Sony Ericsson W890

We all know first impressions count, so when you cradle the graceful stainless steel-effect casing of the Sony Ericsson W890 in your palm, it's hard not to fall instantly in love with this elegant handset. Aesthetically the phone is outstandingly gorgeous, boasting a thin profile, pin-sharp screen and eye-catching design.

Allowing the shallow side of our nature to prevail for a moment, it's regrettable that all consumer electronics don't look as desirable; the W890 will make your friends so envious you might want to check your pockets when you return home from your usual meet down the boozer.

The successor to SE's equally svelte W880 (both phones are less than a centimetre thick, fact fans), this update adds not only a touch of class - replacing the cheap plastic casing of its forebear with the aforementioned metal and increasing the size of the keypad buttons - but also boasts superior capabilities under the hood.

Given the Walkman branding that's emblazoned on the exterior, it's probably wise to start our critical assessment there. Taking into account the sheer volume of Walkman-enabled handsets that SE has flooded the market with over the past few years it should come as no surprise that the media player software is near faultless. The W890 showcases the latest edition, which carries over the innovative (but fairly gimmicky) 'SenseMe' option previously witnessed on the excellent W910. This feature allows you to generate a unique play list depending on what mood you happen to be in.

To further augment the music playback experience, SE has kind-heartedly included a 2GB Memory Stick in the box. This might not sound like a massive amount of storage space when you consider some of the 8GB behemoths currently striding onto the marketplace, but it should prove more than adequate for most music-loving mobile phone users. FM Radio capability - something that was conspicuously absent on the W880 - rounds off the audio package with aplomb.

Elsewhere, the refinements continue. The W890 boasts a 3.2 megapixel snapper, which puts the W880's rather weedy 2 megapixel effort in the shade. Because the phone isn't part of SE's elite 'Cybershot' range, the quality of the snaps isn't extraordinary, but adequate enough for those of us that aren't expecting our mobile phone to replace our traditional camera.

Aside from these changes and the evident cosmetic differences, the W890 is very much the same phone as its forerunner. This certainly isn't the first time a mobile phone manufacturer has pushed last year's product out onto the marketplace in a 'repackaged' or 'enhanced' form, but when you consider there wasn't an awful lot amiss with the W880, it's easy to forgive.

From a gaming standpoint the W890 also succeeded in bringing a broad smile to our faces. At first glance the phone looks to be ill suited for interactive entertainment on the move; the D-pad appears to have been designed implicitly to give the user ultimate control over their music and not over their gaming.

Nevertheless, the dainty and rather awkward-looking controller holds up well when properly tested; granted, it's a little on the petite side and is unlikely to find favour with those that possess overly fat digits, but we still came away pleasantly surprised by its overall performance. The phone conveniently comes pre-loaded with The Sims 2, Lumines and the positively archaic Sega Tennis - a 3D game that first walked out on centre court with the SE K700i many moons ago, yet it still manages to amuse despite the ravages of time.

When a mobile phone maker releases a handset that merely improves on a preceding model rather than tearing up the rulebook, the customary reaction is one of distaste and disillusionment. With the W890 however, the feeling of being cruelly cheated is totally absent. This is a superb refinement of what was already a fantastic piece of consumer technology. Sony Ericsson has skilfully massaged away some of the cruder elements of the W880 and in doing so has succeeded in producing a phone that effortlessly establishes itself as front-runner in what is proving to be an extremely competitive marketplace.

Sony Ericsson W890

Desirable, feature-packed and astonishingly capable, the W890 is arguably one of the finest handsets SE has yet produced. Save for its slightly underwhelming gaming credentials and average camera, it would warrant a perfect score
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.