Review: Sony Ericsson W580i
Now that most advanced clamshell phones - the RAZR2 or Samsung Ultra, for example - have grown to the size of a QWERTY smartphone, the slider now reigns supreme as the smallest, most usable form factor. The W580 is quite small, and rather slim. It fits nicely in your hand or in your pocket.
The bottom of the phone curves back, as though someone stuck the last centimeter of the phone in a pipe bender and turned it on by accident. The curve allows the phone to hook over your hand but isn't big enough to make the phone difficult to slip into a pocket. I barely even noticed it until slipping the W580 into a tiny change pocket. I had to flip the phone upside down to get it in comfortably.
Its narrow width and curved edges make the phone easy to grab, and comfortable to wrap your hands around. The shape is ideal whether the phone is open or closed. Unfortunately the finish of the phone detracts from this with a cheap plasticky feel. We commend Sony Ericsson for breaking away from the shiny plastic (or metal, or glass) rut that manufacturers seem to have fallen into. However the matte finish on the W580i is not tactically pleasant like Moto or HTC's soft-touch. Instead it is just fingerprint resistant.
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The plastic may feel cheap to the touch, and it may make the W580i feel lighter than expected, but it does not impact how solid this phone feels. There's no discernible creaking or noises when you squeeze the phone, slide it open or use the keypad.
The slide is smooth as glass, but the phone takes a great deal of effort to open. It is spring-assisted, however the spring wants to keep the phone closed, so you fight against it until the phone is fully open. Closing the phone is obviously quite a snap.
It sits in your hand just as well open as closed. The weight is in the bottom half, resting over you hand. As the weight holds the open phone in your palm, the narrow profile allows you to grip it securely as you use the keyboard or navigate around.
The narrow profile of the W580i means the keypad has is squeezed into a smaller space. The keys are divided into rows of thin keys set edge to edge, which makes the keys look wider than they actually are. To make the small keys easier to press, each key is raised in the middle, allowing you to hit the intended key more accurately. Although the small size of the keypad had me second guessing where my thumb was, i never had problems hitting the right key.
When you press one key down, you can feel the adjacent keys move with it just a little. The keys are each distinct little chicklets, but the keypad itself is flexible enough that pressing one affects the whole assembly.
The navigation keys are on the phone's face, allowing you to use the phone while closed. The soft keys, as well as the back and clear keys (they are separate on Sony Ericssons) are translucent and are lit by colored LEDS that also light the sides of the phone. The colors can be set by theme, by event, or even by caller ID.
The large D-pad in the center is surrounded by a plastic ring that comes up flush to the top of the D-pad. This makes using the D-pad uncomfortable since you press against the plastic ring in order to press a direction. The center of the D-pad is deeply indented, making it easy to press to select accurately.
Our on-the-scene report from the CTIA trade show in Orlando. New phones from Sony Ericsson, Kyocera, Helio, HTC, Alcatel, Motorola and Pantech.
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