The Z600 is the first of the Sony Ericsson Z series clam-shell phones to hit UK soil. Its siblings, the Z200, with an illuminated dial clock, and the Z1010 are set for UK release later in the year. The Z600 is currently available on contract from Vodafone, O2 and T-mobile and prices for the handsets vary according to tariffs and packages. Interestingly you can also purchase the handset from www.sonyericsson.com, SIM-free and unlocked, so for those who want to avoid the hassle of changing numbers when moving networks, the option exists.



Pushing the union of form and function, Sony Ericsson has equipped the phone with interchangeable front and back ‘Style-up' panels that will let you change the look of the phone as the mood takes you, and as availability allows. The back cover could be more securely attached as it has a tendency to come loose if rubbing against other objects. If this does happen the battery can lift away from its contacts and power will be lost. This said the design is still better than Nokia's ‘Express-on' covers that can require an engineering degree and a cold chisel to remove them at times.

The 128x160 pixel screen uses the new generation of MD-TFD (Mobile Digital Thin Film Diode) displays, resulting in a high visibility 65,365 colour image that can be easily seen in all lighting contrasts. The camera feature is still a gimmick but there are numerous shooting modes to make the images more fun, albeit still grainy and horrid. Like many of the clam-shell designs there is a simpler LCD display on the front that displays name of caller and the time. When closed the volume buttons, allow you to shift through a number of other settings, such as profile and date. With all this chat of vision the '32 voice' polyphonic sounds system should not be ignored and the ‘My Sounds' software will allow recording and composition of new ring tones, alarms and action noises.

Sony Ericsson seems determined to make the handset the paragon of connectivity and use, with Triband coverage of the 3 GSM networks (1900,1800 & 900) as well as Bluetooth, Infrared and computer sync available to get data to and from the handset. Preaching diversity to the market the Z600 will sync with both Windows and with iSync Mac systems. In the wireless arena the handset supports Bluetooth File Transfer protocol allowing the movement of content on and off the phone by a drag and drop interfaces on compatible computer. SMS, Enhanced messaging and MMS are all available, although the sim-free version on review obviously had no preset messaging centres programmed into the device. So if you are thinking of this option make sure you know all your network's presets before binning your old mobile! The SMS option includes both T9 and Multitap, neither of which are as user-friendly as Nokia's industry standard systems.

The antenna-less design maintains a sleek look and the smooth body means nothing gets caught when whipping the device out of your pocket to answer those important calls. While it isn't the sleekest model on the market it does turn heads. With a standby time of 300 hours and a talk time of 9 hours those necks are going to get pretty cricked if they keep staring at your handset.

Sony Ericsson's buttons and navigation can take a little getting used to and this is the first phone I have seen in a long time, which bucks the trend of the red and green call answer and end buttons. The back button, used rather like its namesake on a web browser, is tricky to get used to but can be learned over time.

When it comes to accessories for this model it Sony Ericsson has gone a little mad. We've all seen Bluetooth headsets before, and with the recent legislation on driving and mobile phones we will see them a lot more of them, but Bluetooth remote control cars is surely daft. The cry of ‘I can't play games on a device with such small keys', has been heard and mocked and dimpled youths are now offered the Gameboard to rectify this clamouring. It resembles a Playstation gamepad that the phone sits in, so you and your mates can enjoy multiplayer wireless versions of the finest arcade classics. For the masses on the move there's the FM radio attachment and even a laser pointer for those business moments or when you really want to scare the cat or annoy cinemagoers.

Verdict

Overall the Z600 is a very tidy technological package. The compact form disguises a wealth of features that cater for all the average users needs as well as numerous useful (but sometimes pointless) bolt-ons. These will allow you to adapt you mobile to be a host of other things. I'm still not really sure about the remote control car but it's damn good fun...