2003 saw Sony Ericsson claim the crown for the most widely sold handset world wide with their sleek T610. The newly released K700 has been branded the replacement for that phone. Big boots to fill you might say, so can the K700 live up to the task?



The camera features heavily in the ‘hard-sell' of the model. Unlike the S700, being released in October this year, the ‘K' does not sport the 1.3mega pixel camera of its sister model. The image size has stayed at 640x480pixels with the development instead going into the 4x digital zoom option and the panoramic picture effects software that boost the cameras flexibility. The addition of a super bright white LED ‘picture-light', next to the lens, makes close-up shots in low light show better illumination. This is also handy for finding the keyhole on your front door if the council decides to plunge your city street into gloom when you get home in the winter months. There are a number of picture mode presets as well as the option to record short video clips in H.263 codec format.

The camera features heavily in the ‘hard-sell' of the model. Unlike the S700, released around the same time, the ‘K' does not sport the 1.3mega pixel camera of its sister model. The image size has stayed at 640x480pixels with the development instead going into the 4x digital zoom option and the panoramic picture effects software that boost the cameras flexibility. The addition of a super bright white LED ‘picture-light', next to the lens, makes close-up shots in low light show better illumination. This is also handy for finding the keyhole on your front door if the council decides to plunge your city street into gloom when you get home in the winter months. There are a number of picture mode presets as well as the option to record short video clips in H.263 codec format.

The resolution of the camera is compensated by the exceptional resolution of the screen. The 176x220 pixel screen, the fourth largest in the currently available Sony range (Only being surpassed by the P900, 800 and the S700), can handle 65000 colours and offers a clarity that is more akin to one of the newest Clie's handhelds. This can best been seen in the camera's preview mode and the display of the phone's main menu, which both truly look next-generation for crispness and fluidity of the animations.

Communications systems work on the standard 3 GSM networks (900/1800/1900) so travelling across the pond or to Asia should prove no problem, except when it comes to battery life. Supporting literature, and contemporaries reviews, have made claims of a battery life of up to 300 hours standby time or 7 hours talk time from a single charge of the 670mAh Li-Polymer battery. I had two separate handsets and in both cases though myself luck to make a weekend with the K700 still alive at the end. Naturally the Bluetooth and use of the peripherals will affect power consumption but I found the claims of others, including Sony, to be exceptionally optimistic.

The navigation column that acts as the core to the operation of the phone also transpired to be somewhat less than ideal for the task. Firstly you get 5 options of activity. By moving the post to one of the 4 compass points you can get quickly to 4 of the more commonly used features. Except, I'm not sure the value of the strange collection of ringtones / tunes if you click to the “East” position. The main menu was activated by depressing the post and then you could move through the 12 top level menu options. The post, in my opinion, allows too much movement when in menu mode and I was forever skidding off the side of the menu and having to gingerly retrace my steps to get the application I was pursuing. While I appreciate that you need plenty of freedom of movement when engaged in gaming on the handset, I think this should be tuned down when not in a games environment. The back key, marked with the carriage return symbol from a QWERTY keyboard that take you back one stage in the menus takes getting used to and seems to be a recurring feature in the new generation of smart phones. Unless you're cautious with the ‘C' button, phonebook or data entries can be easily eradicated by careless keystrokes.

Naturally connectivity is high on the list of features with Bluetooth and Internet coming as standard. Having been plagued by Sony's browser set-up menus in the past, I'll hold up my hands in this case and admit utter defeat with the K700. Regardless of what values and configuration setting I entered, the device stubbornly refused to go online so I was unable to test the browser capacity of the WAP 2.0 or the GPRS 4+2 features. Luckily, if you are as inept as I with these sorts of things, the phone can connect and share by either USB or Serial to a PC or via Bluetooth or Inferred with other nearby handset to share sounds and images. When the browser is working you can naturally download music, pictures or themes to make the phone as individual as you like. Oddly the only constraint to your fun is the non-expandable 41Mb of onboard memory. Unlike so many other Sony products, that are born with their belly button taking some form of Memory Stick, Sony seen to have excluded this feature from the K700, presumably to keep the weight down to a sylph like 93 grams.

The K700 is also the first Sony Ericsson handset to include an FM radio. Like the Nokia's that spawned this technology, the external headset acts as an aerial for the receiver and you can save up to 20 preset stations in the phones memory. Sadly I could only read about this, as Sony didn't send through the dedicated headset. One reviewer commented that the radio could also be played through the handset's internal loudspeaker. This seems a little dubious since you have to add the headset to activate the radio function in the first place and nothing burns battery power like a little ‘party in your pocket' audio action, but I could be wrong.

Verdict

Overall, the K700 looks great but seems to be very temperamental to use. Nothing that I really wanted to use, seemed to want to work, well not with any ease anyway. The camera and the graphics are good and the 3D gaming will be a big plus. Sadly I wanted the handset to cover the functionality that it has been billed as providing. It might just be the case that, rather like Orange's original SPV, a number of buggy handsets hit the market early, before all the software kinks were ironed out. Personally I'd prefer to wait a while and see.