Sony Ericsson K850i

Sony Ericsson's Cyber-Shot™ range of phones have been a massive hit. The K800i quickly gained a reputation as the best camera phone on the market; the K810i changed the styling but not much else; the K850i is the one that moves the technology forward to the next stage, with its 5 megapixel camera and high-speed 3G (HSDPA).

First, the looks. Looks like Sony Ericsson were determined to restyle the phone. It's definitely less bricklike in its looks, and it's slimmed down a lot since the K800i days, which is a welcome change. It has a funky blue gizmo on the front and side, which you may or may not like (tip - buy the "Velvet Blue" model pictured and not the hideous "Luminous Green" option.) Now a word about the keypad design. We're really happy to see that Sony Ericsson have finally dumped the horrible joystick that marred both the K800i and K810i but whose idea was it to position the navigation pad in the middle of the keypad so that it overlaps the buttons? And why the small buttons when everyone knows that bigger is better? Grr! And why have Sony Ericsson introduced touch-sensitive keys that everyone hates? We have to say it: we hate the keypad!

OK, so let's talk about the camera. This is tricky. On paper, the K850i is clearly way ahead of the competition. It has high quality Cyber-Shot optics. It has a whopping 5 megapixel resolution. It has a xenon flash (superior to the LED flashes on other camera phones). It has autofocus (to keep your subject sharp) and an automatic lens cover that fixes the problem that the K800i had with the lens cover opening by itself. The camera also has a BestPic™ feature which can automatically take nine photos in a second, so that you can then choose which one to keep. There's also a picture stabiliser, which helps to reduce camera shake. A new switch on the side of the phone lets you switch easily between camera modes, much like in a real digital camera. Used carefully, the K850i can take pictures that improve on the K800i and are even better than the Nokia N95.

Why then is the camera the thing that most of our user reviews have complained about most? Read the reviews below for yourself: there are a lot of disappointed Sony Ericsson fans who have upgraded to the K850i only to find that they end up with badly exposed or totally black pictures. The problem, we suspect, lies with the flash. The design of the flash makes it very easy to place your fingers in the wrong place and completely mess up the flash, resulting in a dark picture. To avoid this you need to hold the edge of the phone (not the best way to hold a camera steady). But we suspect that there's more than this behind the problem, and that the flash itself may have fundamental problems. Whether these can be fixed by firmware releases, we don't know, but for us, a product whose unique selling point is potentially flawed is a fundamentally flawed product. For this reason, we'd recommend that you stick with the K800i or K810i or try the Nokia N95.

Anyway, moving on to the phone's other features, the display is a very high quality TFT ultra-high resolution screen and is very large at 2.4 inches. The media player is fully featured, despite not being a Walkman phone. There's also an FM radio equipped with RDS. MP3 and AC ringtones are supported.

The K850i is also the first of the Cyber-Shots to support accelerated 3G (HSDPA), which enables you to access the web and download files at broadband speeds. Nice to see that feature available to Sony Ericsson users at last. As this is a 3G phone, video calling is enabled too, and the video quality is pretty good, using a front-facing second camera.

Connectivity is excellent with full support for Bluetooth and USB, so it's possible to listen to music on a wireless headset and making it very easy to transfer music files between phone and PC. Battery life is pretty good, with a quite high powered battery to power the big screen and 3G. The built-in memory is just 40 Mbytes, but this is expandable to 4 Gbytes with a Memory Stick Micro™, and there's also support for the microSD™ format cards too.

So, in conclusion, the K850i is a 5 star phone that fails to live up to expectation. The flawed keypad design and problems that people are experiencing with the camera mean that we cannot recommend the K850i.

Features of the Sony Ericsson K850i include:

  • 3G video calling
  • 5 megapixel camera with xenon flash, autofocus, 16x digital zoom and automatic lens cover
  • Video camera
  • Display: TFT, 262,144-colour, 240 x 320 pixels (2.4 inches)
  • Media player
  • FM radio with RDS
  • MP3/AAC ringtones
  • Speakerphone
  • Voice recorder
  • Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email
  • 3D Java games
  • Animated wallpaper
  • Web browser, RSS feeds, blogging
  • Personal organiser functions
  • Flight mode
  • Vibration alert
  • Memory: 40 Mbytes plus support for Memory Stick Micro™ (M2™) (up to 4 GB) and microSD™ format
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB mass storage, modem
  • Quadband (GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900) plus 3G (UMTS 850 / 1900 / 2100)
  • Size: 102 x 48 x 17 mm
  • Weight: 118g
  • Talktime: 3.5 hours (3G) - 9 hours (2G)
  • Video calling: (3 hours, 20 minutes)
  • Battery standby: 350 hours (3G) - 400 hours (2G)