Sunday, February 17, 2008
Sony Ericsson P1i
For the past months I have been thinking should I buy this cellphone of not? hmmm
Looking and reading for reviews on the Internet and actual people hoping to see a person who really bought it, here's my research...
The UIQ 3 powered P1i is Sony Ericsson's top of the range smartphone. With 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, a QVGA touchscreen, a 3.2 megapixel camera and a full QWERTY keyboard it mixes multimedia and enterprise capabilities in equal measure. Running the touchscreen variant of UIQ 3.0 on Symbian OS 9.1, with WCDMA, GSM and Wi-Fi connectivity, a QWERTY keyboard or handwriting recognition for text input and a 3.2 megapixel camera, it is well specified and a powerful smartphone.
The P1i uses a subtly different implementation of UIQ 3 to the P990 - SoftkeyStyleTouch versus PenStyle - it's now better suited to one handed usage. From the screenshots below you can see some of the differences between the SoftkeyStyleTouch (P1i) and PenStyle (P990) implementations of UIQ 3. You will note that the status bar and on-screen 'back' key move from the bottom to the top and that that action/command softkeys are always found on the bottom of the display. The main menu is accessed via the 'More' softkey as opposed to a drop down menu from the top of the screen. However, the P1i has double the RAM of the P990 and this has important implications for software operation and stability.
When I was in Gaisano Mall to investigate the price and memory included it was around 19,500 pesos with 1gig external memory (not bad at all)
The P1i screen is marginally smaller that the P990i, but its quality has been markedly improved with much better performance outdoors in sunlight.
The P1i is much sleeker than previous models, owing more to the styling found in Sony Ericsson’s range of feature phones. The materials used in the case are a combination of brushed aluminum (framing the front and sides), a hard shiny plastic (front face and keyboard) and a hard rubber material (rear and battery cover). The overall build quality is excellent and the materials have been intelligently placed. The rubber material on the rear of the device improves grip when holding the device, especially when using the keyboard for two handed text entry.
The back of the device houses the main 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera along with a dual LED flash. The camera lens is slightly recessed into its housing, providing some limited protection. The right hand side of the device features the camera capture button, the memory card slot and the internet key. By default, this key is configured to launch the Web browser but this can be changed in Control panel. For power users the most useful configuration is to set this as a shortcut to the task manager, so as to enhance multi-tasking functionality.
The left hand side of the P1i features the two principal navigation controls – the scroll wheel and the 'back' key. P990 users may notice the absence of the hardware lock key and the multimedia key (play/pause media) - for manufacturers, there is always a balance to be drawn between simplicity, utility and costs. In this case, I think the correct decision has been made. The key lock can be activated by a long press on the back key and multimedia controls are generally more conveniently located on headsets.
Keyboard and data input
The P1i, like the P990i, has a full QWERTY keyboard at the bottom of the screen. However, the P1i’s keyboard, as with the rest of its styling, owes much more to the M600 than to its immediate P series predecessor. The P990i’s keyboard was cramped with small keys which was uncomfortable to use for prolonged periods. By contrast the P1i keyboard eschews the 'key for each letter' approach and instead uses a layout of 20 keys with the top 15 keys pivoting for a key press on the left and right side of each button. Each of these pivot keys therefore effectively operates as two keys. The usual QWERTY layout is preserved, with each letter sharing a key with another letter (for example the top right key serves both O and P). This layout is further refined by the use of a shift for capitalisation and an ALT key to access numbers (the central keys), punctuation and various symbols. Although this sounds rather convoluted, it works very well in practice and the larger keys mean that typing is more accurate (especially for those with larger hands). It also allows the P1i to be narrower than other phones with fully QWERTY keyboards - this is readily apparent when comparing the P1i and devices like the E61 side by side.
Memory and Connectivity
The P1i has 160MB of internal flash memory (up from 60MB in the P990) which gives plenty of space for applications and basic contact and PIM data. Multimedia files will be best stored on a memory card using the P1i’s M2 (Memory Stick Micro) card slot, which supports card sizes of up to 4GB.
With Wi-Fi, WCDMA and GPRS, the P1i has a good range of connectivity options. Internet (data) accounts can be set up using any connection bearer and any access point can be included in a group. Improved from earlier UIQ 3 phones is the Settings Wizard, which now automatically recognises when a new SIM card has been inserted and offers the user the opportunity to download the appropriate data settings for internet and MMS usage.
A group consists of a prioritized list of internet accounts and can be used as the default internet account by many applications (effectively allowing multiple access points to be used without changing applications settings). Wi-Fi usage is straightforward with a simple scan and connect applet, accessible from the P1i’s drop down system menu or via Control panel. Internet accounts can be created for regularly used Wi-Fi access points and included in groups. Moreover, the special 'Default WiFi' internet account (which represents any current Wi-Fi connection) also allows one off Wi-Fi connections (e.g. at an airport) to be used within groups. This functionality, together with groups, means that the P1i will switch seamlessly between using Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, offering cost savings and easier access to faster Wi-Fi connectivity.
Unfortunately, the P1i supports neither EDGE nor HSDPA (3.5G) data connections. The lack of EDGE is a concern for US users, who are also unable to use the WCDMA connectivity since the phone supports only European 3G bands. HSDPA is becoming more commonplace in high end phones and is supported by a large number of operators. Given the P1i’s rich application capabilities it is a shame that HSDPA connectivity, with its faster download speeds, is missing.
The P1i has a 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera which is a small improvement compared to the P990i. The camera software is based on the same UI found in Sony’s Cybershot digital cameras and as such stands out as a little different from the rest of the phone. The interface can be overwhelming at first and the number of options and layout can be a bit unwieldy, but this is significantly improved by use of keypad (1-9) shortcuts, which are well worth learning. As with all camera phones, performance varies depending on conditions. Some photos can be a little grainy, especially in lower light conditions, but general point and click performance is good. Improved results can be obtained if the numerous settings are fully utilized.
The usual white balance, night mode, self timer and digital zoom modes are all present. The digital zoom mode is more useful that on other phones since it sensibly shrinks down the resolution (effectively cropping a larger photo) as you zoom rather than artificially maintaining high resolutions. Thanks to a dual LED flash, the P1i performs better in low light conditions compared to those phones with a single LED flash, although the illumination distance is still relatively limited. Video performance is average, with a maximum resolution of 320 x 240 at 15 frames per second. In general, camera performance is good, though it does not measure up to phones like the Nokia N95 or Sony Ericsson’s own high end Cybershot phones, such as the K850, which have better optics. Still, the camera should be good enough for the majority of users and, given the cost of improved optics and additional megapixels, it is a good compromise between performance and price.
All About Symbian.com