Sony Ericsson's Walkman Phone series has recently proven itself at the 2008 European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) Awards with the W980i nabbing the Best European Music Phone award. Does it live up to its claim to fame? We embark on a journey with the W980i to seek out the truth.
On first impressions, the W980i is so shiny that we found ourselves staring into our reflections before we started it up. But once we did, the secondary 176 x 176 display screen came to life, as did its touch-sensitive contextual playback buttons that switches into a five-way navigation pad for its Walkman menu, haptic feedback included. The bottom tip of the phone comes in a clear acrylic design, and with the device active and pumping with music, an orange backlight pulses to the beats and creates a visual effect that goes with the flow of the music. Of course, when the W980i is in lull mode, the black chassis looks as smooth as it feels to the touch, albeit revealing any fingerprint smudges on it.
Flipping open the clamshell device (with two hands, as one handed flipping proved difficult), we were greeted with a 2.2-inch TFT QVGA screen and an elongated numeric keypad which requires one to stretch the thumb to reach the bottom row. This makes text messaging that much harder as the # key was also the space key. Other than that, the five-way navigation pad is easy on the thumb, but the Call and End buttons are a tad too small to press, as with the two soft keys and the Menu and Clear button.
Just how good is the W980i's audio reproduction? One word describes it all - excellent. With its Walkman 3.0 interface, we navigated through the sample tracks found on the W980i, and found a very impressive bass delivery with no muffling detected on the bundled inner-earphones. To test its capability even further, we listened to a short excerpt of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", which illustrated the audio clarity between each instrument, with a clear delivery of the highs with the violins and cymbals. With such positive reviews for its audio, there was nevertheless one thing that marred the perfect picture, and that was the FastPort connection required, which includes data, battery charging, and sadly, audio connection. However, you are still able to utilize your own earphones since the bundled earpiece does have a 3.5mm output and the inner-earphones provided served us well.
The W980i comes with a generous 8GB of internal memory. While it won't be able to play the full 8GB worth of songs in one seating, it does a decent job with its 930mAH Li-Polymer battery. Being a music phone, we subjected it to almost 10 hours of music playback, mixed with routine phone calls and text messaging, and finally squeezed the battery dry in nearly two days of usage.
At the end of the day, we constantly asked ourselves if the W980i is deserving of its European Music Phone of the Year award as given by EISA back in August. The answer, would be a resounding yes. Covering all their bases with a sleek and seductive aesthetic design and fulfilling its core focus as a music-centric device with its strong audio delivery, the W980i definitely is a winner in our books, and probably in yours too if you are looking to purchase it at S$798 without contract (expect an even greater discount with a 2-year mobile plan).