Sony Ericsson W550 review: Walkman for less

Ivo Mareček, 29 November 2005. Read the original review at MobilMania.cz
Pages: 1234

Is that a digital camera?

Taking picture with Sony Ericsson W550 is an experience similar to the one you have with digital cameras. In order to start the photo application, make sure the phone is closed. The side-part key works as a shutter release button.

Sony Ericsson W550 Sony Ericsson W550
A mobile phone or a digital camera?

The camera lens is not protected, so it is constantly prepared to take pictures. Unfortunately, the W550 model does not feature auto focus. On the other hand, the lack of this option results into the photo process being much faster.

Plenty of effects

The setup options and the effects on capturing the results in W550 are quite diverse, ranging from basic color modifications like night mode, black&white photos, negative, sepia effect or solarizing, up to the creation of more complicated panoramic pictures, framed photos or continuous mode (an option, which allows you to fast make four consecutive photos). The main drawback of the camera is the lack of macro mode. It is a real pity, though, for Sony Ericsson has already showed a successful implementation in the W800 model.

  
Effects

If you happen to not like a certain part of your pictures, you have the option to modify it by using the simple bitmap editor. The latter offers a standard drawing option as well as several state-of-the-art tools for color and composition modifications.

The highest photo resolution in Sony Ericsson W550 is 1280 1024 pixels. The phone also offers other two resolution grades meant to be used when images are sent in emails and MMS: 640 480 and 160 120 pixels. The phone writes EXIF information for each picture. You can set it to insert the data and the time, when the pictures were taken. The phone works with video records in 3GP format with highest resolution of 176 144 pixels. However, the sound of the video records is not possible to deactivate and save this way some memory.


Camera's environment

I was disappointed by the lack of zooming when the highest resolution is on. If you take pictures in 640 480 format, you are given a 2x digital zoom, which even extends to 4x, when the resolution is 160 120. Zooming is available in video records too.

Sample pictures

  
  
Sample pictures (the higher noise levels are caused by the low light conditions)

  
Zoom

 
A picture without... ...and with additional light

A pure Walkman

The fact that all models of the Wxxx series are given the nickname Walkman is not incidental. These devices are meant to serve both as a phone and a music player. This is the main reason why every time you switch on the phone, it asks you, whether you would like to use it for making phone calls or for playing music (it is possible to deactivate this step from the setup options).

The Walkman application is started either from the main menu by selecting the relevant icon, or by pressing the respective button on the left side of the phone. Files are sorted by the details given in the ID3 tags. Yet, entire ID3 tags are not possible to view, which is a certain disadvantage. Additionally, you can sort music files by artist's name or file's name, or save them into playlists. The Walkman application works well with video records too.

  
Just like a real "walkman"

The main control element of the music player is the four-way button. Press the right or the left way to select a music file. Press the button up or down to unfold the complete list of the saved files. To move within a selected file, press and hold the button right or left way. The buttons on the right side of the phone control the volume options or can be used to change the track. The player manages both MP3 and AAC files (the latter format is more compact than MP3).

Sony is good at it

The sound quality of Sony Ericsson W550 is fantastic. There is no doubt that this success is due to the profound experience of Sony Company in developing music devices, and especially MP3 players. The phone generates stereo sound. It even offers an option called Stereo widening, which comes to substitute the three-dimensional sound. To set up the sound according to your will, use the built-in five-band equalizer. Btw, the latter is equipped with a Mega Bass option too.

 
Equalizer is simple, but useful

The crucial disadvantage of the new Sony Ericsson model is the shortage of memory space. Even though a music player should be indispensably equipped with a memory card, Sony Ericsson's engineers have decided to leave it out. Instead, they have given the W550 256 MB of internal memory. No matter how understandable such a decision may seem to some of you, I myself find it rather unreasonable.

The earphones

The new Sony Ericsson is delivered together with a pair of plug-in earphones with rubber extenders. To connect the earphones to the phone, use the reduction, which is also part of the original package. If you do not consider the standard earphones satisfactory enough, use a jack connector to plug in earphones of your choice.

The connector features a microphone and a button for accepting calls. You can therefore use the earphones as a handsfree set. When a call is coming in, the music gets interrupted automatically and a ringing melody starts to play in the earphones. Once you have terminated your conversation, the call mode gets deactivated and the music file continues from the very moment it was interrupted.

Sony Ericsson W550 Sony Ericsson W550
Earphones

The sound performed by the original earphones is brilliant. One has to be an utterly confirmed audiophile not to be satisfied with it. What's more, the rubber extenders reduce significantly the outside noise. In other words, you will be able to enjoy your favorite music, no matter whether you are at a crowdy station or you are sitting comfortably at home.

Yet, be sure to pay attention to what is happening around you when walking with the earphones plugged into your ears. Walking in potentially dangerous places with this type of earphones in your ears is generally not recommended. The trouble is that the rubber extenders leave you completely deaf for the surrounding environment.

Radio with RDS

To make the information picture of the multimedia options of Sony Ericsson W550 complete, let us say a few words about its radio application. As the radio needs an antenna, you need to connect the earphone adapter before you start the radio. In general, the sound quality obtained through the earphones is not bad at all. Nevertheless, keep in mind that you always depend on the signal. If the signal is not strong enough, the reception of the phone will not help, no matter how good it is.


Radio's environment volume options

The radio is equipped with the RDS (Radio Data System) application, broadcasted by the radio stations themselves. RDS provides information about the name of the station, the name of the music peace, the performer's name, details about the broadcasting etc. The phone offers 20 free positions for the user to save their favorite radio stations. The list with stations can then be searched either manually or automatically (according to the quality of the broadcasting signal of each station).

Once you have started the radio and connected the antenna, you can also play your music through the speakers built in the phone, i.e. you do not necessary have to use the earphones.

A call with a Walkman

I have no remarks in respect to the call sound quality of the Sony Ericsson W550. What disappointed me to a certain extent were the ringing melodies. If you set a MP3 file featuring elements of drums or singing as a ringtone (MID and AMR formats are also available), the sound trough the speakers is unpleasantly sharp. On one hand, it is the type of sound that is very easy to hear and you will surely not miss it. If the phone is lying on the table in front of you, however, the ringing makes you shiver with displease.

One of the innovations in Sony Ericsson W550 is the extended phonebook. It now offers 1000 contact entries, instead of the former 500. Each entry can be assigned up to 24 fields. Here are some of them: several phone numbers, email addresses, internet addresses, a picture, a ringing melody, a note etc. If you enter a birth date, the phonebook will ask you, whether you would like the alert to be saved directly into the calendar.

When you search the phone, you only see the default phone numbers. To search details within a single entry, first select the entry and then use the arrows to move right and left inside the phonebook. In case of a call or message received from an unknown number, the phone asks you automatically, whether it should be saved into the phonebook.


Phonebook

Related contacts can be sorted into groups, which then can be sent bulk messages or used as a call filter. Unlike the individual contact entries, however, here you are not allowed to give each group a special ringing melody or a picture.

To search the phonebook, write the initial letters of the last name of the person you look for. The phone displays both the entries saved in the phone and those saved in the SIM card. What is not possible is to view both lists simultaneously.

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