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Sony Ericsson Summer 2005

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Jun 12, 2005, 7:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Report from the launch of the new Sony Ericsson W600 and Z520. Hands-on report and photos from the launch event in New York City.

Intro 

Today in New York and other cities around the world, Sony Ericsson introduced a handful of new phones. Most of the basic info was leaked a few weeks ago, although the rumor mills didn't quite nail the specs.

The new additions to the lineup include the company's second Walkman phone, and first quad-band phone, both for the U.S. market. Those hoping for the company's next smartphone or a 3G phone for the U.S. were disappointed, but overall, the new arrivals seem to be well-rounded models with extra features that will appeal to many.

 

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The two new models for the U.S. are the W600 (left) and Z520 (right).

The W600 is a swivel-style model, and Sony Ericsson's first Walkman model for the U.S. In an unusual twist, those of us in the States get the better model, and Europe gets a trimmed-down version, in the form of the S600. (Although the lucky Europeans do have the snazzy W800.)

The Z520 is a solid update to the Z500 currently released with Cingular. The big news here is the addition of both quad-band GSM roaming and Bluetooth.

W600 1 

The W600 is Sony Ericsson's second phone to carry Sony's Walkman brand, and the special music player software that goes with it.

 

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The first phone to carry the honor was the W800, but that will be marketed only in Europe and Asia; the W600 is therefore the first Walkman phone for the U.S., complete with the GSM 850 band.

 

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The W600 has a swivel-style design, similar to the company's S710 model, although considerably smaller.

 

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The smaller size is achieved by stepping down to a smaller display and removing the memory card slot. The lack of expandable memory is unfortunate, especially on a music-oriented phone, but that is mostly offset by the inclusion of 256 MB of internal memory, enough for about 80-120 songs.

The W600 is designed to work with whatever music you already have. The phone can play both MP3 and AAC format music files, and it includes a USB cable for transferring songs from your PC.

 

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The music player allows you to bring up songs by track or by artist, and also supports dynamic creation of playlists right on the phone. A small dedicated music key on the side of the display can launch the most-recently-used music application - music player or FM radio - and will also pause playing music.

Sony Ericsson claims you can listen to about about 15 hours of music on one battery charge, although of course this number goes down as you make calls or light up the display. A dedicated key lock switch on the side helps prevent accidental key presses that might activate the display and drain battery life.

Unlike some other recently-announced music phones, the W600 does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack built into the phone itself. But you're not out of luck if you want a high-quality listening experience. First, the W600 includes a set of high-quality stereo earbuds that double as a headset for making calls. Second, if you unplug the earbuds from the microphone - viola! - a 3.5mm headset jack is right in the cord so you can use your favorite stereo headphones.

 

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Other music features of the W600 include a stereo FM radio and classic Sony sound enhancers like MegaBass and a "stereo wide" mode for enhanced stereo effect. The enhanced sound helps with the built-in stereo speakers, although, like nearly all such built-in speakers, they're not good enough to be very useful if you care even the teeniest bit about sound quality.

Although the W600 does feature Bluetooth, it does not support stereo audio over Bluetooth. That's a tad disappointing, although not altogether surprising, since the feature is still very rare and this not a top-end model.

The European version of this phone - the S600 - isn't blessed with Walkman goodness, and thus only has 64 MB of memory - enough for a good number of megapixel photos, but not nearly enough for a full day of music.

W600 2 

Although they are clearly playing up the music angle, the W600 is no one-trick pony. Sony Ericsson has managed to pack in an impressive array of serious features, while keeping the price to something they promise will be very reasonable. This is not a high-end phone, but you certainly wouldn't guess that from scanning the feature list.

Chief among the non-music features is the 1.3 megapixel camera. It's of the CMOS variety, although CMOS sensors for camera phones are rapidly improving in quality these days, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. The camera is assisted by an LED flash (although Sony Ericsson is careful to call it a "photo light" instead of a flash, to avoid getting anyone's expectations too high about the range an LED can actually provide.) Video capture is also supported, although it's fairly limited, with only a 10 fps frame rate (which means motion will be somewhat choppy) and a maximum clip length of under a minute.

 

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Just like the S710 and most recent Sony Ericsson camera phones, the W600 has a "dual-face" design with a great landscape camera mode with a capture button right on top so you can hold it just like a standalone digital camera.

Next on the feature list is the Java gaming. This is actually one of the most versatile gaming phones I've seen in recent times. Not only does it have a decent display, 3D graphics, and multiplayer capability via Bluetooth, but it also has an interesting variety of options for orientation and button layout.

 

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Of course you can use it in the standard way, with the keypad either open or closed. But you can also use it in landscape (horizontal) mode, in which case you can take advantage of the two extra keys next to the speaker for a full wide-screen, two-handed gaming experience.

Of course, landscape mode isn't ideal for some types of games. So to accommodate games for the traditional vertical orientation and still provide a full two-handed mode, the W600 is designed to let you swing the keypad to a 90-degree position, as shown in the last photo above. And since the W600, well... swings both ways, lefties aren't left out.

Unfortunately, the hinge doesn't "click" at the 90-degree position. It's not really a problem since the hinge isn't loose - it will stay where you put it - it just seems awkward.

That was my only complaint about the build of the phone - otherwise it felt solid, with good ergonomics. The number keys are much easier use than they look; the keys are rounded so that you can easily feel each individual key. The music key is very narrow, but I didn't have any trouble using it. All of the other keys are excellent.

Other features of the phone include Bluetooth, EDGE high-speed data, and a NetFront browser that support browsing of full HTML web sites, as well as WAP sites, etc. The phone also supports serveral exotic content formats, including Flash, SVG, and RSS feeds.

 

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Like the Z520, the W600 features user-changeable "Style-Up" covers. In fact, it may be the first swivel-style phone in the world (or at least the Western hemisphere) to have this feature. Speaking of the Z520....

Z520 

The other major new phone revealed today is the Z520, the successor to the Z500.

 

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The Z520 is very similar to the Z500, simply with upgraded features in most areas. The big upgrades are the addition of Bluetooth and an extra GSM band to make it quad-band for the best possible GSM roaming coverage. The displays are also upgraded, with a higher-quality TFT display on the inside, and a slightly larger color display on the outside. The memory has also been increased, from 6 MB to 16.

There are a few minor downgrades, though. The Z520 lacks EDGE, although it does have class 10 GPRS (the fastest type). And while the Z500 had a completely internal antenna, the Z520 has a loop-style antenna. This protrudes from the top, although it doesn't ruin the clean lines like a stub antenna would, and it's useful for attaching a strap or clip. It's possible the loop antenna was necessary for the quad-band capability.

Other features are pretty much the same, including a VGA camera with video capture, streaming video playback, Java, SyncML, and changeable faceplates.

 

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Like the Z500, the Z520 is designed to be a very mainstream, affordable clamshell phone. While Bluetooth and quad-band may sound higher-end, it's things like the relatively low-resolution main display (128 x 160), VGA camera, (instead of megapixel,) and lack of memory card slot that help keep the cost down. The unique mix of features should make the Z520 a good addition to carriers' lineups.

Like the W600, the Z520 feels solid and well-built, and the ergonomics are excellent. To me, the Z520 feels better in-hand than the Z500.

One neat new feature is the "light effects", which are powered by eight blue LEDs that surround the keypad and can flash in different pre-set patterns. The Siemens CF62 has a similar feature.

 

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The effects are visible with the phone closed, and specific patterns can be assigned to specific contacts, to use for a kind of light-show caller-ID. Check out the short video clips below to see the effects in action:

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Accessories 

Both the W600 and Z520 use Sony Ericsson's new accessory connector, which was first introduced on the K750 and W800. The new connector is smaller, and supports the new, faster USB 2.0 standard.

 

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One of the upcoming accessories for the new connector is a xenon flash attachment, shown above. Xenon is the same kind of flash you'll find in a standalone camera. In other words it's a "real" flash, with much greater range than the LED flashes found in most camera phones. Unlike Sony Ericsson's previous flash attachment which had its own capture button, (and was LED-based,) the new one is fully automatic.

Other new accessories for the new connector include a stereo line-out cable for connecting the W800 or W600 to your home stereo gear, and a charging stand with a pass-through connector for "docking" your phone with your PC or home stereo, using the appropriate cable.

Also introduced was Sony Ericsson's first Bluetooth headset to support the new Bluetooth 2.0 specification - the HBH-610.

 

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Benefits of Bluetooth version 2.0 include greater security, improved handling of radio interference, and better sound quality. In addition, the HBH-610 boosts sound quality even further by using DSP (digital signal processing) to more effectively cancel echoes, reduce noise, and dynamically adjust volume. The unit can also be customized with changeable color covers. Interestingly, this newest headset uses Sony Ericsson's old-style charger connector. The new connector found on the new phones doesn't seem to be modular like the old type.

And finally, the company introduced a new, high-end Bluetooth car kit. The HCB-700 features a five-way joystick control with integrated jog dial, plus a separate LCD display unit. One very thoughtful feature of the display is a backlight that can be adjusted to any color in the rainbow. It can automatically change colors to indicate which phone it is paired with at the moment, or it can be fine-tuned to match the color of your car's dashboard lights, to blend right in with your car's interior.

On a more practical note, it also features voice digit dialing for phones that don't have that feature (most Sony Ericssons don't). Plus it can read practically everything from your phone's memory, so that simply by pairing your phone with the car kit, your call history, contacts, and even voice-dialing tags are all available via the car kit interface.

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Comments

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Subject Author Date
I WANT THEM!!!! jwbass1985 Jun 13, 2005, 7:38 PM
wasnt happy with the z500 bball4t Jun 14, 2005, 7:14 PM
z500 issues/ z520 or Nokia 6101 maverick22 Jun 21, 2005, 1:50 PM
Actual Size Specifications RUFF1415 Jun 14, 2005, 1:29 PM
Rich...size? RUFF1415 Jun 14, 2005, 10:55 AM
 
 
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