Sony Ericsson Z770i review

Z770i is a rather interesting clamshell phone from the Japanese-Swedish manufacturer. It has been a while since Sony Ericsson presented such a stylish clamshell; up till now, it was all about budget phones of this form factor, or musical, or feminine ones. Like usual, let’s start the review with the look and design of the model.

Design and materials

The phone looks quite attractive and stylish. It’s available in three colour options; we reviewed the “Vogue Red” version. From the outside, the phone is done in silver and the only red thing there is a small stripe at the bottom. When you open the phone, you can see a similar stripe inside, and the light-crimson colour keyboard backlight.

The front panel of this flip phone is metallic, and the rest of the case is a matching imitation. Thanks to a black graphite stripe along the middle, and the shape of the case, Z770i looks somewhat thinner than it actually is. You can surely call it one of the thin clamshells, even though it’s far from Samsung’s Ultra series.

Thanks to its design, Z770i might look thinner than it actually is:

z770i side

The right side of the phone:

z770i right

There aren’t so much ports on the phone’s case; there’s the universal FastPort of the company on the upper left side that you can see in the above photo, and a memory card slot on the opposite one. There’s also a small plug protecting the latter, and while it’s construction could be better, it should hold.

Z770i has a memory card slot on the side, protected by a plug:

Sony Ericsson Z770i memory slot

The only control on the outside of the phone is the volume button below the memory card slot; I wish it was just a little bit higher so it would be more accessible during calls, but it’s satisfactory.

Z770i uses one of the standard batteries of the company; it isn’t the most widespread model, but we’ve seen it before. The capacity of this Lithium-Polymer battery is 930 mAh. The SIM card slot is located on the upper side of the battery compartment (so you have to take out the battery to replace the card). The design of the card slot itself is interesting but not very convenient; you can’t always take out the card by using your hands only.

Like mentioned before, besides the front panel all the other parts of the case are made from plastic. The phone is built reliably, the case is firm and sturdy, and there are no squeaks or anything of the sort.

The back panel of the phone is made from plastic:

Z770i back

When open, the Z770i looks very interesting; the designers did a great job. First of all, the keyboard: it’s a flat, glossy plastic plate with no prominent buttons, similar to that of Motorola RAZR. We’ll talk about its usability later, but it looks quite attractive. Like mentioned before, the keys are lit with a sort of pale crimson coloured backlight – something guys might be wary about, but then again, the phone itself fits both sexes and also comes in “Graphite Black” and “Exquisite Golden” alternatives.

External and internal display

The external display is monochrome – like the recent “tradition” of Sony Ericsson dictates. Personally, I believe it’s a good trend; why? A big, colour external display (like that of Motorola RAZR 2) looks nice and all, but I don’t believe it’s actually needed. You can see the photo of the caller on it, and use it as a viewfinder when making a self-portrait, but it’s usefulness ends there. Besides, the visibility in direct sunlight is much better on a reverse monochrome display like the one Z770i has. So, it is not company’s attempt to economize by any means, but rather caring about the user.

The external display of Z770i is reverse-monochrome:

Sony Ericsson Z770i external display

Still, the display isn’t perfect; for one, it could use a higher resolution, because the caller’s number doesn’t fit into it and has to be scrolled. It doesn’t present much of a problem because it scrolls fast enough, but it would be nice if it would be displayed in full.

The four indicators in the corners show the Bluetooth activity, an icon for a minimized Java application, the battery level, and the connection status. The clock is displayed in the middle when in stand-by mode. Now let’s look into the inside of the phone.

The internal display is covered with a glossy, reflective inset which glares in a direct light, not to mention it gets dirty pretty fast, so you have to keep cleaning it after each talk. There are two tiny knobs at the very top that prevent the screen from touching the keyboard when you close the phone. The screen is a traditional 2.2” from Sony Ericsson, with good image and colours but nothing too special otherwise.

Z770i has a 2.2″, 240 x 320 resolution TFT colour internal display:

z770i open

The display doesn’t use a transreflective matrix (in fact, none of the company’s clamshell displays do), but you can see the most essential information, like the caller’s number, in the external screen, so Sony Ericsson probably think that there’s no need for this; perhaps they’re right.

Software and functions

The phone is built on Sony Ericsson’s A20 platform, with three menu choices at the bottom of the screen, controlled by two functional buttons and the central one; it also has both green “answer” and red “drop” buttons, unlike older models.

It’s not a music phone, so even though it has the same multimedia player as Walkman models do, it comes with an ordinary cheap headset. You can, of course, buy your own, but there’s not much point because using the Z770i as a music phone won’t be very convenient as it lacks special control buttons.

Among all functions of the phone – which are pretty much the same as on other phones of Sony Ericsson built on this platform – there’s one interesting menu choice worth nothing. It’s called “Location services” and has a link to Google maps as well as an option to connect an external GPS navigation device to the phone via Bluetooth. It’s questionable whether anyone will find this feature useful; the screen of clamshell phones isn’t the most convenient for using the phone for navigation, and most people would prefer built-in GPS devices anyway.

Among the usual functions of Z770i, there’s also an option to connect an external GPS device and use the phone for navigation:

Z770i Screenshots

As for the other functions, these are all your usual “Entertainment”, “Media”, “Radio”, “Organizer”, “Messaging” and such. Stopping on the camera for a bit, it’s also nothing special – a 2 Mpx one, without auto-focus, only good for making photos for your MMS messages. That’s about all on the functions; now let’s talk about the ergonomics, and especially the usability of that stylish keyboard.

Ergonomics

The thing that took most time to get used to when I was testing the phone was the block of the navigational buttons at the top of the keypad. Like the rest of it, they don’t protrude from the flat surface one bit, and aren’t very convenient to use due to their small size. Perhaps the designers overdid it a little, because the looks are clearly preferred over usability in this case.

The keyboard of Z770i is very stylish, but not always easy to use:

z770i keyboard

The rest of the buttons are easy enough to use, although it’s unlikely that you will manage to dial a number without looking. You should note the unusual keyboard of this phone before buying, and decide whether it will fit you or not.

Bottomline

Z770i is a 3G model with support for HSDPA protocol; you can use the phone as a full-blown 3G modem for your laptop. There’s no built-in camera for video calls, and these are not supported at all; nevertheless, the phone is perfect for 3G data transfer. If you are looking for a functional and stylish clamshell and you like Sony Ericsson, I suggest you consider this model.

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