Well, I was down by the local mobile phone mall, and what did I see? Well, the new Sony Ericsson Z600 was out. I had justified in my head about 2 months ago when I first read about the Z600 that it was probably not a phone I would consider. After all, it was almost identical to the T610 (in terms of functions, software, etc.). Ok, there was supposed to be an upgrade in the screen quality, but so what, I was more than happy with my T610.
The truth is, I still am. The T610 is a great phone and judging by the number of people I know that has one AND the current price, I know it’s still a big hit. So seeing the Z600 in person was, in my head, not going to be something very exciting. Or so I thought.
The Z600 has (like Nokia) swappable faceplates which gives the phone pretty cool looks. The blue-purple one that seemed the most common was just stunning. After looking at the model in various windows, I finally walked into one shop and asked to take a look. As soon as she brought it out, I was sold.
I don’t know what it was. The phone is bigger than the T610 although it’s technically shorter. But the screen was much brighter and just seemed to have more contrast. It’s hard to explain (other than saying I’m a complete gadget junkie) but I just wanted the phone. So I bought it.
The Z600 breaks away from a number of past Sony Ericsson designs. It’s neither a flip nor a brick-type styled phone. Instead, it is clamshell shaped. There are all sorts of arguments for and against clamshell designs. I’m almost indifferent having had all kinds of mobile phones in the past.
The advantage of the clamshell design is that you don’t accidentally press buttons, and in general, the screen/keypad lasts longer. The brick design is prone to spills, scratches, chips, dents, etc. right on the screen or the keypad.
One downside though with a clamshell design is that the phone is much “fatter” than a comparable brick. Versus the T610, I would say the Z600 is about 30-40% thicker. I wished it were closer to the thin clamshell profile of my old Panasonic GD88. It is slightly shorter, but this extra bulk may be annoying to some. The brick style of the T610 is much better fitted for pockets. But I don’t think the Z600 is any worse off.
As mentioned above, the Z600 comes with changeable faceplates (and matching battery coverplates). I really like the concept and idea of inter-changeable faceplates because it allows you to customize your phone. In addition, if the phone gets overly scratched or just plain dirty, you can always buy a new faceplate, and it’s a whole new look! I really like it.
The Z600 is supposed to be 11 grams heavier than the T610. But everyone that has compared the two seems to think that the T610 is actually heavier. They seem roughly the same to me. The Z600, with its removable plates seem to have a more plastic look to it. The T610 has a more metallic look and feel.
I also like the clear LARGE numeric keypad on the Z600 – very nice and user friendly. The T610’s buttons are very small and that is an irritation – but not so on the Z600; they are large and user friendly. One new aspect that I also really like is the new multi-directional pad instead of the joystick that came with the T610. I started not to like the keypad over time because it sometimes would go in the wrong direction that I wanted it to. When you try to push the joystick in on the T610, you sometimes accidentally push up. This new keypad is much more responsive and easier to control, especially now that it has a middle button.
The Z600 also has a very small LCD screen on the front. In addition to telling the time, you can also see if you’ve missed a call or even the caller display without having to open the phone. I like this addition.
Perhaps one of the best design features is the feature that is missing – an antenna. Yeah, it’s gone. One big drawback on many clamshell designs is that they all tend to have irritating antennas that stick out. This one doesn’t.
All in all, I think the Z600 is a pretty decent clamshell phone. I wish it weren’t as bulky, but I really like the colors and the look.
In terms of function, there really isn’t that much difference between this and the T610. You should probably refer to that review if you want real specifics, because many of the functions are the same (link to http://www.thevooner.com/feature/2003/06/16/sonyt610/sonyt610.htm). As such, much of the rest of the review will focus quite a bit on the differences between the Z600 and the T610.
The one big factor that is quite apparent (and that’s because I’ve had the T610 for many months now) is the quality of the screen. If you just look at the photos side by side, you’ll see the difference and it has nothing to do with my camera or the flash – it’s just better. The Z600 comes with a much higher contrast and brighter screen then the T610. I don’t know if this has an impact on battery life, thus far, the battery life looks pretty good (my T610 seemed like it was fading gradually over time).
Screen size I believe is the same though, I think because of the shape, the Z600 just seems wider. When the screens are side by side though, the Z600 appears to have a larger font size. They have the same number of pixels (128×160) but the Z600 just seems bigger.
The website lists the Z600 as a MD-TFD (Mobile Digital Thin Film Diode) display whereas it does not give details about the T610. Quite clearly, there are differences but if you don’t know the T610, you probably won’t notice the difference as much.
Thus far (and it’s only been a day) call quality does sound a better. The T610 can sometimes be hard to hear but the Z600 just sounds much clearer and louder. Maybe it’s a function of being newer, but just from a practical user standpoint, there is an improvement.
I do wish the phone came with a speakerphone function though. There is this massive speaker at the back of the phone, but it does not activate a speakerphone. Instead, it really blasts the ringing tone and the Z600 is louder than the T610. I suppose this would not be good for all you people that leave your phone on during movies, but it’s useful for us that are constantly in loud, crowded environments (like shopping malls).
It has most of the same functions: tri-band, MMS, GPRS, sound recorder, some PIM functions, etc. There are just subtle differences in some of the content, like the themes, ringtones, etc. One cool add-on here is the game V-Rally 2. SE has actually made a joystick attachment called the Gameboard that transforms the Z600 into a mini Gameboy. The V-Rally 2 game is pretty good and quite similar to older Gameboy games – quite fun. The Z600 is touted as being ready for multi-player gaming through Bluetooth or through the GSM network. I’m going to have to try this out.
As far as I can tell, for all purposes the Z600 and the T610 have the same camera. They state the same specs on the outside so I assume they are quite similar. Still no video capability with the Z600 and image quality, etc. looks the same. I took a few sample pics and they are very similar overall to each other. I would have liked a flash option.
One neat function that I believe is new to the Z600 is software to dedicated to synch with a PC (via MS Outlook). By getting a USB cable, you can synch the Z600 with the provided software. This should help with PIM functions as well as the contacts. I haven’t tried this out and probably won’t but I know many users want this function.
Bluetooth in general is love and hate affair. I never much saw the need for it so I didn’t think it was something I wanted or needed. Until now! Bluetooth is great. I beamed over my entire contacts, picture folder, themes, sounds, etc. in a matter of minutes. Remember when you hated having to change mobiles because you had to reprogram stored contacts, etc? Well with Bluetooth, it’s so simple. Take it from someone who changes phones fairly often, this makes things really easy.
The Z600 uses a different kind of battery than the T610. It seems like a thinner battery, but it appears to hold more power which is great. Battery life, and again it’s still new, seems to be very good and appears better then the T610 which seemed to drain quite quickly lately.
The change in design is something that many may not like. Personally, I think the clamshell is as good as the brick design. It’s just a matter of preference. Moving beyond that, you get a very impressive screen (one of the best I’ve seen with the exception of the Sharp GX-22). The SE software is pretty good and all the functions are just as impressive now as they were when the T610 came out. I like it. If you don’t mind the design, I’d say that this is probably the ESSENTIAL mobile phone for the next few weeks. Why such a short timeframe? Well there are going to be a flood of new phones before X’mas and this really is just the start.