Sony Ericsson K850 Review
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 enters 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 and K770 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.
When it comes to image quality, we are rather disappointed by the results of the K850. Considering its specifications, it should deliver super quality for a phone, but that really isn’t the case. Similar to the K810, there is something like a grey filter over the image, which results in unsaturated colors and low contrast. The images are sharp and have good detail when compared to the competition, but noise is noted even when shooting in bright environment. When it gets darker, the higher amount of noise is compensated with noise-reduction system which significantly decreases the detail. When the flash of the phone is used as main source of light, the K850 repeats the success of the K800/K810 with its Xenon flash and is way more powerful than the LED-equipped cameraphones.
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, like posting in YouTube for example.
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. Over the background can be noted small animations, which similar to the visualizations of the W960’s music player help for greater look.
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, Audio books and Podcasts. This is very similar to the Walkman 3.0 player on the W910 but lacks some filtering options (SenseMe, Year). You can create and edit playlist directly on the phone, and there are 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.
The Video player supports MPEG 4 files encoded with both H263 and H264 baseline. Unfortunately even H263 file in QVGA resolution was a problem, and the video lagged behind the sound playing slower than it should.
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” (the other menus and even the camera have only one orientation) and can be turned off.
The phone also has built-in FM stereo radio but for it you should use the headphones as an antenna. The radio supports RDS, so text information from the stations will be streamed. Total of 20 stations can be saved, and names can be added to be easier to distinguish. Unfortunately, even if the station broadcasts its name through RDS, the phone won’t add it automatically. An option allows to scan the whole range and add all (up to 20) stations that are found. 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.
Like previous Sony Ericsson phones, in the entertainment menu there are Photo, Music and Video DJ applications which are simple multimedia editors in the phone. Here also is the Bluetooth Remote control application and the Games. In addition to the Tennis we’ve seen before, there is an interesting game called Marble Madness 3D. You must control a ball over a relief terrain, but the unique thing is that it is controlled by the tilting of the phone, thanks to the sensor that is used for the orientation of the interface. As K850 supports JAVA MIDP 2.0, such applications can be additionally installed.