“You'll be better off with a low-end phone and a separate, high-end point-and-shoot camera...”
- 8.1 MP camera; speedy Web access and full email access; external access and controls for camera and music; stereo speakers
- Expensive; disappointing photos; anachronistic Ericsson connecting jack; below-average talk time
The evolution of the cell-phone camera takes yet another leap forward with the Sony Ericsson W995a. Along with a Walkman-branded digital music player, the W995a includes an 8.1 MP camera, the highest resolution camera yet available on a phone. But the W995a is an unlocked phone, which means its $600 price tag goes unsubsidized by a carrier. From a price point-of-view, would you be better off buying a subsidized $99 phone, and standalone point-and-shoot high-megapixel digital camera?
Features and Design
Along with its 8.1 MP camera, Sony has imbued the W995a slider with a Walkman-brand digital music player and 3G Web browsing/Internet connectivity. The Walkman also is a video player and, thanks to WiFi connectivity, you can surf videos on YouTube. With 3G Web connectivity you get not only a WAP 2.0 Web browser, full email, texting and instant messaging.
You also get A-GPS service, along with Google maps, and Sony’s video, photo and music, among a variety of entertainment apps, and our test phone included seven video games.
Sliding up the 2.6-inch LCD reveals a tidy dialpad, with pill-sized capsule keys flush against the surface, making the W995a tough to touch dial. Around the perimeter are dedicated controls for music playing and picture taking, and at the top and bottom are stereo speakers.
Ports & Connectors
The W995A includes a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, a Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot on the side behind the battery cover (but not the battery), and Ericsson’s ancient two-pronged power connector. While not necessarily a drawback, the continued inclusion of the kludgy, decades-old jack is just an embarrassment in age of microUSB jacks.
Can a phone serve as a workable PMP?
On the phone’s front is a “media” softkey that opens the multimedia feature menu. You can control the music player, which lives up to the Walkman name, via the side-mounted controls, or the front navigation array, which lights up as music controls when the player is operating.
Unfortunately, the W995a’s 2.6-inch screen is a bit smaller than the more popular PMP smartphones, and videos can be a bit pixelated. Although we could access YouTube videos using 3G, the videos wouldn’t play unless we switched to Wi-Fi mode. An accelerometer automatically oriented videos to full screen.
Thanks to its flat perimeter and twin stereo speakers, the W995a can stand on its long side, so you can watch and listen to a video handsfree. A hinged loop at the top acts as a kickstand, so the phone can leaned at an angle.
For voice, the W995a provides plenty of volume and crisp sound, with no cell-phone warble on the AT&T network in New York City.
The stereo speakers at either end of the phone also pump out a lot of volume for music, but the sound is thinner and tinnier than we expected.
Sony has concentrated more on the W995’s multimedia controls than phone features. Instead of a soft menu key to access contacts, you have to drill through the menu to get to them. The volume toggle that separates the music controls and camera shutter is both flush with the surface, making the up and down side not only indistinguishable by touch, but way too small as well, even when it doubles as a zoom control for the camera.
When we finally got the phone properly provisioned for Web service (an inherent problem with unlocked phones), WAP 2.0 Web pages loaded super-swift, most in just three seconds.
While touted as the star of the W995a show, the 8.1MP camera is cell-cam equivalent of an Eddie Murphy movie: great expectations dashed.
While photos are certainly large, they aren’t as sharp as we expected, and blow up highly pixilated. Colors also seem flat – even in pictures taken in direct sunlight. The 16x digital zoom produces highly pixelated results. Most of these deficiencies could have been avoided had Sony included a real lens, rather than the usual pinhole plastic.
Aiding the camera are a plethora of digital camera-like settings including an LED flash, face detection, auto-stitch panorama, and geo-tagging.
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Sony’s four-hour 3G talk time rating was right on target in our unscientific tests, but most phones today provide a lot more chat time.
In a time when $200 gets you a touch-screen smartphone with at least a 3-inch screen, 16GB of memory, a full HTML Web browser and a QWERTY keyboard, $600 for a slider phone with a pedantic 2.6-inch screen just seems unreasonable, even if its 8.1-megapixel camera produced spectacular results – which it doesn’t. There are plenty of sub-$100 subsidized phones that perform most of the W995a’s tricks, and unique options are not worth another $500. If carrying around a good camera is that important, you’d be better off with a low-end phone and a separate, high-end point-and-shoot camera.
- 8.1 MP camera
- Speedy Web access and full email access
- External access and controls for camera and music
- Stereo speakers
- Disappointing photos
- Anachronistic Ericsson connecting jack
- Below-average talk time
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