Sony Ericsson Z610i

It's almost impossible to describe the Sony Ericsson Z610i without mentioning Star Trek communicators at least once, so let's just get it out of the way. From the chunky rounded form to the wrist-flick flip-top action, this fashion phone would have sat very nicely in the hands of James T. Kirk in the original '60s TV series.

Granted, Kirk would have been a little dismayed when he tried to beam up and instead triggered the MP3 player controls on the outside of the handset, inadvertantly ushering in a jaunty samba. (Don't worry Jim, it's all too easy to do).

Like much retro design, there's a reassuringly solid feel to this handset, with its rounded 110g weight filling your palm rather nicely.

What's more, despite the handset's considerable girth (you could fit the best part of two Razrs or three Samsung X820s into the same 95 x 50 x 20mm space), the visual style is decidedly set to stun. Whichever of the multiple hues you opt for (and there are 'rose pink', 'luster black' and' airy blue' finishes available), the reflective lacquered cover looks impressive, even before the external mirrored LED blinks into life, texting the time, caller ID or current music track across the face.

The quality finish continues inside, with reflective metal controls and a circular thumbpad set above the subtle keypad on the base.

The top half of the clam shell is occupied by a sharp 262,000 colour, 176 x 220 screen, and a video call camera and microphone. Yes that's right, we did say video call camera, for this is one of the few handsets in the 'fashion' class to include 3G amongst a packed feature set.

Web browsing is catered for via the Access NetFront browser, enabling the Z610i to handle WAP and xHTML sites and to have a stab at HTML, as well as integrating elements such as RSS feeds, instant messaging and interaction with email.

The second, conventional camera, a 2-megapixel job, is competent rather than exceptional but, like most modern Sony Ericssons it does win extra points for options to easily edit images, share them via text message, and upload them to a personal blog. It also provides you with the ability to record, play and stream video footage, and to edit it with the Video DJ application that's bundled in. Additionally, there's a neat option within video calls to switch between cameras, so you can show your caller something else.

The Z610i is not just comfortable with video, either; the handset also comes with all the software needed to copy music to the phone from CD or various digital formats ranging from MP3 to eAAC+.

Of course, if you're going to take advantage of any of this great stuff, you'll have to upgrade the 64MB Memory Stick Micro M2 memory card sooner rather later, as just 16MB internal memory isn't going to be much use.

Less positively, as a mobile games device the Z610i isn't quite so stellar.

There are certainly hundreds of titles available, many of them far better than the bundled QuadraPop. And although the screen is now looking decidedly low-res compared to the QVGA displays of its bigger brothers like the K800, it is sharp and colourful. In tandem with the processor tucked inside, the screen is capable of rendering good quality 2D visuals and even manages 3D games.

Ultimately, though, all this good work is undermined by the shiny circular thumbpad control. It may look more impressive than the interface on the USS Enterprise, but for the first few hours of use this control method is not even a fraction as effective.

Unpredictable within the phone's regular menu system (around 10 per cent of the times you press the button you'll find you've selected the wrong option), the thumbpad simply can't provide the level of precision required by most modern mobile action titles. Things do improve with increasing familiarity, but you never feel completely in control, especially when quick or complex movements are required.

If you're more of a casual games and puzzle addict, if you want a handset that feels as good as it looks, or if you have an obsessive compulsion to recreate the early dramatic work of William Shatner, then the Z610i is a logical choice. Other pocket gamers should boldly go and look somewhere else (starting with our latest Top 10 handsets for mobile games).

Sony Ericsson Z610i

A solid, stylish handset with some nifty features that's let down in the gaming stakes by a wayward thumbpad
Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, bossman Chris is up for anything – including running Steel Media (the madman).