Sony Ericsson M600i
3.8Overall Score
Price (RRP): $849 Manufacturer: Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson has worked hard to find its niche in the mobile phone market, but a string of stylish phones with solid features – among them the Walkman-series W800i and W810i, and the K800i camera phone – has helped set this double-barrel brand apart from the crowd.

The third member of this technology troika is the M600i. The ‘M’ stands for ‘mobile email’ (well, the first word at any rate) and it sees Sony Ericsson suiting up to woo business users who want a smart pocket-sized slab of productivity to keep them on top of the game while out on the road.

Features

Available in black and white, with a stark block-like build that’s almost playful, the most immediately unique trait of the M600i is that – like the BlackBerry Pearl – letters are grouped in QWERTY fashion across the keyboard. However, each key on the M600i has a dual-rocker motion so that pressing it to the left selects one character while pitching to the right summons another. Shift and Alt keys are used to access capital letters, special characters and numbers.

The convex shape of the keys makes this easier than it sounds but so does a bit of patience and a lot of practice ? and you’ll need both.

A jog-dial on the phone’s left side is used for menu and interface navigation, with a stylus and touch-sensitive 6.6 cm screen providing an additional means to tap your way through the phone’s functions. The pen can also used for tasks such as composing emails and editing Office documents, with a simple character-based handwriting recognition system (similar to that of a Palm or Pocket PC handheld) or a virtual keypad.

The M600i’s curious lack of a digital camera (when Sony Ericsson has some brilliant cellphone snappers at their disposal, such as the 3.2 megapixel K800i) is in response to corporate concerns over allowing camera-phones into secure areas. At least the M600i doesn’t forego a bit of downtime distraction by way of its media player, which supports the most common music (MP3 and AAC) and video (MPEG4) file formats, although video clips encoded with DiVX don’t pass muster. As a rule of thumb, the confusing number of ways to encode video makes a trial of playing clips on almost any smartphone device, so count on the M600i more as a way to pass the time listening to music than watching videos.

You’ll be able to cue a CD’s worth of MP3 tracks into the phone’s memory, and another onto the supplied 64MB Memory Stick Micro (M2) card, which slides into the phone through a slot on the side panel rather than being wedged inside under the battery.