The soft and rounded Sony Ericsson K850 visually differs a lot from the Sony Ericsson K810, not to mention its predecessors. At least it stays faithful to the bar-shape form factor. K850 accommodates some notable construction and navigation novelties: dedicated call and end keys, new D-pad layout, three-position camera key, as well as an on/off camera key and a digicam-like bottom battery cover.
The large 2.2" quality TFT display takes up most of the front panel and scores notably higher both in brightness and contrast, compared to the 2" TFT display of Sony Ericsson K810. Keeping almost the same dimensions while building larger displays is an issue that constantly nudges handset designers. In K850 the obvious solution is integrating the D-pad in the keyboard, thus making some room for the larger 2.2" display. The display, and the entire front panel, has a nice mirror-like finish, but again it catches fingerprints rather easily, like the K810 and K800. Above it, a small secondary VGA camera is discretely located, along with the earpiece. The camera is beneath the panel surface, leaving the even surface of the front unspoiled.
Right below the display, we find the three brand new sensor like soft keys. They perform multiple functions varying by the context of different applications. The sensor like soft keys offer a truly novel experience in handling the Sony Ericsson K850. The diehard Sony Ericsson user will immediately notice that the location of the soft key functions are reversed. In other Sony Ericsson phones the More soft key is located on the right, whereas now it is called Options and corresponds to the new left soft key, with several exceptions. The proprietary "Back" key is absent, now replaced by the right soft key. The center soft key performs variable functions within applications. The logic behind all this is simple - in menus, where in other Sony Ericsson phones you have only one active soft key, the center soft key is to be used. Alternatively, in menus where both soft keys have functions (for example messaging -> templates), in other handsets you would have "Select" and "Info", while in K850 you have "Info", "Select" and "Back" soft key order. Reviewing the K850 was fun, as we often pressed the wrong soft key, driven by the force of habit. However, using the device for a week was enough for us to get the hang of the new allocation, owing to the simple fact that most leading phone manufactures use the same soft key order in their devices. The new soft keys in K850 are also a design decision, driven by the lack of space with the large display on pretty much the same dimensions as K810. We welcome this innovation by the Sony Ericsson team, which to us is an attempt to respond to users' demands.
A bit below the three soft keys are the brand new dual-function Call / Quick Menu key and Clear / End key, that make the phone handling even better. The dedicated Call and End keys, along with the tree soft keys and the D-pad novelties are inconsistent with the longstanding way of doing things, but take the K850 closer to the mass market. Under the Call and End keys is the keypad with the T650 cool styling, however the keys have grown bigger. The rightmost column of the alphanumeric keys serves a double purpose: in Camera mode they're used for changing the shooting mode, scene mode, self-timer and flash options. Icons with blue backlighting explain the function of each key. The D-pad can also be used for zooming in and out when taking pictures, while scrolling up or down on changes the exposure compensation. Most of the Sony Ericsson users out there would be happy to see that Sony Ericsson has again used the sleeker D-pad instead of a joystick. It's now a thin color plastic rectangle, placed right within the keypad and enfolding the 2 and 5 key. A bold and controversial design indeed, as most Sony Ericsson phones have a confirming center of the D-pad or a joystick. In K850, the Confirm function is entrusted to the middle soft key, right above the D-pad - another decision that raises doubts about user-friendliness.
The Sony Ericsson K850 left side features no keys. Neat and simple, all you see is the color stripe that runs along the side parts of the phone.
|The bottom part of the K850 features a digicam-like battery cover, which shelters the phone's battery, the SIM card, and the memory card slot. The latter deserves special attention since this is the first Sony Ericsson attempt at dual card support. Two cards are compatible with the slot: M2 and microSD.||
The bottom part of the K850 features a digicam-like battery cover, which shelters the phone's battery, the SIM card, and the memory card slot. The latter deserves special attention since this is the first Sony Ericsson attempt at dual card support. Two cards are compatible with the slot: M2 and microSD. One is inserted face down, the other one face up, and both are hot-swappable. Apart from this, you will find the regular Fast Port, the mouthpiece and a wrist or neck strap eyelet. If you remove the SIM card in active phone mode, the phone will restart after a good delay and will start the demo mode. It would've been great if the phone was able to work in flight mode, without an inserted SIM. This drawback aside, handling the SIM, the memory card and the battery is effortless, thanks to the integrated push-to-eject mechanism. The same we see used in digicams nowadays. The design of the battery cover is a nice novelty, but we think it has one disadvantage. The lower end of the rear panel wobbles noticeably when typing on the keypad.
The top part of the device holds the On/Off key only, which can also be used for fast switching between the ringing profiles.
The right side of the Sony Ericsson K850 immediately got our attention, as things there surely look like a regular digicam. Very close to the end key is a three-position button for switching between the camera modes - camera, video recorder, and preview mode. Right above it is the shutter key, and the adjacent smaller on/off camera key. There is no other mobile phone of the other leading manufacturers, except for the LG KU990 Viewty, which comes with such a bunch of dedicated camera keys. A convenient feature is that the on/off camera key is independent of the key lock. At the upper part of the right side we find the elevated V-shaped volume rocker, which also can be used for zooming when taking or browsing pictures.
Turning the phone over reveals an entirely flat monolith surface, only broken by the xenon flash and the camera lens ring, as well as the elongated grill of the loudspeaker. All of them are placed beneath the panel surface, so if you look at the phone sideways you will see no dimples or bulges on the back panel. Next to the lens cover stand two essential symbols - the Cyber-shot logo and the 5.0 megapixel sign. Below the lens is the Sony Ericsson logo. Where the monolith surface ends, you will see the tiny battery cover, with its rubber-like finishing, that is supposed to keep the phone firmly in your arm, or if laid on a tilted surface. Where the back panel ends, two delicate curves that slightly lift the phone can be spotted, a resourceful way to protect the sleek surface from scratches and dust. Another probable reason, given they're level with the loudspeaker, is an attempt to ensure some kind of a sound-screen.
The Sony Ericsson K850 is powered by a Li-Poly BST-38 battery with a capacity of 930 mAh, a substitute for the standard BST-33 Li-Poly battery used in the other Cyber-shot handsets K550, K800 and K810. According to the manufacturer, the battery is capable of up to 400 hours of standby mode and up to 9 hours of talk time in GSM networks. Under very intensive usage, i.e. Bluetooth always on, 3G network, an hour of calls, an hour of media player, a good deal of trying the camera, gaming, browsing, etc., the battery hardly lasts for 36 hours. However, if used only in GSM networks and not excessively strained, the phone will last for a good 3, even 4 days.
Generally, we're quite pleased with the ergonomics of the Sony Ericsson K850. It feels nice when held in hand and fits perfectly in your palm. The three soft keys, the dual Call and End keys, the D-pad do take the phone handling to a higher level. However, after due examination, a few shortcomings get exposed. The excellent response of the three sensor-like soft keys is in great contrasts with the angular hard-to-push D-pad, which but ruins the navigation experience. The confirming center soft key is too close to the D-pad up key. Simultaneous keypresses occur now and then, resulting in undesired confirmation of a function - for example in a delete contact dialog window, the center soft key corresponds to YES.