Ever since we saw the excellent W890i from Sony Ericsson, we've been itching to find out what was next. The W380i might not be anywhere near as high-end as the W890i, but it's the first model we've seen since our March review of SE's metallic beaut.
Available from a number of networks on either a pay as you go or a pay monthly contract, the W380i is a stylish clamshell. But is it worth clamshelling out your money?
Solidity and style are two key factors of the W380i's chassis, with a good overall feel and no noticeable 'creak factor'. A small one-line LCD display is set into the front outer casing and remains invisible most of the time. It lights up with text when you receive a text or call to let you know who's after your attention. Dedicated touch-sensitive Walkman control buttons sit just below this display.
There's no apparent fragility to the design, making it suitable for most usage scenarios; it'd probably survive small falls to the ground without too much moaning. A 176x220-pixel display is characteristic of this budget handset but decent pixel density and good brightness make it pleasant to use, and browsing the Web with Opera Mini (after we installed it) was perfectly acceptable.
Acceptable too is the button layout -- it's intuitive and easy to use, and the keypad features well-spaced out, flat buttons, making speed texting easily possible after just minutes of getting used to it. Sadly, there's no 3.5mm headphone socket, instantly making this a frustrating music phone.
Getting music on the W380i, though, is a piece of cake -- either drag and drop MP3s through Windows, or use the fairly simple bundled media manager for all media types. The software also pulls podcasts to the handset with relative ease. It should be noted that only MP3s are compatible -- forget using WMA files, protected or otherwise, so Napster downloads are useless.
You can also sync with Windows Media Player, excluding any WMP-created playlists. Browsing music on the phone is pretty typical of an MP3 player and it can be accessed with a dedicated Walkman button. Music is sorted by artist and album, and you can create multiple playlists of tracks easily on the phone.
The single 1.3-megapixel camera is synonymous with budget handsets and comes without a flash, but does feature a 4x digital zoom. There's also stereo A2DP Bluetooth, an FM radio, Java games, EDGE and 3G, but no HSDPA, unfortunately.
Sony Ericsson's built-in Web browser is poor, so we advise installing Opera Mini for free. The app makes browsing the full Internet a treat, and it's extremely quick on the W380i. All of a sudden it's no longer a budget Web experience.