Sony Ericsson K800i

13th Aug 2006 | 23:00

Sony Ericsson K800i

Sony Ericsson brings the Cyber-shot imaging brand to mobiles

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

An all-round three-megapixel, 3G stunner with flash that masters multimedia, web, phone, video-calling and more

Like:

<p>Excellent camera features</p>

Dislike:

<p>Flimsy lens cover unnecessary</p>

It's already succeeded in propelling the Walkman brand into the mobile phone arena and now Sony Ericsson is attempting something similar with cameras.

The debut of its 3.2-megapixel camera with the K800i, a substantially featured 3G handset, marks the first time Sony Ericsson has attached to its mobile phones the Cyber-shot brand normally associated with Sony digital cameras.

Who needs a digital camera?

As well they might, since the K800i finally sees cameraphones rising to a level where they can start to offer a viable alternative to standalone digital cameras.

The camera is certainly the most attention-grabbing aspect of this phone. Yes, standalone digital cameras often boast more pixels and features, but 3.2 megapixels marks the level at which you can produce really decent prints which are perfectly good as holiday or party snaps.

Take the example of MP3 and the AAC compressed music fi les used by the iPod - the sound quality isn't as good as CD, but it's good enough for most people, and has rapidly become the standard for digital music.

Likewise this cameraphone, and the others which will doubtless follow it. If your name's Rankin, you'll probably prefer something with a bit more clout, but for most of us, who want to take snaps on holiday or at special occasions, the quality is good enough to forgo shelling out for an additional, standalone camera, and this could mark a turning point in how we think about cameraphones.

So just how good are the pictures? Well, compared to our trusty old Canon (also packing 3.2 megapixels), they're really very good, with not much to choose between them on basic settings, though the Cybershot starts to break up first when magnified to 200 per cent.

More features

There are more features and a better zoom on the Canon too, but in comparison with other cameraphones, well, there's no comparison, except possibly with Nokia's 3.2-megapixel N80 or the forthcoming Carl Zeiss lens-assisted 3.2-megapixel N93.

The pixels are a major factor of course, but they're not the only good things about the K800i's camera. Sony Ericsson has had the dual function thing down for a while now of course - hold the phone lengthwise and it's a phone, turn it on its side and flip it over and it feels like a camera, with a nice big viewfinder and shutter and zoom buttons on top where they're handy.

But there's more. The Autofocus function is fast and reliable, and there's an image stabiliser in there too to correct any small camera shake your twitchy fingers might introduce to proceedings - we actually had difficulty taking out of focus shots (not usually a problem, sad to say).

We were also very impressed by the BestPic function, which takes nine shots in very rapid succession - about a second. Nothing particularly new in that - lots of cameraphones have a similar multishot function.

Ace up its sleeve

But the K800i's very clever trick is that it not only takes four shots after you press the shutter, but also takes four pics before you press the button. That may sound impossible but it's actually the result of some very clever digital trickery. So long as your finger is on the camera button, the phone automatically records and discards images continuously until just after you release it.

Then you simply choose the one that came out best, and discard the rest. It's a very effective way of capturing that elusive moment, even if your trigger finger is a little rusty, but you're limited to that tiny one-second timespan - an option to extend the timescale would have been welcome.

The camera isn't loaded with fancy but generally useless onboard editing facilities but instead concentrates on getting the basics right. It's easy and intuitive to operate, and there's a 16x digital zoom (but no optical zoom, which seems a pity with a camera that's as good as this), four picture size options (640x480 right up to 2048x1536 pixels), and a very basic round-up of editing options.

In addition to the onboard editing facilities, in the box the accompanying CD comes with Adobe Photoshop Album SE, so you can sort your pics out properly on your PC.

Like all cameraphones, low light is a problem, but the bright Xenon fl ash is very good over short distances. It's a proper fl ash mind, so there's no option for it to stay on in torch mode like a photo light, which is only a pity since we'd got used to using previous Sony Ericssons as de facto torches when required.

Blogging

Sharing your pictures with friends just got easier too, with the option to instantly add pics to your online blog thanks to Sony Ericsson's partnership with Google's Blogger service. It's actually a thing of beauty. Just take a picture, select 'Blog this' from the menu, and the pic will be automatically resized and uploaded to your blog, along with any text you choose to add.

The first pic you send will open an automatic blog site for you and send you a text telling you the URL which you can then pass on. And once your blog is set up, you can adjust it online to get it looking just how you want it. Very nice - and hard to imagine how they could make it any easier really.

The pictures are good enough to print (easy too - if you've got a PictBridge-compatible printer you can print direct, without the need for a PC), but they also look exemplary on the 262,000-colour screen, which is exceptionally bright and clear.

The Access NetFront web browser looks great, and automatically switches to widescreen mode, which is handy for viewing scaled-down web pages, though it occasionally bails out from showing web pages that are too data heavy. 3G obviously makes the browsing experience faster than on standard GSM/GPRS handsets.

The browser can handle RSS feeds though, so you can be kept up to date with the latest from your favourite sites.

Media and music

Other 3G applications are well supported here too. You get video calling capability, with a secondary camera perched discreetly just above the display for face-to-face chatting. Video downloads and streaming are supported too, so you can enjoy a full range of 3G content, including Mobile TV on networks which support it.

There's a decent media player onboard, capable of playing back video and music - MP3, AAC, AAC and eAAC formats are all supported - plus there's 64MB of onboard memory and the option to expand it with a Memory Stick Micro (M2) card.

There's an FM radio too, which is capable of receiving RDS data such as song and artist names as well as three 3D games, FotoQuestFishing, Mini Golf: Castle, Tennis Multiplay, of which the tennis is the most impressive, especially in Bluetooth multiplayer mode, although the Mini Golf is arguably more addictive.

Performance

While the still pictures are pretty much excellent, the quality doesn't necessarily transfer to video, which is okay, but not distinctively better than other megapixel cameraphones we've tried. Viewing video clips onscreen is good though.

We found the same old problems with software too, which inevitably seems to be a bit of a lottery. We could sync the phone and transfer pics without any difficulty, but when it came to swapping music fi les we had to resort to drag and drop, rather than using Sony Ericsson's File Manager, and some of the track 106mm 18mm listing info was lost.

And speaking of music, you're tied to Sony Ericsson's supplied headphones, which are perfectly functional, but the lack of a mini jack plug prevents you from upgrading to your 'phones of choice. You'll need an adaptor if you want to upgrade the headphones.

There's not a huge amount of onboard memory, considering the opportunities the K800i gives you to fill it up with video, pics and music but there is the option of storage on an M2 card. But battery life proved decent enough, managing a little under fi ve hours talk time in the real world and we only needed to recharge it once a week.

Navigation isn't as nippy as we'd expected - there tends to be a noticeable time delay when switching between functions and while we're complaining, the soft keys on the right are virtually flush with the phone's body, which makes them a bit hard to press.

But all those carpy little caveats are put into the shade by the K800i's many good points - with its outstanding camera, decent media player and great design, this is the phone to be seen with. Dave Oliver

Style: The high quality camera comes at a cost in size - it's a touch on the large size for a non-smartphone device

Slide: Drop the lens cover on the back and you're ready for (fl ash) light Cyber-shot camera action

Video call: A discreet front-facing camera above the display reveals the K800i's 3G video calling capability

Camera: A 3.2-megapixel camera with Xenon flash and BestPic multishot function takes up the back panel of the phone

SonyEricssonMobile phonesPortable audioPortable videoDigital camerasUpgrades
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