Sony Ericsson K550 review: A Cyber-shot on a budget
Being part of the Cyber-shot family the K550 has naturally made us curious. The camera comes equipped with a 2 megapixel lens, auto focus, a two-LED flash, and an active lens cover which is used to start or shut down the camera application.
The camera offers night mode, self-timer, panorama, frames, and burst shooting modes. It also features white balance correction. Several color effects are available, too.
Sony Ericsson K550 auto-focus didn’t prove itself as that much reliable but that may be due to the fact that our test phone is a beta version and not a final product. The auto-focus comes with a macro mode as an option which comes in handy when shooting closer objects.
The K550 form factor and dimensions, the exotic resolution of 1632 x 1224 pixels, the autofocus and the dual LED flash initially made us believe that K550 has the same photo hardware we’ve already seen in K750, W800 and W810 models. We did expect the same kind of camera performance too. Then we noticed the fine print, the camera designation that’s it. It says the focal length is 3.8mm, while the focal length of the older models is 4.8mm. It seems that in order to fit in the thinner body, K550 has a smaller sensor, which is expected to produce lower quality pictures. Indeed, looking at the pictures, we see that the quality is comparable to W850/W880, and not to the popular K750/W800 autofocus models. Of course, our testing piece is a beta version and the photo quality may be improved in the retail version.
The videos taken with K550 are captured at the low QCIF resolution. The options for the video camera are pretty much the same as those for the still camera with very minor differences. It’s about time that Sony Ericsson upgrades the video recording capabilities of their mobile phones. Until that happens we will no longer publish sample video clips taken by Sony Ericsson phones – there isn’t that much to see really.
Web browser doesn’t live up to the challenge
Besides GPRS and EDGE for fast data transfers, the handset offers the usual connectivity capabilities such as USB support, Infrared port and Bluetooth.
Being a i-mode model, our test mobile's integrated Internet browser is a rather cut-down version which doesn’t have any special options – you can’t view the pages fullscreen, you can’t even browse your Web pages in landscape mode. The web browser of even budget Sony Ericsson models is more advanced. The Smart-fit function of the browser seen on all previous models lacks as an explicit option here but seems to be turned on by default.
The Sony Ericsson K550 supports Bluetooth 2.0 with the Human Interface Device (HID) profile which allows the phone to be used as a remote control for PC and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Further on, the phone could be used as a Bluetooth modem for Internet access of a PC or a mobile computer.
The K550 has support for local and remote synchronization of contacts and calendar events. The local one is with Outlook and a PC while the remote synchronization is with remote servers. The USB connectivity of the phone has two modes – one for file transfers and one for USB Internet - to put it simply, the second one is for using the phone as a modem.
Mark your tasks
This phone offers many time organizing features. There is an Organizer icon in the main menu and it contains several applications: Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Alarms, Calculator, Synchronization, Timer, Stopwatch, Applications and Code memo. The Calendar offers monthly, weekly and daily view. As we mentioned before, when you add a birth date in the phonebook, the phone asks you if you wish to add it in the calendar too. Tasks can be two types: simple Tasks and Phone calls. Reminders can be put as Subjects. Notes are written as messages; there even is the T9 to assist writing. There are five alarms available. Each one offers a lot of options – you can choose to repeat it on chosen days of the week or everyday. Furthermore, you can add text and a picture to the alarm as well as set its behavior in case the time that the alarm is due to go off comes while the phone is in silent mode.
The Voice recorder doesn’t have any limit in the duration of the recordings since all the free memory is available for the purposes of the application. The Calculator is the regular Sony Ericsson one, which you have probably already seen. It offers the basic functions with no bells and whistles.
Some other applications include the MusicDJ, VideoDJ and the Music Mate. VideoDJ is for making video clips from scratch or for editing existing recording using special transition effects and by adding background music. It can be a very amusing application. MusicDJ is a very simple application for creating custom polyphonic melodies.
A couple of fresh new games
The two games preinstalled in our test Sony Ericsson K550 are new and we haven’t seen them on previous Sony Ericsson models. The first one is the Fruit Fall. You aim is to gather all the fruits of any given type in one place by rotating their enclosure. Once you gather all the fruits beside each other they disappear and that would ultimately lead to completing the level. The second game is a remake of the famous Worms game. This time it’s not about weapons and battles but about golf. The game is called Worms Golf – and the aim here is simple too. Throw your grenade into the opponent’s hole with as little consecutive throws as possible. Both the games are amusing and offer a nice pastime.
Well the Sony Ericsson K550 left us somewhat bewildered – the Cyber-shot branding seems more of a marketing move than a new strong player in the cameraphones lineup. The camera shows nice performance but is yet incapable of outranking the Sony Ericsson K750.
Well, summing it up, it seems as always, that if the price is right, the Sony Ericsson might just win the hearts of the fans. The decent camera, the memory card slot, the good battery life and the Flight mode are things that are not easily found in other midrange solutions. So, if you are looking for those, the Sony Ericsson might just be your next mobile gadget.