Looking very much like a P800 that has been on a only marginally successful diet and had a face lift, the P900 strides into the market place 2mm smaller and 8g lighter than it's predecessor.



The latest combination mobile and PDA device from Sony Ericsson certainly looks a good deal more apt for a place at the top table, but do the new lines conceal a device that's really any better to use?

The body itself is the paragon of convertibility, offering the user the choice of having the flip down numeric phone keypad or, with the aid of the enclosed screwdriver, a plain fronted touch-sensitive PDA style screen. Learning from the boffins in the Clie department, two new quick keys have been added to the starboard flank, one directly connected to the camera functions and the other configurable to an application of the user's choice. The port side still houses a classic Sony-style jog wheel although unusually this model sports motion in pull and push directions as well as the standard up and down. This allows the screen to be unlocked when the keypad has been removed. The screen when the flap is open, or removed, measures 208x320 pixels and the resolution has been upped to 65,000 colours.

As previous reviews have pointed out, the placement of the camera on the back of the body leads fingers to stray over the lens, but a deeper lens recess than before keeps the majority of the grime at bay. Same can be said for the raised dimples on the battery cover that keep the lens housing off the deck by just enough to make a difference. When clean the ‘CommuniCorder' offer both still and video image functions, with a maximum size for stills of 640x480 pixels, with an impressive number of presets and functions to take passable image in both cases.

Phone functions are impressive with easy access to numbers and caller lists. One minor design flaw is the touch-screen buttons to pick up or drop calls should be made large enough to be activated by fingers rather than having to scrabble to retrieve the spindly integrated stylus from it resting place in the rear of the device. The phone covers all 3 GSM networks making it good for travel and the colour coded signal indicator keeps you abreast of signal strengths. Like the Nokia 6600, the P900 includes a speakerphone function allowing the caller to carry on chatting away while trying to fish data from the numerous applications. As functions have increased so has the battery life and you can now expect 960 minutes of talk time and 400 hours of standby time from a single charge.

The core of the device is powered a ARM9 processor and comes with 16Mb of available internal storage for 3rd party applications, images, contacts and any other content you can shoehorn / download onto the P900. Expansion comes in the shape of a Memory Stick Duo slot, with a 32Mb card and adapter supplied in the box. The supplied applications run quite happily on Symbian OS v7.0 and utilise a UIQ v2.1 application interface, which is nice for the open source devotees amongst you.

The graphics are a little on the antiquated side when compared with the Clie's and although concessions have to be made to a hybrid such as the P900, I was not all that impressed with the overall look of the interfaces. That said, navigation is simple enough and there was rarely hunting involved in location the required folder, menu or application, except when it came to configuring the WAP / Internet access. The P900 menus for this one set of functions seen to be purposely confusing with the major fault being the stubborn refusal to accept the ‘preferred' access points. But not to worry as the Bluetooth, MMS and the cradle based sync, means that you will not be completely stranded if this configuration flummoxes you.

In order to allow you to get on with other things like watching video clips or listening to your MP3's or even catching up with those pesky MS documents from the office while travelling, you can activate flight mode which turns off the phone function while leaving everything else ticking over nicely. I recommend, when feeling bolshy and in need of a lesson in humility, going head to head with ‘Selma', the devilish-diva chess opponent if you get a chance. She wiped the floor with me on numerous occasions in so few moves as to be shameful.

Verdict

Overall the P900's a fine travelling companion. Long-lived, rich in connectivity, and once configured easy to use, it has enough scope to organise and assist even the busiest of users. The interface is basic in its display but diverse in its depth and the slim line shape and form make this Sony Ericsson a valuable one-stop shop.