The P990 is a relatively large candybar phone with solid construction, giving it a feel of a high-end device, which it definitely is. The construction has high-quality feel and the battery cover is the only part that gives in when pressed, but sits still and doesn't move in the direction it opens, so opening it is actually very hard operation: you have to push the cover in the upper part and slide it down, but it's easy only on theory – you can break into sweat as you try to do it. Once opened, you can see the battery and under it is situated the bed for the SIM card; unlike other Sony Ericsson phones you can easily remove it, without breaking your nerves or fingers, which is an improvement for the brand.



The phone sits well in man's hand and using it with either left or right one is comfortable, as in both cases you have access to the jog dial, which we think must be put in every single smartphone, because it gives easy one hand only navigation. The large dimensions are a drawback when it comes to putting the phone in a pocket, and we found it strange that Sony Ericsson doesn't ship a case for wearing it on the belt and you have to either put it in a pocket or look for third party case designed for the P990.


Except the Jog Dial, the left side houses also a “back” key, a multimedia (play/pause) shortcut key, similar to those of other Sony Ericsson phones (W810, K800, etc) and a small lock slider that cuts the need of difficult key combinations for locking the keypad/display. 
On the opposite (right) side are a @ shortcut to the internet browser and a camera shortcut/shutter key with small LED lightning next to it. Different functionality can be assigned to both the multimedia and the Internet keys.
All the side buttons are easy to press but hard to feel, as only the jog-dial and the camera shutter are raised from the surfaced.

In the middle of the right side is situated the small cover of the Memory Stick Duo card slot which is solid and easy to open, but the card itself can be hardly removed if your fingers are not tiny. On the bottom are the standard Sony Ericsson multipurpose connector and the top houses the infrared eye and power key. The main camera is on the back with its LED flash, while the one for video calling is above the display next to the speaker and service light.

The P990 is a candybar … but with Flip. When “closed” it looks like a normal phone (with big size), but its numeric keypad is situated on an active (it changes the mode of the phone when opened or closed) flip with very robust spring mechanism. Opening it, you can see the whole display (240x320 pixels) and a small full QWERTY keyboard below it.

The display is one of the main characteristics of the SE P990 – it is 2.8 inches, touch-sensitive QVGA unit displaying up to 262k colors (18bit) which (on specifications) is four times (4x) more than Windows Mobile Pocket PCs that support 65k colors (16bit). Although its colors number, it didn't performed very well in this part and the image produced by it was just as good as that of T-Mobile MDA (QVGA 65k colors) which is good looking image but not as detailed and contrast as those of phones without touch screen (Nokia N73, Sony Ericsson K800, Samsung D900). In direct sunlight, it is extremely hard to read and is actually darker compared to the T-Mobile MDA's one.

The numeric keypad is located on the flip that stays solid even when pressed; the number keys are slim horizontal lines with good relief and very strong tactile feedback, which helps dialing a number without looking at the keypad and without making mistakes.  As good as them are the navigation and software keys, and the 5-way D-pad which is very usable and comfortable, unlike those of most other phones. All the keys are lit in white and the function of each key is very easy to be seen as the backlight is strong and consistent.

The full QWERTY keyboard consists of 35 keys made of transparent light blue plastic, which when lit shines in solid blue that is both good looking and strong enough for easy reading of each key as the characters are written in black (main) and dark blue(alternative) over each key and can be seen even when the backlight is off. The keys are arranged in four rows with the very small space between each is their main drawback. Unfortunately they are not designed to be pressed with stylus, and doing it is near to impossible. Despite their tiny size, they have convenient form which combined with their superb tactile response makes a usable QWERTY hardware keyboard that is probably the fastest way to type in a text.  Compared to the HTC Wizard (T-Mobile MDA) it is not that comfortable for typing mainly because of the size, but its backlight is better.

The stylus is located in a port on the left part of the top side. It is 3.3 inch long and although its small thickness using it is very convenient, and also is inserting and removing it from the port as it ends with rugged surface. The box contains a spare one if you happen to lose or break yours...

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