Sony Ericsson W395 £70
20th Oct 2009 | 10:23
A cheap new Walkman music phone which gets the job done
Sony Ericsson W395: Overview
Splashed with Walkman branding, the W395 is one of the budget wannabes in Sony Ericsson's music mobile line-up rather than one of its top-of-the-bill acts.
Pitched at a wallet-soothing £70, it makes a play for the cash-conscious music phone buyer with a low-key features line-up – fronted up by the tune-playing pull of that Walkman label.
This model, though, is more of a straight-ahead sliderphone design, with the prominent stereo speakers on the back the main eye-catcher for its target youth market buyer.
While it lacks 3G connectivity, the W395 has the essentials for an entry level handset – a 2-megapixel camera, an FM radio to go with the music player, email support and video clip watching capability, plus a mobile internet browser.
That Walkman branding, though, does promise a bit more punch in the music department than the average down-range mobile.
So how much should you really expect from a low-budget Walkman music phone?
Sony Ericsson W395: Design
Its sliderphone template doesn't stray too far away from Sony Ericsson's previous slider handsets, and its plasticky casing reflects the low cost approach.
Available in glossy 'dusky grey' with purple trim or 'blush titanium' with coppery detailing, they're decently enough constructed, and we found the slider mechanism solid and wobble-free.
Its build is medium-sized 96(h) x 47(w) x 14.9(d)mm, weighing in at an unexceptional 96g, while its screen is entry level – a 2-inch, 262K-colour, 176 x 220 pixel TFT display.
One music phone wish list requirement – a 3.5mm standard headphone jack – isn't present on the W395. Like most of its Walkman brethren, the W395 instead uses a regular Sony Ericsson bulky multi-connector socket for earphones, charger and data connectivity.
And again, it's placed on the side. This makes it more tangle-prone than necessary to use in-pocket with earphones plugged in. Unlike more up-range models, there's no 3.5mm adaptor on the supplied headset either.
A Memory Stick Micro (M2) card slot sits on top of the phone, so it's easy to swap cards on the move. A 1GB card is supplied (4GB cards are supported) – which is essential for loading up tunes, as the phone itself packs a mere 10MB of internal storage.
Front controls adopt a signature rounded look, dominated by a conventional navigation D-pad, surrounded by a snazzy purple or copper backlight, that has music player controls marked on it.
Dotted around the D-pad are a regular pair of softkeys, plus call, end and clear buttons - and a dedicated Walkman key for firing up the music maker.
Although small, the keys are perfectly manageable even for large digits, with a responsive action. The nimble D-pad, too, has grooves and ridges to help differentiate control directions.
The numberpad on the slider is moulded from a single piece of plastic, the subtly undulating surface separating keys sufficiently to facilitate rapid fingerwork when texting. Again, its action is remarkably responsive, and while we prefer more individualised keys for accurate typing, it's a good effort for this type of one-piece numberpad.
Sony Ericsson W395: Interface
There's little to surprise in the look and feel of the W395's user interface. It's familiar from previous mid- to lower-range models we've seen over the last couple of years.
The D-pad directional keys provide shortcuts to certain features in standby mode – the default settings are messaging, calendar and contacts – and there are around 20 options that can be user-defined.
The main menu comprises a typical grid of icons, while sub menus are organised into lists, some with sub-heading tabs, which you can scroll through. With a limited set of features to peruse, it's easy to find your way around, and the system is conventionally straightforward to operate.
Although it is packed in plastic, the calling performance from this handset was as good as you'd hope for – there were no problems with audio quality and volume in the earpiece was more than adequate. The quad-band EDGE handset was adept at maintaining decent signal strength.
The phonebook too is simple to call up and edit, the contacts options offering a selection of additional categories for contact information, including work and home details, email and web addresses and birthdays. Nothing new, but it does the job.
Messaging is mostly uncomplicated too. The W395's numberpad layout makes for a relatively swift text typing experience after just the briefest familiarisation with the keys. You can select text or picture messaging or email.
The new message screen is easy to use, with Sony Ericsson's usual predictive text system offering a scrollable list of word options as you're typing, including suggestions for completing words you may be mid-way through typing. These are presented for a couple of seconds in a list mid-screen, so aren't too obtrusive. You can easily add your own words too, though you can't delete them.
The W395 supports POP3/IMAP4/SMTP email and you can set up and use your regular web-based mail or ISP accounts on the handset.
Unlike more up-range Sony Ericsson handsets such as the W705, the email set-up system doesn't automatically identify and install the right email server settings, so you have to input incoming and outgoing server details manually, or download settings over the air via the Sony Ericsson website – if they are available (and some email services we tried weren't).
If you have these details to hand, it's OK, but it does add a layer of off-putting clunkiness to email set up.
Email is handled reasonably well for this grade of handset – it does the job without being visually as rich or sophisticated as higher end handsets, but the layout for composing messages is clean and simple. Attachments can be downloaded, but there's no onboard document reader software.
Without onboard 3G, the Openwave mobile browser on the W395 is a low-grade sort of mobile internet browser that does a reliable job at accessing mobile optimised sites on EDGE-enabled networks, but is very limited. It handles operator portals and sites such as the BBC deftly enough, though full websites can't be handled properly on this device.
It's quite a basic layout for a mobile, with all navigation options in menu lists rather than anything more user friendly (let alone desktop-like). Unlike the mid-league Sony Ericsson's, there's not even a tidy home screen with address bar for the browser – even inputting web addresses requires choosing a menu option.
There is a progress bar towards the bottom of the screen, showing how much data is downloading, but it tends to remind you of how slowly it's all happening. It allows large and small views of pages, and the usual options of bookmarking and refreshing pages. However, it's all pretty basic, unsophisticated stuff for a mobile nowadays.
Sony Ericsson W395: Camera
The W395's 2-megapixel camera is an acceptable sort of shooter for this grade of handset. It has a tidy user interface, with fewer options than the type implemented on Sony Ericsson's mid-tier line-up.
A camera button on the side can launch the snapper almost instantly; in fact, it's one of the quickest start-ups we've seen from a cameraphone, being ready to go in less than 1 second.
SAMPLE SHOT: The Sony Ericsson W395's 2-megapixel camera is an entry level-grade shooter, so its shooting quality is limited
It automatically switches into a camera-like landscape viewfinder mode, and because the camera's on the back panel, there's no need to extend the phone open to take shots and so it balances well in the hand.
The user interface uses a softkey option to open up the settings menu, where a neatly arranged graphical interface enables you to select from settings options including typical white balance control for various lighting environments, multi-burst four-shot shooting, night mode, timer, three colour effects plus image size and quality.
SAMPLE SHOT:The phone's camera is suitable for quick snaps rather than sophisticated cameraphone shooting. Colour is a touch washed out in bright conditions and there's an obvious lack of precise detail in the shot
There is a shade of shutter lag but it's not exceptional, and images are processed without delay. Once shot, they can be uploaded from the camera UI directly to an online Blogger account – a standard feature now across Sony Ericsson's range.
TIMING: There's little problem, however, with shutter lag, so you can take quick snaps even when there's some movement
A Photo Fix option enables images to be given an automatic freshen up by the phone's imaging software, while some effects options allow for rudimentary post-shooting colourisation of images.
While the W395's user interface is easy to handle, the handset does deliver a limited photographic performance. It'll take decent enough snaps for a 2-megapixel cameraphone in reasonable lighting conditions, but don't expect any fancy photography from this fixed lens shooter.
LIMITED DETAIL:Shots can look slightly soft and colours can be a touch over exposed
Colour rendition is well handled in most reasonable lighting situations, auto exposure is good and photos look presentable, though images lack in fine detail and without an autofocus system, it's limited in precision. Sometimes in lower light images can be soft, and in dark situations, without a flash, images are poor – very murky and grainy.
QUALITY:The W395 can take a reasonable snap, but colours lack vibrancy and richness
The camera can shoot video clips, but at a very low-level 176 x 144 pixels maximum resolution at 15 frames per second. Needless to say, playback is unimpressive - low quality and flickery low-grade phone footage.
Sony Ericsson W395: Media
Headlining this phone, the Walkman music player software is not the same fully featured version you'll find on the higher end models, so you don't get Shake control track changing gimmickry or SensMe options among the tune categories.
Headings include artists, albums, tracks, playlists and online channels, for streamed services. The music player interface is typically neat for a Walkman phone, with an easy-to-follow menu structure decked out in moody black, orange and white.
It supports cover art where available, and there is a typical selection of equaliser settings and stereo widening options – plus a light effects option, should you really want the D-pad surround to pulse during your tune playing. This level of music player functionality doesn't really lift this Walkman phone much above others in the market.
Tracks and video content can be loaded up on to the M2 card or copied from a PC using the supplied USB cable downloadable Sony Ericsson Media Manager software (see www.sonyericsson.com/support), dragged or dropped in mass storage mode or alternatively transferred via Bluetooth.
Sony Ericsson's HPM-64 stereo headset supplied in-box may not offer a 3.5mm headphone adaptor (unlike most up-range Walkman phones), but its audio performance is surprisingly good. Tunes have great presence and richness, with thumping, well-balanced bass adding to the mix. It's pretty impressive for a mobile at this sort of price tag.
Despite the performance, it's a still disappointing that there's no 3.5mm headphone socket or adaptor included though, in case you want to upgrade your earphones. You could source your own adaptor, but a music majoring handset should really offer this ear-wear flexibility as a standard in-box option.
Sony Ericsson makes much of the appeal of the W395's 'loud' stereo speakers with supposedly improved bass performance – which is sure to grab the attention of younger users who like to share their music with others.
The twin speakers on the back of the phone – which you can listen to resting the phone on its side – are certainly loud; they can be cranked up to impressive volumes. However, sound quality is still lacking in weighty bass, and although the mid- and high-end range sound reasonably clear, its overall presentation still sounds trebly and particularly harsh when the volume hits its highest levels.
Sony Ericsson's music package also includes an easy to operate FM radio; simply plug in the headphones, and you're on. It's simple to tune into stations between 87.50MHz and 108MHz, either by hunting manually or by long pressing navigation left/right keys to automatically find stations. You can also manually punch in frequencies to store. RDS is supported, and you can play tunes via the loudspeakers as well as through the earphones.
Sony Ericsson's clever TrackID song identification software is present and correct as usual in its music range. Press to grab a snippet of a song either that you hear around you or on the radio, and the app will automatically nip online to identify details of the track and provide them to you in seconds via its browser.
A video player function is included too for video clip playback, though the limited display means it isn't an ideal platform for extensive visual entertainment. Video streaming is supported too from web-based mobile services, but quality can be compromised by slow data connectivity.
Sony Ericsson W395: Misc features
One of the upsides of a relatively feature-light handset is that the battery doesn't take so much of a power-whacking as on high-end do-it-all models. Sony Ericsson rates the W395 as being capable of up to 8 hours' talktime or up to 480 hours' standby time – or music player life of up to 12.5 hours – between charges.
We found the handset did produce an above-average power performance, keeping going for up to four days at a stretch with limited music playing. Hitting the Walkman play button regularly does, of course, lower that phone performance considerably.
Sony Ericsson deals the W395 a standard pack of entry-level organiser applications and tools. It's all quite serviceable stuff we've seen played out on many Sony Ericssons before.
They include calendar, alarm clock, stopwatch and timer features, calculator and tasks option, plus world clock 3D and convertor apps, and a sound recorder.
The W395 supports Bluetooth and USB connectivity, with a cable supplied in-box. No PC syncing software is included however, so if you want to use this for backing up content, or syncing contents, contacts and calendar, you need to download software from Sony Ericsson's website at www.sonyericsson.com/support.
Sony Ericsson includes its standard PlayNow content download portal link, which offers a limited alternative to network download options.
You have to pay for music and other premium content, plus possibly incur network download charges to get it delivered to your handset. The W395 also has three games pre-loaded, Guitar Rock Tour, Nitro Street Racer and Sudoku.
Sony Ericsson W395: Verdict
Sony Ericsson's W395 is a likeable budget Walkman handset with a cracking audio performance. Its other features may feel standard issue low budget, and its build may feel a bit plasticky, but it's a straightforward to use no-fuss slider mobile that has some appeal to younger phone buyers - particularly those who want to use those loud speakers to pump out their tunes.
The high quality music player performance really pumps up the W395's appeal; it's a chief selling point of any Walkman phone, and the earphones deliver.
Packing in a 1GB Memory Stick Micro card provides enough tune-playing room to get you started, and it's easy to swap cards on the move without fiddling with the back or battery.
The stereo speakers on the back pack quite a punch – they're LOUD, if not particularly subtle – but don't expect much in terms of decent bass.
The camera puts in an adequate performance for an entry-level 2-megapixel shooter, providing decent enough snaps without being stand-out for this class. The user interface overall is also straightforward to operate, and the controls responsive.
Music-wise, that lack of a 3.5mm headphone socket or adaptor, and the positioning of the connector socket on the side of the phone are, once again, disappointing in a Walkman music-orientated handset.
The lack of 3G is naturally going to be a drawback, and the mobile browser experience has a low-grade clunky feel to it. Mobile optimised sites work fine, but its target audience may have higher expectations for the device. Email set-up is too clunky for a phone pitched at this level too; an automated system, as used on Sony Ericsson's more mid-tier phones would be far more user-friendly.
No onboard flash means the camera isn't much use in dark environments, which could be a drawback too for its target audience. And the small, low res display isn't ideal for onscreen content viewing.
Any Walkman phone is asking to be judged on its musical merits, and the budget Sony Ericsson W395 kicks in with a very ear-pleasing music player experience. Sure, there are compromises, and the W395 is far from the most feature-heavy of handsets out there around this sort of price level.
There's plenty more it could have packed in, but as it stands, its key features – including that loud loudspeaker - will have plenty of appeal for its younger target audience who are after a high quality tune-playing mobile that's got enough of the other stuff too.