The keypad features some really nice features that are worth mentioning along with some really bad solutions. If you've ever wondered what exactly the orange plastic thing just below the display is for, the answer is that in fact it is a shortcut key for starting the Walkman music player. Just above it, right at the display base, there is a metallic edge, on which you can rest your thumb when trying to open or close the slider. Undoubtedly, when doing this you are almost prone to start the music player accidentally. But you can get used to this in the course of time.
On both sides of the Walkman key there are a couple of round context keys, which are rather comfortable to work with. Below the Walkman key, you can see the unusual navigation pad and four other keys - the Back key, the Web browser key, the correction C key and finally, the Activity menu key.
Now when it comes to user-friendliness, the navigation solution used in W850 is some of the most uncomfortable ones ever seen in a Sony Ericsson mobile and none of the members of our team thinks they might ever get used to it. It's really hard to press without applying a serious amount of pressure. Furthermore, if you have large fingers, you are almost sure to press the Walkman key every second time you try pressing the upwards direction on the navigation keypad.
But enough with all that grudging, let's turn our attention to something really interesting, and that is the Light Effects mode of the keypad. Basically, what it means is that when you turn it on, the backlighting of the whole upper part starts pulsing along the beat of the currently played music file. And it's not just pulsing in its own far-fetched beat, but instead it pulses to the real beat of the music, making for a great visual effect. Speaking of backlighting, it is worth mentioning that the whole keypad glows in even white until you turn on the Walkman music player. This is the moment when the upper part of the keypad starts glowing in orange.
Of course, W850 can not measure up to the capabilities of let say Motorola V80 for example which has numerous colorful LEDs combinations and its lights pulse to the beat not only of the currently playing track, but also to the beat of the currently playing music in the room - the so-called Party Lights function.
The alphanumeric part of the keypad is a joy to use and it would get you typing with lightning speed in no time when you start using the mobile. The keys are nicely offset and they have a strong, positive feedback when pressed. All that means that you would rarely make any typos in your messages.
When it comes to the real eye catcher, that most positively must be the large 2" TFT display capable of displaying 262K colors in a QVGA resolution. The colors are vivid and pleasant. The contrast is nice, too. Thanks to the available light sensor, the display brightness varies according to the available ambient light and respectively gets boosted in bright daylight and gets dimmed in the dark. The only flaw that we might find with the display is that it is a magnet for fingerprints. When it comes to using it under direct sunlight, it scores just the same as K800 - pretty legible, but we've seen better. In fact, currently, maybe Nokia makes the most successful legibility-under-sun-proof displays. But that's just our opinion. There is no way to test that objectively. Speaking of legibility, we've seen a lot worse TFT displays too, so the Sony Ericsson ones score somewhere in the middle.
So just to sum up, on our user-friendliness scale Sony Ericsson W850 scores rather low thanks to the highly uncomfortable navigation pad and the constant creaking sounds which one would not expect from a mobile with that price tag. The only things that save the day for the Walkman is the nice and smooth sliding mechanism, the nice matt plastic, the perfect balancing of the weight and the cool Light Effects feature which is the icing on top of a very typing-friendly alphanumeric cake, if you would forgive us the pun.
When it comes to using the W850 as a pure mobile phone, the handset manages to please with ease building on several crucial elements. The W850 is probably the phone with the loudest loudspeaker we've heard recently to start with. Believe us, when we assure you that it's highly unlikely to miss an incoming phone call even in the noisiest of streets. The sound during calls is clear, and as expected, the network signal remained at its maximum in the urban area where we do our tests. The vibration strength is pretty sufficient to do its job. You can set the handset to answer your incoming call automatically when you open the slider, but the strangest of it all is that closing it up doesn't end the call. The only reason for that that we could think of is that the Sony Ericsson engineers didn't want the automatic feature to prevent you talking with the phone closed. The same holds true for the automatic key lock. It engages every time you close the slider as long as you close it from standby view. If you happen to close it while you are somewhere in the menu, the key lock doesn't work at all.