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Review of GSM-handset Sony Ericsson Z310i
Formally Sony Ericsson Z610i is the first representative of so called “emotional products” made by this company, while the Z310i can be pointed out as the runner-up here. According to this approach, we could say that affordable, yet eye-candy Sony Ericsson-branded phones aimed at the mass market have been around for a little time. But taking a glance back at the past proves us to be wrong. The whole range of products with Z index onboard clearly demonstrates that. This line-up includes models with reasonable price and quite appealing designs. Basically, it is quite difficult to find any distinctions in the concepts of the Z610i and Z310i. The main differences can be found in design elements and settings. It also should be mentioned, that the junior model is in inferior position to the senior one in terms of screen, memory and so on, but many tiny, seemingly insignificant details creating emotional perception of the product give the Z310i a considerable image boost over its siblingþ
Glass-like surfaces are becoming the major hype generators of the 2006-2007 seasons, since they get only onto such expensive products as Motorala KRZR, Sony Ericsson Z610i but also on those which come in at very affordable prices (Samsung E790 or Sony Ericsson Z310i, for instance). Of course, it is hard to deny that such surfaces get soiled in an eye-blink and act as finger-print magnets, but on the other hand the effect achieved by its use leaves behind all the drawbacks. Sony Ericsson Z310i comes in three different trims - Jet Set Black, Blush Bronze and Lush Pink, which all look really smooth and stylish. There is no reason to conceal that the Z line-up mostly appeals to women, especially models with 2xx and 3xx indexes and this very phone is not an exception. Only black colour of shell can be used by the stronger sex, all the other colours are for women only, no about that. Each trim sports glass finishing only for the front plate and the battery cover, whereas other parts of shell are made of milk-white plastic.
This time around, Sony Ericsson has shown remarkable generosity and has not saved a coin on the plastic and its quality. The 2mm thickness of the sides is basically too much for a modern phone. You can go and see it for yourself by detaching the battery cover. Having equipped the model with such bulky layer of plastic the company is targeting to make the phone less vulnerable to the damages in the case of falling down.
Measuring 87x46x24.5 mm the Z310i seems a bit thick compared to devices of other companies however it is typical for the handsets of the class it belongs to. You can carry the phone in any fashionyou want without any problems and inconveniences. The phone weigh is 93 grams.
In fact Sony Ericsson has taken the best solutions from all fields, so that the Z310i retains features of middle class phone and advantages peeked in the phones by other companies. Light indicators, for instance, on the front do exactly the same job as an external screen on models by other manufacturers, however even with their great looks we cannot forgive them for being of no real use in most cases. In the Z310i such icons are understudied by the external screen but you would not find it on the front side even if you start investigating it carefully, as it is possible to see the screen only when it works, which is the main distinctive feature of this model. In many same models the location of a screen is quite noticeable because of smooth surface.
The one-colour external display presents you with light-blue pastel backlighting. The 96x64 pixels resolution is quite sufficient to show the time, number or the name of caller. The minimal level of backlighting and its being diminished are quite good from the energy saving standpoint, and on top of that do not impact perception of information in a negative way.
The line of service icons is on the upper part of the glass panel, offering you four thumbnails - missed calls, SMS, recharging and silent mode. By the way they look really nice and make the Z310i look rather charming.
The front panel houses VGA-camera with no captions about its image resolution. But what does matter, is that for the very first time Sony Ericsson thinks of a camera as an optional feature in its device – missing settings for camera only prove this point of view. Really, why would a user need to decrease resolution if the camera provides quality, that can be rated as something between slim and nil?
It is quite surprising to find volume rocker switch on the left side. Such placement is a rarity for the phones of such kind. But as always, the key is soft and easy to use. The IrDA window is located on the right side. On the lower part is Fast Port interface socket. You can also use the holes for a carrying strap on the back cover to hang the phone on you neck.
The rim stretched on the lower part of the phone supports various light effects. It might seem quite strange but the concept of “emotional constituent” was taken from Motorola phones, specifically from Motorola v80, where the edging shimmered with all the colours of the rainbow. Later similar glowing-and-shining rims were used in such folding phones as Philips 330 and Siemens CF62. But Dynamic Lights from Siemens come out on top in terms of looks and usability - the user could create his own light effects, set different modes, direction of light and so on. Moreover, such effects could be assigned not only to calls but to calendar events, messages etc. In Nokia 3220 Motorola’s ideas were iterated in a slightly different manner. The light effects in this candy-bar were directly connected with music and its rhythm. But all the companies mentioned above gave up this field for some reasons and it was Sony Ericsson which decided to inject new life into this technology.
In Sound Settings you can find “light effects” item. The handset carries 14 lights differing from each other by the colour of backlighting, rather than rhythm or other aspects. By default the rim backlighting is blue, blending with the keypad’s one. However the user can choose whatever colour he likes - yellow and green looked pretty. You should take into account that keypad backlighting always remains blue, but it really does not matter, when the phone is closed – you just won’t notice that. Light effects feature is in fact nothing but a fairly good trinket on the handset, since it can be bound only with outgoing calls. You also have a splendid opportunity to set a light effect for every single contact on your list.
Even there is no special deepening between halves you can easily flip the phone open single-handedly. Loudspeaker’s grill is beautifully designed and covered with metallic net.
The internal screen is quite unsophisticated (that’s why the phone is not expensive) and is the weakest point of the model. The screen with 128x160 pixels (29x36 mm) resolution and 65000 colours onboard utilizes STN-technology. The picture quality is pretty much average that is why low-resolution icons seem somewhat crude. But in spite of that, reading texts is a breeze with the Z310i. Users who have got used to the better screens than this one is have negative perception of the display found on the Z310i, yet the rest of people won’t have many gripes using it. Taking account of the way this model positioned and it being a junior model, the vital need in such mediocre display becomes evident – otherwise, it would be an indirect competitor to Sony Ericsson Z550i and some forthcoming models. The screen accommodates 8 text lines and 2 service lines. The screen fades in the sun but it is possible to make use of it.
The keypad found on the Z310i is remarkable for its uncommonness: being made of a single rubber list, it exposes raised function keys and flat numeric keys. The tactile feelings, as well as click feedback and sensation, offered by the keys are quite good, so that in the future such solution can be taken into consideration as a good alternative to pseudo-touch-sensitive keypads as those found on RAZR-like “slim” solutions. The keypad accommodates two symbols rows and to the developers’ credit the backlighting here is designed pretty smart. Regardless of your light effects settings, it always remains blue, making key captions well-visible in different conditions.
The four-way navigation pad with OK button is of the same colour as the casing, making the model look solid and that always-required final touch.
The battery cover exposes no gap. Detaching it reveals 780mAh Li-Pol battery (BST-36). In fact the Z310i retains Arima’s battery, but its overall being an ODM-product makes almost no difference. As the company claims, the phone puts up 7 hours of talk time and up to 300 hours of in-standby lifetime. In the conditions of Moscow networks the Z310i lasted 3 days at 1 hour of calls and up to 30 minutes of other functions usage, which is quite typical for a product belonging to this class. It takes the phone about 2 hours to charge from empty to full.
In terms of menu layout it is a typical model of the last generation by Sony Ericsson, it has Activity Menu. Using the navigating key deviation it is possible to appoint labels that mean fast call of functions. The main menu is submitted by four lines each having three icons. The user can take advantage of a shortcut number navigation, and then transition to the necessary item will take a few seconds.
Text input remains on the same level of comfort, so, pressing the "#" key brings out a list of the available languages and you can easily switch between them while typing.
Apart from traditional vertical sub-menus, the manufacturer has provided subject-based horizontal tabs. It means that while viewing a list of the dialed numbers, one can see not only the dialed numbers but in the same time (horizontal joystick deflection) switch between missed and received call tabs. In the phone menu this kind of navigation is provided anywhere it's possible and it makes using the phone much easier. The menu ergonomics is quite high in this phone model. I also note that such horizontal panels appear in Phonebook, Settings and another menu items as well.
The Z310i boasts support for MP3-files, at that only 12 Mb of memory are user-manageable. A big plus is full-scale multitasking, including that for your own Java apps.
Phonebook. Up to 1000 names with completely filled fields may be stored. It totals about 5000 numbers that it is quite enough for the majority of users. For one name in memory of the phone it is possible to store several numbers, e-mail address, IM number and other contact information. In the phonebook settings you can choose necessary fields which should be displayed while filling in contacts. Contacts can be sorted by fields, including first name and last name, but only one input field is available. Such sorting is important only while transferring data from PC, for phone's entries it's actually useless. Each name can be assigned to a personal ringtone and picture. In that case incoming call causes playback of the selected ringtone and displaying the bound picture. Birthday field can be synchronized with the Organizer. Any contact may be bound up with a personal light effect.
When submitting information, you can scroll between tabs, in the first one you enter phone numbers, their sorting by types. On the whole the organization of this process feels similar to that of Outlook, and it means comfort in the first place.
While viewing records of a phonebook or some other information you can scroll through using horizontal deviations of the navigating key. Naturally, default number is appointed by you.
The company still follows its traditional beliefs that SIM-card is used for storing data only in case of emergency, that’s why the only way to see its contents is to call up special option in the menu. SIM contacts are not displayed in phonebook.
Contact Groups are required only for mass SMS sending, since it is impossible to bind custom ringtone or photo for Group.
Messaging. The phone offers pretty much standard ways of handling messages with a number of templates being available and there is still room for custom ones. Handset’s memory together with SIM-card is used for storing messages. Chat function is supported. On the whole everything is just like in any other phone by Sony Ericsson.
The MMS implementation is great as always, you can literally create video clips, there are lots of settings and this is one of those things that gives SE’s product advantage over competitors.
E-Mail client can send and receive emails; all sorts of encodings are supported, including the Russian one. Support for Push Mail is also onboard.
This menu item now holds a sub-menu called "Instant Messaging", a kind of mobile ICQ.
RSS Reader. A pretty powerful RRS-reader, enabling you to set scheduled feeds update.
Call lists. Up to 30 records can be stored in the general list, all with assigned date and time. Icon that stands for call type (missed/received/dialed) is shown next to every entry. Apart from this, an additional icon identifies whether this phone number is stored in the phonebook or SIM-card. The list of missed calls can be checked out separately, it stores up to 10 entries. In this menu you can also see the cost and duration of calls, outgoing calls and last call. Owing to the tabbed menus, navigation gets a lot easier.
Entertainment. Photos, music files can be accessed from this menu. MusicDJ function is rather interesting, even though it is a high profile solution and there is not much of a chance that this feature will be highly demanded by users. In the editor you can create and edit ring tones, up to four tracks.
Sound can be recorded with Sound Recorder; it allows making voice tags that can be later used as ring tones. Phone calls can be recorded too, this is done from context menu there is no time limit.
Games – the handset carries two games AceofSpade and Quadra Pop. The latter game is a very nice tetris-looking time-eater.
Organizer. Organizer item keeps a lot of functions underneath. Let’s review Calendar in the first place. There are three layout types for viewing the events: weekly, monthly and today. In the last option you will see list of all events and memos, in two others - highlighted time or day. You can switch to required day and year, or month. Everything is pretty standard, as well as schedule input. You get the chance to name the event, define the place where it will be held, its length and setup the reminder (in advance or right at the start of the event). A way for setting up reoccurrence for appointments has been found, as the Z310i caries this function onboard. Going into Edit mode, you can adjust time and date for a particular appointment but nothing else, unfortunately. Reminders trigger off even if the phone is turned off, unless you disable this function.
To do list in this phone is quite ascetic. There are only two types of events: phone call and reminder. On the other hand, this is really enough, simplicity has its advantages.
The handset carries a full-fledged search engine for calendar: you specify the search line (word or a part of it) and after a while you will see all events that match submitted criteria. The function works rather fast even if the organizer has more than 100 entries, fast switch to the event from the search window is supported.
Scheduled events can be easily sent to other devices (Bluetooth). You just have to choose a desired time interval - a day, a week or a month - and then send all the records. But a receiving device should have a built-in PIM to receive and display that data. In that manner, you can receive data, for instance, from home or office PC without using any extra synchronization software.
Notes. The phone supports notes of limited length. The name of the note will be the first word entered. This is not always convenient since you will have to use first word that would automatically tell you what the note is all about.
Alarm clock. An alarm can be set to regular or recurrent mode (the alarm can trigger off on selected week days). Alarm works even if the phone is switched off. Any sound file can act as a signal.
Countdown timer is rather standard either as a stopwatch. The phone also has an unsophisticated calculator.
Code memo – here one can store password-protected confidential data.
Connectivity. This menu item is responsible for the phone communications - from WAP and GPRS (the EDGE settings are the same) to Bluetooth and synchronization. I won't describe here the standard methods of using them, they are pretty obvious and everything works fine. I want particularly emphasize stability of Bluetooth connectivity on the Z310i, it doesn't cause any problems to the phone at all, synchronization has no problems either, all profiles are supported (there is no sound transferring by Bluetooth).
From this menu you can access settings of remote and local synchronization, where you won’t find something really special either. The handset has support for HID profile, enabling you to use it as a remote control for a PC or other devices.
Following Bluetooth profiles are supported:
WAP. The browser ver 2.0 owns a separate menu item; it supports secured connections which is quite important in case you are using electronic transactions. New wallpapers, themes and ring tones can be downloaded right away, it’s all available at the original web-site.
Standard browser for Sony Ericsson phones is NetFront, it supports one-line web-page display and HTML. One of the convenient things is ability to create folders with files and bookmarks. The browser is considered to be one of the best on the market, but limited phone resources do not make using it a breeze. On the whole those who surf Internet frequently should consider buying PDA or laptop, since full Internet access is not in such high demand for this device class. At the same time RSS Feeds support is great, it allows using the phone for reading news, announcements and articles.
HTML pages that content advanced formatting or exceed 500kb in their size will not be displayed. On the whole standard browser is optimal, but usage of Opera Mini is preferable, since it has more features to offer
Settings. Properly speaking, this menu item contains all options that have something to do with phone's operation and partly its looks. All the options are standard and there is no need to describe them. We would just like to emphasize the presence of the renewed themes. For the first time you are armed with a capability to set time span that will be recognized as night time by the Z310i, so that the handset will apply a special theme, and during the daylight you will see some other appearance of the interface, which means Sony Ericsson has managed to come up with an unseen-before unique feature once again. Auto update of firmware over the air is also on the Z310i’s spec sheet.
File manager, memory size. Up to 14 Mb of empty space is user-manageable, where you can store data, files (photos, video and applications). The rest of memory is occupied by the preinstalled applications that cannot be removed. Also some part memory is reserved for such functions as a phonebook, calls list etc.
There is a basic files manager found in the phone, which helps to sort files by various folders, create own directories in the device's memory and store files. Photos can be viewed in Timeline mode.
Camera. All snaps are taken in VGA resolution by default with no resolution settings being available (only two grades of file compression); you can alter brightness (from -2 to +2), set up a self-timer, night mode, modify white balance and overlay special effects (black-and-white, negative, sepia, solarize). And frankly, these snaps of Z310i are nothing to shout about – even the on-screen quality suffers greatly, not to mention their looks on OC display. Video recording is not supported by the handset.
The 32-chord polyphony comes included with the Z310i, but its overall volume is average. The phone focuses mostly on basses, making the sound quite penetrating when receiving a call. But it is not a big deal to miss a call in the street, after all. The silent alert is also of average level and can be felt not every time it triggers off. The reception quality can be rates as rather good which is typical for the phones of the company.
Should you overlook an old-fashioned screen which really spoils the whole impression of the model, the Z310i turns out to be a truly top-notch offering. As for other things holding the phone back, not all Java games can be used on this device (memory limitations are stricter than in original phones). This phone is really unique thanks to its light effects and scheduled themes swap. Good implementation of the phonebook, organizer, mp3 ringtones support, sufficient memory volume for storing own tunes, multitasking which wasn’t stumbled upon in the devices of such class before and finally Bluetooth – these are all obvious trumps of the Z310i. Unusual and eye-picking design which looks luxurious is worth a special note as well. This phone will be retailed for about 180-200$ in the end of February when it arrives in the market. The handset does not have any direct rivals as other companies simply lack similar proposals in their ranges. The model will perfectly suit girls, especially those who are not into music and radio as at the end of the day the Z310i is an entry-level solution with all its attractions and limitations. Taking account of how successful the previous women-aimed models of the Z-line were, we can say for sure that Sony Ericsson Z310i will be a smash hit with some big sales
Published 25 December 2006
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