Sony Ericsson W980 Walkman review: 8 gigs of character

GSMArena team, 23 May 2008.
Pages: 12345678

Multimedia the Walkman way

As usual with Walkman phones, the Sony Ericsson W980 Media center is one of the highlights of the device. It allows instant access to the Photos, Music, Videos, Games and Web Feeds on the handset The current pick is highlighted and the count of stored files is displayed.

Since the Sony Ericsson W980 is equipped with a built-in accelerometer, the Media center interface rotates automatically to match the handset orientation - much like the Sony Ericsson W760. We are however not entirely happy with the accelerometer in W980 - it could've been much more responsive.

The auto-rotation also works in the Picture gallery, as well as the Music and Video players. Luckily, you can also set a fixed orientation of the Media center in case the auto rotation feature is bugging you.

Image gallery in perfect shape

The Photo gallery of Sony Ericsson W980 is definitely among the best we've found in a mobile phone. It's a convenient tool for managing a vast collection of pictures with great customization capabilities and features.

Some of those options include: one-click access to the latest snapshot you've taken, timeline view for your images and tags that can later be used for filtering. With Sony Ericsson W980 you can also mark some of your photos as favorite and make accessing them even easier through the favorite photo feed.

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Walkman 3.0 music player: filtering tracks

The Timeline view of the Camera Album displays image thumbs filtered by the month they've been taken. The currently selected photo in enlarged so you can make out what is on it without having to open it.

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Gallery application from the media center

Another eye-pleasing feature of Sony Ericsson W980 is browsing images in fullscreen mode. When you want to go to the next in line, it doesn't simply pop up but instead slides in from left or right. Then, when exiting the full screen view of a picture, it smoothly zooms out to thumb view. That might be just visual lollipop but it does boost user experience with the gallery. The best part about it here is that it doesn't slow down the phone at all and we experienced no holdups browsing our pictures.

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Browsing pictures in fullscreen mode zooming in on a picture

True to its Walkman nature, Sony Ericsson W980 really knows a nice slide show. It prompts picking a mood before you start, so it can set the proper background music and transition effects.

The only things missing are the option to pick a custom track for the slide show or export the whole thing as a video file. Still, this isn't that much of downer. Besides, you can always use the VideoDJ application for creating videos with custom transition effects between photos and background music of your choice.

Having mentioned editing, we have to say that Sony Ericsson W980 also sports the PhotoDJ image editing application. It is however downgraded from what we've seen in earlier Sony Ericsson handsets and we are not really impressed.

Can't beat Walkman 3.0

The Sony Ericsson W980 features the Walkman 3.0 player with all the niceties included. The player supports a vast collection of file formats and has several equalizer presets. In addition, you also get Album art and the proprietary Sony Ericsson Shake control making use of the phone's built-in accelerometer.

As with previous versions, the music player offers step-by-step filtering of the tracks you want to hear. A genuine Walkman phone, Sony Ericsson W980 features a dedicated Walkman key for accessing the music player and an icon in the main menu for the exact same purpose.

The Walkman 3.0 "Now playing" interface is simple and intuitive. The D-pad is in charge of music controls and also brings up a list of all the tracks in the current playlist or album.

As we already mentioned, Sony Ericsson W980 is also able to display Album art but you can also go for one of the alternative visualizations available. Bear in mind however, that those are squeezed in the small square that Album Art normally uses, so you should not expect miracles from them.

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The Walkman 3.0 music player interface: Album Art or visualization browsing playlist during playback player options

When you minimize the music player, the currently playing track, album and artist get displayed on the home screen with some nice graphics that perfectly blend with the Flash Lite theme used.

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Music player minimized

One of the best parts of Sony Ericsson W980 and its music player is the fact that it can be controlled without even opening the phone. The six touch-sensitive keys, plus the mode change key on the side of the handset, are all you need to operate it. This gives you a much quicker and convenient access to your music, albeit with poorer graphics.

The already mentioned light effects are another cool and exotic feature of the Sony Ericsson W980. The way they go to the rhythm of the currently played track is quite impressive.

Equalizers appear as fullscreen graphics on the Sony Ericsson W980. You can also create a custom equalizer if the presets don't do the trick.

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Some of the available equalizer presets creating a custom equalizer preset

Another highly promoted feature of the Sony Ericsson W980 is Shake control. It allows you to change the currently running track and even shuffle your entire playlist by a simple flick of the hand. All you need to do to use Shake control is press the Walkman key and shake the phone forward (for going one track forward) or backward (for going a track back). A quick succession of the two moves does the shuffle trick.

With the W980, Shake control works like a charm and really shows the use of an accelerometer. It is much more responsive as a music player control than in screen rotation. It would have been better still if the walkman key was on the side of the phone and accessible without having to flip.

The other high pitched Walkman goodie, SensMe, is a nice alternative for browsing your music collection. It gives you the opportunity to search tracks that match a certain mood instead of a specific artist, album or genre.

The interface is original and visually appealing. The tracks appear as dots placed on a coordinate system with a horizontal and vertical mood axis. Creating a playlist is as simple as circling a group of those dots. Naturally, the range of the selection can be customized.

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The SensMe interface

On the negative side, setting up the mood of any given track manually is impossible. This means that if you simply copy a bunch of tracks to your Sony Ericsson W980 they won't be available for the SenseMe feature.

In order to make the SensMe work, you need to upload your music to the phone via the Sony Ericsson Media Manager software for PC with the SensMe Analysis option enabled. This however does take its time, so if you are in a rush you will probably have to live without the SenseMe until next time.

FM radio with RDS and TrackID

The integrated FM radio of Sony Ericsson W980 has memory for 20 stations and supports RDS.

It also sports the TrackID music recognition service, which has been around for quite some time now and doesn't need an explanation. Much like the music player, the radio can be minimized or controlled on the external screen of the W980. However when minimized, it has none of the fancy graphics the Walkman player has to offer.

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FM radio user interface

When first announced, the Sony Ericsson W980 was also expected to have another cool radio feature. Back there in Barcelona, the prototypes used to have a built-in antenna that allowed listening to music without plugging in a pair of headphones. In the end, this feature was ditched, much to our disappointment.

Video player with slow motion and screenshots

Sony Ericsson W980 comes with a really nice video player. It supports fast-forwarding and rewinding, as well as playing clips in slow motion. It has landscape mode, as well as settings for video size like Original, Auto Fit and Fullscreen.

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The great video player

A really cool feature of the video player is the screenshot capability. It allows you to save a frame of video and add it to the gallery.

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