As a Cyber-shot handset, the K850i's centerpiece is its camera. In that regard, it lived up to our expectations. With a 5-megapixel resolution the K850 is as powerful as many standalone cameras. It also comes stocked with almost as many features. It takes pictures in four resolutions (from 5 megapixels down to VGA) and two quality settings. Other editing options include an image stabilizer, an autofocus, macro and infinite modes, four white-balance settings, an adjustable ISO, spot metering, four color effects, a self-timer, an autofocus light, a panoramic mode, 15 fun frames, and an autorotate feature. Sony Ericsson's BestPic feature will take nine pictures of your subject in quick succession; you then can select which shot you like best. There's also a nifty feature for selecting a "scene" setting. Choices include twilight landscape, portrait, beach/snow, sports, and document. The Xenon flash is among the brightest we've seen on a camera phone, and we like that it includes a red-eye reduction option.In case you're unsure how to use all these options, a handy PhotoMate program will show you how to best use the camera.
The camcorder shoots clips with sound. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped about 25 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the memory permits. Editing options aren't as extensive as the still camera but they're still plentiful. You can use the flash as a steady light. You can also select night mode, a white-balance setting, and a color effect.
The K850's photo quality is one of its top attractions. Colors were natural and bright for the most part, though oranges and reds tended to be a too saturated. Subject outlines were very distinct and even smaller items weren't blurry. The camera performed well in low light thanks to the bright flash, but bright sunlight tended to wash out some shots. The shutter lag time was quite short compared with other camera phones. In short, this is a high-quality camera. It comes close to replacing a standalone camera, but it doesn't make the cut.
The K850i offers 40MB of internal memory. That's pretty substantial, but you always can add more storage with the external memory card slot. The slot accommodates Memory Stick Micro cards up to 4GB. Also, when you're taking photos a meter will keep track of how much space you have left. When you're finished, you can transfer your photos and videos off the phone with a memory card, Bluetooth, a multimedia message, or a USB cable. There's also an HP Print application for connecting directly to a photo printer. For creative types, there are Photo and Video DJs and a FaceWarp application. The phone comes with a PC Suite, which includes photo-editing software, among other things.
The K850i also comes with a music player that supports a variety of file types. It's not the fanciest player around, but it does its job well. The interface is clean and simple, and you get a few player options including playlists, shuffle and loop modes, an equalizer, and stereo widening. Loading music on the phone is as easy as transferring photos. The PC Suite software is an easy-to-use method. The player also supports audio books and podcast, and the K850i offers FM radio.
You can personalize the K850 with a variety of wallpapers, screensavers, and color themes. More options are available for download with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You can download more ringtones as well or you can compose your own using the MusicDJ application. Games include Marble Madness and Tennis Multiplayer, but the K850i is not an ordinary phone when it comes to gaming. The handset includes an accelerometer that lets you control the game simply by moving the phone. For example, in Marble Madness you're supposed to guide a marble along a series of ramps without falling off the edges. Rather than using the cramped and unintuitive navigation array, you simply move the marble by tipping the phone in the corresponding direction. It's a bit slow, but it's a very cool feature nonetheless. Though you may look a little ridiculous to the uninformed observer, that's the price we pay for technology.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson K850i in San Francisco using T-Mobile and AT&T service. The four bands mean you can take it almost anywhere in the world, which is very convenient for globetrotters. We also like that the phone supports three UMTS/HSDPA bands (900/1900/2100). That means you can use it with both North American and European 3G networks. It also offers EDGE when you're not in a 3G area.
Call quality was quite good. We enjoyed clear audio, and the volume was sufficiently loud. Our callers' voices sounded natural, and we encountered no interference from other devices. Also, static on both networks was kept to a minimum. Our callers reported good audio quality, as well, and automated calling system could understand us without any trouble. We had no trouble hearing callers in noisy environments, but they reported that the phone picked up some background noise. They didn't say it was distracting, though. Speakerphone calls were quite loud, and callers could understand us most of the time. Our sole complaint was the speakerphone quality could be a bit harsh.
The K850i's interface could be a little pokey, particularly when turning on the phone and opening the main menu. The lag was just a second or two, but it was noticeable just the same. Fortunately, it wasn't an issue in most of the internal menus.
Music quality was up to the usual Sony Ericsson standards. The speaker on the phone's rear side has powerful output and the audio was clear. As with most music phones, the speaker has a tinny quality but a headset delivers the best experience.
The Sony Ericsson K850i has a rated battery life of 9 hours talk time and 16.6 days standby time. In our tests, we were able to get 8.83 hours of talk time from the K850i. According to FCC radiation tests the K850i has a digital SAR of 1.14 watts per kilogram.
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