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Sony Ericsson W380i: Hands-on with an MP3 treat

We've fingered, prodded, poked and squeezed Sony Ericsson's new Walkman phone, and we're taken with it enough to compare it to our favourite orangey snack

We've had Sony Ericsson's W380i strapped to our heads for a fair while now and while it's not quite as inveigling as Jaffa Cakes, it's given us numerous happy times. In fact, as clamshells go, it's pretty snazzy. True, it's a music phone that needs an adaptor just to use normal headphones, but it's still more enjoyable to use than, say, something like the Nokia N95, which sports a native 3.5mm adaptor.

Aesthetics aside, the W380i is easy to use as an MP3 player -- its dedicated Walkman button gives quick access to your music library, and side-loading MP3s to the removable Memory Stick is a piece of cake with either the bundled software or simple drag 'n' drop through Windows. There's no support for DRMed content from the likes of Napster or iTunes of course, but MP3s from 7digital or eMusic work just fine.

Sound quality-wise, we weren't hugely impressed. Although Sony's MP3 Walkman range continually blows us away with stellar sound quality, the W380i does not. If you really don't have a critical ear, you won't take issue, as it's perfectly acceptable for a phone.

But if you've invested in decent earphones and fancy this model as your sole MP3 player, we'd advise otherwise -- music sounds a little flat, with less detail and power than we'd expect from even a dedicated player. There's a tiny element of distortion too, perhaps a result of the proprietary headphone adaptor. Also, only MP3 is supported -- there's no love for WMA or even gapless playback.

Music aside, the phone's a treat. Large-ish flat buttons are easy to depress, meaning texting can be done in seconds. It's a responsive piece of kit, with no notable lag between button presses and system response -- something that would otherwise anger the hell out of you as you try and blast out a quick email on the train.

You've also got a simple Web browser, RSS feed reader, 3D games support (for those of you who are so addicted to The Sims 2 you need to play it on a bus), a low-end 1-megapixel camera, FM radio and a the usual office-esque apps you'd expect.

Make sure your seat belts are fastened, as our full review will be with you very soon. For those of you already desperate for one, you can snag a W380i on a monthly contract or pay as you go from a number of networks right about now, funk soul brothers (and sisters). -Nate Lanxon

Update: Read our full Sony Ericsson W380i review