Sony Ericsson K850i observations

I’ve been using my Sony Ericsson K850i for a few days now and it’s a great device all around. In fact it’s almost as powerful as the Nokia N95 which was my convergence device of choice for several months…

That’s pretty impressive, because it’s not a smartphone and it’s not equipped with WiFi or GPS. Then again, these missing features are somewhat alleviated by solid Java support, tri-band (!) HSDPA and an optional GPS module!

– Hardware:
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s smaller than I expected and it’s a fingerprint magnet. Build quality is very good – no surprise there.

Like most digital cameras and unlike most phones, a hinged door hides a battery slot, a memory card slot (which accepts either micro-SD or Memory Stick Micro M2 cards – very nice), and a SIM slot (hot swappable) all stacked next to each-other.

There’s a strip of black rubber along the edge of the hinged door that prevents the phone from sliding when placed keypad/screen up on a flat surface – smart touch.

Unfortunately, there’s no dedicated play/pause hardware key (see the Sony Ericsson W800i) for the media application. Standard USB and stereo headset connectors are also missing, so proprietary cables are required.

– Software:
The user interface is similar to other recent Sony Ericsson devices. It’s easy to navigate, responsive and quite polished (the fonts in particular). All of the supplied themes are appealing, which is rare on other phones.

The media application automatically switches between portrait and landscape when you tilt the device, just like the iPhone. Unfortunately, it takes incredibly long to index the contents of the memory card upon insertion.

The web browser is pretty basic when compared to the iPhone or the Nokia N95. It supports landscape, but it’s done manually. Java applications like Opera Mini and Google Maps Mobile work well, but strangely, Gmail Mobile is not available.

The phone crashed on me a few times when I was hammering the user interface right after power up – I was forced to remove and re-insert the battery in order to recover.

– Camera:
I’ll be reviewing the camera separately, but I’m pretty sure the K850i is one of the best camera phones on the market today. Overall picture quality and low-light performance are excellent, startup time and auto-focus are significantly faster than other phones.

In short, I feel that the Nokia N95 colors are richer, and that the i-mobile 902 sensor is less noisy, but the K850i is consistently good. The combination of both a xenon flash and an LED flash (to assist the auto-focus) can’t be matched by the other two devices.

The electrically activated lens cover is nice, but strangely there’s also a glass plate over the lens cover which easily becomes soiled with fingerprints – this makes the lens cover somewhat pointless.

– HSPDA/Bluetooth:
With quand-band GPRS/EDGE, tri-band UMTS/HSDPA (US 1900/850 MHz and european 2100 MHz), Bluetooth 2.0 (with A2DP and DUN), and USB 2.0 (with mass storage and DUN), what’s there not to like? It’s a great device for tethering…

– Keypad/screen:
The unusual keypad is surprisingly functional after a brief adaptation period (cutting my nails helped a lot).

The phone uses capacitive sensors just like the iPhone, but only at the bottom edge of the screen where the 3 soft keys are located. As a result I keep trying to tap on other parts of the screen, expecting it to react – doh!

The QVGA screen is excellent (it’s very bright but it could be larger).

The phone resets to using T9 predictive text by default when turned off – this is annoying.

– Audio/RF:
Call quality and reception are very good, as expected. Sound quality is excellent when listening to music with high-end headphones, better than the Nokia N95 (which is noisy at low listening volumes).

– Battery life:
Battery life is great, especially when set to GSM only with Bluetooth disabled.

I last charged it Sunday night and it’s still 3/4 full Tuesday afternoon. I turned it off Monday night for 8 hours. So far on this charge I’ve talked for about 2 hours.

I’m pretty impressed – then again, it’s not a smartphone :)

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One Response to Sony Ericsson K850i observations

  1. anthonybuchanan says:

    I might save some cash and get the w850 from Cingular for $79. It has a 2 meg camera which is better than my E61 which has 0 camera..

    I did not know the k850 and the w850 were 3G. Thats awesome since Cingular lets you have their 3G with 400 text messages for $20.

    Can you tether this phone to a laptop ?

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