In the picture above it may not seem like there is much different about the W705. Slider phones are a dime-a-dozen and it has the same nav-key layout as just about every Sony Ericsson phone for the last two years. But trust us when we say, there is something different about the W705. It's almost hard to describe, these differences are very subtle, but the overall effect is very pleasing.
The W705 is an interesting mix of the brushed-metal silver finish we've seen time and again, and a soft-touch plastic covering the back of the phone and keypad. The 2.4-inch screen on this phone isn't going to rival the HTC Touch HD in size, but on this tiny little phone it seems positively huge. The cute menu displays the screen's bright colours and deep blacks with funky flare.
But it's not all strawberries and cream. Firstly, the slider mechanism feels loose and wobbles very slightly when it's moved. This may not result in any lasting damage to the phone, but it belies the phone's premium quality aesthetic. Also, we don't like the W705's tiny, flat keypad. Previous Walkmans, the W880 and W890, featured ridiculously tiny keys but at least each was well defined. We criticised the tiny buttons when we reviewed those models, but they were much easier to use compared to the just-barely-raised buttons on the W705.
We should probably add that the W705's lack of a 3.5mm headphone socket on the phone and use of M2 memory rather than microSD also annoy us, but this is becoming such a tired, one-way conversation between Sony Ericsson and the buying public. The bundled headphones have a 3.5mm jack and the phone comes with an adapter so you can use your favourite headphones, just be prepared to have a pocket full of loose cable. Sony Ericsson has generously included a 4GB memory card in the box to get you started.
Musically speaking, the W705 is well featured and performs its dual-role of phone and music playing with aplomb. Hardcore musos will argue that a phone could never replace their 120GB iPod, and nor may it ever, but the 4GB card included with the phone is capable of holding between 1,500 and 3,000 songs, depending on compression, and this will be plenty for most people. Sony Ericsson's music menu is still our second favourite after Apple's, it's attractive and easy to navigate. A Walkman button on the top of the handset makes access to your music even easier, jumping you into the media menu from any screen.
The W705 employs Sony Ericsson's "clear audio experience", though what this actually means has been difficult to decipher. We know there is dedicated audio hardware, different to that featured in other Walkman phones, and we know that the phone features a pretty comprehensive equaliser, but then so many phones do these days. You'll also find Sony Ericsson's SenseMe playlist creating software. This makes your job of choosing music as easy as deciphering your mood and translating it to somewhere on a scale of happy to sad, fast to slow. To be honest, SenseMe didn't seem to be on our brainwave, some of the songs it suggested as sad were hilarious. Anyone who knows the Sahara Hot Night's Alright Alright knows it's hardly the kind of maudlin music you'd play after a break-up.
As a phone, the W705 sports HSDPA data speeds for downloading as well as HSUPA for faster uploads (2Mbps uplink), which is excellent if you want to upload your pics to Facebook, or upload geotagged photos to Flickr. With the growing interest in social networking from handsets, expect to see fast upload become the norm across mid-range and top-end handsets in 2009.
Its connectivity is extended with Wi-Fi and DLNA networking giving the option to share your media with a PC or a DLNA-connected television. If you're jumping online, the W705 comes with a nifty YouTube video player. This is a dedicated client with excellent navigation through the dozens of search results you're likely to come across.
Lace up your dancing shoes kids, the W705 makes a cracking good music player. Sony Ericsson might be a bit cagey about the exact audio hardware under the hood, but the results speak for themselves. The media menu makes it easy to jump into your music, and the audio fidelity is great. Even the bundled headphones do a decent job of delivering a thumping sound, close to our favourite Sennheisers, if not quite as loud.
It seems strange then that audio quality during calls was a little sub-par. The W705 is as easy to make a call with as any Sony Ericsson phone before it, but the voices we heard during calls were muffled and difficult to hear and the people we spoke with complained of distortion when we spoke. Text messaging was fine, though the characters on-screen appear a moment after you input them, lagging slightly behind, and this can be off-putting. Sony Ericsson rates the battery life for the W705 to be four hours for talk-time on a 3G network. With varying uses of the media player we averaged at about three days between charges.
Something that drove us crazy was the extraordinarily long time it took to transfer media to the phone using the bundled PC software. For our tests, we transferred 3GB of supported music files to the memory card and this took one and a half hours. In comparison, transferring 4GB of music to the new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic took 40 minutes. Sony Ericsson announced its new Media Go software at MWC this year, so here's hoping it streamlines this process and results in us not waiting as long to use our phone again.
Our disappointments with the W705 were few and cosmetic, with the exception of muffled call quality which poses an issue with core functionality. This is Sony Ericsson's sexiest Walkman since the W890 and with the introduction of the company's Entertainment Unlimited brand (the merging of Walkman and Cyber-shot feature sets), this could be one of its last Walkmans to boot. There's not too much difference between this and Sony Ericsson phones from last year, it's hardly the kind of phone that will have you begging your network carrier for an upgrade, but people looking for a phone that plays their music won't be disappointed.