Sony Ericsson W910

As mobile phones have progressed and each generation brings the promise of new technology, it's almost inevitable that manufacturers are going to run out of innovative features. The past decade has seen colour screens, megapixel cameras and video recording come and get better, but lately it's becoming clear fresh ideas are harder to come by.

The latest Sony Ericsson Walkman phone - branded the W910 - is a perfect illustration of this dilemma; it packs in all the modern technology you might expect from a phone of this stature but SE is instead keen to promote what it considers to be the main 'selling point' of the handset: you can shake the phone to change music tracks.

It sounds like a desperate gimmick and to be perfectly honest it is. With the feature enabled, tilting the phone to the right will skip to the next track and moving it to the left will take you backwards through the play list, while jiggling the phone randomly selects another song. The idea is neat but in practice is lamentably inconsistent; it doesn't always register correctly and after the novelty has dissipated, chances are you'll switch it off altogether and revert back to the far more trustworthy button interface.

However, the motion sensing technology manifests itself in other unexpected ways. For example, animated wallpapers react to the movement of the phone; one theme showcases a sun with a moon in front of it and by holding the phone in the correct position you can create your very own pocket solar eclipse. Granted, this is throwaway stuff, but is appealing all the same and demonstrates the enormous potential for future motion sensitive handsets.

By far the most intriguing application of the technology however involves the gaming side of the phone, which of course is our primary focus. Marble Madness 3D - one of the three pre-loaded titles - is controlled by tilting the phone. The aim is to guide a marble around a maze, avoiding obstacles and trying not to drop the aforementioned shiny sphere over the edge and into oblivion. You have no direct control over the marble itself but rather tilt the actual landscape, Super Monkey Ball-style.

Indeed, the gaming credentials of the W910 are easily the most impressive aspect of the phone. Just like our previous favourite the SE W550, you can hold the handset on its side and it instantly becomes a mini-handheld games console. Two buttons are present at the top of the screen that allow for complete control when held in 'landscape' mode.

Two other games come pre-loaded with the phone; puzzle title Lumines is excellent but only playable in portrait mode and is effortlessly overshadowed by V-Rally, which displays the 3D graphical muscle contained within the W910. Looking startlingly close to a PSOne release, the game has a smooth frame rate and impressive car models.

So when it comes to gaming, the W910 creates an extremely positive impression. The ascetics of the phone are also worth commenting on: measuring a slender 12.5mm and barely registering on the scales at 86g, this is an incredibly compact and lightweight slider phone and the build quality is reassuringly robust; typical SE, then.

Sadly, elsewhere it feels like the manufacturer isn't firing on all cylinders. The stereo speakers of the aforementioned SE W550 (which for all intents and purposes is the spiritual predecessor of the W910) made it sound like you had an entire orchestra in your pocket whenever you received a call (this was a good or bad thing, depending on your personal viewpoint). The rather weak single speaker of the W910 sounds positively feeble by comparison and is lacking in both clarity and bass. It's also painfully quiet, which will no doubt lead to many a missed call when out in the hustle and bustle of noisy public environs; thank goodness for the trusty vibrate function, eh?

The 2 megapixel camera is also something of a disappointment, especially when you consider what other rival handsets are currently boasting. Picture quality is underwhelming and the lack of a flash means taking pictures in low light is a deeply frustrating exercise.

But possibly the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the W910's success is the competition. The recently reviewed Nokia N81 is squarely aimed at the same market. Like the W910 it also features the ability to play games in landscape format and is backed by the considerable promise of Nokia's revitalised N-Gage gaming portal. The W910 doesn't boast such a service and is clearly out-gunned in other areas, such as internal memory capacity.

So while the W910 doesn't seem to possess the raw power to challenge the N81, it nevertheless remains a solid purchase for gamers on the go. In terms of sheer entertainment value, the W910 is head and shoulders above most other mobiles and the preloaded games offer hours (rather than minutes) of portable gaming satisfaction.

Time will tell if game developers give the phone their full backing and ensure key titles possess the option to play in 'portrait' mode (the aforementioned W550 suffered from a lack of support in this area) but in the meantime, Sony Ericsson's latest handset should offer enough portable entertainment to keep even the most ardent gamer contented.

Sony Ericsson W910

Although it's slightly overshadowed by its technically more impressive rivals, the W910 is undoubtedly a serious gamer's phone and, gimmicks aside, comes highly recommended
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.