Sony Ericsson K850i review:

Sony Ericsson K850i

Typical Price: £350.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 15 user reviews

The Good 5-megapixel camera; super-bright xenon flash; HSDPA.

The Bad Fiddly-to-use soft keys; navigation key and keypad.

The Bottom Line The Sony Ericsson K850i Cyber-shot has one of the best cameras we have ever seen on a phone but the touch-sensitive soft keys take some time to get used to and the keys on the keypad are a little small for our liking

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7.5 Overall

Sony Ericsson has created some of the best camera phones ever made, so we were understandably excited when we first heard about the Sony Ericsson's new Cyber-shot phone, the K850i. We find out if Sony Ericsson have cracked it again and produced another shooting star.

The K850i is currently available SIM-free from Sony Ericsson for around £350 or for free on a monthly contract from several major networks.

At first sight, the K850i looks quite chunky but on closer inspection you'll notice that it's about the same size as its predecessor, the K810i. However, unlike the K810i -- or any Sony Ericsson camera phone, for that matter -- the K850i has had a dramatic facelift around the keypad area.

The touch-sensitive soft keys take some getting used to

At the top of the keypad section, underneath the screen, are three touch-sensitive sections marked out by white dots. In order to navigate through the phone's menu and select options, you have to tap the white dots with your thumb, which sometimes worked beautifully and other times didn't respond at all, leaving us rather annoyed.

The four-way navigation key is also a little fiddly to press due to the fact that it's set in between the keypad keys rather than on top of them. Then there's the issue of the number keys, which although are relatively easy to press, seem to be a little too small to press confidently, particularly when we were tapping out a very quick text message.

Overlooking our issues with the keypad's design, we think the rest of the phone is attractive and well laid out. We were taken with the camera's layout, in particular. It's the closest experience to using a standalone digital camera that we've seen so far.

There's a good sized shutter button and zoom rocker, an easy-to-use mode switch that changes the camera to video mode or takes you to the gallery, and an on-and-off switch that activates the camera and opens the lens cover.

Unusually, the mechanical lens cover is shielded by a cover itself and we've been told this is to prevent the mechanical cover from being opened accidentally. We're worried, though, that this extra bit could get scratched blocking the lens' view and rendering the automated cover redundant, but only time will tell.

A design aspect we didn't expect but were fond of is a spring-loaded cover at the bottom of the K850i that pops open very easily, making accessing or transferring the battery, memory card or SIM card very straightforward.

The spring-loaded cover at the bottom of the K850i hides the battery, memory card and SIM card slots

Interestingly, you can insert a microSD card or Memory Stick Micro (M2) card into the K850i, which is very useful if you've got a leftover microSD card from an old phone.

It's probably clear by now that the K850i's most captivating feature is its camera, and deservedly so -- this should be called a phone camera rather than a camera phone. The K850i's camera packs a 5-megapixel sensor, autofocus and xenon flash.

All of the above work well and while many will argue the merits of better optics over more megapixels, there is a noticeable difference in quality compared to a 3.2-megapixel camera such as the K810i, for example.

Is it better than the Nokia N95, Samsung G600 or LG KU990 Viewty? If you're taking shots in low light, then yes, as the xenon flash is fantastically bright. In daylight, though, we think it's comparable to them.

A very welcome new feature is an LED photo light that works as a focus assist light and makes sure your shots are in focus in low light levels. In terms of internal settings, all the usual suspects are available, including the ability to adjust ISO levels and Cyber-shot mode that lets you take nine shots in quick succession.

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