Sony Ericsson Z520i

8 Mar 2006

We have clearly reached a point in the maturing mobile phone market when sub-categories have begun to appear; the niche-within-a-niche now brings us handsets for today’s fashion-conscious woman.

I’m not sure how qualified that makes me to review a phone aimed at the female market but in the interests of rigorous journalism I’ll do my best.

(For the record, when a phone includes a game based loosely on Sex and the City, no one is going to convince me that this camera’s aimed at the male demographic.)

Pictures of the phone make it seem bigger than it actually is — in fact the handset is small, petite even, and lightweight. It won’t break the scales at 94g and with the clamshell down it measures 83 x 46 x 24mm.

It’s not unlike Nokia’s 6103, another clamshell device with a front-mounted camera and screen for displaying time, date, charge and battery life.

While our review model was a mix of pristine white and a grey metallic sides, it’s possible to change the front and back covers to different shades including pink (the latter option is exclusive to O2).

This is obviously a phone that is made to be seen — aside from the colour options, it also has a hook that can be attached to a lanyard, so that the phone can be worn around the neck, which is popular on the continent but on observation less so in Ireland.

The screen isn’t much smaller than Sony Ericsson’s W800i Walkman phone reviewed here a couple of weeks ago but a welcome difference is that the Z520i’s keys are bigger and easier to text with.

The colourful user interface is also slightly less cluttered than its bigger brother’s. Phone call quality is very clear and there’s a crispness to all of the audio in general.

You can share photos or video clips that have been taken with the phone using either MMS messaging, email or a Bluetooth wireless link.

Sharing is a theme for this handset — the term ‘quickshare’ is printed on the inside of the phone — and this is actually recommended because the resolution on the screen doesn’t reproduce pictures especially well even if the pictures themselves turn out okay.

That’s a pity because the act of taking photos is actually very easy and the Z520i has a button on the side that snaps pictures when the phone has been put in camera mode, saving from the fiddling that some camera phones require.

Overall the phone marries a good spread of features with an affordable price tag. It’s available from O2 and Meteor for €179 on prepaid and €49 on contract.

Handling ****
Features ****
Performance ****
Value for money ****

By Gordon Smith