We thought mixing gold and silver was as tacky as the Argos jewellery counter, but the Sony Ericsson W705 Walkman makes it look good. With a brushed-metal front and a stylish, squarish design, it's just bling enough... without looking like it's trying too hard.
As a member of the Walkman range, the W705 packs in the music features, but its lack of a standard 3.5mm headphone socket is a serious disappointment. You can pick it up for around £270 or free from some networks.
Walk with me, rock
Sony Ericsson tried hard to make the W705's audio quality as good as possible, and we think it succeeded. We compared the sound of a lossless WAV file on the W705 to a dedicated MP3 player -- the excellent-sounding SanDisk Sansa Fuze -- using some beautiful Audio Technica headphones, and found the difference in sound quality was almost imperceptible.
Even the included in-ear headphones weren't bad at all, although as in-ear jobbies they could never stand up against full-sized cans.
The handset includes an FM radio -- the most underrated feature in showbusiness -- with TrackID, which can identify a song based on a few-second clip. We found TrackID worked perfectly for the songs we tried from pop radio, and failed gracefully with things it didn't recognise, such as speech.
It also has some wacky music features such as SensMe, which displays your music on a graph of happy/sad and fast/slow. It was accurate enough with our music, but we're not sure if we would take advantage of it.
You can store a good chunk of your music library on the W705's 4GB memory stick, or upgrade to up to 8GB if you need more. It also has 120MB of onboard memory.
The biggest drawback of the W705 is the lack of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The included adaptor is fine for hands-free use with the included (very short) headphones, but it's a metre long -- so when we used our own headphones, we could have skipped like a boxer/small girl (delete as appropriate) with the cable. It also takes up the phone's USB port, which was inconvenient, since we had to unplug the headphones every time we wanted to transfer music. But it's got stereo Bluetooth, so it could stream to a set of wireless headphones.
As befits a Walkman, the W705 has dedicated music player buttons up front. It also has fun shake controls: wobble the handset to shuffle the playlist, snap it left and right to skip tracks, and tilt it up and down to control the volume. The problem is you have to hold down the tiny Walkman button on the top to activate the controls. The button is about 1mm square and it's flush with the phone, so even our tiny claws could barely cling to it. We struggled to hold it down while shaking the phone, which is a must for one-handed operation and undermined the whole idea of shake control.
Missing in action
Other than that disaster, the user interface is good, although strangely it lacks one or two things that we loved in other recent Sony Ericsson phones, such as the C510. For example, the W705 supports podcasts and RSS feeds, but our sample was missing the menu option for the application that manages them. We could still get the feeds through other paths, but it lost the W705 some ease-of-use points.
We wish we could say the same for Sony Ericsson's PC-syncing software. The phone synchronises easily and quickly, but the media manager is horrendous, which is bad for a music phone. It supports drag and drop, but it's not clear which media files are supported. It also reorganises files by album metadata, which we found annoying since we have our music organised in our own special anal-retentive way, thanks very much.
But we found dragging and dropping music files worked fine in the PC-syncing software, and the C510 supports transferring multimedia files with other applications, so take advantage of that instead.
The W705 is more than just a music phone. It also has a 3.2-megapixel camera, although it only has an LED photo light and no flash, so it's best for snapshots in good light. We liked the camera's clear, accurate colour reproduction, but even leaning it on a solid surface in a well-lit room we found it hard to take pictures that weren't blurry. On the other hand, we were impressed by the shutter speed: there was almost no delay between pressing the shutter and taking the picture.
Our photos looked good on the 61mm (2.4-inch), 320x240-pixel screen, and the phone also has accelerometer, which means you can rotate your photos between portrait and landscape by just turning the phone.
The screen would have been great for viewing stuff on the built-in YouTube and BBC iPlayer apps, but neither worked on the handset we tested on the CNET Wi-Fi network. YouTube loaded fine, but when we played videos, they were blank. iPlayer was the same -- we could browse the site, but couldn't watch videos -- but things may work better on another wireless network.
The W705 has great connectivity, with Wi-Fi and speedy 3G (HSUPA), which is handy for downloading tracks and podcasts quickly and avoiding data charges while on your home wireless network. It doesn't have GPS, but the built-in Google Maps works by using nearby phone masts to triangulate your position. It found our location in central London within a few streets, so it will tell you if you're in the right neighbourhood, but won't help you find the exact address.
All these powerhouse features are bound to be a drain, but we were impressed with the battery life. It's quoted at 10 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby time using GSM, or 4 hours of talk time and 350 hours on standby on 3G. We found that even playing music and surfing with 3G and Wi-Fi, the battery still showed as over half full after a day.
The W705 has great audio quality and looks, nailing that difficult classy bling look. But despite a wealth of useful features, such as Wi-Fi, it suffers from a handful of clangers: the Walkman button is tiny and hard to press, making shake control almost impossible; there's no standard 3.5mm headphone jack; and the music transfer software is awful.
It all makes us wonder if we shouldn't wait for the W995, launching in the second quarter of this year, which will be Sony Ericsson's first phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack and its new Media Go software. But with Son Eric's habit of leaving us hanging for new phones, we won't hold our breath.
Edited by Nick Hide