phones of late, and overall, the Z550i is no exception. It shares the same menu layout, navigation buttons and solid construction that garnered a positive response in earlier models.

We do have one significant performance issue to report, though. If the phone was whipped open as soon as a message was received, the top section of the keypad became unresponsive, and we had to reboot. If you enjoy having frenzied text sessions (we won't ask any questions), this is something to be wary of. You'll need to take a deep breath, calm down, and wait a moment before opening the clamshell to read the message waiting inside.

If you're after a sleek yet unassuming phone that will handle the basics well, the Z550i should make you happy. It's not a phone you'd want to use to organise your life -- the M600i is more geared towards this -- and it wouldn't be practical to make heavy use of its business and multimedia features, but if your main focus is being contactable, the Z550i's worth a look.

As a final note, our Quick Draw McGraw text message problem did cause much annoyance, and we've scored the phone accordingly, but we'd wager that this is a firmware issue and may not affect the whole batch. Just be aware that you might have to restrain yourself a bit when it comes to textual banter.