Sony Ericsson C901 review: Cyber-shot reloaded

GSMArena team, 6 October 2009.
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Unboxing: few things in a small box

We realize that the C901 is not a high-end phone but it’s not among the cheapest in its class either, so we were quite let down by the small box that had almost nothing besides the phone. Prepare yourself for one of our shortest unboxings yet.

Along with the handset you get a wall charger, user guide and a rather basic pair of earphones. OK, the Sony Ericsson C901 isn’t about music but given its nice audio quality (as tested) and the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack, it would’ve been nice of Sony Ericsson to throw in at least an adapter to make up for the supplied earphones.

The rest of the box contains… nothing else. That’s all. No memory card, no data cable, no software CD. Nada!

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You won’t need much time to unbox the C901

The eco-friendly variant Sony Ericsson C901 GreenHeart comes with an electronic in-phone manual to replace the standard paper version, saving over 90 percent of paper used in the retail packaging. And its box is even smaller as well to minimize the environmental impact of transporting the final product.

Along with the Sony Ericsson C901 GreenHeart you also get a greener MH300 headset, which is made from 100 percent recycled plastic.

Sony Ericsson C901 360-degree spin

The Sony Ericsson C901 is a compact candybar measuring only 105 x 45 x 13 mm. That makes is small enough to fit in any shirt pocket or purse. Despite the small size and weight (just 107 grams), due to its high quality materials it feels quite robust to hold.

Design and construction

The Sony Ericsson C901 is entirely made of matt plastic which look and feel good. It may not look as sleek as piano black but at least it’s not a fingerprint magnet. The lens cover looks way better but that’s something we’ll discuss in a little while.

While the standard edition C901 is available in three color versions (Noble Black, Sincere Silver and Precious Peach), the C901 GreenHeart is only sold in Ocean White color (the paint is waterborne). But don’t go rushing to your local store just yet – the C901 availability is a tricky question as it’s only sold in selected markets.

The Sony Ericsson C901 employs a 2.2" 256K-color TFT display of QVGA resolution. What we couldn’t miss noticing is the superb clarity and contrast. Sunlight legibility is excellent, even under direct sunlight. We have no problems with either reading or typing using both dark and light themes.

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Sony Ericsson C901 features a remarkable display

And above the screen we find the centrally positioned earpiece and the ambient light sensor on its left.

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Earpiece and ambient light sensor above the display

Underneath are the standard 6 control keys (two soft keys, Activity Menu and Clear buttons and Call/End keys) and the D-pad in-between. Their design and positioning are pretty standard for Sony Ericsson, but since the handset itself is quite small there isn’t enough space for all of them.

The designers have tried to solve that problem by playing with their form. Well, we’re not sure whether it was the idea or the implementation that was to blame but the result is the same – cramped, uncomfortable keys (especially the two soft keys). Luckily, the D-pad is very comfy so browsing the menu is zippy enough.

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Control and navigation on the C901

In camera mode, the D-pad gets some extra functionality and imaging-related controls are backlit in blue. The Up and Down keys on the D-pad are assigned to control brightness. Some of the alphanumeric buttons are involved as well, namely the 3, 6, 9 and the # keys. These are used to change the shooting and scene mode, as well as turn the self-timer and the inbuilt xenon flash on and off.

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Keypad in camera and normal mode • the regular keypad backlighting

The alphanumeric keypad is made of the same rubber-like plastic used for the controls and the D-pad. They are big enough and mistyping is not an issue. Key presses involve a distinct click and typing is quick and easy.

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Keypad: comfort and tactility

The soft white keypad backlighting is strong and even. The D-pad backlighting has a bluish tint - an almost inevitable spillover from the alternative blue illumination in camera mode. The controls on the sides of the D-pad are lit in a soft, even white.

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The keyboard backlighting is great

The left side of Sony Ericsson C901 features nothing but the lanyard eyelet and the regular Fast Port - unfortunately, but quite expectedly, it doesn't have any protective cover to conceal the connectors and keep dust away.

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The left side of C901: lanyard eyelet and connectivity port

The right side of the handset is the top side in digicam terms. It hosts the slightly elevated volume rocker - which doubles as a zoom lever when taking or browsing pictures - and all the camera controls. The two-step shutter key is also there and is positioned very comfortably.

Halfway up the right side there are another couple of camera controls which are laid out similar to the volume rocker key. They are the dedicated camera mode switch and the Gallery button.

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The right side of C901: thin but tactile camera controls and volume rocker

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