K850 Review

By Michell Bak, 10th of November 2007

k850_small_2.jpgThe K850 is Sony Ericsson’s camera flagship phone of the year packing the 5 mega pixel camera with auto focus, xenon flash, BestPic, Cyber-shot technologies and a whole lot of extra features. But of course it’s not just a phone with a great camera – it’s a phone with the new Sony Ericsson user interface and platform (with the new Media application), 3.6 mbps HSDPA, large and vivid 2.2 inch TFT display with a great viewing angle, first time touch sensitive softkeys/screen concept, innovations in the design, functions and more.

But of course there’s not only a good side to the story. The K-series flagship model is still missing the integrated WLAN, and once you’ve one or more phones with this built in, you’ll find it very hard to go back to a phone without. Some people might also find the keypad and D-pad a bit weird to use, but personally, I don’t. The phone is also a fingerprint magnet, and you’ll have to clean it up every single time you’ve touched it, if you want it to look nice and clean – but when there are no fingerprints, the phone looks fantastic and is very stylish!

K850 measures 102 x 48 x 17 millimetres and weighs a good 118 grams. While it doesn’t seem like a large or big phone, the first comment you’ll probably get, when showcasing the phone for your friends, is “wow, it’s thick!”. And that’s actually just your eyes pulling a trick on you, because it’s not that long, so the proportions will look a bit weird. But what really matters is if it’ll fit in your pocket, and yes, it will fit right in without any problems. Its weight is a bit over the top, but on the other hand it gives a nice feel of the phone and it seems pretty sturdy. Not creaking sounds or bad build quality either, which is a nice plus.

The new menu system

media_menu_screenshot.jpgSo what’s up with all the talk about a new menu system on K850, you might be thinking. Well, K850 is using the so called A200 platform, which simply changes quite a few things in the phone’s user interface (UI). Now there is no back-button on the phones because one the three soft keys now works like the back-button. This is a bit more like Samsung and Nokia-user interfaces, and does seem a bit weird to start off with, but you’ll get the hang of it quite fast. So what’s new other than the soft keys? Quite a load of things as a new Media-menu comes with the A200 platform, and this is stinking nice (if only it was a bit faster)! It’s for all your photos, music and videos and has separated menus for pod casts (yes, that’s possible, too, on the new A200 phones!).

flash_menu_screenshot.jpgIf you go in to the menu on K850 you won’t notice many changes. The file manger is no longer at its place (has moved the “Organizer”), where the alarm clock has taken its place. I don’t really get why, as I personally would prefer the file manager over the alarm clock at any time. This is a bit irritating to say the least.

As something new the K850 also supports Flash menus! Wohoooo! This has been missing in the K series, but has now come with the K850. And my God, I’m glad they’re finally here, although there’s only one on the phone.

Connections

The K850 supports a series of different connections – it’s a quad-band GSM phone with both EDGE & UMTS/3.6 mbps HSDPA-support, and is one of the manufacturer’s first of these. Furthermore it supports Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, which transfers files at a rate of approximately 100 – 120 KB/s. This is really fast, and is one of the best on the market! It’s got all Bluetooth profiles including A2DP for stereo audio streaming. The Bluetooth part of the phone has also been enhanced in other ways – now it’s a lot easier to set up a Bluetooth PAN network between your phone and PC, so you can browse the Internet on the K850 with broadband speed from your computer – all via Bluetooth. This is also possible to do via USB – read more about that here.

K850 comes bundled with a USB cable for transferring files between your computer and phone. It supports USB 2.0, so it’s not too slow when transferring large files. The cable also somehow seems a lot more sturdy in the grip than former USB cables – this was also a problem, so it’s nice to see that Sony Ericsson has done something about it.

5 mega pixels Cyber-shot camera

As I started this review off by saying, the K850 has an excellent 5 mega pixel Cyber-shot-branded camera (one of the best on the market!) with auto focus, xenon flash and exciting features like BestPic for taking nine pictures in a row in about a second – then you can save the ones you wish, and delete the rest. But K850 also features an enhanced version of the Cyber-shot camera interface and a couple of new features has come along as well.

If you choose to go through the different scene modes, you’ll now see a picture of what the highlighted mode is particularly designed for. This is rather nice, and gives newcomers a great way of learning things. Another new feature is the option to set the ISO level, and there are four options here (Auto, ISO 100, ISO 200 & ISO 400). Below you can see an example of how the ISO levels work with the integrated xenon flash. If you want a very bright picture (more noise) go for ISO 400, if you want a dark picture (less noise) go for ISO 100 or even ISO 200. If you have any doubts just go with the Auto-setting, as it’s pretty useful in most cases.

But of course there hasn’t only been software changes. The whole physical camera aspect of the phone has been enhanced, too, with some innovative and cool features. First off there’s now an on/off-button for the camera, and once pressed it opens the mechanical shutter (nice!). Then you’ll see that there are four blue-illuminated key short cuts on the keypad when the camera is turned on – these are short cuts for mode-settings, scenes, self-timer and flash. Now, if you want to record a video, what do you do? Simply slide the button next to the shutter-button to “video-camera”-mode, and you’re there. Want to have a look at your pictures? Simply slide it further on to “Playback”-mode. Cool, huh? But that’s not all. As I’ve said the K850 has a xenon flash, but what I haven’t mentioned is that it also has a LED light that’s used as both focusing light and can be used when recording a video.

camera_hardware_stuff.jpg

I just want to show how well the xenon flash works in K850, too. To show this I’ve shot a picture in pretty poor light conditions without the flash on and one with the flash on. The difference is remarkable, and really shows how far ahead Sony Ericsson is from its opponents on this area.

Lets get on with it, and show you guys some real full size photo samples shot with the K850. Some are with the flash on and some aren’t. Press the thumbnails for a larger view.

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The K850 is of course also able to record videos as I’ve said earlier. It’s the second non-smartphone to record videos in QVGA resolution with 30 frames per second (W900 being the first). It records the video clips in MP4-format, which is rather nice. The quality is quite good, but not comparable to i.e. N95 from Nokia.

A video sample showing the quality can be found here.

Play games with the accelerometer

game_screenshot.jpgK850 has a built-in accelerometer, which means it can detect the movements of the phone. This can be used in games, and is being used in a pre-installed game called Marble Madness. In this game you have to navigate a ball through a series of challenges by moving the phone around and tilting it to the sides. If it’s too hard, there’s also an option to turn off the motion sensor. Once you’ve completed a series of challenges you’ll get something extra, so far I’ve gotten a wallpaper and a ring tone. There’s also another game on K850 called Tennis Multiplay, which is a 3-dimensional tennis game. It’s pretty fun, but hard to play for a long period of time due to the K850’s keypad. You can also install other Java games, if you want to.

It comes with three applications; FaceWarp (making fun with faces), HP Print (a print-application for printing your photos and contact informations) & Photo Mate (teaches you about the camera and how to use it the best).

Everything seems to be running pretty smooth on K850, and it supports all Java-profiles because it’s got JP-8.

Faaantabulous display!

K850 has a 2.2 inch TFT display. The resolution is QVGA – 240 x 320 pixles – and it can show up to 262.144 different colours (18 bit). The colours on the display are extremely vivid, and no picture or video could justify the feeling of that display. The viewing angle is also great, but not that great when really looking from the sides. Anyways, here’s an image, so you’ll get the picture!

untitled-1.jpg

Walkman without the branding

K850 is the first K series phone to have pretty much the full Walkman player but without the Walkman branding. Admittedly there are some minor differences like SensMe and the ShakeControl part, but seriously that’s minor differences. The rest of the music player is very much alike W910’s Walkman 3.0-branded music player. Impressive!

The sound quality is extremely high and the speakers are among the loudest from Sony Ericsson ever. It’s not stereo speakers, though. The quality when listening in your earphones is great.

The music player accepts just about all common music formats including MP3, AAC of any kind, WAV and WMA. If you choose to have your music in eAAC+ format and you have a 6 GB memory card – like myself – you’ll have storage room for over 5.000 full length songs! Of course this does slow down the already slow Media menu, which is one of the biggest flaws in the K850. Sony Ericsson has got to do something about the horrendous speed of this, as it’s very slow at loading songs, etc.

Better than a calender

The A200 platform makes it possible to hold up to 5000 contacts and a total of 35.000 phone numbers – however Sony Ericsson has chosen to lower this by five meaning it can only hold up to 1000 contacts and 7000 numbers. It’s not that cool to think it can perform better than it does, but it’s still quite a lot of contacts and numbers. So how is one supposed to find the contact, you’re looking for with all those numbers and contacts? The answer is simple. All you have to do is go to the standby screen and start pressing the numeric keypad. If you’d want to find me and my name was set to be “Michell Bak” in your phone book, simply press 6 (for ‘M’), 4 (for ‘i’), 2 (for ‘c’) and so on. The phone will show you a list of matches. But it of course doesn’t only search in names, it also searches in numbers, so in this case it would find all numbers with ‘642’ in it.

Contacts can be stored with full information – this means everything from full name, e-mail and postal address to birthday, work and picture.

The first time you get an incoming call on the K850, and you’ve used Sony Ericsson phones earlier on, you might find yourself in a minor confusing situation, because the softkeys can’t be used for accepting the call! That’s because with the new platform, you’ll now have to use dedicated call keys for this. Sound quality during calls is very good to say the least.

Final words on the K850

To sum it all up K850 is a multimedia phone with an excellent camera. Furthermore it’s running the new A200 platform, adding new features and enhancing old ones. Let’s have a look at some of these; NetFront 3.4 web browser with Flash-support, X-Pict Story slide-show application for exciting slide-shows with sound, supports 32 GB memory cards, photo tagging, Media menu and of course the cool search feature in standby mode.

But there are also some cons about K850. There’s still no WLAN to be found anywhere on the phone. The new A200 platform is buggy, but hopefully many bugs will be fixed in an upcoming firmware revision. But the thing that really bugs me about this phone is the fact that it doesn’t feel any new and exciting. Compare it to the K800 in terms of usability and features and there won’t be much new stuff to find. It simply feels like one of the older phones. Another thing is the price. It’s a bit pricey considering what other phones on the market can do for the same price, but that’s mainly because it’s a brand new phone and it’s also the flagship phone for Sony Ericsson.

Another thing I’d like to mention is the battery time, as this phone has a fantastic battery. Sony Ericsson states it can be turned on in 400 hours without doing anything else – I don’t know if this is true, but it’s lasted more than three days of me using it at full blast (well, that’s actually normal use for me). This means listening to a few hours of music every day, watching videos, texting & calls, web browsing, taking many pictures (about 70 a day – most of them gets deleted, though) and recording videos with the camera. I think that’s pretty amazing, don’t you?

k850-review-grade.jpg

 

K850 videos

Looks an d feel & how to turn on the camera

Built-in motion sensor

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32 Responses

  1. gr8 review .. am going to get this phone…

  2. Thank you πŸ™‚

    I’ll be adding some more to the review later, I think.

    Oh, and yes, go get this phone. It’s really great, and once the first firmware updates arrive, it’ll get even better, that’s for sure!

  3. Great review, just bought it tonight πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for your nice comment and congratulations on your buy! πŸ™‚

  5. Hi

    Nice review!
    I got my k850 just 2 days ago and i love it πŸ™‚

    I saw you are using a 6gb micro SD card. is it a MicroSDHC ? I’ve read it only supports up to 4 gb and i really would love to get at 4, 6 or even 8 gb card but they only come as a MicroSDHC model.

  6. First of all thanks your your comment πŸ™‚

    Yes, it’s a MicroSDHC card. You can use cards up to 32 GB with K850 because of its A200 platform, so go ahead and buy those big cards! πŸ˜‰

  7. Ohh yeah!…..
    Thanks a lot Michell.
    I’ve just purchased a Sandisk 8GB πŸ™‚

  8. No problem

    (and that was fast!!) πŸ˜‰

  9. hi! your review really helps, but as of now im still puzzled whether what to buy, a k850i or the P1i.. ive been reading some reviews on the k850 on cnet asia including users opinions and it doesn’t seem nice as compared to p1i.. now i’m a little bit confused, im not really sure if i’ll like the QWERTY keypads in P1i.. by the way i owned various k-series phones in the past and i changed to N73 ME, and what a disappointment i had! tsk tsk

  10. Hi there,

    I’m glad it helps a bit. What you really need to think about is whether you need the smartphone features or if you can live with the ‘normal’ features of an advanced feature phone. Personally I need both, so I’ve got K850 and a P1 coming soon. Anyhow it’s really a personal matter and also if you like UIQ 3 (and Symbian) or if you prefer Sony Ericsson’s normal user interface.

  11. Am on my 2nd handset. 1st one crashed and would not reboot after 3 weeks! My service provider replaced it very quickly. 2nd one initial shutter proiblem but the firmware update solved this. Other thing is when I try and click on the Hotmail hyperlink on O2 Active the phone itself re-boots. Hopefully subsequent firmware updates will sort this. Saying that I do like the handset.

  12. I have purchased the Velvet Blue k850i and i was just wondering are the illuminous side bars supposed to light up or not, in my case they don’t however i’ve seen many pics where they seem to be lit up. Also my key pad is pretty much all white and not so much blue, even though this is more of a personal cosmetic preference, but in a way it was what attracted me to the phone. So my question is where is all the velvet blue????

  13. Hi Miki,

    There are no illuminations on the sides. It’s just a reflective piece of plastic. The only velvet blue on that phone are the sides and the light when opening the camera. And the d-pad, of course.

  14. Hey Michell,

    Thank you for the info, i realized that it was only cosmetic, howqever it would be cool if it did infact light up.

  15. Certainly! It would be really nice! πŸ™‚

  16. I just purchased this one. I had to return it to the shop because of flash/shutter sync problems. I try to shot inside and get black even with playing with auto functions. I am not debating to return the handset and replace it with another brand. Any suggestions in order to find some redeeming value in this K850?

  17. Just got mine yesterday and at first I also had some flash/shutter sync problems, but after messing around in the settings and just normal use, the problem seems to have corrected itself.

    Some people say that its not anything new or exciting, which is true, and its also the reason I got this phone. I had a T637 previously and I loved it, so I upgraded to the K850 and could not be happier. I love the way SE sticks to the same design principles and just keeps improving on the features. I agree that the media, menus are a bit slow, but that should be resolved. My only other complaint is that the touchscreen buttons are a bit wacky at times, but it just takes some getting used to.

    9/10 !

  18. Cameron,
    Make sure your fingers aren’t near the back of the phone when taking pictures. The pictures will come out black then.

  19. Hi Michell

    Thanks for your reviews on the k850 and w960 which are really useful.

    Can you help with a couple of points.

    On the k850 I read some reviews on other sites which said that there were a couple of annoying features – that the touch sensitive screen got activated by the ear etc when making calls (meaning random texts etc got sent), that the phone didn’t display time/missed calls/texts in screensaver mode, keypads were uncomfortable when typing texts. Any thoughts?

    I’m debating between the k850 and w960. Obviously it’s a toss up between the better camera and better walkman. Do you happen to know how the camera on the w960 compares with the camera on the k800 (my current phone)?

    Cheers

  20. You’re welcome πŸ™‚

    Well, to “active” the screen when calling, you’d really need to press it hard against your ear. It’s not a touch screen, but in fact only has touch sensitive dots at the bottom of the screen. I have not had any problems with this. The second one is correct, and will not change. Keypad isn’t bad at all.

    I’d choose the W960 if I were you. The camera is on par with the K800 with the exception of the flash, of course.

  21. Hello Michell. Thank you for this nice review. I’ve seen some videos of W960 and K850 on YouTube and I agree with you that K850 has a very loud speaker and it is my impression that it is even louder than the speaker of W960. Since you’ve had the chance to test both phones can you confirm whether my impression is true or not? I ask this question because I really like listening to music through the speaker of the phone and only use the headset when I’m on a bus or a train.

    Right now I have a P1 and before that I had an N70, I have never owned a java phone, so I want to know whether I will be able to do some simple multitasking on this phone like listening to music and playing a game or writing a message at the same time?

    I also want to know how you hit the ball when playing the Tennis Multiplay game since it’s the 4-way and not 5-way D-pad. Do you hit ‘2’ or ‘5’ or what?

    Thanks again. I hope your reply is going to help me whether to buy a W960 or this one.

  22. Hi!

    Well, I’d say that W960 has the loudest speaker, but the one on K850 is definitely not bad either. W960 is the best for music either way πŸ™‚

    You use either the ‘5’ key or the centre soft key to hit the ball πŸ˜‰

  23. Thanks Michell, just want to know one more thing – can you listen to music on K850 and do something else at the same time, like writing a message or browsing the web or playing a game.

    P1 and W960 have a lot of RAM so it won’t be a problem for them, but how about K850, does it have some memory issues? (I’m not sure how much RAM it has)

  24. Yes, you can do that on them all πŸ™‚

  25. I read both your reviews on the K850 and the W960
    They were both very infomative πŸ˜€
    but i cant choose on which to get.
    I know that the w960 has more features but Im used to having small handy phones instead of complicated and slow smart phones
    so i want to ask you about the interface and usage ease and speed of both. Because from the pictures the K850 lookes way cooler
    thank you so much !!!!

  26. I think you should go for K850 then πŸ™‚

    W960 is a smart phone and like with all smart phones, everything takes a bit longer to start up and such. K850 is quicker πŸ™‚

  27. thanks for the review Michell

    i saw videos of this phone on youtube and it seemed like the navigation buttons are not very practical, the guy had to press every button more than once for it to work. is it that hard to navigate ?
    plus the select button is it not any of the two keys inside? is the soft key under the screen?

    im real clumsy and i get frustrated quickly..will this phone drive me crazy ?

  28. You’re welcome, Logan.

    The soft keys – I assume those are the ones you mean – are touch sensitive, and does require a little getting used to. But I really do mean ‘a little’. Takes five minutes of training, and you’ll be working them like you had never done anything else.

    If you meant the D-pad, then no. It’s not hard to use it at all. Also, this feels quite normal after a few minutes.

  29. Do you think xenon-headlights are the next step to increase safety?

  30. the keypad……………………………………
    my #1 problem………

  31. used only for 3 months…
    now the keypad isn’t functioning properly!!!

  32. Hi Michell
    i’m debating between the w960 and the t650!! i was wondering if u would know anything about these two phones?? which one do u think is better ?? i just cant decide!

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