The camera's feature list rivals that of many standalone shooters. You can take pictures in four resolutions, from VGA up to the full 3 meagpixels, and choose from two image-quality choices. Other standout features include a panorama mode; 16X digital zoom; a BestPic function for taking several photos in rapid succession; 15 fun frames; a self timer; six lighting settings, including beach/snow and twilight; four picture effects; a white balance control; spot metering; four shutter sounds; autofocus; and a macro setting. There's also an image stabilization feature, which effectively corrects the blurriness that plagues many camera phone pictures. The camcorder, which takes MPEG-4 clips with sound in one resolution (176x144), also comes with a generous feature selection. You can use the auto or macro focus setting, adjust the white balance, activate a night mode, choose from four video effects, or use spot metering. The remarkable Xenon flash is the most powerful light we've seen on a camera phone. It flooded our photos and videos with light even in dim situations. The default setting is auto, but you can turn it off completely or use a red-eye reduction mode.
Picture quality was very good, with bright colors, distinct object outlines, and sharp effects. The washed-out effect visible in many camera phone pictures was hard to find overall. Yet because the flash is so strong, it flooded photos with too much light in some situations. We advise using it at your discretion. And keep in mind that even though it's an excellent camera phone, we still wouldn't toss our standalone shooter just yet. Video quality was also satisfactory, but don't expect too much; clips were a bit grainy. Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at two minutes; otherwise length is limited by the available memory. Creative types can use the Photo DJ to rotate the shot's orientation and use various editing options such as brightness and contrast adjustments, light balance settings, red-eye removal, color effects, and photo marking. There's also a Video DJ function with similar options.
When you're finished with your photos, you can save them to the phone's 64MB of shared internal memory. With such large photo files, however, space is likely to go fast, so we recommend investing in a Memory Stick Micro. Fortunately a user-friendly file manager lets you transfer images back and forth. To get pictures off your phone, you can send them wirelessly via Bluetooth or an e-mail or a multimedia message, upload quickly them to an online blog, or transfer them to a computer via a USB cable. The K790a also comes with an HP Print function for wirelessly printing photos, calendar entries, and contacts to a compatible HP printer. And in case the camera is too much for you, the phone comes with a handy Photo Mate feature, which describes the various camera settings in detail and gives tips on taking and sharing photos.
Music fans can get use out of the K790a as well. The phone comes with a digital music player similar to the player found on the Walkman phones but with a slightly different interface and functionality. Opening the player takes you directly to the main menu, where you can organize music by artist, track name, or playlist. Settings include album/song shuffle and loop, stereo widening, and an equalizer. Switching between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music automatically stops when you receive a call. Hang up, and your song picks up from the point you left off. There's an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone turned off, and you can minimize the player while using other functions. There are stereo speakers on the back and the front of the phone as well, and we're thrilled that the phone supports a stereo Bluetooth profile.
Music capacity is limited by the available memory, so again buying a Memory Stick Micro is a good idea. Getting music on the phone is relatively easy. In addition to using the included USB cable, you can send tunes via Bluetooth or the infrared port. You also get an FM radio with 20 presets, though you must use it with a headset, which acts as an antenna. You can set it to automatically scan and program Radio Data System info from stations that digitally broadcast their names and call letters, and you can use the radio as an alarm clock.
You can personalize the K790a with a variety of themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. As always, you can purchase more options and ring tones from Sony Ericsson via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, the phone comes with a Music DJ application for composing your own ring tones. Gamers can enjoy three Java (J2ME) titles: FotoQuest Fishing, Mini Golf: Castle, and WTA S.R. Tennis, with additional titles available for purchase. The 3D games were a treat to play on the K790a's gorgeous display.
We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; EDGE) Sony Ericsson K790a in San Francisco using Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset, and though we encountered a tiny bit of static, it wasn't bothersome. And in any case, that could be due more to the headset than the phone.service. Call quality was very good with nice clarity, little static, and no interference from other electronic devices. We also had no problem getting a signal, and though volume could be a bit louder on our end, it should be quite serviceable for most users. Callers reported similar conditions; they could tell we were using a cell phone, but they had few problems hearing or understanding us. Speakerphone quality was good as well. Just take note that the main speaker faces the back of the phone. We tried connecting to the
For such a high-featured phone, however, we were miffed that the K790a does not offer quadband world phone support. On the upside, Web browsing was zippy, we had no problems sending files via Bluetooth, and music quality was good. We didn't detect a significant difference from Walkman-branded phones such as the W810i
The K790a has a rated talk time of seven hours and a promised standby time of 14 days. We got an impressive six hours and 40 minutes of talk time in our tests.