Sony Ericsson W995a

With its and series of models, has become a leader in the niche categories of camera and music phones. The latest addition to its , the Sony Ericsson Walkman W995a ($600, unlocked, as of 6/24/09) delivers the best of both worlds with an 8.1-megapixel camera and high-quality audio features. The price is steep and the hardware has some flaws, but those looking for an all-in-one device (camera, music player, game player, and phone) won't be disappointed. Just remember that it isn't a smartphone, as it lacks the connectivity of that kind of device.

The Walkman W995a has a slider body with a bright 2.6-inch, 320-by-240-pixel QVGA display on its front face. Aesthetically, it is attractive, if a bit on the boxy side--it lacks the soft curves and rounded edges we've seen on other phones of this class. But given its hefty specs, the W995a is surprisingly compact: It measures 3.8 by 1.9 by 0.6 inches and weighs 4 ounces, and that's with an 8.1-megapixel camera. Below the screen are a play/pause button surrounded by a circular directional toggle, two soft keys, a 'clear' button, a menu-shortcut button, and talk and end-call/power keys.

Sliding the phone up reveals the numeric keypad. Although the keys were large, I found them difficult to press. They also were a bit slick, which made texting a little tedious. The keys are backlit, a convenient touch for messaging and dialing in dimly-lit environments.

The left spine houses a proprietary headset jack/charger connection as well as a shortcut key for the Walkman player. On the right spine sit the music-player controls--especially handy for navigating music via your fingers--a dedicated camera button, and a volume rocker that also works as a zoom while you're in camera mode. On top are the 3.5-mm headphone jack, speakers, and a kickstand. Speakers can be found at the bottom of the phone as well.

Walkman fans will be pleased to know that the W995A's player doesn't deviate much from those of older generations, including the . The interface is basic, but it gets the job done. You can view your collection by artist, albums, individual tracks, playlists, genre, or year. Audiobooks and podcasts get their own folders, as well. The Walkman also organizes your music by Sony's SensMe playlist generator, which analyzes your songs' beats-per-minute counts and assigns them moods and tempos such as Happy, Sad, Fast, or Slow. In my hands-on tests, I found SensMe pretty dead-on, though I don't know if I would ever use it myself.

You can shuffle your music, loop a track, and tweak the equalizer to your liking. You can also choose from five equalizer presets: Normal, Unique, Soul, Easy, and Bass. Overall, sound quality was excellent, and was among the best of the multimedia-rich phones I've tested in the past few months. Music piped out of the external speakers was decent, and having dual speakers on the top and bottom of the phone contributed to the fullness of the sound.