Sony Ericsson’s Walkman clan have always hit the sonic sweet spot, but lately the range has lacked sparkle in other feature departments.

Its flagship phone, the W980, proves our point: it’s a fantastic music mobile, but an average 3.2MP camera has left fans a little short-changed.

But the new W902 suggests we might finally be able to have our Walkman cake and eat it. Alongside the class-leading music software you also get a 5MP camera cribbed straight from the Cyber-shot C902.   

Toned and definition

The similarities with the C902 don’t end with the camera. The W902 must have been assembled in the same Sony Ericsson lair, as it has the same heft and build.

While not as slimline as its Cyber-shot amigo, its trim candybar physique is still pleasing to paw and there’s no niggly usability issues to report.

Thankfully, Sony Ericsson hasn’t tinkered too much with the new camera set-up and all the photo mods and flash have been lifted wholesale from the C902, except face detection.

This means the autofocus is perceptive, the macro setting for close-up is sharp and the manufacturer’s proprietary photo-buffering technology BestPic also gets a look in. The recessed, grime-attracting optics and missing lens cap are our only real grumbles.

Clear sound

The W902 has upped its game in the audio department too, bopping along to the new Clear Audio Experience boosters first seen in the W980.

This technology nicely tightens flabby bass and plugs sound leakage between the left and right channel. Listen through the above-average supplied HPM-77 earphones and you’ll hear an impressively bright, dynamic but taut sound.

Large dedicated music player controls run neatly down the right side of the phone for easy access but there’s still no trace of an integrated 3.5mm headphone jack. Sony Ericsson’s resistance to fit its Walkman phone with this standard socket is utterly baffling. Luckily an adapter saves the day.

Memory matters

Unlike the W980, there’s no king-size 8GB helping of internal memory for stockpiling your music library and multimedia gubbins but Sony Ericsson makes up for it by generously bundling an 8GB Memory Stick Micro; that’s enough for around 2,000 average-sized MP3 tunes.

Having now taken the flagship Walkman mantel from the W980 with its 5MP camera, we’re very disappointed to see that Wi-Fi and GPS still haven’t made the feature shortlist. However, 3.6Mbps-flavoured HSDPA is enough for most web browsing needs and surfing proved pretty brisk.

Sony Ericsson obviously doesn’t want its Walkman crew to tread too heavily on Cyber-shot toes, but the W902’s newfound eye for photography is very welcome.

The sharp 5MP snapper and new audio chops undoubtedly make it the best Walkman phone but it’s still not enough to make it a leading contender. That said, it’ll still nicely plug the gap while we wait for that all-conquering, Walkman super-phone.


Stuff says... 

Sony Ericsson W902 review

A great mix of Walkman and Cyber-shot powers, but still lacking some key features