Sony Ericsson mobile phones in the Z-series boast clamshell designs with internal antennas, generally garnering a compliment on appearance. Previously, we saw the Z600 flaunting this new design tactic, and preliminary images of the Z1010 (Sony Ericsson's upcoming 3G-handset) show the company will enhance this stylised exterior by again setting aside the annoying stub antenna.
The tri-band capable Z200 follows suit and hides its antenna in its body. This little bit of cosmetic surgery is pleasing to the eye and a necessary move for Sony Ericsson to firmly position them in the fashion phone category.
The striking aesthetic features of the Z200 are the off-centre, circular display on the front and the obscure strap holder above the hinge at the top of the handset. The monochrome, orange-screened, external LCD on the front can display a retro analogue clock or, a digital clock with battery and network status. When the phone is shut the volume keys on the left side of the unit change the external display between these two settings. While this is a useful feature we are not sure about the appeal and practicality of the strap holder at the top. The strap supplied in the box has a plastic, snap-lock connector and is sturdy, black and wide. It might be too wide for some tastes but there is a certain appeal about its chunky design.
If you don't like the colour scheme of the phone, you can switch its attire with Sony Ericsson's Style-Up front covers. Our package contained a blue and a silver cover, both with orange portholes for the external display. Another official kit contains a white and a red cover, both sporting grey windows.
Opening the flip (which thankfully can answer incoming calls automatically) shows off the Z200's square display, at a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels. Sony Ericsson has given the Z200 a modest 4096-colour internal LCD. The screen takes up less than half the area of the internal top folder which makes it look relatively miniature. However, we had no problem reading text due to the screen's size (but direct sunlight on the display can cause a bit of eyestrain).
The icon-based interface is similar to that of the Sony Ericsson T610. There is a WAP browser installed if Internet-like mobile services appeal to you.
The Z200 is Sony Ericsson's entry level Z-series mobile and we should see the youth market segment attracted to its price and innovative design. One aspect this market generally demands is efficient text messaging, which, unfortunately, is flawed on the Z200.
Pressing left on the four-way directional pad instantly starts a new text message. However, two-thumb typists will be frustrated by the Z200's inability to keep up with text entry. The slowness is more apparent when composing messages using T9 (text on nine keys) rather than multi-tapping. Quickly type in a long word and you will frustratingly realise that some letters are skipped, forcing you to clear the word and try again.
Pressing the options key while creating an SMS allows you format the text by size, alignment and style. You can change the size of text to small or large, the alignment to left, right or centre, but no styles (i.e. bold, italic, strikethrough and underline) would work for us. Formatting doesn't impact on performance but potential buyers should be aware of the sluggish behaviour of T9. Thankfully, group sending and templates for messages are supported and work flawlessly.
A surprising exclusion on the Z200 is MMS, which is usually stock standard on today's colour-screened mobiles. Perhaps it is due to lack of memory, but otherwise we find the Z200 can store 16 wallpapers, 30 icon-sized graphics, 200 phone book entries, 10 e-mail addresses, 16 polyphonic and 10 other ringtones -- a respectable amount for a phone at this level.
About half of the twenty-two ringtones on our review model are polyphonic and we experienced no problem hearing them through the speaker. They don't sound as full as the Z600's ringtones and understandably so, with the Z600 costing about $400 more than the Z200.
Alien Scum, Honey Cave and Mini Golf are the three games are installed on the Z200. Honey Cave is a fun time-filling platform shooter. Alien Scum is a game inspired by space invaders, but we found Mini Golf too slow to enjoy.
Initially, we experienced a bizarre problem with the Z200 resetting itself at random intervals. This may have been caused by our impatience to take the Z200 on a test drive (by only charging it for about 30 minutes). Anytime we hit the answer key the phone reset itself. We thought it best to leave it charging for the full four hours as the user manual suggests and, after doing so, the problem seemed to disappear. Overall the battery is adequate, lasting about three to four days before a recharge is needed.
Measuring 96.4 x 52.0 x 25.4 mm and tipping the scales at a respectable 98g, we see the Z200 being a decent contender in the fashion phone category. Demand for the Z200 will primarily come from the youth market judging by its price and its unique design.
Sony Ericsson Z200
Company: Sony Ericsson
Distributor: Selected resellers
Phone: 1300 650 050