The body of the phone is made out of plastic which has rather metallic looks which is something we liked. The main speaker is located at the top front part. The secondary VGA camera for video calls is slotted right next to it. The display is surrounded by a black frame and has mirror-like finish in order to improve legibility under direct sunlight.
On the left side of the phone there is a music player shortcut key which is used for starting and stopping the music player when it's running in the background. On the right side of the phone we see the two traditional volume keys and a camera shortcut keys which is used both for starting the camera application and for taking pictures.
On the top part there is only an on/off key which, when pressed briefly, opens up an additional menu that allows you to quickly lock the keypad, turn on the silent mode, change the current profile, or of course, shut down the phone. On the bottom side of the phone we see the regular Fast port for connecting the charger, the headphones or the USB cable, along with the microphone aperture and the neck strip eyelet.
Now turning the phone around reveals the back panel which incorporates the loudspeaker, the self-portrait mirror and the camera lens. An interesting thing is the back cover which is really hard to slide out unless you press it on the right spot - the three dots. Now once we got the hang of it, we managed to access the 900 mAh Sony Ericsson BST-37 battery which according to the manufacturer should last for 2.4 hours of talking in 3G networks and 7 hours of talking in GSM networks. The video calling would drain the battery after 1 hour and 35 minutes, while no matter what the network is the phone should last 350 hours in stand-by. In reality, the phone lasted about 4 days and nights with about 10 minutes of talking a day in an area of strong network signal in a GSM-only network. Heavier usage should drain the battery quicker. Of course, those numbers are purely indicative since battery life depends heavily on the network specifics.
When you remove the battery cover you gain access to the M2 memory card slot which is accessed from the right side when looking at the phone's back. The battery doesn't need to be removed in order to change cards. This is good since that Hot Swap functionality is becoming standard nowadays. The M2 memory cards are still quite unpopular. Much like the microSD cards, they are made for the mobile devices market for their small size and lower power consumption. The standard is used by Sony in most of its new range of portable products and as such it should pick up speed before the end of the summer. A good thing though that you get the Memory Stick Micro (M2) card with an adapter housing that allows you to plug it in every card reader device that supports Memory Stick Duo cards.
We are generally impressed by the ergonomics of the keypad. The only thing that required some time to get used to was the navigation D-pad that's less convenient than the conventional joystick used in most Sony Ericsson phones. Yes, we know that the Sony Ericsson joystick is prone to malfunction after the first year of usage, but regarding to their new phones, Sony Ericsson claim that they have improved the design of the infamous joystick. Given that, the joystick turns out to be a much better navigation solution. Of course, eventually you get used to the D-pad too, but we are left with the impression that you can hardly achieve the same operation speed seen in the joystick.
Having said that, we must point out that the D-pad solution may be more well suited for the W-series music phones where the music player controls are assigned to the D-pad itself.
Now, besides the D-pad, we are delighted with the ergonomics of the other parts of the keypad. The alphanumeric keys are very well spaced, they are very easy to get used to and typing a SMS is a piece of cake. The design of the functional keys is also a great one - the two soft keys and the RETURN and CLEAR keys are made as rocker keys and we got to admit - it's a great solution. The two shortcut keys are embedded in the middle of the abovementioned rocker keys, but they can be hardly pressed by mistake - as opposed to those in K800. The right shortcut key opens the Activity menu, while the left one opens the NetFront web browser.
The keyboard backlighting is nicely blue and an interesting thing about it is that it makes some ripple effects when somebody is calling you or you receive a message. All keys are evenly lit with the exception of the two shortcut keys which happen to have no backlighting at all - quite a strange solution. But hey, as we said before, they are conveniently placed and they knob out a bit so they are easy to distinguish by touch.
The phone sports a 262K colors 1.8" TFD display. Now TFD technology is not something new and it's been around longer than TFT in fact. TFD (Thin Film Display) is very much like the TFT (Thin Film Transistor) since both technologies feature an active matrix of pixels. The TFD display though, has much lower power consumption - as low as the now obsolete STN displays which were used in the first days of the color mobile displays. The drawback of the TFD technology though, is that it's hard to get a color depth greater than 65K color with it. As already mentioned, K610 has a 262K colors display with the somewhat low resolution of 176 x 220 pixels. But given the right price tag, the display resolution might turn out to be just fine.