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Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Sony Ericsson W595
Live photos of the Sony Ericsson W595
To be frank the W595's market position hasn't seen any major market shift compared with its predecessor, the W580. Sony Ericsson are still banking on 15 to 24 year olds with an emphasis on socializing rather than design. With that said, the inclusion of a stereo-headset carrying two 3.5 mm audio sockets onboard starts making some sense. I'm most positive you have seen many young people in buses or trains who share one pair of earphones - naturally this also means they are cutting their audio experience in half, but this method still lets two people enjoy the same music track at one time, so the social function is definitely there. While many of the W595's users don't actually carry a spare pair of headphones around, the presence of an extra earphone jack is a welcome feature, make no mistake about that, especially for couples.
Over the past year, the segment of music-minded slider phones has changed dramatically - whereas last summer the Sony Ericsson W580 didn't really face any challenges on the market, its update has to cope with the Nokia 5610 XpressMusic, targeted at the same audience. Going for the latter is its early release, meaning that it has already gone though a number of price cuts and now looks like better value for money. We will put them up against each other later in this review, but for now let us put in a note that the presence of the Nokia 5610 makes the W595's future seem somewhat less optimistic. Being forced to stay in a quite narrow niche, Sony Ericsson haven't equipped their offering with any significant competitive advantage that would help it outshine the 5610 XpressMusic. As a result the success of either handset will result in the failure of the other and the fact that Nokia were first to market will be a decisive factor. At the same time, the W595 has got a couple of trumps up its sleeve that can well win over younger consumers.
Originally the W595 will come only in Active Blue, but expect to see more trims down the line, such as Cosmopolitan White, Jungle Grey, Ruby Black and Lava Black.
All images above are the property of semcblog.com
Sony Ericsson has got another edition of the W595 in stock, though - the W595s designed exclusively for Orange that comes clad in an original color scheme, with different loudspeaker grills and front fascia. On top of that, both the menu style and preinstalled themes are very much in tune with Orange's trademark colors. Other than these skin-deep touches, the W595s is no different from the original phone.
All images above are the property of semcblog.com
At 100x47x14.1 mm and 104 grams, the W595 doesn't break the mould, but it does feel heavy enough in the hand (and therefore more robust), unlike other plasticky phones around, especially the Sony Ericsson W580. On the other hand, the W595 turns out to be a mixed bag when it comes to its materials mix - while the back and sides come with pleasant soft-touch accents, the front fascia is clad into cheap matte plastic. The chromed frame goes very well with the phone's design, but we are still not certain how long they will last (although so far it has taken all everyday abuse pretty well). As far as build quality goes, the W595 feels very solid and sturdy in the hand, however we have got some complaints about its spring loaded mechanism - it could've been a tad lighter and the opening sound isn't all that ear-pleasing.
The interface port is mounted on the left-hand spine, whereas on the right there is the volume rocker along with the dedicated Walkman button. Perched on either side of the W595 are two loudspeakers; the camera lens can be found on the back, also there is the lanyard eyelet, which comes a little bit as a surprise. Sitting on top of the display is the ambient light sensor.
The microphone location is another thing of note about the W595's setup - with the top half slid open, it is to the right of the keypad, plus there is a hole on the right-hand side that allows the handset to catch your voice even when it's closed. But I strongly recommend that you zip it open before starting a conversion, especially while in the street, otherwise there is no guarantee that people on the other end will make out every word of yours.
The W595’s display shows up to 262 K colors in the 240x320 pixel resolution (2.2 inch diagonal, 34x46 mm, TFT). This screen size allows it to accommodate up to 9 text and 3 service lines in most modes (plus it’s possible to cram in more information when browsing Web or handling Email). All in all, the display is superb – we were very pleased by its color reproduction and how it performed under sunlight.
One of our major gripes with the W580 was its keypad that suffered from the cracking keys issue. The W595's numberpad appears to be exactly the same, though, with thin plasticky pads tacked onto the phone's base. So, only time will tell whether they will bring as much trouble as the W580 did back in the day - it's impossible to say how durable the W595's keypad will be, given how little feedback has come in so far.
Overall, the buttons here are on the stiff side, thus speed texting turns out to be not a particularly gratifying experience. All keys are lit in white, although for some reason the left-hand row seems brighter than the rest of the keypad.
The navigation cluster isn't finger-friendly either, plus the cheap type of plastic used for these keys spoils the whole impression of the W595. All in all, it's our greatest niggle with this phone's design - while they have managed to cut the costs a little by applying lower-quality plastic, this downgrade has severely affected the W595's aesthetics.
The back cover firmly sits in its slot, and is easy to open. Removing it reveals a 950 mAh Li-Çùä battery. As the maker claims, the W595 provides up to 385 hours of standby and up to 9 hours of talk time. In Moscow its battery life averaged two and a half days with moderate use (up to 1 hour of calls, about 30 minutes of games and 20 minutes of browsing). Should you get heavier on its features, you will need to recharge it every day. And if you cut your total call time to the very minimum, the battery will stay up and running for about 3-4 days, but that’s an improbable scenario. Within the European networks the device will last for at least twice as long in all modes thanks to better coverage. Continuous music playback drains the battery in 24 hours.
On USB-connection you are forced to pick connection type - specifically whether you will be accessing data stored on the memory card to just keep managing the phone or activate Print mode. For the first mode we mentioned above the handset goes off and you gain access to the contents of both the memory card and the phone internal memory. Despite the maker claiming it to be USB 2.0, data transfer speed doesn't exceed 500 Kb/s. If you just want your W595 to turn into a modem, then pick the second option, when you will have a chance to play around with various USB settings for going online.
The handset comes with EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0, the menu enables you to turn on enhanced power saving mode. There is also A2DP support, which allows employing wireless headsets with the W595.
The W595 comes with around 40 Mb of user-manageable memory, the sales package also includes a 2 Gb memory card (M2), and you can always hot swap them. The top size of your memory card that this phone can handle is 16 Gb.
The W595 puts up typical numbers for the company’s latest generation of devices. There are no limits on JAR-file size, HEAP size – from 512 Kb to 1.5 Mb.
The device is equipped with a 3.2 MP camera with a CMOS matrix without auto-focus. The device supports three possible resolutions - 2048x1536, 1632x1224, 1280x960, 640x480 pixels. Two types of data compression (Normal and Fine) are at your disposal. The majority of the sample photos were taken with "Fine" quality settings. The camera’s interface is laid out vertically; since there is no side-mounted shutter key, its functions are performed by "OK" button.
The camera settings look the following way:
The screen serves as a viewfinder while in the shooting mode. The picture moves very smoothly, details don’t get dropped out. The numberpad helps in switching between various functions and shooting parameters quickly that significantly speeds up..
There is also a new feature in the camera menu, specifically “Add Position”, in other words, it allows tagging your images with current coordinates. But since the W595 doesn't come with a bundled GPS receiver, this ability is more of a gimmick here.
Video may be recorded in two resolutions (320x240, 176x144). File format is 3GP. Clip duration may be limited (up to 10 seconds) or unlimited. The quality of the clips is pretty average, definitely nothing to write home about.
We won’t review the W595’s standard feature pack, for it comprises all the goodies of the A200, which were given an in-depth close-up in a dedicated article. So here we will be focusing on the phone’s unique abilities and features.
The phone comes preinstalled with 5 different themes, all of them involving flash animation to some extent, and changing the looks of the main menu to a circle-shaped appearance or the matrix we are all used to. There are several menu layouts available: grid, rotating, single icon.
The W595 comes preinstalled with four games: Extreme Air Snowboard, Racer Fever GT, QuadraPop and Guitar Rock Tour (curiously it will come bundled with the Nokia 5800 on certain markets).
There are three applications found in the W595: Comeks Strips that allows stitching comic books with the photos taken by the inbuilt camera; World Clock 3D for checking current time in different cities across the globe; and finally Rock Bobblehead that features a rock singer that can be controlled by shaking and tilting the W595 back and forth. While it may no seem like much, just like any other application on the W595 this Rock Bobblehead can be set as the wallpaper and voila it becomes a welcome addition to the handset's apparel.
Walk Mate – all this application can do is count all steps you've made during this day/week/month
Converter - no explanation required
Music Mate 5 will teach you how to play some music instruments.
Music Quiz – the point of this game is to guess which song from your music library is playing.
YouTube – this application allows accessing the mobile version of YouTube.com. While the quality of clips leaves much to be desired in most cases, the W595 lets you view videos in full-screen mode and even check out ratings. But the greatest hurdle here is that for want of WiFi such video sessions will definitely set you back a good amount, unless you are a lucky owner of an unlimited data plan
The W595 makes use of the market’s most sophisticated offering as far as players go these days – Walkman 3.0. It also comes with a handful of improvements, like new visualization of the equalizers. Other than that, it is the same as the Sony Ericsson W910.
SensMe. In addition to its default Walkman 3rd edition pack of goods, the Sony Ericsson W595 comes with the SensMe functionalit - it's sort of a playlist that maps all tracks stored in your music library and offers ready-to-use playlists with coherent tunes in them. You won't even need to tag all songs, as Sony Ericsson have created a very handy application for these purposes - Sony Media Manager. The advantage of this Media Manager is that it handles memory cards as well, so you don’t necessarily need a handset connected to your PC - it took us around 20 minutes to go through 1.5 Gb of music with it. On top of all that it can convert photos and video for your handset.
Is this SensMe functionality of any interest? Definitely yes. The tunes map features dots (your music tracks) showing you how particulars song stand on either of the two scales. You can move between these dots and every time you hover over one, it gets highlighted and played back right away. However the scope covers a couple of a dots (or songs, if you like), so by hitting the OK button you will compose a playlist with some mood- and speed-keyed tracks on it. You will really appreciate the phone’s ability to pick the most fitting music when you have another mood swing
However you need to understand that this feature will really make the difference only if you have various music genres stored on your phone and you do have loads of tunes as well. And in case you feel content with a couple of albums from one artist you are very likely to find them residing in one of the quarters of the tunes map, so SensMe won’t make sense any more (pun intended). Also, we highly recommend 2 Gb memory cards and larger – playlists get really different only when your music library is this big
Shake Control. There is nothing tricky to it – you tap and hold the Walkman key and then start shaking the phone – shake it forward to get it to jump to the next track, and pulling it backward will move you to the previous song. And if you just shake it around, the W595 will take it as a command to turn the shuffle mode on. Every time you shake it, you get some tactile feedback as well – the handset vibrates a little.
Apparently, this feature won’t be widely adopted. It is more likely to be appreciated by those who are into running or other sport-related activities, so they would love to jump between tracks on the fly. The youth might only want to play around with it for some time, but that’s it. The remote is a much better option for controlling music playback.
As for a couple of new filters available with the W595, we can’t overlook the Time Machine that picks only tracks released in some particular year. More conventional categories include the lists of the most and the least popular songs.
Walkman 3.0 rundown. Among the fundamental improvements over Walkman 2.0, the new version sports DRM 2.0 support as well as support for MTP, which makes for direct music transfers with Windows Media Player.
The handset locates all files and folders on the memory card, and then gets the necessary data from ID3-tags. Supported audio formats - MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV, WMA and m4a. There are no limitations on bit rates; you can also upload files with VBR. The company recommends using files with 192 Kbit/s bit rate.
In the music library, all saved tracks are classified by the following parameters:
Unlike the second version of the player, while all transitions are still horizontal, they are designed in a slightly different matter, which won’t bother you, however. You won’t need to hit the buttons too many times to move about the player.
You can take advantage of the Repeat (one/all) playback mode. The W595 also features a progressive fast forward with customizable steps. You can’t pick any visualization (an animation instead of the album art) here.
If your phone is playing music and you are at the standby screen, bringing up the Media section will lead you straight to the music player interface.
The audio quality hasn't changed a bit compared to otherWalkman-branded offerings. With the seven-brand equalizer you can create some settings of your own; the option of stereo widening is also available with the W595. The equalizer settings become available only once you have plugged in a pair of earphones.
The phone also boasts TrackID and an RDS-enabled FM-radio module (learn more about them in our dedicated write-up on A200).
Audio quality. The phone ships with an excellent pair of headphones, one of Sony Ericsson’s finest offerings to date. On top of that the W595 turned out to be a pretty loud phone, personally I found that it fared better than other handsets from this maker, specifically the W910i.
All owners of the W580 are definitely curious to find out how their phone fares against the brand new W595 - without further ado, here it goes:
Having skimmed through this table, you'll certainly notice that while revolving at the same price point, the W595 packs in even more punch, although its memory card slot has been moved inside the phone, so you won't be able to swap memory cards on the go, plus there are no side-mounted LEDs. Other than that, the Sony Ericsson W595 is way ahead of its predecessor. On the downside, though, Sony Ericsson have ditched the sport functions, to compensate for that they have thrown WalkMate inside the W595 that can only count steps. But at the same time, the W595 offers many other extra apps that weren't available with the W580, so you won't come out disappointed.
Since these two phones won't be able to stay out of each other's way, we are bound to give their rivalry some airtime. When the Sony Ericsson W595 arrived, the Nokia 5610 had already experienced a number of price cuts, thus offering a more balanced price/quality ratio. But is it all that clear-cut? Let's find out.
While they aren't exactly the same spec-wise, it'd be a mistake to say that they are vastly different. Neither of these phones has got a 3.5 mm audio jack on the casing, so you'll have to turn to the bundled headset in both cases. Other than that, it keeps going back and forth - the Nokia 5610 offers superior audio experience, whereas the W595's music player is more feature-packed, its loudspeakers are fairly decent too, and it's got an inbuilt motion sensor that rotates the screen depending on how you hold the phone.
We can't say that the 5610's VGA video recording and a pretty good flash module make all the difference, for the imaging department is not what most of its target audience is after. Speaking of the sales packages, there aren't too many glaring differences between the two, although the W595's 2 Gb memory card that comes boxed with it is definitely a welcome improvement over the 5610's measly 1 Gb unit.
At the end of the day, there is no simple answer which phone you should go for. Going for the Sony Ericsson W595 are its rich feature pack and an adequate price tag, plus it's a new model. On top of that it will also benefit from the fact that the Nokia 5610 has only six months or so left, as Nokia are planning to roll out a replacement only in Q2 2009. That's why the 5610 will remain in one niche with the W580 and W595, but exactly in the middle - being better than the former on many fronts, but falling short of the W595 in the long run.
The Sony Ericsson W595 is no revelation in terms of its calling features: it's got a solid vibro alert and perhaps overly loud ring tones, which still make it a decent performer on this front. The reception quality was nothing to complain about, and the microphone quality was more than satisfactory.
The W595 retails for around 320-340 Euro and looks like a good way to go, considering all the new features you get for only a marginally heftier price tag, compared to that of the W580. All in all, it's a phone all younger consumers should definitely keep an eye on, especially since there aren't many other similarly positioned and geared slider-type phones around. It's actually one of those few well-balanced offerings in Sony Ericsson's current portfolio that doesn't disappoint in the sense of price/quality ratio.
Published 10 November 2008
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