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The Sony CMD-J5, or just J5 to most people, has been around for a little while now and seeing as I have owned one for just over a month, I feel it should be reviewed. I think that I should also note that this is my first mobile phone.

In terms of looks, this is everything I want from a phone. It's slim, stylish, and silver (everything you would expect from Sony). It has a larger than average screen and weighs an amazingly light 85g. I had decided long before I bought anything that I wouldn't go for a Nokia, apart from the fact that everyone has one and the ringtones get on my nerves, they also seem to be quite heavy, whatever the size.
The one thing that bothers me about the looks, is the antenna, it's too big. It doesn't seem to unscrew like many other phones, so I'm stuck with it until I get around to taking the whole phone apart.
So on the whole I'm very pleased with the J5 in aesthetic terms, it looks good and feels right in my hand. The rest of the phone on the other hand is a mixed bag.

The J5 was definately created as a gimmick phone, it's biggest selling point is that you are able to record up to five custom ringtones (10 secs each) and an additional five event sounds (2 secs each). The ringtones are recordable through a microhone/speaker built into the back of the phone (which also doubles as a hands free device). This is (along with the styling) what first attracted me to the phone. I've come to loathe those Nokia ringtones in all their forms, and wanted something a little different. I had heard the J5's built-in polyphonic ringtones a while back as a friend from Hong Kong had bought one, and to put it mildly, the J5 was a Gameboy to the Nokia's Atari 2600. I will admit that I hadn't heard what the custom tones sounded like, but could only assume that with Sony's expertise in the audio field, they would have to be special.

Well, to be brutally honest, the recording unit in the J5 sucks. You have to record via the speaker in the back of the phone, and you end up with a lot of noise and the overall result is amazingly quiet and not at all what you might be expecting.
I'll say it right now, if you want this phone for recording your own ringtones, don't bother! It really isn't worth it.
Now, saying that, Sony were originally advertising that you could hook the phone up to a PC via a USB cable, and download sounds directly to the phone, along with your own background wallpaper. This was meant to drastically improve the sound quality, and the wallpaper would have been a great way to really personalise the phone.

The software (code QN-3DS) that would enable all this was eagerly anticipated by thousands of users who had bought their phones specifically for this purpose. People waited months as Sony continually set back the release date of the software (which they also wanted to charge another (£50-60 for). It has now more or less been confirmed that it will never be released by Sony. All reference to the extra features this would have enabled (Along with the sounds and wallpaper, the phone was also supposedly able to synchronise with Outlook) have been deleted from all Sony websites and materials. Many people complained to Watchdog, or Trading Standards as the phone doesn't do what it was advertised to do. Anyone with a J5 would be entitled to a refund if they desired so.

So what are you left with after you take away all those cool features? Not much really, just your bog standard phone. The speaker still comes in handy, the hands free unit built into the phone works great. Also, the Jog Dial is a fantastic idea, it makes navigating the animated menus so much easier and faster. The speaker is also used for the vibrate function, as it uses a low-bass frequency, instead of a seperate motor. This means that the phone can't play a tone and vibrate at the same time, it also means that the vibrate is very weak, and I end up missing calls quite often.

How about games? Well, the games are beyond dull. There are 4 on the J5 and I don't play any of them.
Continuing the tradition of taking old QBASIC games and copying them to mobiles, the J5 has it's own version of Gorillas. Instead of typing in the angle etc, you now use the jog dial to crudely aim your gorilla's banana before throwing it. Also in the fashion of older games, it seems to have no end. You just repeat the same levels over and over until you die.
Next up is a bizarre code game, I haven't even figured it out yet. As far as I can see you just have to guess a 3 digit code in the least amount of tries, thrilling stuff.
After that comes the incredibly un-gamelike 'Sand Art'. Yes that right folks, you get to control up to 4 different shades of sand, which fall to the bottom of the screen making amazing hippie patterns. What makes it even more useless is that you can't save any of your newly created 'artworks' to use for, say a background, so the whole thing is just redundant.
Finally there's my pet hate, a tile-shuffling game (you know, re-arrange the picture). I hate these things, I hated them when they fell out of Christmas crackers, I hated them when they were packed with my cereals, and I hate this one too. The only problem is that I can't break this one into hundreds of pieces in disgust. Bah.

This is turning into quite a negative review, believe it or not, I do actually like this phone. The WAP side works fine, I've even managed to access Everything thanks to this, although it's nothing but a novelty. The POP3 e-mail is also very handy, you can compose your messages offline, which can save a bit of money as this isn't a GPRS phone. There are more phone book entries than I know what to do with, and each one lets you save 3 numbers and 2 extra slots for addresses and email addresses.

So like I said, I do like this phone despite it's limitations (It's pretty damn sexy). The ringtones that are built into the phone are very good by the way, and I now use those instead of trying to record my own. I have to admit though, when it's time to get a new phone, it won't be a Sony.


I have made a list of the main specs for this phone (now minus the sounds & wallpaper).

Main features:

  • High resolution display - 96 x 92 pixels
  • 4-colour backlit display (That's 4 shades of grey)
  • Jog-dial
  • WAP access upto 14400bps
  • HTML support
  • 512 bookmarks
  • E-mail support (POP3 + SMTP)
  • 500 phone book entries (+ SIM card entries)
  • Vibrating alert
  • Anykey + auto answer
  • Text messages of up to 160 characters
  • T9 Predictive text input
  • Emoticon messaging (transmitted and received by J5 users only)
  • 4 games
  • 30 caller groups
  • 5 personal ringtones
  • 21 ring tones

Other Features:

  • Appointment reminder
  • Calculator
  • Call timers
  • Currency converter
  • Dual band operation: GSM 900 and GSM 1800
  • Fax + data compatibility
  • PC connectivity (You can still connect this to a PC, but only to use it as a modem, or to manage SMS messages through thirdparty software.) Profile selections

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