Sony Ericsson have always been one manufacturer who look after every one in the mobile phone market, from the high-end user looking for the latest and greatest, and the entry level user just looking for the stuff that their friends have or what they really need. There has been a lot of focus on the high-end features of mobile phones during the last year, mainly due to the great advances in technology occurring daily. The entry-level user often gets left behind with mobile phones from yesteryear, but not if manufacturers like Sony Ericsson have anything to do with it.
The Z520i is a perfect example of Sony Ericsson catering for the entry-level users. The handset doesn’t have everything you’ll find on the latest mobile phone, but it does however have the features that should be included in every handset; the ones that are most used in this day and age and have benefits for newcomers to the mobile phone market.
Like I just mentioned, the Z520i is an entry level handset with many of the features you don’t find on these sorts of handsets (until now! ;)). Some of the features on the Z520i that are worth a mention include support for Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity, Quad-band GSM coverage, USB connectivity, and MP3/AAC ring tones.
Bluetooth is such a widely used connectivity medium these days there’s no excuse why it hasn’t been included in more entry-level handsets. The Z520i fully supports Bluetooth devices such as wireless audio headsets for cordless conversations. You can also utilize the Bluetooth capabilities for connecting the handset to a PC or laptop for data transfers.
Quad-band GSM coverage is something that we only see very little of even in the high-end business handsets. Tri-band GSM coverage definitely dominates the market. The Quad-band coverage adds the GSM 850MHz band (mainly used in the USA and Canada) so the Z520i is a covered in every corner of the globe.
The Z520i has Sony Ericsson’s new Fastport™ interface, which instead of several different ports for data, charging, and so forth, uses a single port for everything. The Fastport™ is fully USB compatible so connecting to a PC or laptop is extremely simple. However the Z520i doesn’t come with a USB data-cable so it must be purchased separately.
MP3 and other high quality audio formats are often left out of the ring tone capabilities with our low-end handsets. The people at Sony Ericsson have remembered to include both MP3 and AAC format ring tone compatibility, as well as the usual polyphonic capabilities.
The Z520i looks just like your average run of the mill clam-shell. It’s quite small and easily fits into your pocket, and without the stub external antenna the overall shape is quite square with rounded edges. The antenna on the Z520i is apparently in the little ‘u’ shaped bit at the top of the handset, which also acts as a rest for the top half of the clam shell.
One thing that you’ll find on most Sony Ericsson entry-level handsets are the exchangeable covers, which perhaps aren’t as common as they once were when first released. The back and front panels of the Z520i can be removed and replaced with different colour/themed plates. A set of alternative coloured plates come in the sales package.
The covers are reasonably easy to remove, the back one more so as it’s the actual battery cover also. The front cover needs a bit more fiddling around to ensure you don’t snap it, just stuck your fingernails underneath the two indents on either side (towards the top) and lift up. Slowly wiggle it and the best way I found was to slowly put one of your fingers down one side until it clips off. Getting it back on is easy, just insert the bottom end first.
The speaker on the Z520i is located on the back of the handset. The VGA camera lens sits nicely to the right hand side of the mini-LCD on the front, perfect for taking self portraits! On the left hand side of the handset you’ll find the dedicated camera key, volume up and down keys, and also the tiny infrared window. The Fastport™ sits at the very bottom of the handset.
The buttons on the Z520i are great for any user – they’re large, tactile, the backlight is very bright, and they’re all very similar sizes. I didn’t have any problems with the keys on the Z520i, and the curved ends of them makes it very difficult for you to skim over a key and accidentally press it on your way to another key.
There are two extra buttons at the bottom of the numerical keypad, one is a dedicated on/off key and the second is the WAP browser key. You can push it at any time to launch the browser. In true Sony Ericsson style the handset has removed dedicated hang up/pick up buttons and instead opted for two soft keys, one return key and the cancel/backspace key.
User Interface & display
The Z520i sports a 128 x 160 pixel TFT LCD, which is a tad under the regular Smartphone resolution of 176 x 220 pixels. The display also only supports 65,536 colours which to me was a bit of a disappointment, but I guess to keep the price attractive to new-comers to the market some sacrifices have to be made! The external LCD is 101 x 80 pixels in size and capable of 4,096 colours.
The user interface on the Z520i is the latest from Sony Ericsson, with the regular 12-icon animated menu system. It is fully themeable, with 4 themes installed right out of the box. Both the main LCD and external LCD are themes (screensavers, wallpapers, etc) when you apply a theme.
The brightness on the internal LCD can be modified via the settings menu, but I wasn’t happy to see that there is not an option for the external LCD. The external LCD is way too bright, and it’s very difficult to see the icons at the top of the display when using a light-coloured background. The only way around this is to use a dark (preferably a single colour) wallpaper. You’ll have to download one of create one on a computer and send it over to the Z520i.
For a first time user to mobile phones, or someone who can’t grasp new technology, the Sony Ericsson interface is perfect. Everything is large, and icons are representative of their functions. Nothing is hidden, and everything is easy to find (like the calculator, calendar, notes, and so forth all in the Organizer menu). The colourful themes are also an added eye-candy bonus!
Making and receiving calls
The Z520i has everything you need to get the most out of your calls. There’s wireless Bluetooth connectivity, the wired headset option, a loudspeaker, and the regular ear-piece. A wired headset isn’t included in the sales package so out-of-the-box you only have the loudspeaker and ear piece options if you don’t own a Bluetooth headset already.
The phone books on Sony Ericsson handsets are always jam packed with features. The Z520i is no different. For example, each contact can have the following details attached: Name, Number, E-mail, Presence-ID, Web Address, Picture, Ring tone, Light effect, Voice commands, Title, Company, Street, City, State, Zip Code, Country, Info, and Birthday. (These options are only available to contacts that are stored on your mobile phone memory; SIM-stored contacts only accept Name & Number.)
The loudspeaker on the Z520i is great quality, but doesn’t work too well when there is a large amount of background sound – you will come through crackled to the other party. Other than that the quality was great. The earpiece quality is fantastic as usual.
Ring tones come in the form of MP3/AAC or Polyphonic-MIDI files. There’s a wide range of MIDI tones pre-installed on the Z520i but for your true-tone (as they’re sometimes called) goodness you’ll have to download via WAP or create your own on your PC (this is probably the cheapest and easiest).
The usual can be found in this department – SMS/EMS, MMS (video and still image) and e-mail messaging. T9 predictive text is included as standard and the Z520i supported several European languages – English, French, German, and Turkish. You can find the message language settings (more than one can be activated at any one time) under the “Writing language” heading in the main language settings.
The large keys on the Z520i are great for messaging, and I didn’t experience any lag. The only issue I did have was a little ‘bug’ with the T9 predictive text. So I don’t go over it twice – jump to the Problems/Issues section and check it out.
With the VGA camera your own video clips and images can be sent via MMS or e-mail message with a heap of space left for other sections like text and sounds (due to the file size of VGA-captured media compared to other camera specifications).
The total memory on the Z520i is around 16MB, but unfortunately only a separate amount has been reserved for messages. On some mobile phones, a defined amount is set apart just for messages, but when you receive more than that it just uses up some of the free user memory. On the Z520i this isn’t the case, and I was constantly being asked to delete some messages as it was over 95% full. Mind you, I did have about 200 or so messages.
The Z520i offers a great range of connectivity options, which is great news for the entry level market which in my opinion are the ones who would most like to customize their handsets with ring tones, pictures, and so forth. The only issue here is that a data-cable isn’t included in the sales package for USB connectivity.
Wireless Bluetooth connectivity is included on the Z520i for connection to other compatible devices – from PC’s and laptops to other phones/PDA’s. Accessories like audio headsets can also be paired with the Z520i. Bluetooth is very easy to use & connect your devices, just follow the prompts under the Connectivity tab in the main Settings menu.
Infrared has slowly been making its way out of mobile phones, but many low-end handsets still incorporate this connectivity option. Like Bluetooth, with infrared you never have to update your infrared dongle/adapter like you would with a data-cable. Infrared is very universal and can be used for sending media from the handset to a PC or other compatible device, and also using PC Suite software for synchronization, data transfer & backup and even using the handset as a modem. The infrared connectivity is built into the Z520i’s user interface – just select an item (picture, video, etc) and select “Send -> via infrared.” The same applies for sending items via Bluetooth.
There’s the default GPRS for connecting to WAP sites and sending/receiving MMS and e-mail messages, that should keep you covered in basically any 2G network around the globe!
The Z520i is of great build quality, which is to be expected from Sony Ericsson.
The Style-Up™ covers are securely attached (perhaps a little too much in the case of the front cover!) and won’t come off with regular day-to-day use. The flip has an open lock and closed lock for extra support.
The Style-Up™ covers are perhaps a little too well attached… okay maybe just the front one! The back one (which is also the battery cover) simply slides off.
For the general user, the battery life is great and you would have little problems. I am a very heavy mobile phone user, so the battery on the Z520i was sucked dry faster than a user who makes a call or two and a couple of SMS messages. However that addictive Tetris-like Java game also eats up the battery…
The Z520i uses a lithium-ion 900mAh battery pack with approximately 9 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby time. 9 hours of talk time is a great specification, most handsets average around 5-7 hours.