Sony Ericsson Elm review: Green roots

GSMArena team, 9 April 2010.
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One of the smallest retail packages ever

The retail box of the Elm wants you to make no mistake about the phone’s eco-friendly stand. It’s really small and made of recycled paper. This tiny package contains the energy-efficient charger and a rather basic pair of headphones. The Elm uses a FastPort for connectivity, and that’s unfortunate to begin with. To make things worse, there’s no data cable supplied.

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Sony Ericsson Elm retail package

Sony Ericsson Elm 360-degree spin

The Sony Ericsson Elm is a compact candybar measuring 110 x 45 x 14 mm. Candybar is not to be taken literally though. The Elm is slightly curved at the rear to give it that unmistakable silhouette, and a very comfortable and secure hand hold. The handset is small enough to fit in any pocket or purse, and the mere 90 grams of weight make it remarkably friendly.

Lightweight it is, but the Elm feels quite nice to hold thanks to its quality materials. Plus, most of the weight is concentrated at the bottom for a secure grip and comfortable typing.

Design and construction

The Elm is part of the Sony Ericsson GreenHeart lineup, which is all about recycled plastics, reduction of hazardous substances and eco-friendly packaging. The concept is clear enough but - more importantly - the green-conscious Elm doesn't compromise on looks – or features.

The phone blends fingerprint-proof matt plastic and aluminum in an asymmetric pattern, which goes well with the unusual curved shape. The Sony Ericsson Elm will be available in two colors: Metal Black and Pearly Rose.

The irregular shape (called human curvature) might be a self-conscious accent but it works more than well. The weight balance is perfect: the numpad sticks to your thumb and the risk of the phone tipping over backwards is near zero.

The Elm has the extra girth right where it matters too - around the shutter key. So, all in all, the unusual shape works quite in its favor - the Elm looks unusual enough to get noticed but ergonomics are well thought out too.

The Sony Ericsson Elm uses a 2.2" 256K-color TFT display of QVGA resolution. What we miss here is the superb clarity and contrast of the C901 Cyber-Shot. The Elm's screen however is close and sunlight legibility and contrast aren't disappointing. They just don't seem enough to match the C901 quality.

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Sony Ericsson Elm features a standard QVGA display

Below the display is the regular Sony Ericsson navigation deck - designers have only experimented with the buttons' shape and layout. With the Elm we're possibly looking at one of the most tactile and comfortable designs. The solid press is very welcome too.

The D-pad is near perfect: very solid to press in all four directions and a large and distinct confirm button. The metallic frame of the D-pad nicely matches the handset's aluminum rear.

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Control and navigation on the Elm

The alphanumeric keypad is made of the same rubber-like plastic used for the controls and the D-pad. The numpad buttons are big enough and nicely convex for great touch orientation.

Key presses involve a distinct click and typing is quick and easy. The soft white keypad backlighting is strong and even. The numpad is slightly arched inward to make it extra easy on the thumb and the great weight distribution of the body is another boost to comfortable handling and typing.

The left side of Sony Ericsson Elm features nothing but the regular Fast Port - unfortunately. Traditionally, this proprietary connectivity port doesn't have any protective cover to conceal the connectors and keep dust away.

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Fast Port again, tradition over convergence

The right side of the handset hosts the nicely shaped volume rocker - which doubles as a zoom lever when taking or browsing pictures. The shutter key is further down - at the thickest part of the handset's body. The little round knob is very responsive with distinct half and full press.

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The right side of Elm: the camera key and volume rocker

The rear side of the handset features the 5 megapixel camera lens, the LED flash and the loudspeaker. The battery cover is made of aluminum and has the Sony Ericsson logo. There is no protection on the camera lens, except a slight bulge around it.

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The rear side with the camera lens, LED flash and loudspeaker grill • removing the battery

Removing the battery cover (using the tiny cleft on top) unveils the standard Sony Ericsson BST-43 Li-Po battery with a capacity of 1000 mAh.

The manufacturer claims the battery should provide up to 430 hours of standby and up to 9.5 hours of talk time in a GSM-only network.

In reality, battery life ranged over three to six days on a single charge, depending mainly on multimedia consumption.

Also under the battery cover is the microSD memory card slot. It is hot-swappable, you just have to remove the back cover to access it. There is no eject mechanism so you'd better have some strong nails to pull the card out.

The Sony Ericsson Elm is a compact candybar and the unusual curved shape works well in its favor. The handset certainly knows to make a good first impression but we're sure users will appreciate the ergonomics too. The controls are very comfortable and the numpad is near perfect. Curved inwards, with wide convex keys and soft rubbery finish, it certainly makes typing a pleasure.

The compact and lightweight Elm doesn’t have an expensive feel or exceptionally stylish finish. The materials are of high quality though – it’s a reliable and well built phone.

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Sony Ericsson Elm in hand: looks nice and feels great

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