Sony Ericsson S700i review

Introduction


Well after a few weeks of twisting around with this new device I am now ready to share my thoughts and impressions on the S700i. The much awaited and talked about Camera/Phone from Sony/Ericsson. Following the very strong and popular K700i the S700i continues with the same design theme of aluminum and glass with a very unique "Twist" on any previous Sony/Ericsson products. The S700i is most notable for its 1.3 MegaPixel camera which is actually a Sony CyberShot camera stuffed into the body. This device uses a CCD (Charged Coupled Device) sensor instead of the cheaper and more popular CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) used in just about every other known camera/phone.

SE P910 and S700i

So, what do I think about this new device and its unique design??? Read on for my thoughts about it and its performance.
Because all of the phone features and menus are exactly like its siblings the Z1010 and K700i...I am not going to talk about those features again. If you want to know more about that read my review of the Sony/Ericsson K700i here before asking me any questions..

P910 and S700i
P910, S700i and K700



P910, K700 and S700i
P910, K700 and S700i


K700 and S700i
K700 and S700i






S700i and NextLink
Bluespoon


Razr V3 and S700i
Razr V3 and S700i


S700i and Motorola
Mpx220
S700i side with Motorola
Mpx220


S700i outside keypad
S700i opened




First of all let me preface this review by saying that "THIS PHONE IS A PROTOTYPE"!! Therefore, features and performance of my phone may vary from the features and performance of the production device. Having said that.....

The S700i is a TriBand World phone working on the 900/1800/1900 GSM Networks, supporting GPRS data transmission and supporting SMS and MMS services. It has 1.3 MegaPixel CCD Camera, 240 X 320 TFT 262,000 Color Scratchproof Screen, Bluetooth & Infrared, with approximately 40mb of on-board memory and Memory Stick DuoA support of up to 128mb. Additionally it has a WAP browser, email client, Java application ability, FM Stereo Radio, SpeakerPhone, and Video capture/playback capability. The S700i has a unique swivel design that has been muched talked about, however, you will find that you very rarely open the phone to accept and place phone calls. The phones keypad can be opened in either direction by using your thumb or other hand to swing the screen an top of the device 180 degrees in either direction. Therefore, it does not matter if you are right or left handed....the phone's swivel mechanism will be right for you. You cannot, though, swing the top in a 360 degree manner....You must close it by rotating it in the opposite direction of the same 180 degree plane. One criticism I have of this design is that the Top/Bottom orientation is opposite from the keyboard orientation so that you must rotate the phone in your hand after opening it in order to have it in the proper Screen/Keypad orientation. If Sony/Ericsson had simply moved the rotating mechanism to the other end you could open the phone and have the keypad in its proper place without turning the phone around in your hands. For the most part though, you never need to open the phone to use it

The S700i uses a 780mAh battery of a unique design that is compatible only with this device. Battery life was very good with all day use possible without charging. This includes using the camera which is suprising because CCD sensors are typically avoided in phones because of its high energy requirement as well as cost.

RF performance was very good as well. I found my ProtoType to be comparable to my P800/900 but not quite as good as the K700is I have used. I can only speculate that the ProtoType nature of the device may have been the reason as the firmware had not been tweaked for optimal RF.

Voice Quality is very good both incoming and outgoing as is typical of a Sony Ericsson product. The speaker of the S700i is on the back by the camera lens. Although it is sufficiently loud, after using the Motorola RaZr I am spoiled by stereo ringers and believe that should have been a part of this particular devices design. Also, the location of the speaker is such that if you lay the S700i on a surface such as a bed or couch throw....you probably will not hear it ring because the speaker is easily obstructed by soft surfaces. You can solve this by placing the device face down on its screen if you like....but I don't recommend this habit.

Accepting and making calls from the phone book or call list can be accomplished by using the D-pad and four (4) smart keys. Most all phone operations and menus can be accessed without opening the phone. Checking voicemail being one of the few that will require you to "Swivel" open the screen.

Incoming calls are answered easily without opening the phone...


The Screen itself is BEAUTIFUL!! 262k colors and with a very nice 240 X 320 resolution really make things POP!! It is very usable in direct sunlight and absolutely EXPLODES with color and clarity in low light. The D-pad and smart keys are made of chromed metal and match the metalized plastic of the phone body well. I absolutely love the workmanship and quality of the materials


 

S700i screen

Overall, the S700i as a phone operates and has the identical features of theK700i. The only exception being the need to open the device for some phone related operations and my units slightly poorer RF performance. So, the S700i is a great performer as a phone, no one will be disappointed in its performance as such.



The S700i uses bluetooth, infrared, and GPRS to connect you to other devices or the internet. First, the infrared works well and GPRS connection with the WAP browser or email client is exactly the same as the K700i with the exception of the much larger S700i screen.


Bluetooth connection with this phone worked very well with my Nextlink BlueSpoon Digital. Voice dial from a headset and range were all very good. No particular "line of sight" issues within immediate range of the device. I did have a bluetooth problem with the S700i resulting in occasional crashes of the bluetooth requireing that the phone be turned off and back on. I attribute this to the prototype nature of the firmware and don't expect any problems with the bluetooth with a production firmware. However, I've been using the Motorola RaZr and the SuperTooth used on that device should be implemented by Sony/Ericsson on all future bluetooth handsets. The range and lack of "line of sight" issues with headsets is well worth the extra money it may or may not cost to include it. In fact...after using it I believe it should be the only bluetooth standard in all handsets from now on.




Finally, the part about the S700i that seperates it from every other camera/phone on the market wtih the exception of Japan. This is the primary feature of the S700i that brings it all of the attention. A 1.3 MegaPixel Camera!! The S700i was actually designed to look like a Digital Camera and I was told by Sony/Ericsson personnel that it was placed in a lineup by Sony/Ericsson Designers with other Sony Digital cameras and then presented to individuals in a market survey to see which one they would choose as being a phone. The S700i was very successful in fooling those test subjects who rarely picked it as the phone. In fact, the unit I've been using is always greeted with suprise when I tell people its a phone. It looks like a camera from every angle, there is nothing in its styling, size, or appearance that would give away its phone abilities with the exception of the speaker holes..

The S700i contains the guts of a real Sony/CyberShot camera. It uses a CCD sensor as already mentioned which is the preferred capture sensor for most high-end cameras. The camera operation is commenced by the user in 3 different ways.

1. By simply opening the shutter.
2. By pressing and holding the shutter release button for 2 seconds.
3. By accessing the menu through the D-pad.


Menus of the S700i are more extensive than the K700i. It has "Spot Photometry" as an additional option as well as others. Menus....

The Viewfinder ready to shoot...
Press D-pad left to right for selecting Camera/Video
Press D-pad up/down to Zoom in/out.
Press Upper Left button to view photos.
Press Lower Left button to open settings menu...


Move D-pad up/down and left/right to move through menus. Press the Center Stick in to "Select"....

Spot Photometry....


Select the storage area for Photos and Video...

You can frame photos with 10 different special effect frames..


an example.....


Maximum Resolution is 1280 X 960....

Night Mode, Timer, and Special Effects...


Select Video Capture by toggling from Camera icon to Video icon


Finally, take the shot by pressing the camera button...

Shutter Response is immediate and the image is written to the storage card in less than a second. Extremely fast writing of the data. The image is held in the viewfinder and the camera is reset by pressing the shutter release button once...

Your photos can be stored internally on the S700i's 40mb memory or externally on a Memory Stick Duo. Maximum storage supported is 128mb which is several hundred megapixel photos.


View your photos using the S700i's excellent screen...




Now, using the D-pad, press Up to activate Zoom and then use it to move your "Red Zoom Box" to the selected area of the photo you want to enlarge...


It really is impressive and the screen makes it so vivid and entertaining. Most people I showed this feature to couldn't believe the quality of the photo...

With a 262K Color Screen and a 240 X 320 resolution, stereo sound, and external storage....I was really looking forward to playing some of my encoded movies on it in full screenand comparing them to playback on a P900. Alas....it was not meant to be. The S700i will not support the resolution of the P800/900 series phones and will only playback a 177 X 144 resolution video. I tried everything...but a Nokia 7650 encoded movie played just fine with sound.....a P800/900 device specific movie would only play the sound,,,,,no video. So, until a player that will support the great resolution of this device is added....the screen's potential is just wasted in my opinion.... I'm really shocked that this is the case with this phone. It could come to market with a player that will do this...but I kind of doubt it...

View in Wide Screen...


Regular playback....

This is what a movie "COULD" look like....

That pretty much explains the operation of the camera/video capture and viewers on this phone. All in all, exceptional camera abilities and features, disappointing video playback support. Hopefully this will be fixed in the production models.

Talk is cheap and specs are only as good as the paper they are written on. The proof of this devices "PhotoGraphic Goodness" are in the pixels.....and the delivery of those pixels through its CCD.. So, how good is the K700i's photographic talents? All I can say is that the "Proof is in the Pictures"...so judge for yourself. My opinion is that you have to go to Japan to find a better Camera/Phone....

S700i PHOTOS AT MAXIMUM RESOLUTION...UNRETOUCHED AT THEIR ACTUAL SIZE!


Compare to other 1.3 MegaPixel images...

Motorola MpX....


Motorola MpX220....


Compare to the K700i in "Extended" resolution...


Compare to the Motorola RaZr....



Well, there is no doubt about it in my mind that the S700i is the very best Camera with a phone built in that you can buy and use outside of Japan. It has all the solid phone features and quality that you expect from a Sony/Ericsson product as well as "head turning" one-of-a-king styling. Nevertheless, I'm disappointed in the phone overall. I guess I was expecting a tremendous difference in performance from the K700i with the really nice hardware upgrades found on the S700i. Specifically......

1. A video player that will support the 240 X 320 screen resolution of the S700i. This is something that I feel must be added in order for a person to feel that they own a MultiMedia Machine and not just a very good Camera/Phone. The new e680 from Motorola is a much better video playback machine than the S700i

2. A louder speaker or a front firing speaker as well. Motorola has got this down now and is moving ahead. My RaZr is twice as loud and is a much smaller handset. The new e680 is even louder than that with very noticeable stereo reproduction.

3. A HTML capable browser. I'm sorry, but when you have a device this large with a screen this pretty...WAP just will not do. This is an upgrade from the K700i...it should be able to do some things from a phone side that the K700 cant.

4. A more thoughtful design of the rotating mechanism so that I can open it with my thumb without then having to turn the phone around in my hand to get the proper orientation.

5. Better bluetooth hardware. This should be across the board with Sony/Ericsson bluetooth phones. There is no question that Sony/Ericsson makes the very best bluetooth enabled phones, with superior pariing and features with multiple devices. However, the new SuperTooth used in the Motorola RaZr increases the performance of headset use so greatly that Sony/Ericsson should make sure that this long range standard is used in all of its upcoming handsets. It just makes talking on a bluetooth headset a "landline like" experience no matter where you are with no breakup or static even if the phone is in a briefcase nearby.

So, my opinion of this phone is that it is a very "Niche Oriented" device. For people who are ShutterBugs and would like to own a quality camera that also can be used as a very powerful phone....look no further. The S700i is very, very good at taking photos, has a beautiful screen to look at them on, and is very eye-catching to the public when in use.

However, if you don't need or expect to use the camera feature of this device you are really going to be disappointed in the lack of support for the hardware improvements over the K700i. With its beautiful screen and external storage the S700i should be able to render movies or video clips in a full screen resolution. At this time though....it does not look like it will have a player included that can do this. I hope the production units will allow this, if so, it would improve my opinion of this device greatly.

Will I buy one? Probably... when the S700i is available, I would purchase one for trips or vacations. Otherwise, the K700i can do all the things that a S700i can do at half the size and less than 2/3rds the weight. As a daily phone it is just alittle too large for me without the features I have come to expect in a phone this size, namely, full screen video playback, HTML web browsing, full contact and calander support, WiFi, and touch screen ability. In short, its a device for people who want a nice small Camera first.....and a nice phone second....

Credits
This review has been edited and published with permission from the original author - Mark Morrow  
(BengalBoy).



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