By Michell Bak, 10th of November 2007
The 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
So 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!).
If 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.
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.
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.
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
K850 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.
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!
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?
Looks an d feel & how to turn on the camera
Built-in motion sensor