Sony Ericsson W890 is a successor of the W880, which was the first slim Walkman phone from Sony. The two phones are almost identical in size; the W890 has a slightly bigger display (2” as compared to the 1.9” of W880), a better keypad with wider keys (seeing how not everyone liked the narrow ones of W880), and a 3.2 Megapixel built-in camera (compared to the 2 Mpx of it’s predecessor).
The case is fully metallic, unlike the one of W880 which had the sides of the back panel made from ‘soft-touch’ plastic. You can see the two models compared in the photos below.
Front side (W880 on the left, W890 on the right – note the wider keys of the latter):
Back side (note the metallic back lid of W890):
Let’s leave the comparison between the two phones at that and concentrate on reviewing the W890 now.
Design and materials
Like I said before, the case is fully metallic and it has that brushed metal look which looks very good. The phone comes in two colors: a brownish one with a hint of bronze – that’s the one you can see in the video – and your usual silver. Both look quite interesting, but the brown is more appealing. The back lid is secured in place by two stops on the sides of the device. You will have to take it off when you want to put in a memory card, but you can change them on the fly without having to turn off the phone. The battery is a standard Li-Pol from Sony Ericsson that is good for up to 360 hours of stand-by and 9 and half hours of talk time. Once again, you can see in the video that the back lid is made from metal without any kind of plastic parts.
The W890 is controlled with your usual keypad and function buttons. It has a button to launch the music player on the left upper side, and another one to turn on the camera on the lower right side, as well as a volume control above it. Like in all recent models from Sony Ericsson, the headset port is on the side of the phone, which isn’t very convenient because the wire is going up and sticks out a lot. With the headphone adapter connected, the W890 doesn’t look as elegant as before because the connector is almost twice as thick as the phone itself; it isn’t very comfortable to hold in your hand, either. Here’s a photo which illustrates the said problem:
The company should do something about this outdated solution, especially now that Samsung and Nokia have come out with phones that have 3.5 mm headphone jacks right on the case. I’ll return to discussing the headset when I review the music player.
There’s a second camera that is used for video calls on the front of the phone. UMTS is implemented in the device, and HSDPA data transfer is supported, so the W890 is a full blown 3G phone. As for the keypad, I already mentioned in the beginning that it’s better than the one of W880. The keys are still quite small and pretty close to each other, but it’s definitely and improvement over the older model and you should like them more. The block of function keys has been improved only slightly, and for those with thicker fingers it could be hard to use some of the smaller ones near the ‘answer’ and ‘drop’ buttons. Now let’s move on to the software functions of the phone.
The W890 belongs to the new generation of Sony Ericsson phones, so it has both green ‘answer’ and red ‘drop’ buttons instead of the ‘back’ and ‘C’ as in older models, as well as two function buttons on each side. There are now three choices on the bottom of the screen corresponding with the function keys: Contacts on the right, Menu in the middle, and Multimedia on the left. The phone runs Walkman 3.0 software. There’s no accelerometer built in, so automatic switching between landscape and portrait modes like in the W910 is impossible; you will have to set the screen mode in phone settings. In the Multimedia menu, there are choices for photos, music, videos, TV (if you have an online TV subscription), and settings. The music menu is your usual one, with separate choices for albums, artists and tracks. The player is quite easy to use; it supports album covers and you can also choose a visualization to go with the music. There’s nothing especially new or different in this area: everything is familiar and convenient. There are no special hardware controls for the player – when music is playing in the background, you can switch between tracks with the scroll, and control the volume by pressing it.
Now let’s return to the headset as promised. When the adapter is connected, it allows you to connect any 3rd party manufacturer headphones to the 3.5 mm audio jack. There’s a clip on the wire to fix it to your clothes. There are no controls on the adapter, only an ‘answer’ button and the microphone – which is another drawback of the device. The W890 is, at the moment, the top Walkman model besides the smartphones, so lack of a remote control is surprising. Right now, a remote control comes with only one Walkman model, the W950, production of which is, by the way, discontinued. It would seem that Sony Ericsson wants the consumers to buy them separately; granted, they only cost around $15-$20, but it still seems strange that a top model like W890 comes without one.
As for the stock headphones, they are pretty comfortable and come with two pairs of soft linings of different size, so you can choose the one that fits your ear better. The headphones aren’t amazing, but they are pretty good, and definitely better than what most competitors include with their music phones. They will be more than enough for your average user, but hardcore melomaniacs will want to switch them for something more serious. We’ll leave the review of musical capabilities of the phone at that and see what other functions it offers.
Going through the menu, it is almost identical with other Sony Ericsson models. The Messages menu is your usual one, with SMS, MMS capabilities and a RSS reader that fetches you the RSS feeds and lets you read them on the phone without even launching the internet browser. The e-mail client is pretty convenient and lets you save even attachments unsupported by the phone, such as .zip files – naturally, you can’t open them, but you can save them and later transfer them to your PC through Bluetooth or a USB cable. Other functions such as PlayNowtm or the internet browser are, again, familiar and seen on many other phones of the company, so there’s not much point to linger on them any longer.
Personally, I liked the phone a lot – it’s a good, adequate model. Now, if I had a W880, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to switch – the 3.2 Mpx camera over the 2 Mpx and the added radio are good improvements, but the two phones are too similar. Also, the musical functions of the W890 aren’t so accentuated , so If you want a classy, purely musical phone, perhaps you should try the new products from Nokia which have built-in 3.5 mm audio jacks and better overall sound quality. Otherwise the W890 is a great choice: it’s a slim and stylish phone with a sleek metallic case. If you only listen to music occasionally and don’t terribly mind the awkward headset adapter with a dangling wire on the side, I daresay you will find this phone interesting.
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