Sony CMD-MZ5

  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good


  • Integrated MP3 player with expandable memory
  • POP3 email
  • excellent screen
  • straightforward user interface.


  • Bulky
  • uses only proprietary memory
  • very expensive.

Sony's new mobile phone is significant not only because it doubles as an MP3 player, but also because it's the company's latest Memory Stick-equipped device. There is only one other commercially available mobile phone that allows you to increase its memory and that is the Siemens SL45, which accepts MMC cards. Sony's proprietary memory system currently only features on its own products, and the privilege of using its most advanced mobile phone will cost you a princely £594.89 (ex. VAT, £699 inc. VAT).

The MZ5 is a derivation of Sony's eye-catching Z5 handset that has failed to make a huge impact due to its initially high price and quirky features. The MZ5 has widened its girth to accommodate its most distinctive feature, the Memory Stick. There is a lot of gaudy blue plastic around the outer rim into which are set various MS-related features like the MS slot itself, an ejection slider, headphone and line-in sockets.

You transfer music into the phone using the Memory Stick, which is both the phone's virtue and Achilles Heel. Since MS is a proprietary competitor to the open MMC and SD standards, you can currently use it only with Sony devices. That's great if you have a CLIE handheld or a VAIO notebook, but not much good otherwise. You can, however, plug an audio source into the phone and record directly to the Memory Stick.

The 16MB MagicGate Memory Stick supplied with our handset was hardly enough to hold more than a few tracks, but the manual refers to a 64MB stick that should come as standard. The music volume is not very loud, and although the sound quality is passable, it's hardly CD quality.

Music features aside, the MZ5 is a powerful handset. The 96 by 72 pixel display is great for viewing the bundled games and using the mobile Internet. As well as allowing you to view images and text files held on the Memory Stick, the display also improves text messaging, as you can see almost all of an average SMS on one screen.

The jog dial is superb -- once you get used to it. You can move through menus and lists by clicking the wheel into the phone to select an option, dialling up and down to move through menus and pushing the wheel backwards and forwards to move between menu levels.

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The inclusion of Microsoft's Mobile Explorer browser is of questionable benefit since few Web sites are optimised for the tiny viewing area. Whatever you say about WAP, at least there are loads of sites you can easily view. The POP3 email feature is useful, but the inability to store your outgoing messages is disappointing.

Counting against the MZ5 its bulk and weight -- it measures a chunky 5cm wide by 3cm deep by 9cm high and weighs 110g. The reputation for unreliability of its Z5 cousin should also lead potential purchasers to be wary.

The phone functions are well executed. There's a large 500-name phonebook held on the phone, text messaging is easy thanks to the combination of the jog dial and T9 predictive text, and you can even set up a signature to add to the end of SMSs. Sony claims 90-220 minutes of talk time and 30-120 hours standby, or six hours of music playback time from the unit's Li-ion battery.

Sony's list price of £699 (inc. VAT) is far too much for a device that's likely to become obsolete in months, although prices with a contract are likely to be around £400. If the rest of the MZ5 was ground-breaking, like the Siemens SL45, then you could forgive its proprietary memory expansion system. But the absence of the ability to synchronise with desktop schedulers, the lack of infrared and the bulky form factor are significant drawbacks.