Sony Ericsson's new W595 is a slider handset with a 3.2-megapixel camera, and it replaces the popular W580i from last year. With upgraded specs, can this year's model do justice to last year's? It's on sale now SIM-free for around £225, or is free on a contract.
Little of significance has changed since the W580 -- the devices genuinely look like brothers from the same mothers. The camera has shifted positions, the USB socket has moved, and the overall enclosure has a slightly different shape. But if you're looking for ground-breaking changes, keep walking, 'cos there ain't nothing to see here.
It's still a decent design though, with a fine key layout. Speed texting is easier on some other handsets, but it's nothing a week of practice won't solve. Our biggest, most epic complaint is the lack of a 3.5mm headphone socket. You may remember this criticism from many, many other Walkman phone reviews.
We feel it almost wasn't worth updating this phone unless you were going to add something as game-changing as a place to put headphones without a repugnant plastic adaptor. And reattaching the battery cover gave us several minutes of annoyance thanks to some tiny, easily breakable plastic positioning clips.
A super screen partly compensates for the gargantuan headphone-socket oversight, giving 56mm (2.2 inches) of crisp, bright 240x320-pixel screen real estate. Images look crisp and even small text is comfortably readable.
One big upgrade is the camera, which has jumped from 2 megapixels to an impressive 3.2 megapixels. It still lacks a flash, mind, so you can rule out good-looking photos under strobe or moonlight. If photos are key, consider a Nokia N82.
A 2GB proprietary Sony Memory Stick Micro card comes in the box, and M2 cards of up to 8GB were supported in our tests. Sadly it's inaccessible inside the handset, so you'll have to whip out the battery to get to it.
Accessing media on these cards requires a simple touch of a dedicated Walkman button, thrusting you into a clean media manager interface for browsing multimedia, Flash games and RSS feeds. They're intuitively laid out and fun to browse -- plus, a built-in accelerometer automatically rotates pictures and videos depending on whether you hold the phone horizontally or vertically.
Supported music formats include MP3, AAC, WMA and WAV. Protected WMA files were supported in our tests as long as they were purchased (not subscribed to), but we had trouble playing any Napster To Go downloads.
We also struggled with video. Low resolution MPEG-4 videos are supported but no software comes in the box, Sony Ericsson's own media converter costs additional money, and Windows Media Player wouldn't convert our test videos into any usable format. Safe to say we're not keen to push this handset on video-lovers.
But moving on. If you travel you'll be happy to hear that the quad band W595 will function in all countries you visit. Plus, with a native YouTube application, you can upload any videos you shoot directly to Google's video sharing site, not to mention browse the latest clips. And did we mention how incredibly simple it is to use?
You've also got stereo A2DP Bluetooth, an FM radio, support for fun 3D Java games, integrated stereo speakers (which, kids, are not to be used on a bus when we're around, okay?), and an impressive 3.6Mbps HSDPA connection for fast Web browsing and downloading. We recommend you install the fantastic free Opera Mini browser if you want a genuinely solid Web experience from the W595.
If you've used any Sony Ericssons over the last couple of years, you'll have no problem working this one. It's essentially the same phone in a new case. There are various menu themes, most of which are clear and easy to navigate.
We have no complaints over sound quality, but bear in mind the bundled sound-isolating earphones, while above average, are still pants compared to a decent pair costing as little as £40. The phone sounds much better than the earphones let it, so upgrading is advised.
The W595 delivers good call quality and an altogether solid user experience. It's by no means an advanced phone or -- especially these days -- an innovative one. But if there's one thing Sony Ericsson (and Nokia, for that matter) can do, it's rejigging old designs from the previous year and upping the specifications with each release.
We're still not on board with the Walkman as a replacement for a decent dedicated MP3 player, but to compliment one when it's just not convenient to carry two devices, it's fine. The Creative Zen, Apple iPod or Sony Walkmans all offer better sound quality and richer music and video experiences.
Sony Ericsson rates battery life at 9 hours of talk time and 16 days of standby. With casual use you should be able to go about four or five days between charges, but significantly less if you're using this as your primary music player.
With all this in mind, we're happy to conclude that this is a solid, fun phone -- aside from its lack of a real headphone socket and its poor video functionality. But if you're expecting anything radically new, you might want to wait a little while for Sony Ericsson to start innovating.
Edited by Marian Smith