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Sony Ericsson K700i review: Sony Ericsson K700i

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7.6

Sony Ericsson K700i

The Good

Stylish design; high-resolution screen; integrated camera with video; Bluetooth; speakerphone; MP3 support and FM radio; 41MB of memory; world phone.

The Bad

OS occasionally sluggish; battery life could be better; no dedicated Talk and End keys; speakerphone activation not intuitive.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Ericsson K700i offers a good mix of features and style but falls a bit short on performance.
Intro
When we first previewed Sony Ericsson's 2004 lineup of handsets, we were excited about what we saw. From the sequel to the well-regarded P900 to the company's first swivel model, the new mobiles promised high-end features and innovative styling. But for consumers who don't wish to make a statement with their mobile, there's the Sony Ericsson K700i. All the basics are here, plus a few extras, and the phone delivers on almost all fronts. Priced at $399, it's on the expensive side, but the cost should fall once this GSM mobile is picked up by a carrier. Though Sony Ericsson tends to stick with candy bar-style handsets, it doesn't mean its models are lacking in design appeal. Take the Sony Ericsson K700i, for example. Though it's not fancy by any means, it has a pleasant, understated look. Measuring 3.9 by 1.8 by 0.8 inches and 3.7 ounces, the well-constructed handset is compact and slips easily into almost any pocket. Though flip-phone fans may need to familiarize themselves with its general ergonomics, the silver K700i feels comfortable to hold while talking.

Small stuff: The K700i is readily portable.

Controls around the rim of the phone are few, but they come in handy nonetheless. A unique feature on the right spine is a dedicated Web-browser button, while a more familiar volume rocker and a dedicated camera key sit on the left spine. We liked the dedicated camera-power button on the top (next to the infrared port) and the sturdy rubber cover on the handset's bottom for the USB port, the headset jack, and the charger connection. Flip the K700i, and you'll find another distinction. Not only are the camera lens, the mirror, and the flash well out of the way of your fingers, but the handset's rear face actually resembles a real camera when held horizontally. And as with the T-Mobile Sidekick II, the placement of the camera key on the spine makes the mobile feel like a camera as well.

The phone's display measures almost 2 inches diagonally and supports an eye-popping 65,536 colors. Rich and vivid, the screen is great for viewing photos, games, and the user-friendly menus. We also liked that we could change the text size and font. Our only complaint was that finger smudges were easily visible. Immediately below the screen are easy-to-use navigation controls that include a wealth of shortcuts. You get a five-way joystick that also gives you one-touch access to four user-defined functions. When the K700i is in standby mode, the left soft key opens the Recent Calls list, while the right opens another shortcut menu for activating Bluetooth and the IR port, viewing the phone's status, and changing the ringer profile. We didn't like that there are no dedicated Talk and End buttons. Instead, you must use the soft keys to make and end calls. While a bit crowded, the backlit keypad is extremely tactile. Also, as the buttons are raised above the surface of the phone, we rarely had a misdial.

The feature set on the Sony Ericsson K700i does not disappoint, especially on the business side. The 510-contact phone book holds a variety of information for each name, including five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web site URL, a street address, a business title, and notes; the SIM card holds an additional 250 names. Callers can be grouped together, as well as assigned a picture and any of 18 polyphonic (40-chord) or 5 monophonic ring tones. Organizer features included a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a voice recorder, an alarm clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a calculator, and a secured notepad for storing passwords--but the K700i doesn't stop there. You also get voice dialing, Bluetooth, an infrared port, text and multimedia messaging, vibrate mode, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, and USB cable support. The Sony Ericsson also works with IMAP4 and POP3 e-mail, and you can download software that syncs your e-mail and contacts with a PC or a Mac and allows you to exchange electronic business cards. The speakerphone was another nice addition, but you can turn it on only after making a call--a confusing process that takes several clicks.


Cool camera: The K700i's lens resembles that of a real camera.

The integrated VGA camera takes pictures in three resolutions: 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120. It also has adjustable brightness and picture-quality settings. Other functions include a flash, a self-timer, and a 4X zoom. It should be noted, however, that the full zoom is available at only the lowest resolution. You also can select a night mode, use one of 21 frames, and choose from a series of picture effects (black and white, negative, sepia, and solarize). An unexpected bonus was the panorama option, which takes three pictures next to each other. Unfortunately, though, you can't silence the camera shutter sound.

The video camera shoots 15-second clips with sound in two resolutions, 176x144 and 128x96, and you can choose from a similar list of effects. Alternatively, you can shoot as long of a clip as will fit on the handset's whopping 41MB of memory. Both photos and videos were good quality, but the K700i can't compete with a standalone camera. When finished with your work, you can save pictures and clips to your phone, upload them to an online album, or send them to a friend via a multimedia message.


We liked the K700i's photo quality.

With the headset acting as the antenna, the K700i's multimedia options include an FM radio, support for MP3 files, and a MusicDJ application for mixing your own ring tones. The handset comes with three Java (J2ME)-enabled games: Darts, RiverRaiders, and Super Real Tennis. You can download more titles, if you want. You can also personalize the phone with wallpaper, themes, sounds, and screensavers.

We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS) Sony Ericsson K700i world phone in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless service. Calls were clear with loud volume. On their end, callers said they could rarely tell we were on a mobile. Calls using the speakerphone were also clear, while the included earbud headset diminished quality only slightly. We also made calls with the Cardo Scala 500 Bluetooth headset; we encountered occasionally patchy reception but had no problem pairing the two devices. We noticed the phone's OS was occasionally sluggish, however. More than once, games froze when we tried to activate them.

Battery life for the K700i wasn't quite up to par, but it should satisfy most users. We managed 4.5 hours of talk time, significantly less than the promised 8 hours. Our standby time was 7 days, far less than promised 12.5 days. According to the FCC, the K700i has a digital SAR rating of 1.03 watts per kilogram.

7.6

Sony Ericsson K700i

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7