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Sony Ericsson W350a

>> Saturday, January 24, 2009

With straight lines and sharp corners, the Sony Ericsson W350a is just about a perfect rectangle, albeit a thin one at 4.7 inches by 1.7 inches by 0.4 inch. Sony Ericsson never jumped fully onto the slim phone bandwagon but the W350a certainly qualifies. It fits neatly in a pocket and it weighs just 2.8 ounces. The W350a comes in three color schemes electric black, ice blue, and organic white.

We reviewed the black model but the features are the same on both models. The W350a has an attractive display. At 1.8 inches, it's large for phone's overall size and its 262.144 color resolution makes it easy on the eyes. Colors were bright and vibrant and the text was easy to read. The interface is intuitive and you can choose from a number of menus styles. You can adjust the brightness as well. Unfortunately, that is the limit of the design highlights.

To begin with, the W350s is covered in a plastic shell that feels rather flimsy in the hand. This is not a phone we'd want to bang around.

But more importantly, we were confounded by the W350a's strange flap that covers the handset's navigation array and keypad. Since you must tilt the flap down to access the handset's controls, it makes the rectangular W350a something of a candy bar or flip phone hybrid.

Also, when the flap is closed, it protects the numeric keypad while presenting a dedicated set of Walkman controls. In fact, when the handset is closed it looks like standalone MP3 player.

Though it's an interesting and unique idea, the execution isn't so great. We like the idea of dedicated Walkman controls, especially when they allow you to play or pause tunes and scroll through your play lists, but on the W350a those controls aren't real buttons.

Instead, when you press the controls you're actually pushing through to the numeric keypad to make the command. What's more, the Walkman controls are flush and feel rather fragile. The construction of the flap made us worry about its long term durability. Not only is the hinge loose but the flap also doesn't lock into place when it's open.

And considering you must open the flap to do anything besides play music, we're worried that it would wear out fast. You can remove the flap completely if you like, though we're certain that Sony Ericsson wouldn't recommend it. And on a final note, when you close the flap the Walkman player begins automatically. We found no way to change that setting, which is annoying.

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