Sony Ericsson C510 £175
30th Mar 2009 | 23:00
This mid-range performer mixes it up with impressive results
Sporting the Cyber-shot brand, the C510 is geared up to be another of Sony Ericsson's photo-majoring mobiles.
It's not one of the high megapixel-count big hitters like the C905, however; the 3.2-megapixel cameraphone is instead billed as Sony Ericsson's most affordable Cyber-shot phone so far.
Its camera capabilities may be the big shot feature – it has an autofocus system with extra gadgetry like Face Detection and Smile Shutter, plus LED flash – but it also has a comfortable mid-tier level of functionality inside.
It's a 3G-enabled, HSDPA-equipped handset, supporting fast audio and video downloads and browsing, video calling, and has a bunch of standard-issue Sony Ericsson online-based applications including Google Maps and YouTube and blogging upload options onboard. Music and video players and an FM radio maintain the entertainment quota.
Mobile network operator 3's customised version of the C510 adds a few extra apps too, including an integrated Facebook application, Skype internet phone calling capability, and Windows Live Messenger instant messaging.
Look and feel
The C510 is a smart-looking candy bar design, with a low-key front panel and some nice contrast silver and dark blue edging on the black version of the phone we tested (there's also a silver version with grey trim). It has a slimline build, with dimensions of 107(h) x 47(w) x 12.5(d)mm, and a respectably solid 92g bodyweight.
It feels good to hold and operate, the numberpad nicely set up with large, well defined and responsive keys a pleasure to press.
A conventional control pad set up includes a prominent square navigation D-pad that's raised slightly proud for suitably easy operation.
The contoured softkeys mostly work well, and are easy to press. In camera landscape mode you may find them slightly more fiddly because of the way the onscreen options are lined up – the Back option can bring fingers close to the call End button – but a little care is all that's needed to avoid mis-pressing.
The decent 2.2inch QVGA (320x240 pixels), 262K-colour scratch-resistant display is sufficiently bright and clear for image viewing and menu operation.
Sony Ericsson employs its familiar user interface that's quite straightforward to navigate, and there's a motion sensor accelerometer to automatically change screen orientation as the phone is moved between portrait and landscape.
Around the back, the C510 sports a slick but unobtrusive camera lens cover panel that slides down over the bodywork to reveal the lens towards the top of the handset. It's tidily engineered, so the back panel is flat when the cover is closed. Opening it up automatically fires up the camera.
The Cyber-shot camera user interface delivers on usability, offering an intuitive way to find your way around settings plus shortcuts for working the shooter.
Glowing blue function icons are illuminated on the top row of number buttons (3, 6, 9 an #) when the phone's held in landscape with the camera activated, guiding you to quick shortcuts for selecting shoot mode, scenes, focus and flash.
The camera provides a decent selection of custom shooting options for optimising results and adding effects. In addition to the usual white balance, exposure, and standard phone options, there are a variety of scene options for different types of shooting and lighting situations. Also included are a macro shooting mode, which works pleasingly for autofocus close ups.
Another focus aid is the Face Detection technology, which can pick out up to three faces in different parts of the viewfinder, allowing you to focus on the one you want.
With a further Smile Shutter option, after the shutter button's pressed the camera will only takes snaps when it detects a smile from the subject in focus. Both these extras are effective within a few feet of the camera. The camera also has a geo-tagging capability – recording the approximate position where the snap's taken, using cellsite triangulation rather than GPS.
Results from the camera are generally pretty good for a 3.2-megapixel camera, capturing images with a decent amount of detail and accurate colour reproduction in reasonable lighting conditions. Shots can be very presentable. Close up shots were impressive in macro mode too, and the camera appeared to handle contrast and exposure pretty well.
Low light shooting isn't so good, however, with the dual LED flash not performing as well as a more upmarket xenon flash would. It has limited effect over more than very close range, and shots in dark conditions look murky.
The C510 is set up to allow fast uploading of images. As well as Blogger accounts, MySpace and Picasa are supported out of the box, while additional online services can be easily added.
On top of some basic onboard editing software Sony Ericsson allows for some offboard tweakery by supplying Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition software for PCs on a CD.
Video uploading is supported too though the quality of shot footage isn't particularly impressive. The phone shoots in QVGA resolution at 30 fps, giving smooth playback on the phone screen. Expanded on a PC display, the low res footage is run of the mill phone fare.
The music player software is standard mid-tier Sony Ericssons, and does a very acceptable job. The user interface is attractive and straightforward. There's around 100MB of in-phone storage, though you can add Memory Stick Micro memory cards via a side slot (no card is included in-box).
The music player turns in a decent enough performance – although the average earphones boxed with the phone aren't the best Sony Ericsson can do. Consequently, sound quality is averagely OK.
Again, Sony Ericsson hasn't included a standard 3.5mm headphone socket on the phone, just a regular multi-purpose Sony Ericsson side connector, so you can't easily plug in your own headphones. You could try stereo Bluetooth wireless earphones, or get a 3.5mm adapter if sound quality is important to you.
The FM radio onboard is easy to set up and use and sounds pretty good through the earphones or phone speaker, which isn't too abrasive on this handset. The usual Sony Ericsson TrackID software is part of the normal audio line-up.
Sony Ericsson includes a lot of its standard-issue mid-tier software, including Google Maps and a YouTube app. Google Maps allows you to get your approximate position (determined by cellsite triangulation) shown on maps that are updated over the air. You can search for addresses, businesses and services and look up routes.
It's not the full Sat Nav package by any means, but it can be very handy for getting by in places you don't know without having GPS onboard.
The pre-loaded YouTube app enables you to easily upload videos you've shot, or watch videos from the online service. You can browse and search for content too.
Employing HSDPA high-speed data connectivity, the C510's web browser can download and render web pages relatively quickly, either in format optimised for the handset or in a full page view. It's limited as typical mid-range phone browsers are, but does an adequate job. There's RSS web feed support on this handset, too.
Other apps include an online AccuWeather.com weather information service, plus the normal sort of organiser options - calendar, world clock, tasks and notes functions, plus stopwatch and timer, calculator, code memo app, and sound recorder options. Game include the motion guided Nitro Street Racing 3D driving game.
The Sony Ericsson C510 puts in an exemplary calling performance, with first class sound and voice quality and reliable connectivity. Battery life isn't bad either; Sony Ericsson estimates up to 350 hours standby or up to 4 hours talk time with 3G network coverage (400 hours standby or 10 hours talk on GSM). With typical use, we managed to get around 3 days of battery life from it.
Spreading the Cyber-shot message to the affordable end of its range, Sony Ericsson's C510 puts in a steady cameraphone shift rather than wowing with high-end megapixel might. The camera is decent enough for this sort of price level, and there are some interesting extra shooting features to play with.
Overall though, this is an attractive and ably equipped mid-tier handset that may not have all the latest must-have gadgetry but which delivers a solid hit of functionality for the cash.