One of my big complaints about the new Nokia handsets is that their screens are way too small and that the resolution is much too low (4,096 colors). Once you us a 65k color screen (like in my previous GD88), there was really no turning back. But I just loved the small size of the Nokia’s. It was the one reason I have since abandoned the Sony Ericsson P800 after only a month of use.
When I first read about the T610, it hardly got a glance from me. I didn’t think nor did I expect much from Sony Ericsson. But I knew that the Nokia screens were insufficient to say the least. So when the T610 was finally released, I barely noticed it until I walked by a store and had the opportunity to look at a demonstration model up close. I was extremely impressed by its large, bright screen. The size too turned out to be no larger than the Nokia 7250 that I was using. At a cost of just over US$400, I thought it was a pretty good bargain. So I got one.
The T610 is a simplistic designed phone. The outer shell is a matte-metallic covering with the exception of the screen that is surrounded by a black plastic border. While the shape is not exactly exciting, sometimes simplicity should also be rewarded. The T610 has very clean lines – no obtrusive antenna or odd-looking buttons. It is a straightforward design that actually does well.
The phone comes in several different colors though only the silver was available when I bought it. Unfortunately, it seems the designers at Sony Ericsson did not learn from Nokia and the other colors (a red and a blue) are only available as separate phones and not interchangeable faceplates. I really admire Nokia for allowing users to change different covers on their phones – it adds a great sense of personalization. At the time of this review, the blue and red colors were just about to be available and I must say I really like the blue colored model.
The T610 comes with a very useful joypad button in the middle of the phone that allows you to navigate around the different menus and functions. I also like the dedicated camera button that made it easier to launch the camera and take pictures. All in all, I think the T610 is a nice simple design that looks attractive.
The most visible and important feature of the T610 has to be its bright color screen, so let’s start with that. The T610 comes with 65,536 colors as well as a bright, backlight TFT screen which makes all the difference. In addition, it’s a 128×160 pixel screen, which means you get more than enough room to read SMS text or even WAP menus.
In short, the T610 has a stunning display that shows amazingly sharp and clear images. I was particularly impressed by some of the pre-loaded images that are actually quite stunning. The Asian version handsets have some very neat looking Asian designs already pre-loaded.
To go along with different background images, the T610 also has a number of “themes” which allow you to change some of the smaller details, like the background colors and borders. Because the T610 has a much higher resolution screen, suddenly silly things like games become much more attractive. The games available on the T610 are impressive. I particularly like the Mini-golf game because the graphics and resolution are really impressive for something so small (and its golf!).
With a screen like that, you of course expect battery life to be a bit scarce. It does seem to go much faster than the Nokia models. But having said that, I charged it all night Friday, and used it through the weekend without a problem. Even then, I forgot to charge it Sunday night and still managed to get some use out of it throughout Monday. So battery life is about 3 days, which is more than enough for most people. The charger is similar to all previous Sony Ericsson’s so you can use any past chargers as well.
Of course, these newer phones nowadays come with a camera, and this was an area of disappointment. I’ve never expected much from the cameras on mobile phones. Certainly, there isn’t enough room to put in a decent chip to get good resolution. But somehow, I expected much more. Especially when Sony was introducing 1+ megapixel cameras on a mobile phones in Japan. Images taken on the T610 were no better (although I should say no worse) than photos taken with the Nokia 7250. In truth, the Panasonic GD88 and even the monster Nokia 7650 did much better.
You can pretty much forget about getting photos in the night or in a dark room, it likely won’t come out. Pictures taken with the T610 are typically lacking in color and detail. This of course though is exaggerated by the very nice screen (versus photos on a Nokia which have such a small screen, you can’t really see if a photo is good or bad). All in all, the camera is fun as long as you don’t expect too much from it. It is definitely no substitution for a digital camera.
You do get to select different modes to take pictures (Twilight, special effects, etc.) and with the high-resolution selected, each picture is about 50kb. The T610 comes with 2MB of internal memory that can be either too much or more than adequate depending on the user. Since I transfer the pictures I want to keep to my e-mail, it’s not a problem. But if you constantly want to keep images on the phone to say show to other people, 2MB goes by pretty fast.
This is especially true when you start to download additional images, games and sounds. Sony Ericsson has actually done a great job of providing WAP support through its own WAP site. As an option on most menus, you can select to go straight to the Sony Ericsson site and download images, sounds, themes, and games. Connection was amazingly fast (versus past use of other WAP sites) and it was simple and easy to get downloads. Now this is what GPRS is all about! MMS too was very simple and easy and surprisingly seemed a bit faster than the Nokia models.
The T610 is a tri-band mobile phone and as a mobile phone, this is Sony Ericsson’s weak point. Among Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson, Sony Ericsson has always had the weakest call reception. The same unfortunately is true of the T610. Of the past few mobile phones I’ve had, this one probably has the weakest call reception. Now, it’s marginal and even a poor reception here is better than many phones I’ve used in the past, but it’s still an issue.
I found it extremely strange that in certain locations, the phone would not register a call signal. This when other people in the same network would have reception or where I know I’ve used my phone in the past seemed just a tad bit strange. But, to be fair, this was not consistent so I couldn’t tell if it was the phone or if something else was interfering (like a busy cell site). It is entirely possible though that Sony Ericsson may not be as technically astute in designing a non-antenna mobile phone as say a Nokia.
Also, the T610 is not loud enough. Sure my hearing isn’t what it used to be, but this phone definitely needs to be louder. The speaker just isn’t loud enough and that’s annoying, especially in a crowded mall or in a packed restaurant. In addition, the T610 does not come with one of my favorite functions – the speakerphone. I love using the speakerphone while I’m in the car and this one doesn’t have it. That’s really inexcusable.
To compensate for the lack of a speakerphone, the T610 does come with Bluetooth and I had no problem hooking up my old Bluetooth headset. It actually works a little better than before in terms of voice clarity and reception (which was unusual). I guess I’ll be using the headset in the car. Especially cool is the fact that Sony Ericsson has bundled software that allows a Bluetooth enabled PC/laptop/PDA to connect to the T610 so that you can synch the address book as well as download/upload pictures.
The menus are not as easy to locate or use as the Nokia menus but all of the functions are there. However, one minor sore point is that Sony Ericsson seems to be using an extremely slow operating system. There is this subtle, but relatively annoying time lag in the response of the phone in general, particularly of the buttons and functions.
For example, when you receive a call and push the button to pick up the call, it just takes that extra second before the call is picked up. Sometimes you’re not sure if you pushed the button hard enough so you push it again. Because there was this time lag, instead of going straight to the call, by pushing it twice, you put the call on hold! This was extremely annoying in the beginning as I put numerous people on hold who then subsequently hung up on me when I was too quick on the draw and pushed the call button twice.
When you make a mistake inputting SMS, it takes that extra half second to go back. You have to have a little bit of patience when working with the T610 because it just takes an extra bit of time to work its way through the different settings and menus. Clicking the joypad does not instantly work and it can sometimes be a bit frustrating navigating the different menus. I liken this comparison in time lag to the early days between PocketPC and Palm. I think you’ll get the drift of what I’m getting at.
The remaining functions are fairly standard. You have a calendar, organizer, alarm clock, and calculator function to name a few. I mentioned the games earlier and there are plenty of choices and a few more to download as well. Ringtones are polyphonic and very cool. You even get a music DJ editor that lets you program your own ringtones with different instruments.
All in all, I actually was extremely pleased with the T610. I would say that it certainly does come with a number of trade-offs. I do not like the sound quality (needs to be louder) or the reception. I also think the menus have way too slow a response time. Certainly, I drew a lot of attention to these factors because I want people to learn from my experience with the phone.
But having said that, I quite liked the T610. I was extremely pleased with the way it looks and overall it feels good, is small, and the screen is fantastic. In considering the phone as a whole, I have to admit that I sort of wavered between recommendations. Still almost every phone I reviewed came with some flaws and at the end of the day, it was how I felt about the phone at the time. Considering this, at this absolute moment, putting together all the different factors and relative to other phones available, I would have no problem recommending the T610 as an ESSENTIAL buy. It’s been some 3 weeks using the phone and I’m very happy that I got it. I’m sure others will be too.