S500 Review

By Michell Bak, 2nd of August 2007

The Sony Ericsson S500 is the first slider phone with the “emotional design” from Sony Ericsson. It is also the first slider in the S-series. I’d bet you remember the first spy pictures of S500 – every one was saying / thinking that this one would be the first phone in a E-series of phones. Where else in the portfolio was it to be put(?), seemed to be the question everybody was asking. But then the day came, and it was released. Surprise, surprise, it was named S500! Rebirth of the S-series, that was formerly dedicated to swivel phones!

S500 measures 99 x 47 x 14 millimetres and seems quite small when holding it in your palm. It weighs 94 grams, which I think is a bit too much for this phone. Around 85 – 90 grams seems to be more fitting.

s500_problem.jpgAs I’ve already said, the phone is a slider, which is quite a good design choice. That way the phone can easily boast a large screen while still having room for a nice keypad. However the S500’s display is “only” 2 inches big and having been use to the 2.6 inch screen of N95, I found it a bit small. The keys are pretty good, but nothing ground breaking (they actually started to crack about 3 weeks after it arrived!). The slider isn’t that great and feels a bit wobbly. If you shake it a bit, you can actually hear it’s not that great. Also the slider mechanism makes some marks on the back of the phone after some usage. It doesn’t look that good, and it’s sad, but a fact.

Camera with a small ‘c’

S500 camera UIWhen pressing the camera button on S500 and getting into the camera menu, you immediately feel that it’s not a phone marketed at people who’ll use their phone’s camera for more than fun and MMS. The screen mode is not the usual landscape one we know from earlier phones such as the W880 (to name a non-cyber-shot branded product), but the normal portrait mode interface. This fact alone, pretty much says it all; it’s not for camera fanatics or photographers!

But now let’s get on with the camera, and let me tell you about some of the features. As always you have the standard lighting options and digital zoom at your service when using the camera. You can set different sorts of things such as different effects, image size, quality and night mode.

You can check out some sample photos here:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

You can also record videos in 3GP format at a resolution of 176 x 144 pixels. The videos tend to be pretty grainy and not good at all. Some effects and settings are also available in camcorder mode, but not all.

Click here for a sample video

The phone also comes with the standard image- and video editing softwares; PhotoDJ and VideoDJ. PhotoDJ is actually quite a nice program for a non-smartphone and it’s really incredible what Sony Ericsson has managed to create. Same for the video editing software called VideoDJ, which not only supports MP3 soundtracks, but also eAAC+! I was pretty amazed when I (about a year back) found out that this application could encode new videos and add my eAAC+ encoded songs without any problems into the final video. This was back on my old K800, and the program hasn’t changed since then. Perhaps this will change with the arrival of the K850, which I’m so getting! 😆

Ever changing menus

s500_ui.jpgOne of the big selling points of the S500 is the ever changing menus and wallpaper. The phone comes with a pack of themes, which all look very good! Personally my all time favourite is the one where the wallpaper and menu look changes accordingly to the time of the year and day. This is a nice touch by Sony Ericsson, and a similar feature can be found in phones from Samsung, where these can adapt the wallpaper to special events, locations and time of the day. Pretty cool and it will be interesting to see the other manufacturers making something like this one day.

Sony Ericsson’s menu system hasn’t been changed in this phone and is still the gs500_ui_1.jpgood ol’ one which is easy to use for most people. It shouldn’t take much more than a day of usage before you get used to it and will find it better than most others.

Intelligent and fashionable

The phone comes bundled with a few games, but I’m only going to point out one game, which is particularly cool. This is the “Brain Juice” game, that can measure how intelligent and logically thinking you are as well as how good a memory you’ve got. It’s an entertaining game, and due to the logs with your scores you can easily compare scores and see if you’ve been improving or not. Other than that the usual stuff is loaded onto the phone – this means a few applications and a game called Quadrapop, which is just like tetris.

Decent screen for a mid-end phone

The phone has a 2 inch big TFT screen. It has a QVGA resolution, also known as 240 x 320 pixels. It can show up to 262.144 colours and is working fair in bright sunlight. Not as well as other Sony Ericsson phones, but good enough to read what’s on the screen. It doesn’t seem to be pixelated and is in general a quite nice screen for a phone like this.

Music player without a name?

Going through the Flash menus on the Danish version of S500 was a bit strange. Because when I reached the music player and was looking up at the name, there wasn’t any! The music player application simply does not have any name in the menu when using Flash themes. That’s weird, I thought, but went on to the player anyhow. It’s just the same player as found in K800 and K550, if you’re familiar with any of these. It has a great resemblance to the first version of the Walkman player and does the exact same job. Sound output is quite good and loud without being too loud. It comes with no memory card and only around 12 megabytes of storage room for your music. So you’d better buy a M2 memory card for it, if you want your music on the go. There’s no radio in it either, which is sad.

Nice phone book

S500 has a very nice phone book application, which makes it easy to keep track on all your contacts with numbers, e-mail addresses, websites, titles, work title, home address, contact picture, special ring tones, user notes, birthdays and more. It actually works like a light version smartphone, however it’s limited to 1.000 contacts and a maximum of 2.500 numbers – although a contact each can have up to 5 numbers. Sound quality is excellent and the person you talk to can hear you loud and clear.

Conclusion

So when it comes down to it, is this a fashion phone with absolutely no advanced features? No, absolutely not. S500 has some nice features for the common user, and that’s where it’s being segmented. It’s not for high tech-geeks like me, but more for people who need a phone with SMS-capability, games and a camera. If you’re one of those people and you’re looking for a new phone, then this could be a nice choice. But please be aware of the faults with the keypad cracking in the first number of phones. Newer phones shouldn’t have this problem, but if they have, Sony Ericsson will repair it completely free of charge.

s500-review-grade.jpg

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