More often than than, a Sony Ericsson phone is generally equated to be a music enthusiast’s phone, with their immensely popular Walkman series of phones. Sony Ericsson’s P-series cater to business needs, and P1i had been in market for a while now, infact rumour goes that P1i’s production will stop in September. Well then why this late review? Well because, (a) I bought this phone recently and (b) It’s a darn neat phone! So let’s go ahead with the review!

The P1i is a smartphone, powered by Symbian OS 9.1, with a UIQ3 user interface. The display is a generous, 2.6″, 256K colour TFT touchscreen and has a resolution of 240×320 pixels, which translates to a fair amount of real estate. Hardware wise, the P1i has 208MHz processor, with 128MB of RAM alongwith 256MB of ROM and 160MB of internal memory.

Build Quality and Looks

My first reaction when I saw this phone was – “Wow!” The phone has a matt-silver, brushed aluminium which gives it a solid feeling. The phone measures 106x55x17mm in terms of dimensions and weighs in at about 125 gms. Even with that weight, the phone seems light and will fit right in pockets – whether front shirt or in pant pockets. The two things that characterize the front of the phone are the 2.6″ TFT touchscreen and the QWERTY Keyboard. The front VGA camera goes almost unnoticed, but is present for the video calls, which can be done wherever 3G networks are available(not in India, at the moment though). The left side of the phone features a 3-way jog-dial, which can be used to operate the phone withough having to use the touchscreen, a dedicated “Back” key, which is used for in-menu navigation, for minimizing open applications, or even for web-browsing. The stylus holder is also on the left side, which is a bit inconvenient. The eye for a strap holder sticks out a bit though but that itsn’t so bad. The right side of the phone features a dedicated key for launching the camera, a programmable key(its function can be set from within the menu, it defaults to open the Web browser). The M2 card bay is also present here and is hot-swappable. The top of the phone has a Power On/Off key, and  IR port. The bottom of the phone has the Standard Sony-Ericsson Pop port. The P1i backside is characterized by the 3.2MegaPixel, Auto Focus camera with dual LED flash.

Bundled Accessories

P1i comes with a rich bundle. The standard package comes with a standard charger, USB data cable, a 1GB M2 card, an extra stylus(which really came handy, as I lost my stylus within couple of days), a velvet carry pouch with Sony-Ericsson Logo, a cradle which has 2 Pop-ports, one for connecting the charger, another for connecting the data cable. Another really good feature of the bundle is that it comes with a Software redemption voucher. The voucher has a a code, using which you can purchase software from P1 Choice worth 10 software points, or about Rs 6500. Besides these, there’s the standard manual and CD containing drivers and Sony Ericsson PC Suite(for Smartphones)

Display And Input

As mentioned above, the display is a 2.6″ QVGA(240×320 pixel) 256k colour TransReflective TouchScreen. The screen is brilliant indoors, the colours vivid. Outdoors, in bright sunlight it’s passable – you can work with it but nothing spectacular. Despite being a touchscreen the P1i comes with a QWERTY keyboard. However, it’s not a full QWERTY keyboard. Each key has 4 characters assigned to it, rock it to the left you get one character(say, Q), rock it to the right you’ll get another(say, W). Pressing the ALT key gives you access to the special characters. While it may be seem a bit cumbersome, it’s not as bad as you expect. It will take sometime to get used to it, once you get used to it, you won’t feel like going back to the multi-tap 9-key keypad of standard phones. However the keys are a tad small, may cause problems with people with fat fingers. Being a touchscreen, you also have the option of using the virtual onscreen keyboard, as well as handwriting recognition.

Contacts, Messaging and Call Management

Being a smartphone, the P1i has an extensive Contact book. There’s practically no limit to the amount of entries you can add. For each entry you can set first name, last name, address, Phone numbers(office/home/mobile), Job title, Birthday(which automatically does an entry to calender), groups etc. As in traditional Sony Ericsson style, call logs are categorised to Missed calls, Incoming calls, Outgoing calls and all calls. Unlike the A100/A200 platforms which have a 30-call limitation, there’s no limitation as to number of entries that can be stored. Also unlike the A100/A200 platforms, repeated calls from the same person are not overwritten, thus if you get 3 calls from the saem number in a span of few minutes, all the 3 entries will be present.

Messaging wise, the P1i supports SMS, MMS. Emails are also clubbed in messaging, the email client supports POP, SMTP, IMAP, BlackBerry, Exchange Servers with support for Push Emails. Special mention has to be done of the T9 predictive text input, which is on steroids on the P1i, with dictionary capable of remembering entire messages, not just words! That’s just phenomenal.

Multimedia

The music player in the P1i, while does not have the Walkman branding, it’s obvious that it’s a Walkman 2.0 media player, with support for different presets, including the Walkman-only MegaBass. although the music player doesn’t have a Manual EQ preset. The music player supports MP3, WMA,WAV, AAC, AAC+ and eAA+ formats, while the video player supports MPEG-4, H.263, H.264, WMV-9 and RealMedia formats. Lack of support for DivX and XViD is bit disappointing, but you can always purchase and install third-party video players(such as Core or SmartMovie Player). The P1i has a FM player, with support for RDS. The FM reception was pretty good, but volume was a bit low. And yes the bundled earphones just SUCK. Though the quality is good, they are just too painful. Why a HPM-70 was not bundled with it just baffles me.

The camera is a 3.2 MP, Autofocus camera with DualLED flash. The camera has brilliant quality, when lighting is good. Under lowlight conditions, quality is ok but images become a bit noisy. The LED flash is fairly OK, but not as good as a Xenon flash. You can change whole lot of settings from the camera – shoot mode(ie, Still, Frame, Burst, Video), Frame Size, macro-mode(which turns of Auto-focus, and is used for extreme close-up snaps), white balance, effects, Flash, night mode, exposure settings etc. While the frame size is mentioned as 3.2Mp and  Zoom rated at 3X, its not without it’s own set of quirks. For one, the 3.2Mp frame size is only at default, no-zoom condition, ie, at 1x. On observing the zoom bar, you can see some thresholds, above the thresholds, the frame size decreases automatically. At 1.1x, the frame size is automatically set to 2MP, and the setting to change it to 3.2 Mp is greyed out. I found this a bit odd, and a quick Google search and post on few forums confirmed that this is Indeed the way the camera works. Maybe a firmware update would fix this.

Connectivity, Performance & Battery Life

Connectivity wise, the P1i supports almost everything – GPRS, 3G, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR & A2DP, USB2.0, WLAN(though only 802.11b. The lack of support for EDGE is puzzling – I don’t know what they were thinking leaving out EDGE. Another neat thing is that while on connecting the USB cable, the phone prompts to select Phone mode – where you can syncronize with the PC Suite, or as File Transfer Mode, where the phone acts as a Mass-Storage device. Unlike other phones which switch off when udner Mass-storage device mode, the P1i has no such limitations, though the Phone cannot access the memory card under this circumstance.

Performance is where the P1i  reigns supreme. The phone is absolutely fantastic in performance, there’s no sign of sluggishness or slow down, even after umpteen applications open. This is unlike Nokia smart phones where you open a couple applications, and the phone starts to choke. A generous 128MB of RAM helps the phone chug along perfectly, even with half a dozen built in apps and 4 Java applications open. At any point of thime, atleast 50MB  of RAM is free, greatly increasing performance.

The P1i battery is Standard, Li-Ion 1120 mAh with a Stand-by time of Up to 440 h and Talk time Up to 10 h. Practically, the P1i would last about 2 days on light usage. However, being a heavy user that I am – about 4-5 hours of GPRS, another 2 hours of Music playback and FM, the phone just about lasted an entire day.

Application Support

While the P1i does run on Symbian 9.1 OS,  the UIQ3 user interface means that it’s a bit tough to get applications, in the sense that they aren’t as abundant as the ones for Series 60 OS. Nevertheless a quick google search should get you the required application.

Conclusion

The P1i is a great phone. It’s an ideal phone for those who need a smart phone with great mulitmedia support and good performance. With the G700 set to replace the P1i soon,  you can expect a drop in prices soon for the P1i, which makes it an ideal VFM smart phone