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Sony Ericsson K850i first impressions

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The Sony Ericsson K850i is the new flagship cameraphone for the Sony Ericsson range. The Nokia N95 and the Samsung have raised the resolution bar to a new high of 5 megapixels and the K850i matches them both.

Now everyone knows that more megapixels doesn’t guarantee better photographs but it’s a marquee feature that Sony Ericsson needs to cover if it is to compete. Hence the relatively short gap between the arrival of the 3-megapixel K810i (which was basically a slightly tarted-up version of the K800i) and the new K850i.

Your first impression when holding the Sony Ericsson K850i in your hands is that the company has learned from some of the mistakes it made with the K810i (read the Sony Ericsson K810i review) but not all of them.

On the positive side, the Sony Ericsson K850i feels much more solid and well built than the somewhat flimsy K810i. It’s certainly not a phone you could forget about in your pocket: its dimensions are a hefty 102 x 48 x 17mm and it weighs in at 118 grammes. But with cameraphones a bit of heft comes in handy as you want something you can operate like a proper camera rather than a novelty toy.

And the K850i certainly looks and feels like a proper compact camera, indeed if you look at it from the lens side it looks much more like a camera than a phone. The effect is enhanced by the prominent ‘Cyber-shot 5.0 megapixels’ motif, the powerful xenon flash and – most of all – by the new automatic lens cover.

No fiddly sliders or exposed optics here – the lens is hidden beneath a black plastic shutter until it is revealed automatically when the camera mode is activated. Very smart.

The other main innovation is the new navigation rocker switch and the touch screen soft keys. The jury’s still out on these and we’ll reserve our final verdict after we’ve used them for a couple of weeks.

But after a few hours of use we found them reasonably comfortable although we felt there’s no obvious benefit over the previous nav button and ‘real’ soft keys. Perhaps it’s a marketing initiative so they can use the words ‘touch screen interface’ as a rather pitiful attempt to compete with the Apple iPhone.

(Incidentally we did develop one annoying habit after a few minutes – we kept trying to touch menu items and commands rather than navigate to them by the rocker. It seems once you’re given a few touch screen sweeties you’ll get greedy and want the whole kit and caboodle).

On the down side – and this is Sony Ericsson’s perennial problem – the K850i presents us with yet another keypad ‘innovation’. We have dainty little squares like the K810i but this time they are arranged oh-so-slightly out of line with each other so that the 2 is above the 1 and 3 while the 8 is below the 7 and 8.

Why oh why oh why does Sony Ericsson keep experimenting in this infuriating manner? Do their research boffins get some perverse pleasure out of baffling their users?

When we’ve calmed down a bit we’ll be back with a full review. Watch this space.

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