iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Sony CMD-J70 GSM Phone Review

September 12, 2002


Sony CMD J70

Although this review may seem to arrive too late as the Sony J70 is hardly a newcomer on the market, it still has a very interesting price/functionality ratio. 

Appearance and impressions

The phone sports two catchy things: design and menu. On the one hand, the phone is not small from the today's point of view (113X44X21 mm), on the other hand it weighs just 92 g. It's currently one of the lightest models available at less than $150. This model is well-balanced: it easily goes into a shirt pocket making it a little bulging; and it doesn't sink in your hand but has an appealing look. There is nothing extraordinary in design, but this handset looks nicely from 2-3 meters. And once you take it in your hands you can't help falling in love with the J70 :-). 

The case and buttons are entirely plastic. But the phone doesn't look cheap. Sometimes plastic buttons make the overall impression worse: just take the Motorola V70: the handset is quite expensive but after just a couple of seconds one would hardly agree it's priced over $500. On the contrary, here the buttons are easy and soft  to press. As they are small, it's not a problem to dial a number blindly even for a beginner. 

The graphic screen is able to display several gray gradations which is actively used here; at 96X92 the screen displays up to 5 text lines, though they are used much more seldom here as compared with other phones as the Sony J70 incorporates the standard navigation system in the form of bubbles located in a circle. The most part of operations is connected with a Jog Dial which, unlike to similar dials of pocket PCs, this one rotates by 360 degrees clockwise and counter-clockwise. Some users which never used cell phones or PDAs of Sony before the Dial handling can be a real problem, though this is exactly what owners of Sony devices really love here. However, after a week of continuous tests I still faces some problems in handling it. For example, I couldn't get used to the pointer that moves to the left when I turn the Jog Dial up in the Calendar. It certainly must move to the right! :-). There are no more disadvantages in the only controlling element. It's easy to use both for left- and right-handers. 

Unfortunately, there is no a cable for PC connection, and the phone lacks for an IR port. That is why you will have only pre-set tones and wallpaper samples at your disposal. But the phone allows recording your own ring tones using the microphone. Just imagine: you are walking in the street your handset starts shouting: "Damn, it's my boss!". You press the response button and say: "Glad to hear from you, Mr.Black". The effect is striking. The passers-by really like it :-). 

The pre-recorded tones are quite melodious and you will probably hardly want to add your own, though you can easily record any melody even when driving a car: just make sure the radio-recorder is loud enough. 

The built-in speaker gives a high-quality and discernible sound, but sometimes its power is not sufficient. For example, the hands-free mode can be used only in a quiet room. When in a car, you must listen very attentively to hear what the other part is telling you. Next to a busy highway you can miss calls. By the way, the vibrate alert is not always helpful: you will feel it only in the jeans or shirt pockets. 


The menu is typical of Sony, but it differs much from models of other companies. The Jog Dial will help you to navigate: you must turn it to place the pointer over a certain item and press it to choose the item you need. Press the Jog Dial in the stand-by mode to enter the menu and a bubble carousel will pop onto the screen. There are 9 bubbles in all: messages, sound, settings, divert, phone book, history, extras, time-table and WAP. 

The Message item is in charge of everything that's related with reception and delivery of SMS. Apart from reading new messages, you can send an images or a melody. By the way, the preset images look very pleasant. 

The Sound item makes possible to choose a ring tone or record your own. It's interesting that you can assign a separate tone for a given group of subscribers. It comes in handy taking into account there are a great deal of groups, for example, family, friend, office, client, business, skis, golf, tennis, football, fishing etc. - 30 in all. I think it's enough for even the most talkative user, because it's impossible to create new ones. 

In the Settings menu you can choose a language and a logo, adjust contrast, set a network (which is important if you use roaming). You can also look through the statistics of the memory: sometimes it's interesting to know how many people are recorded into the phone book. 

The call divert bubble looks ordinary, that is why we will jump it over. 

The phone book, where you can add or delete phone numbers, houses up to 500 entries. Each number can have its own type (home, mobile etc.) and group. If your friend have three numbers (say, home, mobile, and work), you will have to make three entries. 

The History menu stores information on all incoming, outgoing and missed calls. It's pleasant that beside the number the phone informs you about the date and time of calls. 

The 7th bubble is called Extras. Here you can find Clock (the world time is also included), Calculator (which can also be used as a currency converter), E-mail client and games. There are 4 games: Bananas, PicPuz, MindBlaster and SandArt. The first one has a lot of siblings on desktop PCs and modern PDAs. There are two monkeys bombarding each other with bananas (in PC it can be tanks, towers, gorillas etc.). You are to choose an angle or a throw strength. The Bananas can carry you away for hours, but after that you won't even think of it as it makes you bored quickly :-). In the PicPuz you can build a picture out of small squares or just put all squares with figures in order. In the MindBlaster you are to guess a sequence of numbers. Sometimes it takes hours. As for the last game - SandArt - I failed to get an idea of it. There is a sand-glass above, the sand pours out to the bottom of the screen making small piles. What I'm to do is not clear. 

The time-table underlines the days when you have plans. In all other respects, it's a usual organizer.

And the last bubble is WAP. The WAP browser works well, jokes can be read. It's a typical menu. 

Impressions and thoughts

The phones leaves a very pleasant impression, at least, thanks to its polyphonic melodies when the handset even vibrates a little. Sometimes it irritates that I have to use the jog dial - but for lack of its substitutes we have to go with it. 
Sony CMD J70

Unfortunately, you can't use combinations of numbers in the menu. Sometimes I have to look for a certain item several seconds lots of times a day. 

First I couldn't' find the SIM menu. As it turned out, it's necessary to press and hold the central key to enter it. At default it opens the WAP browser, and you can't assign another task. 

I couldn't find any traces of profiles in the menu as well. Again, you have to press and hold the call button to get to the screen a line with 4 buttons of audio profiles. 

If you have already bought the Sony phone, remember, that instead of pressing the Jog Dial after entering the pin code you can just press the hash button to switch the phone on. In most cases it simplifies the procedure of turning it on with one hand. 


Unfortunately, this is not a business model as it lacks for new wireless technologies such as BlueTooth and GPRS, and even an IR port. But I consider it quite a cutie, it will please not only Sony fans but also any student wishing something original and inexpensive. You must agree that Nokia or Siemens phones are too widespread, and the J70 with its polyphonic ring tones and small weight looks much more stylish. 
Andrey Klinaichev (andrey@ixbt.com

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