Looks-wise the W910i is much more sedate than previous Walkman phones, which tended to be a very bright, almost radioactive orange. The colour of our review model is what Sony Ericsson refers to as Noble Black. Ascribing nobility to a handset is a bit much, but it does look elegant without being boring. For those who like a bit of colour, it's also available in "hearty" red.
The profile is slim and streamlined at 12.5 millimetres. Given the tapered design of the bottom, the charging and headphone port has been moved from the base of the handset to the left side. This is fine for juicing up your W910i or loading it with PC data, but plug in the headset and the phone is over a centimetre wider in your pocket.
The non-number keys are unusually small, especially in light of the ample space surrounding them. A circular silver five-way navigation key is flanked on either side by teeny send and end buttons that are crammed right up against the soft keys. They look small enough to cause problems, but fared surprisingly well during testing. Even more miniscule are the power and Walkman keys hiding on the top of the handset -- blink and you'd miss them.
The W910i uses Sony's Memory Stick micro, which slots into a socket on the right. Included is a nifty USB adaptor so you can remove the card and plug it into a USB key rather than connecting your phone to a PC for data transfer.
The standout features on the phone are -- of course -- music-related. There's a new menu style for browsing your multimedia, which will look familiar if you own a PS3 or PSP. A2DP allows you to stream songs wirelessly to a pair of funky earcans. In Walkman mode you can move the phone around to switch tracks -- tilting it to the right will go to the next track and tilting to the left will take you back. If you want to shuffle your tracks you can activate the randomise function by shaking the handset like a Polaroid picture.
As well as organising your tunes by artist, title and album, the W910i sorts them visually by mood, representing each track as a dot on a Cartesian plane not seen since the days of plotting parabolas in year nine maths. The x and y axes have been relabelled sad-happy and slow-fast, and you can navigate among the dots, selecting tracks to include in an emotion-driven playlist. This makes it easy to create song sets for every occasion, from post break-up anguish to getting ready for a night on the town.
Just like the iPhone, or the iPod Touch, the 240 x 320-pixel screen operates in vertical or horizontal mode, and can switch automatically according to how the phone is held.
Turn the phone over and you'll find a 2-megapixel camera at the top left corner -- a lower spec than we would have guessed, even for a music-focused phone.
We don't want to be killjoys here, but while the Walkman's shake function is fun for a few minutes it's ultimately nothing more than a gimmick. It's also hardly a time- or energy-saver given it requires you to hold down a button while simultaneously tilting or shaking. A simple press of the relevant navigation key requires less effort and will attract fewer odd looks in public.
One thing to be aware of is that this thing does not play nice with Windows Media Player. If you want to be able to use all the nifty music features, you'll need to install Sony Ericsson's media manager software and register it online. This is hardly a brand-specific issue -- we've had similar experiences with Samsung phones lately -- but you'll feel a bit put out if you have your tracks, videos and playlists meticulously organised in Windows Media Player.
In general we were impressed with the W910i, which brings Sony Ericsson's commendable Walkman UI to a finger-friendly form factor. The tilting and shaking isn't anything to e-mail home about, but there is much to like beyond the quirky bits.