Quick change: Though blue here, the bulky Z600 has changeable faceplates.
The 65,536-color internal display is vibrant and crisp, though it doesn't show well in direct light. We also have some complaints with the navigation buttons, which consist of a four-way toggle, two soft keys, a Clear button, and a Back key. Though well spaced, they sit in a curious arrangement, and the blue backlighting is much too dim. There are no dedicated Talk and End buttons either; instead, you'll need to use the soft keys to place and end calls. The power key and a dedicated Web-access button are located at the handset's bottom. Furthermore, while the toggle provides one-click access to the address book, the main menu, wireless Web service, and the memo feature, none are labeled. The slightly depressed keypad buttons could be better; they are generously spaced but difficult to dial by feel.
True player: Snap the Z600 into the optional Gameboard.
Alternatively, two buttons on the handset's left side let you scroll through the menus and adjust the volume. Other exterior features are minimal; the camera lens and a small mirror reside on the handset's bottom, while a dedicated camera key sits on the right side. The Z600 accepts changeable faceplates, including such color combinations as Space Silver and Cosmo Black, Coral and Silky Red, and Rainbow Stripe and Electric Blue. These plates, however, are susceptible to heavy smudging. You also can choose from a list of optional accessories, such as the Sony Ericsson Gameboard EGB-10 (see the Features section for details). Although the Sony Ericsson Z600 appears feature-rich on paper, some of these functions aren't well implemented. The internal phone book stores up to 510 contacts, with room for an additional 250 names on the SIM card, but a single entry can include only one listing each for home, work, and mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses. And instead of being able to add information to a new entry (such as associating a ring tone and a picture with a contact), you have to first save the initial information, then choose Edit Contact from the Manage Contacts menu option--a needless extra step.
Next to the camera lens is a small mirror for self-portraits.
Other features include text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, a task list, a stopwatch, an alarm clock, a timer, 32 polyphonic ring tones, a vibrate mode, and a WAP 2.0 browser for surfing the wireless Web via a GPRS connection. There's Java (J2ME) support for games, six of which are included. The handset comes with an integrated camera, but it takes shots in only low resolutions: 288x352 or 120x160. Although you get a self-timer and the usual picture effects (Black And White, Negative, and Sepia), there's no adjustment for brightness levels other than a Night mode, which leaves the virtual shutter open for a longer period, resulting in extremely blurry images.
The Z600 doesn't have the best image quality.
Sony Ericsson had business users in mind when it bundled Bluetooth and infrared (IR) connectivity with the Z600. We had no problems sending and receiving data with another Bluetooth- and IrDA-capable phone. But the company also designed the Z600 with an eye toward the youth market. You can snap the Sony Ericsson Gameboard EGB-10 onto your phone and transform it into a mobile gaming machine. When using the Gameboard, we found that the games were more responsive and the raised buttons were easier to press than the handset's flat keypad. You can also use the phone to command the Bluetooth remote-control car, the CAR-100.
The Z600 can be customized with a variety of wallpapers, screensavers, and themes, some of which match the changeable faceplates. More choices can be downloaded from either Sony Ericsson's or your carrier's Web site. Following Motorola's lead with its MotoMixer, Sony Ericsson's Music DJ feature lets you assemble your own MIDI music tracks. You select preset tempos (Groove, Salsa, Reggae, and Techno) for four instruments (drums, bass, keyboards, and horns) that you insert in the four main elements of the song (intro, verse, chorus, break). You can set a melody as a ring tone or send it to a friend as a picture message. We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson Z600 world phone on T-Mobile's network in the Chicago area. We frequently encountered background static on our end, though it often disappeared when the caller began talking. Our callers, on the other hand, said we sounded clear.
Where the Z600 shines is in battery performance. We reached nearly seven hours of talk time on a fully charged battery. That's short of the maximum rating of nine hours but certainly no reason to complain. Similarly, though we fell short of the 12.5-day standby rating, the 10 days we coaxed is nothing to sneeze at. We should note that if you plan on playing games frequently, battery life will drain faster.