Sony Ericsson C905 review: Cyber shot, cyber hot

GSMArena team, 29 October 2008.
Pages: 12345678

Unboxing the Sony Ericsson C905

Sony Ericsson C905 ships in a neat and simple box and the package contents are above the average. You get a charger, data cable, a simple non-detachable headset, 2GB M2 card, and extras as a wrist strap and a Sony Ericsson M2 USB adapter.

When you get the box in your hands, you'll be surprised how heavy it is. Well, that's because Sony Ericsson have put 4 user guides (each 80 pages) and 4 camera guides in different languages plus a CD and a SAR information booklet.

While we appreciate their effort to keep users informed, we couldn't help but wonder why the senseless waste of paper on tons of languages that we would never need. We don't want to sound petty, but this is by far the most paper-loaded retail box we've seen since our Canon office printer arrived couple of years ago.

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Sony Ericsson C905 360-degree spin

Sony Ericsson C905 measures 104 x 49 x 18 mm, but in the projecting camera section it's another 1.5 mm thicker. The hefty slider weighs 136 grams, which makes it second only to the INNOV8 with its 140 g.

Design and Construction

Sony Ericsson C905 is almost entirely made of plastic with the padding of the top part of the slider that gets exposed the only metal element. The chrome-colored controls and the sliding lens color nicely contrast with the solid black surface.

All the black bits of the casing have an extra soft rubbery finish for a great grip. The sides of the handset are brushed dark grey panels enclosed in a silver frame.

The flatbed keypad keeps the same solid black styling that makes it quite consistent with the sliding front of the handset. While not exactly explicit high-end, the materials used on the C905 get appreciated for the practical and secure handling and resistance to fingerprints or dirt.

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Made of plastic, but still a hefty piece

A 2.4" scratch-resistant TFT display dominates the front panel. Above it, an ambient light sensor shares a stylish silvery rack with the earpiece. There's no front facing video call camera here - the main camera is used for video calls.

Above the display a pair of shortcut keys encloses the earpiece frame. The manufacturer calls them gaming/photo keys but they have more of an imaging application. The right key starts the image gallery, while the left one is used for opening the latest image. Alternatively, in camera mode they light in blue and are used for toggling Scene and Shoot modes.

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Display and gaming/photo keys

Under the display, an ample D-pad is sided by two columns of controls. Each is topped by a soft key, a bulging Call (left) and End key (right) in the middle.

The bottom knobs are Shortcuts on the left and Clear key on the right. The styling of the navigation pad is quite elegant and the controls are adequately usable never mind their short stroke.

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Control and navigation on the C905

Sadly the D-pad, though quite big, is way too rigid. We expected much better and solid press in such a big piece of hardware. And worst of all, the press feedback of the four directions of the D-pad differs quite a lot.

Update 28 Nov: We got our hands on a final retail C905 unit. The D-pad is much better from the one of our pre-release unit. There are no issues with all the four directions and the tactile feedback is greatly improved.

The confirm key on the other hand is quite responsive and tactile. In camera mode the D-pad gets some extra functionality and imaging-related controls backlight in blue. The direction keys on the D-pad are assigned to focus mode; exposure, flash control and self-timer.

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D-pad in camera and normal mode the regular keypad backlighting

Sliding the phone up reveals the flatbed alphanumeric keyboard with thin silvery ridges between rows for better touch orientation. Tactility is further improved by the slightly bulging rows of keys which - quite unexpectedly - results in tangible terracing. Key presses are marked by a distinct click and typing is quite trouble-free. Even the top row of keys isn't affected by the slider form factor and enjoys plenty of head room.

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Keypad: comfort and tactility

The soft white keypad backlighting is strong and remarkably even. The D-pad backlighting has a bluish tint - an inevitable spillover from the alternative blue illumination in camera mode.

The controls on the sides of the D-pad backlight is soft and even white. Keypad locks automatically upon sliding the phone closed, and that's non-negotiable.

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The keyboard backlighting is great

The left side of Sony Ericsson C905 features nothing but the regular Fast Port and the M2 memory card slot with protective cover. We wish the Fast port was sealed too: would've looked way better.

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The left side of C905: memory card slot and connectivity port

The right side of the handset is the top side in digicam terms. It hosts the elevated volume rocker, which doubles as zoom lever when taking or browsing pictures, and all the camera controls. The two-position shutter key is a small but very tactile knob sunk in a bowl-shaped nest, to which your finger literally sticks. Halfway up the right side there are another couple of camera keys - the dedicated camera mode switch and the Gallery button.

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The right side of C905: small but tactile camera controls

The top part of the phone is completely bare, while the bottom features the loudspeaker grill and lanyard eyelet.

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C905, LG Renoir and Samsung Pixon

Rearside we find the brushed metal metal active lens cover. The lens cover itself is rather neat, however depending on where you rest your finger when sliding it open, you may often smudge your lens by accident.

The C905 rear is extra slick with the stylish bulge of the lens deck a very subtle camera-centric touch. The lens cover does look great on the solid black background of the rear but we fear it may not be as sturdy.

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The rearside of Sony Ericsson C905

The lens cover consists of two parts - when you slide to reveal the camera lens, the lower piece sinks to make room for the sliding bit. The lens cover feels somewhat thin and fragile and the constant rubbing of the two parts may result in excessive wear. There's a tangible wobble in both positions of the sliding lens cover, which we fear will deteriorate with use.

Once the cover is open, the lens and all the entourage get revealed - there's xenon flash, self-portrait mirror, video light and video microphone. The video LED flash is also used as a focus assist beam in darker scenes.

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C905 camera on focus

To release the battery cover you simply need to push down with your thumb. To do so though you have to first slide the handset up and use the alphanumeric keypad as a grip.

Under it hides the Sony Ericsson BST-38 Li-Po battery, which has a capacity of 930 mAh.

Sony Ericsson commit to up to 380h of stand-by time and up to 9h of talk time. Unfortunately we can't comment on the real-life performance of the battery, but you can bet that with some intensive use of GPS and Wi-Fi, a spare battery may as well turn out essential.

So in conclusion, Sony Ericsson C905 handles nicely and the weight of 136 grams isn't a burden. The fingerprint resistance and the secure grip are more than welcome. As much as we appreciate the black and chrome finish and the subtle camera-centric styling, we can't overlook a couple of flaws.

The slider action is somewhat spongy, and goes with an audible squeak, but that's minor stuff compared to the scratching and cracking produced by the top bit of the slider. It's just a minor wobble, which we would've let go in a slider, if it wasn't for the terrible squeaking any time you as much as brush it against your ear. This completely rules out taking calls with the slider down.

Update 28 Nov: The slider action of the retail SE C905 is smooth and responsive and is superior to that of the pre-release C905 we reviewed initially. What's more, now there is no play or squeaking of the top part of the slider when you put the phone against your ear.

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The Sony Ericsson C905 held in hand

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