In late 2008 Sony Ericsson launched the W902, the closest thing we’ve seen to the perfect fusion of a Walkman and Cyber-shot phone. Powered by a 5MP snapper and new Clear Audio tech, it shot straight to the top of our mobile phone chart.
But now its W995 has arrived to take over its mantle. This smart-looking slider not only combines an 8MP snapper with the latest Walkman player, it’s the first Sony Ericsson phone outside the Xperia X1 to boast a 3.5mm headphone jack.
While it doesn’t qualify as a ‘smartphone’ in the classic sense, the W995 is no slouch on the connectivity front, weighing in with built-in Wi-Fi, support for HSDPA and onboard GPS for navigation and geotagging.
It’s also the most well built Walkman phone we’ve handled, with a solid torso, snappy spring-heeled slider action and sturdy buttons. Compared to the lardy C905, it’s incredibly svelte. The user-interface is very lucid too, playing out like every other Sony Ericsson handset we know and love.
Music sounds better with you
The Walkman player is now version 4.0 and continues to deliver a dynamic, fully featured performance.
A dedicated Walkman button fires up the player and you can control it either via the five-way navigation pad or using the exclusive play and skip tracks keys running down the side of the phone. Shake Control offers a third option, but jerking and flicking the phone in public just doesn’t feel right.
Another reason to pop open the champagne corks and bring on the dancing bears is the inclusion, finally, of that 3.5mm headphone jack.
Bring your own cans
Unfortunately, it immediately comes a cropper with the above-average quality supplied earphones lacking ample wire length to plug straight in for a comfortable listen. You will definitely need to hook up your own pair to get the best results.
Sound-wise the W995 is up there with the Apple iPhone and Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, with its Clear Audio technology brilliantly cleaning up the sound and tightening the bass. A five-band manual equaliser option is also on hand if the nine presets aren’t to your listening tastes.
No Cyber-shot replacement
Those hoping for a Cyber-shot C905 camera performance, though, will be slightly disappointed.
The 8MP snapper is furnished with accomplished Cyber-shot photo modes like BestPic, Face Detection, image stabiliser, autofocus, geotagging and macro focus for close-ups. But the Xenon flash is replaced by an ineffective PowerLED and there’s no lens cover.
Picture quality is good but not great, lacking the bright colours, strong contrast and detail of its C905 Cyber-shot cousin. Similarly, its QVGA-quality video recording resolution at 30fps is jerky and noise-ridden but fine for uploading to YouTube and blogs.
With BBC iPlayer and YouTube apps onboard, and the ability to download full movies, the W995 broadens its entertainment appeal beyond music.
Picture quality is a little blocky but watching BBC programmes and YouTube videos over Wi-Fi is fine in small doses.
Pop along to the PlayNow Arena movie shop on your PC and you can download a small but growing selection of free movies to drag and drop onto the phone.
Playback quality is crisp and sharp, although watching a one-and-a-half-hour movie on a 2.6in display does strain the peeps – especially if you flip out the flimsy TV stand and watch in landscape on a desktop surface.
Multimedia storage is handled by a bundled 8GB card, so the W995 can easily be your prime multimedia player from the off.
Elsewhere, web browsing is snappy over HSDPA and super-quick with Wi-Fi, but we still recommend downloading the Opera Mini browser for effortless surfing on a smallish screen.
Fine-tune the camera to Cyber-shot standards and the W995 would probably rank as our favourite ever Sony Ericsson phone. That said, in the non-smartphone class, this feature-rich and easy-to-use Walkman slider is currently the best out there.