Sony Ericsson K850 Preview

Introduction and Design

Last year, the K800 was the best 3-megapixel cameraphone in our comparison, and after the 5-megapixel models like the N95 were announced, SE had to do something to stay compatitive. The K810 was just a minor update, redesigning the exterior but not improving anything on the functionality and it cannot be considered as the next level. K850 which we introduce you here is the real successor of the K800 improving the key feature – the camera, with 2 additional megapixels resolution, built-in lens cover, updated interface, additional flash for focus-assistance and higher resolution for video capturing. This is the top-end Cyber-shot phone of Sony Ericsson, its most-advanced camera phone up to date. Of course, the model doesn’t improve only the camera, but also brings newer generation of the software with updated multimedia menu to turn into all in one device.

As the phone is still not commercially available we are using a prototype unit. At this moment, all K850’s around the globe are pre-production units, with early versions of the software. The quality of both the hardware and the software might change when commercially available versions appear, and this is the reason why we, unlike some other sites, will do a Preview instead of full Review and will not give any ratings. Once final units appear, we will update you with in-depth review with all the opinions and the ratings.


Replacing the previous Cyber-shot models, the K850 builds on them and although different, one can easily guess it is from the same family. The overall look is inspired by the K810 and its keypad and combines the style of the recently announced models of the manufacturer in one.

Similar to other new SE device, including the W880, T650 and K810, the buttons are small and with lots of space between each other which results in very precise feeling of each separate button (excellent haptic feedback). Due again to the spaces between them, It is impossible to press two keys at the same time and hitting the wrong button is definitely rare.

In the pursuit of increasing the size of the display and the numeric keyboard, but not at the price of bulky dimension, some compromises had to appear. The unique thing here is the new navigation method Sony Ericsson have used – three touch sensitive buttons and 4-way d-pad built in-between the keypad. Yes, you’ve heard it right – in order to save place, the D-pad is not above the keyboard, it is over it, surrounding the “2” and “5” buttons. As the 5th (central) position, you would find on most other phones, cannot be placed here, it is exactly above, with the left and right soft buttons respectively next to it. Those three keys are pretty small and if you don’t want to touch the display, which often results in leaving of fingerprints, you must touch them with the tip of the finger. Still, they react pretty accurately and by any mean better than the ones of the Samsung phones and the LG Chocolate we’ve used. This is due to the technology, which is activated by the touch and not by electricity over your skin. Like in standard touch-sensitive display, you will find on any WM Professional device or SE UIQ phone, this buttons can be activated with stylus or any other object and not only with finger.

After the first official photos were revealed, most people were concerned about the manipulation with the D-pad, but as we’ve mentioned above, the big spaces between the numeric keys are enough for housing it. It actually has excellent relief and is very usable, more than are most others. Once you get used to the fact that the “central position” is not in the centre of the d-pad but above, you will have no concerns about it.

All keys but the top row (the touch sensitive ones) are illuminated in white (with slight purple nuance) color and when the camera is in use, the right column has additional characters backlit in blue for shortcuts to some functions. This first appeared in the K810, but it used the left column (bottom row) while the K850 now uses the right (top) one.

When (un)locking the keyboard, an impression makes the fact that the buttons illuminate from the top to the bottom row or pass out gradually (in a wave manner), which is similar to the T650. Plugging an accessory will also make the keyboard light “dance”. Unlike the T650 though, the K850 doesn’t take full advantage of this and the preloaded flash themes doesn’t interact with the backlight, creating illumination effects, but this might change in the future as the hardware support is there.

While the left side is blank, on the right there are plenty of side keys, appointed to different functions of the camera. Standard in the upper part is the volume rocker which although small feels easily, thanks to the protruding ends. It doubles as a zoom in/out in the camera, but as this is digital zoom, we will suggest you not to use it.

A characteristic which brings the K850 closer to the regular digital camera feels and operation is the camera controls constellation. The shutter key resembles the one of the T650, with projecting oval shape which makes it easy to feel. Strangely, it doesn’t start the camera but just focuses and acts as shutter key when pressed. To activate the camera, Sony Ericsson has put additional on/off button which is flat but still can be found easily, having in mind it is next to the shutter. This is done in order to prevent the undesired starting of the camera while using or carrying the phone. We were surprised that this key must be pressed lightly and if you hold it, as it is in most other phones, it will start and then stop the camera consecutively. In our opinion, SE must correct this and require a “pause” between two pushes, which will result in only turning it on when you hold the key.

On this side also is situated the 3-way switch, which will change the functionality between camera, camcorder or playback interface – just as on regular digital cameras.

The two sides and the top house a green trim, which is the same color as the D-pad. The other color version of the phone is silver instead of black and has blue trim instead of green but in both cases, the contrast is what the designers seek. We’ve also noticed it in other Sony Ericsson phones, including the Walkman Black+Orange/Gold combination which is the most obvious example. One of the S500’s color variant is even named after the contrast, called “Contrasted Copper”. This way the manufacturer tries to escape from the boring all-black or all-silver models in its own unique way.

Moving over to the display, which with its 2.2 inches is an improvement over the 2.0” of the K800 but still lacks in size compared to the 2.6” of the N95. The resolution is the standard nowadays QVGA. We won’t comment on it s quality as this is not final unit but will just note that a sensor will control the brightness.

We cannot skip the fact that we are impressed by the design of the back-side. Back in the years, many manufacturers have tried to copy the look of a pocket digital camera’s face for the back of the cameraphone, but not many have succeeded. A good example is the Sony Ericsson S700, which had one of the best camera modules in a phone for its time. The K850 now repeats the success with smooth glossy black surface, central-mounted circular lens with silver border, Xenon flash with LED below it and large Cyber-shot 5.0 megapixels and Sony Ericsson labels. It looks as a feature-rich cameraphone should, but also doesn’t lack style. As the back is the “Face” of the phone while you are talking through it or using it as a camera, we think that designers should put greater effort on its look. The Sony Ericsson’s ones have done their job successfully, creating a pretty back.

Once again, we give our approval when it comes to changing the memory, SIM card or the battery. The back is not removable, which helps for the lack of any unwanted movement, and the bottom is opened, giving you access to what you need. This is very wily idea and we believe we will see this in future phones. Previous Sony Ericsson phones were known for the “Easy-to-put-but-hard-to-remove” sim-card slots, but the new one is totally redesigned and seems that none of the previous problems will appear here.

The K850 has some unique design details we must note. Attention has been spent on the details, which is required to turn a device into a masterpiece. In any phone, holding down the power button (this one is on the top) will result in turning on the device, but in the strive to be unique, the K850 will glow in red, announcing that it has started. If you are looking at the back, you will notice the other indication, which is the blue circular light around the camera lens. The latter also turns on when the camera interface is activated.

As we’ve already noted, the small details are the things that improve with the new generation of phones. Those who follow the history of Sony Ericsson phones must have noted that the K810 is slimmer than the K800 thanks to a redesigned lens cover. The K850 upgrades this aspect once again, with now automated lens-cover, which is inside the phone’s body and in contrast to previous models, opens easily and only when one wants to. This is logical improvement and is something we’ve seen on almost any portable digicam, but just now arrives in a cameraphone. Still, we would have preferred the cover to protect the glass in front of the lens as well.

We’ve marked all the things that we like about the new K850, but cannot skip what we do not. Our main disrelish with the manufacturer is that it still keeps on using the proprietary connector. Even the conservative Nokia has started using 2.5/3.5mm jacks and mini/microUSB, realizing that this is what the consumer wants – standard cables and accessories which can be used with a variety of devices, no matter the brand.

The only improvement in this direction is the unique, dual-card-support. For extending the internal memory, the user can use either Sony’s M2 card (which is among all recent models of the brand) or a “standard” microSD instead of it but not both at the same time. This is a great feature as the microSD is the most popular standard now, used in most of the phones of the major brands including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC, RIM and others.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Sony Ericsson K850 moves the Cyber-shot line to the next level thanks to both hardware and software changes. The hardware innovations are described above, while the software ones will follow. As a whole, the interface is similar to the ones before, but is upgraded, tweaked in some of its parts. In this aspect it reminds of the W910, which also runs the same generation of software. We won’t do in-depth explanations in this preview, and will show you only the new and interesting things.

This is the first Cyber-shot phone with support for Flash Themes. In the past, only Walkmans did, but with newer models we see that Sony Ericsson has integrated this feature also into the “S” (S500) and “T” (T650) series, and now into the “K”. The flash themes can change the icons in the main menu and as we’ve seen in previous models, can even use other layout for it, for example a horizontal list with large visualization. They definitely look much better than the ordinary ones.

When you start dialing a number directly from the standby screen, you will find one of the tweaks coming with the new firmware. The phone will search the phonebook and the calling history for matching results (both about numbers and names) just as it is with any WM6 or BlackBerry device. The convenient thing is that it searches the names as if you type them with predictive input system. For instance, if you want to dial “Neo”, you have to dial 636 (6-MNO, 3-DEF, 6-MNO) and almost immediately the phone will show you all matching names. Unfortunately, like in the contacts menu, the phone won’t search through the second word (most of the time this is the last name) of a name.

This is just ridiculous and people spending so much money on a phone don’t only require camera with large resolution, but also decent phone functionality. Any phone nowadays should be able to find the names by the second word.

The Messaging menu hasn't changed much. There is option for categorizing the different messages and a manager will allow you to move them either on the internal memory or the card.

Sony Ericsson K850 is one of the first phones of the brand that supports global 3G roaming, thanks to tri-band HSDPA supports. This allows for high-speed of internet in GSM networks all around the globe.

Like other recent models of the manufacturer, it features full HTML browser that can load standard pages, as on a computer. Although there are minor mistakes in the visualisation, the homepage loaded correctly.

The Sony Ericsson K850 is a dedicated cameraphone with 5-megapixel auto-focus lens, Xenon flash and additional tri-LED for assistance of the auto-focus system. The K850 will enter into the 5-megapixel market as one of the most advanced cameraphones, and the only thing that seems to be missing is the optical zoom. In order to bring more and more features, the camera interface of the Cyber-Shot is an upgraded version of the one on the previous models of the line, the K800/K810 phones.

Still, the changes are not major and you won’t be surprised by the rather familiar landscape interface, you would expect to see in a Cyber-shot device. As before, the left software key opens the options menu, where you can set the various options including the mode (normal, “Best Pic”, panorama, frames), scenes, resolution, and other settings like night mode, self timer, white balance, and even ISO. Unlike Nokia N95, where it is displayed as “low-high” levels, here it is with real options as on a regular camera – Auto, 100, 200, 400. Additional settings which you will change rarely are packed into an “edit” submenu.

The redesign includes small icons next to every option and the Scenes menu even has color pictures for visualizing their idea. If you are a novice user, this is the easiest way to understand the meaning of the regime while those who know the idea will find this feature of no use but giving modern and more advanced look of the menus.

We are happy with the fast reactions of the K850, which is an important thing for such hi-end cameraphone. Even in average indoor light, the auto-focus locks for 3 seconds while in bright outdoor light it needs just one second. Taking and saving a picture with the best possible quality takes 5 seconds. As a whole, the camera acts very rapidly, faster than the “smart” N95.

As we’ve said, this is not a final version of the phone, so we will not post comments on the quality of the camera. For those of you who are curious, we will post a few samples but keep in mind – the commercially available units will most probably be different! To prove this, we noticed a glitch where most of the time the K850 showed it locked focus, where it actually didn’t. We of course expect all such problems to be cleared before the official launch!

We've compared the K850 with Nokia N95 and Samsung SGH-G600 to see how it rates next to other 5-megapixel phones. Check our comparison by clicking here.

The video camcorder of the K850 now records in QVGA resolution at 30fps, which is definitely an improvement when compared to earlier models of the brand, but is nothing spectacular when put next to the N95 with its VGA, which is 4 times more. Still, the QVGA (320x240) must be enough for online usage.

The new generation software brings improved multimedia menu. We first met this one in the W910, but it is also available in the Cyber-shot K850. This media menu houses Photo, Music and Video options and has flash interface, which is different than the other submenus but changes (its background) with the change of themes. The W910 also had a “TV” menu which seems to be for the Walkman phones only.

In the Photo menu you will find the latest photos on the phone, camera album sorting the captured pictures by months. You preview their thumbnails in flash interface and can start a slide show with music, choosing from Silent, Sad, Romantic, Happy, Energy moods. The feature is called x-Pict Story. You can put tags to the photos, like Favorites for example, so they will be more organized. You can add Tags, choosing a name and a small icon.

In the Music menu, you can sort the tracks by Artist, Albums, Tracks (list of all), Playlists, Podcats. This is very similar to the Walkman 3.0 player on the W910 but lacks some filtering options (SenseMe, Year, Audio Books). You can create and edit playlist directly on the phone, and you have two by default. The interface during a playback is exactly the same as on the W910’s Walkman 3 and will display small album art cover and information on the song, artist and album.

Like the W910, the K850 has a sensor for controlling the orientation of the display – depending on the way you hold the phone, the interface will turn from portrait to landscape and vice verse. This is a cool feature, reminding us of the Apple iPhone. The sensor works only in the options of the “Multimedia menu” and can be turned off.

The phone also has built-in FM stereo radio. You should use the headphones as an antenna. The radio supports RDS, so text information from the stations will be streamed. TrackID is supported here and in as an option in the Entertainment menu, so if you want to get information on the song currently playing, just start this feature and it will sample the music, connect to a server (online) and give you information on the artist and track name. As in our previous test, the current ones showed excellent accuracy of the program.


We may not really give a real opinion on the device, without testing the phone functionality, as this is not final. If we ignore it, we like what we see of the new K850 and are optimistic about its success when it appears on the market.

Expect our full review when final, commercial samples are released.

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