In a recent review we pointed out Sony Ericsson’s expertise in creating one phone core and then placing numerous bodies around it, well just as the K750i and the D750i are effectively the same handset with the minor cosmetic alteration to the shutter covering the lens, the W800i is the D750i but with a paint job and a logo change.



The W800i is the first handset made by anyone to carry Sony's prestigious Walkman branding and to accommodate the expectation of all the additional stored music the W800i comes with a 34Mb internal memory and a 512Mb Memory stick PRO duo, this combination allowing you to store somewhere in the region of 150-200 songs, depending on the format. The PRO Duo range of memory sticks currently go up to 2Gb in size.

The lion’s share of the phone’s functions replicate those of the K750i and D750i. The calling constituent of the handset is Tri-band GSM (900, 1800 and 1900). The W800i is GPRS web and WAP enabled, and can perform all the standard message formats you’d expect including SMS, EMS, MMS and email. The battery life will give you up to 9 hours of talk time and around 400 hours of standby although with the music options you’ll probably find the majority of the handset’s charge goes on the media player rather than the call functions.

The reverse of the body houses the same 2 megapixel camera, with 4x digital zoom, as before, automatically activated by flicking the lens cover switch. Mounted above the lens is a powerful twin LED modelling light, which not only illuminates close-to photo subjects but is also useful for finding keyholes and can even be set to flash SOS in times of peril.

Again the W800i’s menus are a virtually the same as those of the K and D750i. The only perceivable alteration is the removal of the generic media player from right hand second row position, on the animated menu, to be replaced with a Walkman-branded version. This Walkman application allows your stored music to be viewed by either artist or track name as well as allowing you to create play-lists on the fly, from the existing music, as the mood takes you. The handset plays MP3 music files, although other formats are semi-compatible, and MPEG4 Video files. Transferring music to the phone is best done via the Disc2Phone CD ripping application that comes on the installation CD-ROM, although Mac users can simply attach the phone to their computer and it will appear as an external drive and then copy music files across.

The software in the pack offers the Sony Ericsson PC synchronisation suite allowing you to manage contacts and calendar function with your computer. Naturally you get the Disc2Phone application for transference of music and video to the phone but you also get a starter version of Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0, so you can arrange the images you snapped into collection to share and keep. Also included is hands-free headset that have been cleverly designed to allow users to plug any set of headphones so you aren’t stuck with the headphones in the box. Additionally you can purchase the MMC-60 music cable (£19.99), allowing you to connect the W800i and the 750i models to your domestic sound system.

Verdict

Gripes, the music transfer process via the dedicated application will only allow MP3 and WAV formatted music files to be moved from your PC to the handset. The literature also states that AAC (Apple's i-Tunes standard format) and MPEG4 audio files can also be played even thought these cannot be transferred via the Disc2Phone. Window Media Audio (WMA) isn't supported at all, so if all your music is in this format you will have to start from scratch and convert all the files or, more annoyingly (but better for quality terms), take your music from the CD originals, if you have them.



The overall structure of the Walkman application could do with a clean up as well. The 5-way ‘navi-key', which is used to move through the various levels of the application, from artist's lists into albums into tracks, could have the options made clearer as screens whizz up and down and tracks skip about in a less than intuitive fashion.

Overall, the addition of a larger memory card to an already excellent handset can only ever be a good thing. The features and functions make it a very good mobile phone regardless of the music functions although the snazzy electric orange paint job and the Walkman logo certainly make the W800i distinctive. The music player takes a little getting used to and if you're a Mac user or have a large pre-existing digital music library you could find frustrations in importing tunes onto the handset.