Kyocera K10 Royale review: Kyocera K10 Royale

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The Good Great sound quality and plenty of volume; built-in flashlight; bright backlighting for keys; compact design with rubberized grip; voice dialing; analog roaming.

The Bad Low-res color screen; small keys and tiny navigation array; slow Web access; no volume controls on spine; feels cheap.

The Bottom Line The Kyocera K10 Royale may be a low-tech phone with flimsy construction, but it does exactly what it's supposed to.

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5.6 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 7

Kyocera K10 Royale

You can literally light up a room with the inexpensive Kyocera K10 Royale from prepaid carrier Virgin Mobile. In a very Virgin Mobile touch, the screen and keyboard brightly flash like a semaphore lamp when a call comes in; the handset also has a top-mounted LED flashlight that throws a bright beam. Beyond the light show, there's not much else to say about this compact handset. It has only the most basic features, and the bare-bones construction may not be for everyone. But don't let its simplicity distract you from what this handset does best: provide loud and clear sound for conversations. It's also fairly priced at $49.99. At first glance, almost nothing about the look, feel, and ergonomics of the minimalist Kyocera K10 Royale recommends it, especially when compared to its ritzier rivals in the annual contract world. The Royale's gray coloring is a bit dull, the navigation controls and soft menu buttons are minuscule, the plastic casing feels cheap, and the small display (1.25 inches diagonal) has a bleached effect, with support for only 4,000 colors. Then again, Virgin Mobile's handsets have always been about practicality, so the K10 should satisfy basic users on a budget. Plus, at 4.4 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches, the Royale is compact for a candy bar-style phone, and at only 3.5 ounces, it's nicely underweight for its size. We also like the rubberized grips on either side.

Some of our initial aesthetic judgments hold up, however. The display was fine for viewing menus, but it wasn't the best for games. Also, since the navigation keys are barely the size of freckles and are bunched together in an area a half-inch wide, they present a challenge to accurate menu surfing for anyone with above-average-size fingers. In fact, they are so tightly packed that the OK key is placed counterintuitively to the left rather than in the center (a Clear button is on the right). Our right thumb frequently moved instinctively to the Back/flashlight key to the right of the array before our logic center kicked into gear. We also had a couple of issues with the menus themselves. Oddly, primary menu sections such as My Account, Settings, and Tools are scrolled horizontally rather than vertically on the small screen, which took a bit of getting used to, especially since menus within these sections are laid out in more traditional vertical lists.

The dial-pad keys' backlighting, although unusual, is among the brightest we've seen. When you're using the phone, the numbers on the rice-shaped black keys are infused with a blue glow, while the four keys in the middle column light up completely, all of which makes dialing in the dark extremely easy. Though small, these dial keys are about the size you'd expect on a compact candy bar-style handset. And the rubber ring that frames the phone's face makes it easy to hold on to while walking and talking, regardless of how sweaty your fingers might get.

Disappointingly, there are no side-mounted volume keys, so you have to stick a finger into the array and feel for the tiny keys to raise or lower the volume. Then there's the flashlight--we found the widely dispersed glow illuminates objects more than 20 feet away in pitch darkness. The challenge is finding the tiny black Back key that doubles as the flashlight's on switch in the dark. You can further brighten the phone with an optional $10.99 faceplate, which, at 20 percent of the phone's cost, is a wee pricey.

In short, the features on the Kyocera K10 Royale are limited. While you can use it to surf the Web, it's not included in the bucket of minutes you buy for the phone. We were told you would be charged $1 for a packet of kilobytes, but of course, there's no way of knowing how much surfing that would provide.

With room for around 200 numbers, the Kyocera K10's phone book is surprisingly robust. There's room for an e-mail address, picture ID (although we were a little unclear on how to get pictures onto the phone since there's no camera and it doesn't support multimedia messaging), caller-specific ringer identification, and even voice dialing, which worked with no problem. Virgin has has also enabled text messaging. You get a calculator, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and a tip calculator.

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