The C510 is not exactly the martini-sipping, lady-loving 007 of the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot range, but it's a solid 006. While it's not particularly flashy, you could take it to the ambassador's party without being embarrassed, and it's got your back when you need it, with a good range of features.
It's Sony Ericsson's first phone with face-detection technology, but the C510 isn't about innovation. The C510 is a good all-round camera phone that aims to bring Cyber-shot picture quality to the masses.
SIM-free it'll cost you about £180, but you should be able to pick it up for free on a contract soon.
The C510 is principally a camera phone. But it's a basic one, and the features reflect that. It's got a 3.2-megapixel camera, which peeps out elegantly from behind a slider with a solid mechanism that won't open in your pocket.
The camera's face-recognition software detected our faces just fine, despite our beards and glasses. The smile-detection mode, which doesn't take a picture until the subject smiles, grabbed our grins perfectly too.
But there's no xenon flash, just an LED photo light, so the camera struggles in low light. The shutter speed is decent, but not mind-blowing: we found a lag of about 2 seconds between pressing the shutter and taking the picture. But, because of the delay and lack of a proper flash, we needed good light and a steady hand to get decent results.
In bright light, the C510 takes photos with good colour reproduction, but they're slightly noisy and soft. In low light, even with the LED, we think the noise levels are too high.
The camera interface is easy to use. The menu and shortcut keys make switching settings trouble-free. It's also simple to switch from video to still photos with the navigation key.
Easy to use
In fact, we were impressed with the C510's user interface throughout. Features were clearly labelled and we were never left guessing as to what a selection would do. Messages were in plain English and perfectly comprehensible, even for non-geeks. For example, when we tried to send an empty text message, the C510 warned us and gave the following options: 'continue writing', 'don't send' and 'send anyway'.
Unfortunately, the user interface of the PC-syncing software isn't anyway near as easy to use. The phone synchronises easily and quickly, but the media manager is horrendous, as is the case with most manufacturers' applications. It supports drag and drop, but its greyish interface is vague and it's unclear what media-file types it supports. Our attempt to load WAV files failed, but we received no message to let us know why. The C510 supports transferring multimedia files with other applications, however.
The C510 isn't a smart phone by any stretch of the imagination, but Sony Ericsson has packed in a good selection of features. Although it doesn't have GPS, it comes with Google Maps installed, and uses nearby mobile-phone masts to triangulate your position. We found it to be accurate enough -- within a couple of streets, at least in central London.
The C510 also uses this location for the camera's geotagging feature, so you can put your photos on Flickr and view them on a map of where they were taken, for example.
Another appealing feature is the accelerometer. You can rotate your photos, videos and Web pages between portrait and landscape mode by turning the phone.
Surfing with the C510's browser is painless, and the Web-feeds feature is slick. It made it easy for us to grab the CNET UK RSS feed and podcast from the Web site, and the ticker feature displayed new items gracefully on the homepage as they came in. Feeds can be set to update automatically or manually, to avoid data charges.
With its good podcast capability and its FM radio, the C510 is a handy entertainment device, and its media player pumps out good sound quality. It also has YouTube built in -- although clips look rough. We compared standard-definition clips on the handset to those on a PC, and the C510 exhibited a terrible case of the jaggies. Nevertheless, along with some good-looking 3D games with motion sensors, these features mean we'd be happy to be stuck on a train with the C510.