Sony Ericsson W8 review: Robot dance

GSMArena team, 27 June 2011.
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Retail package is good

The retail package is where the Walkman branding begins to make a difference in the shape of a nice 3.5mm headphone jack with music controls. Other than that, it's the usual charger and USB cable, and a complimentary 2GB MicroSD card. The latter may not be enough for a music-centric device but it's a start.

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The Sony Ericsson W8 retail box

There is a handful of quick user guides too in several languages. As for the 2GB microSD card, it is already inserted in the device’s memory card slot.

Sony Ericsson W8 360-degree spin

The Sony Ericsson W8 is a compact smartphone but, well, a 3" HVGA screen is nothing to shout about. As a reference, the new Xperia mini has a 3" screen and it's a much smaller phone.

The weight of 104 grams is definitely on the light side, though 15mm thick does sound a bit much. The phone is comfortable enough to handle.

Design and construction

The Sony Ericsson W8 is an Xperia X8 with a different paintjob. They swapped the matt plastic finish for a bit of gloss, resulting in a very smudge-prone surface.

The W8 is hitting the market in three color options: Azure (our unit), Red and Orange. Only the back panel is of different color, the glossy black front is nonnegotiable.

The screen size and resolution are about as good as you can find in the class. The thing to note is the W8 has got rid of the banding issues that plagued the Xperia X8. Images look crisp and nuanced and the UI is thumb optimized to let you comfortably thumb your way around the interface.

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The 3” display has its ups and downs

The screen sensitivity is excellent, responding to the lightest of taps, for a great touchscreen experience.

The image quality is passable as far as TFT displays go, with good enough brightness and contrast levels. Viewing angles are OK but sunlight legibility is poor. The screen reflects too much light making it nearly impossible to use the phone on a bright sunny day. We guess we can still rank it a tad above the HTC Wildfire S, for example.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Ericsson W8 0.18 125 696 0.34 250 737
Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo 0.19 299 1577 0.31 513 1670
LG Optimus Black P970 0.27 332 1228 0.65 749 1161
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
HTC Wildfire S 0.43 256 603 0.76 314 414
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
Motorola Atrix 4G 0.48 314 652 0.60 598 991

Below the display there are three hardware keys: Menu, Home and Back button. Those are thin keys but nicely raised and with good press feedback.

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The three keys below the display

On the right side of the phone you’ll find the volume rocker and a dedicated camera button. We like it when phones have a shutter key but given the fixed focus camera of the W8, the gain is questionable. The volume rocker is too thin – thinner than the front-facing main controls.

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The right side features the volume rocker and the camera button

Above the display we find a status LED, the earpiece, as well as proximity and ambient light sensors. There’s a manual brightness setting, but the ambient light senor always has the last say so you can't go extra low in bright sun or to maximum heights in complete darkness. The proximity sensor is in charge of locking the display when you hold it next to your ear during calls.

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The earpiece flanked by the proximity and ambient light sensors

The left side of the phone features no buttons or connectivity ports.

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The left side of the W8 is bare

The screen Power / Lock key is on top, a small and barely protruding knob, ruling out accidental presses.

You’ll also find the audio jack and the microUSB port at the top. The microUSB port has a protective flap (which is too hard to open), while the audio jack is exposed. As far as the bottom is concerned, it features just the mouthpiece and the lanyard eyelet

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The power/screen lock key, the custom 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port

The back of the phone hosts the 3 megapixel fixed-focus camera lens and the loudspeaker. The camera lens is not covered but quite inset, giving it reasonable protection against scratches. It is inviting to dust though. On the other hand it's hardly a snapper so valuable as to need special protection.

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The camera lens and the loudspeaker grill are on the back

Removing the battery cover reveals the microSD card slot and the SIM compartment. The microSD slot is hot-swap-enabled despite being placed under the battery cover. The Sony Ericsson W8 is powered by a 1200mAh Li-Po battery quoted at up to 446 hours of standby and 4 hours 45 minutes of talk time.

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A look under the back cover

The Sony Ericsson W8 fits snugly in the palm. The compact size and comfortably curved rear make it nice and secure to hold. 15mm thick certainly sounds alarming but the shape didn’t bother us at all. The W8 easily allows single-handed use and the curved corners do help mask some of the thickness.

Even though it’s completely made of plastic, the W8 still feels durable. USB charging and the standard 3.5mm jack are good things to have.

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The W8 held in hand

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