The Sony Ericsson W960 is equipped with a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and a dual-LED flash - again, much like the P1 and unlike the previous Walkman-enabled smartphone W950. The maximum resolution is 2048 x 1536 pixels. Pictures are taken by holding the handset in landscape mode. The camera interface is intuitive - all settings are arranged in a toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
In fact, the snappy camera interface reminds a lot of the interface of the latest Sony Ericsson phones, with its similar graphics and functions. There are three quality levels and the camera has a full automatic exposure control, while offering nice manual overexposure control accessible from the main viewfinder interface.
The autofocus settings of the camera feature a dedicated macro mode. You can even turn the autofocus off and use a fixed focal length for even faster snapshots. The camera offers automatic white balance but there are four custom white balance presets to choose from, depending on the environment. You can apply several color effects to the pictures and video, such as Black & white, Sepia, Solarization and Negative.
We will refrain from much comment on the picture quality, as we're convinced that the final, retail version of the smartphone will have the camera quality improved. Our unit (being a pre-release one) produced images with very high contrast and sharpness. So we don't find our samples satisfactory, so we'll not publish full-size shots. Instead, we post some of the better images downsampled to 1024 x 768 pixels. We expect that when launched, Sony Ericsson W960 will produce images as good as the Sony Ericsson P1.
Much like previous smartphones, the Sony Ericsson W960 can capture video with a maximum resolution of 320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps. There are S60 mobile phones on the market capable of recording video in VGA resolution at 30 fps while providing full smartphone capabilities. Obviously, QVGA and the low frame rate are somewhat of a downer. Lower resolutions (such as QCIF - 176 x 144) though, allow recording at 30 fps but the picture details are far than adequate. All videos are recorded in 3GP format. The video recording times (no matter what the resolution), are limited by the available memory only.
That sort of a video capturing is a serious downside for a smartphone intended to be an all-in-one multimedia device such as Sony Ericsson W960.
Using the front VGA video-call camera was easy since it offers a rather intuitive interface. A nice thing is that you can use the rear main camera in video calls too, meaning you can easily show the other party your surroundings. The video-call camera also has a dedicated Night mode. Generally, when it comes to video calls, the W960 Video phone application manages well enough.
When it comes to connecting the Sony Ericsson W960 smartphone to a computer or other devices, you have various options. You can use a USB cable or the Bluetooth 2.0 functionality. Connecting the smartphone to a PC via the Bluetooth worked like a charm. Of course, the Bluetooth capabilities of the device include support for the A2DP profile, which allows you to use a stereo Bluetooth headset for listening to music.
Connecting the handset via the USB cable was hassle-free and the 8GB of flash memory appeared as a removable drive in Windows Explorer, much like your regular flash drive would. We are satisfied with the transfer speeds reachable with this connection. Using Windows Vista the upload transfer speed reached around 7.5MB/s, not bad at all. That would mean you could easily fill up those 8GB with tracks in less than 20 minutes. What's even better is that the phone gets charged while it's connected to the PC. If you decide to use the device as a portable storage, you can enjoy even faster download transfer speeds - our tests showed up to 16MB/s!
|Summing it up, the Sony Ericsson W960 easily offers more than any other Sony Ericsson Walkman before. Positive changes compared to the W950 are noticeable both in system performance and in the hardware equipment.|
Sony Ericsson are said to have developed new PC software for transferring music to your handset. The first models to ship with it should be K850 and W960. It is called Sony Ericsson Media Manager but at the time of writing of this review, it was still unavailable. However, with it users should be able to make better use of the tracks' Mood label in the latest Sony Ericsson music player.
Synchronization with the PC or remote server via SyncML also works seamlessly. The user can choose items to be synchronized.
The Sony Ericsson W960 has tri-band GSM/UMTS support (GSM 900/1800/1900) and supports GPRS for fast data transfers in non-3G enabled networks. EDGE support lacks here, as it does in previous smartphones. HSDPA would have been welcome, as it's getting rather wide spread these days, but unfortunately Sony Ericsson chose not to support it.
Luckily, the W960 comes with Wi-Fi support, as opposed to the W950. The integrated connection manager does pretty well with the available connections. For example, when you have several connectivity accounts available at the same time, such as Bluetooth, WLAN and UMTS, you can set priority for their usage. This is something that S60 smartphones are unable to offer.
Users can quickly and easily switch between portrait and landscape modes as well as change from a windowed view to a fullscreen view. We found the portrait fullscreen view to suit our liking best. Furthermore, you can use the Text mode option to reformat pages to exclude pictures and thus save some of those precious megabytes your network carrier charges you for.
A nice feature is the Find option, which allows you to search a text string in the page you have opened. You can hardly see that in other mobile browsers.
The Alarms are part of the Time application, we already wrote about. It is nothing special really but it does its job more than all right. You can set a ringtone of your choice as an Alarm sound, or you can have a radio station wake you up.
The functionality of the Calendar application is at a decent level. You can choose between monthly, weekly and daily view and two time zones. The available events that you can store are Appointment, Reminder, All day event, and Anniversary. Birthdays can be set as Anniversary events, since those have automatic annual repetition. There are a lot of user-configurable options at your disposal.
As with any Sony Ericsson phone, you have two other applications to organize your daily routine: the Tasks and Notes applications. Tasks allow you to enter simple events, which do not require extensive setup as the ones in Calendar. The Notes application allows saving short notes as the name itself implies. The interesting thing here is that the notes can be in handwritten form.
The W960 also offers a nicely designed Calculator, Unit converter and a Sound Recorder with a recording time only limited by the available memory. Sony Ericsson has decided to ditch the MusicDJ application seen on almost all of their mobile phones - it allows you to create polyphonic ringtones within a simple user interface. For an unknown reason, the VideoDJ application seen on some of the latest Sony Ericsson mobiles, also lacks here.
Maybe this is the most appropriate place to say a few things about the Task Manager, which is something of a separate application, although fully integrated into the OS. The Task Manager icon is available in the upper right angle of the screen almost throughout the whole smartphone interface. You probably have noticed that on almost all of our screenshots. Unfortunately, the icon itself is so small that the only way to press it is by using the stylus.
The Task Manager has two tabs - the first and default one, which you see whenever you open the Manager contains shortcuts to the Main Menu and the Standby, as well as access to the recently used applications. The second tab of the Task Manager contains all the currently running applications and allows you to terminate them - unfortunately only one by one.
The Sony Ericsson W960 also comes with the Quickoffice application, allowing it to open and even edit MS Word, MS Excel and MS Powerpoint documents. The PDF+ application allows reading PDF files. However, it renders PDF files excessively slowly - not anything like the Acrobat Reader LE we saw in Nokia E61i.
Unfortunately, the Sony Ericsson W960 had no games installed whatsoever, but we are sure this is a unit-specific issue and that the retail version would at least have a title or two for you to enjoy.
Summing it up, the Sony Ericsson W960 easily offers more than any other Sony Ericsson Walkman before. Positive changes compared to the W950 are noticeable both in system performance and in the hardware equipment. In terms of software, the handset is identical to the previous UIQ 3 mobiles and, when compared to Nokia S60 smartphones, loses only on VoIP capabilities, which are much more elaborate in the latest S60 mobiles.
The biggest controversy as we see it, when making the purchase decision for W960, lies in the use of a touchscreen interface for a regular smartphone. Our opinion is that a smartphone interface should be either optimized for finger touching or the screen should not be touch sensitive at all. Pulling the stylus out for anything except handwriting on the screen is not justifiable. So, just to put it shortly, the W960 would have been a great choice if it had some sort of a D-pad to allow easy single-handed navigation through the menu options without the need for stylus all the time.
However, we find the Sony Ericsson W960 a great choice for all you music fans that don't mind using both hands for operating their handset.