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Sony Ericsson P800 review

Posted on 23-Mar-2003 19:48 | Filed under: Reviews

Geekzone had the opportunity to try a demo unit of the new Sony Ericsson P800, a smartphone combination of mobile (GSM/GPRS) and PDA. Thanks to Sony Ericsson and its marketing team, who was so quick to send one unit to test, after we explained what we wanted to do!

We opened the box and found the P800 (ARM processor, 12MB RAM), a pouch and strap to carry it safely, a very cool looking USB cradle to connect it to a PC, a couple of CDs with software and multimedia demos, a phone keypad, a couple of covers to use with and without the keypad, a 16MB Sony Duo Memory Stick and adapter, plus four styli.

Contents of the box

For a phone, the P800 is medium sized. It's a little bigger than a T39m, and smaller than an iPAQ Pocket PC. It does not feel heavy, and it's comfortable even in the shirt pocket. I wouldnít recommend carrying it in the back pocket of oneís jeans, though! As any electronic device, itís not the robust construction found in heavy duty appliances.

Size comparison: T39m, P800 and H3970

Iíve tested it on a GSM 900 network, Vodafone New Zealand. I also tried the GPRS functions, and itís interesting to note this phone is a Class B device, meaning you can not have voice calls while in a GPRS session, or vice-versa. The switch between these is automatic. As far as I know, thereís no Class A devices available in the market (ones that can handle voice call and GPRS simultaneously).

The phone is a tri-band 900/1800/1900 MHz GSM, and supports HSCSD (2+1) and GPRS (4+1).

The sound during mobile calls is very good and clear. Even though Wellington (New Zealand) is a city surrounded by hills and mountains the phone performed well, including in certain places where the reception is difficult to other phones.

The screen is great, very nice and bright. The display can show 4,096 colors, at 208 x 320 pixels, with good picture outdoors.

The user can choose between a keypad P800 or a keypad-less P800. The flip cover has the standard keys, and a menu key with quick access to PDA options. While using it with the flip cover closed you have only half of the screen available. If you open the flip, the whole screen will be available to use as a PDA. Installing and removing the flip cover is easy enough, but I prefer to have it without Ė it impress everyone to see you dialing from the screen (be carefull with dirty fingers!).

Flip cover removed: virtual keypad

Replacing the keypad

You can also use a jog dial, in the left side of the unit. You can browse the applications and click it (corresponding to the OK button). For instance, if youíre using the Phone Book application, you can scroll until you find someoneís name, click the jog dial one to open the record, and scroll to the phone number you want to dial. Then click again to dial it. The jog dial operation is very useful for single hand operation, while youíre writing something down, or busy. Now the interesting part begins. Press the wheel up (not rolling but clicking it towards the face of the mobile phone) and a menu will open. Then just scroll through the options and click to select). If you want to go back one step then press the wheel down (again not rolling but this time clicking it towards the back of the mobile phone).

You can enter information using a virtual keyboard that will appear on the bottom of the screen, or use JOT, which is supplied by CIC, a company specializing in handwriting recognition. You can write anywhere on the screen, using the stylus. About the stylus, itís a little small, and I rather use the top of my BIC pen, or the special (and very good) Cross PDA pen.

The phone has a built in digital camera, in the back. You can start the image application and youíll see on screen the image to capture. You can copy it and paste into the phone book application. This picture will be shown if this person calls you, or if you dial the number out. The camera quality is quite acceptable, and you can choose between different quality and sizes.

Picture taken with the P800 camera (below)

I had no problem to setup my e-mail account thru the control panel, and retrieving e-mails over GPRS was very quick (mind you Iíve it configured to download headers only, and the body of the message was downloaded on demand). The e-mail application supports POP3 and IMAP servers.

The phone comes with a Document Viewer. Although it's not comparable to Repligo, it does a great job. It supports Acrobat Reader, Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, plus a few add-ons available on the software CD.

This unit had a copy of Opera Browser installed, and I was very surprised with the clarity and easy to read. The fonts used are very nice. The rendering was good, but of course you donít want to go to complex pages Ė although worked fine for me. The problem is not the page itself, but the load time. This will depend on your GPRS network, of course.

I had the software installed on a PC running Windows 2000 Pro, and connected via USB. The configuration screens are simple enough to go through, with my synchronization being set to an Exchange account. It worked fine, with no surprises here. Easy as other PDA, I would say as easy as a Palm device.

The phone has Infrared and Bluetooth connections available. Iíve paired it with my Pocket PC, and used the phone as a dial up modem to the GPRS network. Note that I wouldnít have this in real life, the phone providing everything a PDA user would need to access the Internet, but to test the connectivity this is the best thing to do. And it performed very well. Pairing was easy, much better than the T39m and T68i experience. Of course the GUI helps a lot. The following profiles are available: Generic Access, Serial Port, Generic Object Exchange, Dialup Networking, Object Push and Headset.

The phone supports different types of media, including pictures, video and sound. You can play MP3 files and mpeg4 compatible movies, of course depending on how much memory you have available. The video player also supports RTSP for streaming media, as defined by the 3GPP. The phone runs on Symbian OS 7.0 with UIQ interface platform, and you can add more software to it, like other PDA. You can have a browse in our Handango associate link for a list of software available for this Smartphone.

Once the software is installed, you can also browse the phone memory and card memory using file explorer, like another drive. To transfer files to the phone, simply copy and paste or drag and drop. SyncML, for remote server sync over HTTP is available as well.

Overall it is a very impressive mobile phone, with features for the casual, power and even business users. The GPRS connection allows for an always available internet experience, with little delays while connecting to the data channels. I'm sure this phone is a great tool.

I've visited a Sony Style shop in Wellington, and was told this model will be available in New Zealand around 15th of April, and the suggested retail price is around NZ$ 1799 (US$ 980), which is similar to buying a Bluetooth enabled phone (T68i) and a Bluetooth enabled PDA (iPAQ H5450) currently in the market.