Sony Ericsson W610i

So, the summer's in full swing. Big Brother seems to have been polluting our screens for as long as anyone can remember, school's been out a good few weeks (depressingly, already every shop is about gearing up for next term), and yet something's missing.

What we don't have is this year's summer pop sensation, that musical flash in the pan that can sum up an entire season's worth of memories in just a few bars. Last year, it was Lily Allen (really, who's paid her any attention since?), the year before, the Pussycat Dolls, and before that, Maroon 5.

Mind you, we're not complaining; all the above acts fall into the 'couldn't care less' section of our musical libraries. They certainly wouldn't wind up on the new Sony Ericsson W610i, the latest Walkman handset from the handset manufacturer that best caters for music on your mobile.

This, a handset that clings to one of the lower rungs of the price/performance ladder, doesn't let that reputation slip: it not only looks the part, it sounds it, too, and even comes bundled with a generous 512MB M2 Memory Stick. With the Walkman media player program accessible by the ever-present 'W' button, you've got your music collection (well, a slice of it, anyway) immediately to hand. And it sounds great, particularly over headphones, even if you can't stand Beyoncé's 'Crazy in Love' (2003).

But what about gaming?

Well, we'll get to that in a round-about fashion via the W610i's design, which is really quite funky. We're a big fan of two-tone phones here at Pocket Gamer, especially those that shake off the old 'grey and black' combination, so the orange and black model we received rapidly found favour. Even the white and black sister model looks good, though, thanks in part to the clever trick it does of making the W610i look thinner than it is.

The controls are equally sneaky, providing a suave air of sophistication that most handsets in this price bracket rarely achieve. But, as you can no doubt imagine, they're not brilliant for pocket gaming. They're not bad, let's get that straight; indeed, we're willing to make a few sacrifices for looks this good. But they do become wearing, particularly on your fingertips.

So any game that requires constant control input will quickly lead to sore pinkies. It's a shame, too, because like most Sony Ericsson handsets, the W610i is a plucky performer. 2D games are a snap and even older 3D titles aren't a problem, though support for newer games that are more demanding of a handset's hardware is patchy.

This is, in part, down to the display, which can only boast of a 176x220 resolution. Consequently, any game that you play on the W610i will look inferior to a mobile with the increasingly common 240x320 screens. But seeing as most phones that do have a higher resolution screen are more expensive, it's not something that we're going to complain about too loudly.

Especially given that, in all other departments, the W610i is a great little handset that does just about anything that could reasonably be expected of it. It's compact, lightweight, looks more expensive than it is (we found several networks selling PAYG W610i bundles for £130) and comes with all the extras that you'd expect, as well as some that you wouldn't.

So, even if you haven't found this year's song of the summer yet, you can find some relief in the knowledge that, all things considered, the W610i could be regarded as this season's mobile phone hit.

Sony Ericsson W610i

Great value-for-money mobile that's better to live with than game on