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Sony Ericsson W960 review part 3

Best Walk-cam

The camera in W960 is a 3.2 mega pixel CMOS sensor with auto focus. Auto focus enables taking both macro shots as well as full figure landscape pictures. Furthermore it’s got an LED flash on the back for taking pictures in bad lighting conditions.

UIQ 3 camera interface

The camera interface in W960’s camera application is about the same as the one in Sony Ericsson’s two other smart phones with camera – P1 and P990. It’s optimized for using both stylus and the jog dial, which makes it a bit hard to use your finger only. It’s possible, but takes time and practice. Overall, the interface is nice and smooth with see-through menus and cool gimmicks, like removing all icons when taking pictures, so you’ve got a full viewfinder.

There is a set of short cuts in the camera on W960 as in most Sony Ericsson branded solutions. You can get an overview of these by pressing ‘0’ (zero) on the keypad. Among some of the short cuts are focus settings, night mode and flash mode. The W960 has a total of 3x digital zoom, but the zoom has an effect on the resolution. This is what Sony Ericsson calls Smart Zoom. No zoom is 3 mega pixels, 1.1x – 1.2x zoom is 2 mega pixels, 1.3x – 1.6x is 1.3 mega pixels, while 1.7x – 3x zoom is VGA (0.3 mega pixels).

You can easily switch between the different modes (photos or videos) on the right of the screen as well as settings. There are a quite a few settings in W960 (most presented with informative pop-ups available):

  • Shoot mode – Video, Frame, Burst & Photo
  • Frame size – 3 MP, 2 MP, 1 MP & VGA
  • Auto focus – Normal, Macro & Off
  • White balance – Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent & Auto
  • Light – On & Off
  • Effects – Black & White, Sepia, Solarization, Negative & Off
  • Quality – Fine, Normal & Economy
  • Night mode – On & Off
  • Save to – Media memory preferred, Media memory & Phone memory
  • Auto review – Off & On
  • Shutter sound – Shutter sound 1, 2, 3, 4 & Off
  • Self-timer – On & Off
  • Reset file number – Reset now

Now, lets have a look at some of the photos taken with this baby! Remember, press to enlarge the photos.

W960 camera samples

As you’ve probably noticed, the W960 does quite well with the camera and is without doubt the best camera phone in the Walkman series at the moment. W890 won’t come till next year, and although this will also be packing a 3 mega pixel camera, there is no auto focus in it, so the pictures won’t be at much use. Now, back to the W960.

There is a certain amount of noise in the photos and this is because W960’s noise reduction isn’t that aggressive. This, however, also gives much better details and the photos become more real life-like. The colours are also very much like real life, and I’ll let you decide if this is an advantage or disadvantage. Personally I believe it’s an advantage, since I’m fairly good with photo editing software and could easily fix the colours.

The camera is fairly quick and there’s no substantial shutter-lag in good lighting conditions. In what I would call ‘fair’ lighting conditions, however, the camera viewfinder seems to be reacting very slow and focussing is slow, too. If this is a firmware fault or not, I don’t know, but it’s not that great. When using the LED flash in dark surroundings, you’ll have to stand still with the camera for about a second or so. It’s not that bad, but luckily it’s a bit quicker sometimes. Again, it depends on the lighting conditions.

Videos can be recorded in QVGA resolution (320 x 240 pixels) with 15 frames per second. The format is 3GP, and the result is pretty good. Not as good as some of the other offerings on the market, but more than approved for every day usage. Most of the features from photo mode are also available in video mode. The interface is the same.

You can find a video sample here.

Once you’ve taken your pictures, you can edit them in the Picture Editor application. This application is nowhere to be found other than through the Gallery, so don’t be surprised if you can’t find it in the Tools menu or somewhere alike. The editor is quite simple, yet packs the most necessary features like clipart, text, frames, different effects and corrections as well as the option to paint the pictures with the stylus in a set of colours.

Photo album • Zoom in action

The picture gallery is quite nice and has features like advanced slide shows and nice zooming options. It’s easy to browse around in and you have the option to browse through just about all photos on both the phone and media memory.

Music mania!

Those of you, who have read my W910 review, will know that I pretty much named the W910 the king of music by saying that it “triumphs as a music phone”. Well, guess what – I was wrong! W960 is the new king of the castle and does like the W910 feature Walkman 3.0 player with the exception that this is the smart phone – also called ‘Touch’ – edition, which makes it much better!

Walkman 3.0 Touch player without visualizations • Music rating

The Walkman player can be accessed in several ways. Either by pressing the dedicated Walkman button in the middle of the keypad, pressing the large Walkman field in standby mode or by opening the application in the main menu. In short – you’ll have access to your music from anywhere! Once the player is active and opened, a set of three touch sensitive music keys will appear in a bright whitish orange colour. And trust me, you’ll be using these a lot!

Player layout • Searching • Album with cover, mood and rating set

Auto playlists • Time machine • Different visualization effects

The Walkman player itself is pretty easy to use. The functions are nicely sorted out into different categories such as Artists, Albums, Compositions, Moods and Playlists. All are represented with a large icon on its left. In the background you’ll see animated particles flying around in the air around the “laser beam” hovering your selection. See the video below for a full walk through of the player with all animations on.

The W960 is the most complete music phone out there at the moment, and does pretty much everything the competitors does. Plus more, that is! Here goes a few of the ‘special’ features;

  • Auto playlists – extensive amount of auto playlists with everything from most played to least played and latest additions to bookmarks.
  • Time machine – a very cool feature that sorts the music by year. Then you simply select a year of a decade – like the 80’s – and a playlist with all the 80’s music starts playing. Furthermore there are some cool effects when playing songs!
  • Moods – you can pick out moods for every song on your phone. There are four to choose from and if either the name, colour or speed doesn’t fit you, you can change it!
  • Compilations – the phone can also sort albums by what kind of albums they are. Say, it’s a “best of…” album, then the phone will somehow recognize this and put in in the Compilations menu.
  • Smart album cover zoom – simply by pressing the album cover in play mode, it’ll get enlarged so you can see details.
  • Visualizations – there are five different visualizations available in the Walkman player. The colour varies accordingly to the mood and so does the speed. It seems to be OpenGL-based and looks great, but is somewhat of a gimmick feature.
  • Great layout – W960’s Walkman player layout is by far the best I have ever seen on a mobile phone. It’s extremely easy to use, there are loads of settings to personalize it and many show-off features.
  • Equalizers – there are lots of equalizers on W960. 13 of them, to be exact. This includes everything from Pop and Rock to Jazz and Classic. Also included is MegaBass, of course.

Visualization settings • Player settings • Easy playlist navigation

Press to go to album • Equalizers • Album cover zoom

Audio quality wise, this baby rocks! The bundled headset with W960 is by no means crappy and gives a good sound at a fitting volume level. The bass level seems to be just about perfect. The only thing I dislike a bit is that the headset is an in-ear one, which pretty much seals you from the outside world. This is both positive and negative, though. Some love it, while some hate it.

W960 supports a variety of audio codecs – all kinds of AAC formats, m4a, MP3, Real Audio and WMA. Support for codecs such as OGG and FLAC is missing.

FM radio with RDS and lots of features

Not only does the W960 have the best music / Walkman player ever, it’s also got the best FM radio application ever! Just like the Walkman player, there are also visualizations in the radio application. It’s an RDS FM radio that can store up to 20 radio frequencies automatically and of course also manually. The reception is nothing else than marvellous! In Denmark we’ve got multiple radio stations that send out all kind of information with the FM signals, such as the radio station name, current song playing and also phone numbers if there’s a contest or something like this. W960 is capable of displaying it all!

If you don’t know what song is on the radio, but you seem to like it, don’t worry about not knowing the name. W960’s got TrackID, that’ll quickly record a sample of the song (works with the radio and music from the surroundings – not music played on the phone, though) and it’ll be sent off to Gracenote, where it gets analysed and a few seconds after, you’ll be redirected to a website with the song’s name, artist, album and even a link to where you can buy the song (this is operator dependant at the moment). It’s such a genius application – and it works with both via the mobile network and also via WLAN!

Golfing on a large screen

W960 comes with two games; Quadrapop and Vijay Singh 3D Pro Golf. Now, I’ve already gone through the first game in my W910 review, so you can read about that one there. Either way, it’s also the second game that’s the far most interesting one.

Vijay Singh 3D Pro Golf

Vijay Singh 3D Pro Golf is a fully 3D animated golf game with great graphics and sound! It’s running pretty good on the W960 – a bit laggy, though – but it’s still very playable. In the game you can compete in lots of championships and beat the contestants. You’ll win money for every won championship, good round and so on. The money can then be spent on making your character even better (new clothes, golf bars, etc.).

Lacking EDGE and HSDPA

W960 is a tri-band GSM mobile phone with GPRS and UMTS support. EDGE and HSDPA support is lacking however, which is sad for a music and web phone like W960. It’s got Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, but no EDR, so you’ll be stuck with data transfers at about 50 KB/s. USB 2.0 is one of the big selling points with this phone and it’s lighting fast! I’ve transferred a few gigabytes of videos to the phone and it took about five minutes in total, which is more than impressive. It’s also got WLAN (b-standard) up to 11 Mbps, which is totally fine with me.

Opera Mobile 8.65 in portrait mode • Whole page zoom

Landscape mode • Usable buttons at the bottom

The web browser in W960 is Opera Mobile 8.65 and although it seems to be working great for most websites (both fully HTML-based and also xHTML-based ones), it’s lacking a better Flash and Java support. Other than that, it’s great and supports multiple tabs opened at once, high speed downloads, website fitting, landscape mode, option to save websites and so on. It’s got just about everything 🙂

RSS reader • USEB’s RSS feed on W960

RSS reader in action • Settings

The RSS reader in W960 is the best in all Sony Ericsson phones. You can download the RSS feeds by either mobile network data transfers or WLAN. All the feeds can be managed and sorted right on the phone and if you click on an RSS icon with the web browser, it can automatically be added to your RSS feeds. Clever thinking!

Email menu on a slightly modded W960 • reading an email from My-Symbian.com

To start off with I had some trouble setting up my Gmail account on W960, but I quickly resolved this and now it’s working great and I’ve set it to download full emails with attachments, too. Currently I’ve got about 300 emails in the inbox and the phone hasn’t slowed down a bit. The email set up is quite easy and most people should be able to do so. It also supports push emails, which I’m pretty fond of.

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