The W610i is another candy-bar-style mobile phone in the Walkman series from Sony Ericsson. The W610i is available in two colour schemes: fancy Plush Orange (black and orange) and the more traditional Satin Black (black and white). Our review sample was the plush orange model and we immediately fell in love with the stylish design. It has a black front with the small shaped silver buttons, an orange back and rounded edges -- a true eye catcher.
The W610i measures 102mm by 46mm by 14mm and weighs 85 grams, almost identical dimensions to its predecessor, the W660i. The display is a 176 x 220-pixel TFT screen with 262K colours, and can easily be read in sunlight.
Sony Ericsson has gotten rid of the joystick for navigating through the main functions. Instead, the W610i employs a stylish silver navigation key. To its left and right are two similarly designed semi-circles for shortcuts. Four buttons above the numerical keypad allow you to program your own shortcuts for common functions such as contacts, alarm clock, inbox and calendar. The left circle activates the Walkman music player and the right circle brings you to the Activity Menu, which gives you direct access to missed calls, new messages, appointments, running applications and the Web browser. Down the side of the phone are shortcuts for playlists and to activate the camera.
Unfortunately the biggest drawback of the W610i is its numerical keys, which are very tiny dash-like silver buttons. Granted, they look good, but that's about it. The buttons are too close to each other and make typing text messages quickly quite difficult -- at least if you have adult-sized thumbs. Somehow you get used to using the keypad with the side of your thumbs, but we still had to use the delete button often.
The feature list is similar to other Walkman phones, although the W610i comes with an updated music player that has a more user-friendly interface. The phone also supports two Sony Ericsson services called Play Now and TrackID. You have to pay if you want to download ringtones via PlayNow, but the service TrackID is free (aside from data transfer costs). TrackID is a really cool feature which allows you to record a 10-second sample of whatever music is playing through the microphone and sends it to the CD database Gracenote for identification.
Additionally in the software bundle is the CD-ripping software Disc2Phone to easily transfer your favourite songs from a music CD to the phone.
One advantage of the W610i is the built-in FM radio, although it only works with the provided headset, which works as an antenna.
Another thing we really liked about the W610i is that you can use the music player in the background, while writing text messages, playing with the various functions, using the camera or reading RSS feeds.
The music player is definitely the main selling point when buying the W610i, although the bundled 512MB Memory Stick and 64MB of onboard memory only allows up to around 120 songs. It does, however, support memory sticks up to 2GB.
Similar to its predecessors in the Walkman range, the W610i has a 2-megapixel camera that captures photos and videos. Cameras certainly aren't Sony's biggest forte, but the built-in one here comes with a wide range of functions, scene selections, manual settings, an autofocus and a self-timer. It also has a bright LED for taking night shots or using the phone as a torch. The pictures we took during the day came out well; night shots, however, became quite blurry, especially when viewed on a PC.
Transferring photos or songs to a PC is fairly easy. The phone supports Bluetooth and infrared, but there is also a USB cable for faster transfers. It's similar to synchronising an iPod -- you connect your phone to the PC and it automatically updates your RSS feeds, contacts and tasks. Via drag-and-drop you can transfer songs and photos. The USB cable also recharges your phone.
Flight mode is also supported, so you can listen to music on a plane or in hospitals, without worrying about disturbing sensitive equipment with questionably hazardous radio waves.
Unfortunately the W610i isn't a 3G phone. However it is a quad-band GSM phone with support for EDGE.
The sound quality and the MegaBass feature lived up to the high standard we expected from Sony. The ear plugs on the headphones manage to block out ambient noise and contain the sound, meaning you won't force fellow passengers on the train to listen to your music.
The W610i's battery life is excellent. We found we only had to recharge the phone every fifth day with moderate calls, text messaging and music playback.