Sony Ericsson K550 review: A Cyber-shot on a budget
Glass and metal
The Sony Ericsson K550 display is made using the TFD (thin film diode) technology. It offers TFT-like image quality but consumes far less power as low as the now obsolete STN displays which were used in the first days of the color mobile displays. The same display was used in Sony Ericsson K600, K608 and K610. TFD technology is not new and it's been around longer than TFT. Both feature an active matrix of pixels but when compared head-to-head TFD is known to show excessive brightness and contrast levels and inaccurate colors. Let’s just say that TFD would do just fine for those that are not that pretentious. Plus there’s the added advantage of longer battery life. The display performs well and remains almost perfectly visible under direct sunlight. We are happy with it and brightness levels don’t even need to be maxed out.
The new keypad design adopted by Sony Ericsson in all their latest models – those thin keys that seem almost hard to press in fact prove pretty comfortable to use. Keen message fans may get their fingers sore in the beginning, but we are happy with the keys feedback and even people with large fingers don’t have problems with them. The keys backlighting is blue and it’s rather strong and even. However, the two side soft keys for the messages and I-mode are not that good and do not offer the needed feedback when pressed.
Loud and clear
Sony Ericsson K550 does great at its main job – making and receiving calls. Of course we wouldn’t expect any less than nice reception and signal strength from the K550. It met all other expectations too, since it played out its ringtones loud enough to be heard even in a noisy street, and the vibration is strong enough as well. The loudspeaker though has a problem with producing the high tones at the highest volume levels. They come out with hissing or buzzing. It must be noted that it lacks bass elements. But that’s really ok for a mobile phone.
User interface: been there, done that
The user interface in K550 is a standard non-smartphone Sony Ericsson user interface. Honestly we’ve slowly becoming fed up with the user interface – it’s been around for 2 years now. It offers great user-friendliness but new mobiles equipped with it don’t offer any new functionality over previous models.
The Sony Ericsson K550 has a dedicated Flight mode. When turning on the phone, you are presented the option to start it directly into Flight mode. The phone cannot work in Flight mode unless there is a SIM card inserted.
In active stand-by mode the screen displays information about the network signal, battery strength, current date and time, plus the next alarm that's due to go off. Pressing the navigation pad in any of the four directions can start a given feature or application according to the user preference. In fact when you start using the phone for the first time, the phone reminds you of that option. The main menu itself is made of a matrix grid with 4 x 3 animated icons. All sub-menus are in listed view with tiny icons on the left side. The phone reacts and performs fast in every submenu and application.
There are several themes that come preinstalled in the phone. They change the color scheme, the wallpaper and sometimes even the menu icons.
There is an Activity menu which has a dedicated shortcut key on the keypad. The Now running tab of the menu offers real multi-tasking. It also offers quick access to recent events, the web menu and the My Shortcuts menu which contains a list of frequently used features and can be modified to the user preference.
Nice phonebook without a doubt
The phonebook interface is simple and easy to use. You can choose if the SIM contacts or the phone contacts should be the default for the phonebook. Both lists cannot be displayed simultaneously. Otherwise, a nice option is that you can make the phone autosave to the SIM card any new contacts that you save in the phone’s memory. The maximum capacity of the phonebook is 1000 contacts but you can save up to 2500 phone numbers. Contacts can be ordered by First or Last name. Contacts are searched by gradual typing of the desired name.
When adding a new contact, there are five possibilities for the phone number: Mobile, Home, Work, Fax and Other. This is the first tab of fields for the new contacts. The second one is for email and web addresses. The third is for assigning a picture and a custom ringtone. The fourth goes for Title, Company, Street, City, State, ZIP, Country information. The last, fifth tab, is for additional information and birth date. When you add the birth date, the phone asks you whether you would like to add it to the calendar and put a reminder for it.