The SK65's design is an understated mix of silver and black -- the latter has a sleek, almost enamelled appearance. It's rather bulky, measuring 47 by 120 by 22mm and weighing 144g. This is rather larger than most modern candy-bar style phones, and there's a good reason for this.
The SK65 is actually made in two distinct halves. Swivel the top and bottom sections around a central hinge and a QWERTY keypad is revealed. This can be used with the phone nestled between both hands, tapping the keys with your thumbs. It's a system Siemens calls x2type (cross-to-type).
Both the QWERTY keys and the numberpad (which can also be used for text input) have slightly bevelled keys -- designed, presumably, to make them easier to hit. All the keys are fairly small.
Above the numberpad there's a large four-way control ring for navigation, with a select button in the middle. Either side of this are two slim vertical buttons that each have two functions, depending on which end you tap: call and end, and two softkey features.
In addition to a mains power charger, the product box includes a USB sync cable and a CD containing desktop synchronisation software.
The highlights of the SK65's specification are its BlackBerry-Built-In functionality and tri-band GPRS mobile functionality. Companies who run the BlackBerry Enterprise Server can push both email and calendar updates to the SK65, and allow access to other corporate data. Businesses who don't want to install their own infrastructure can opt for the hosted BlackBerry Internet Service, which will poll up to 10 POP3 and IMAP email accounts and send copies of incoming emails to the device. The SK65 comes with desktop software that can be used to synchronise PIM data directly over a USB connection.
Since the SK65 is designed primarily for business users, Siemens has not included a camera. Nor is there anything so frivolous as an MP3 player. On-board applications include an alarm clock, unit converter, stopwatch and countdown timer. But even high-flying executives have some idle time, so there are three games -- a Battleships clone, Gameloft's implementation of ChessMaster, and a golf game. Java is supported, too.
Bluetooth is built in, and a button on the right edge of the phone switches it on and off easily. Beneath this is a second button for initiating voice recordings.
The SK65's 50mm, 132x176-pixel screen is reasonably clear and bright, and its 16-bit colour capability is fine for its intended user base. The BlackBerry view places dark text on a white background, which maximises readability on the moderate-sized screen.
Memory capability is limited and non-expandable. Siemens says there is 30MB of on-board storage for emails and Java applications, but we actually found more than this. On checking our test SK65 after limited use, the BlackBerry client reported 33MB of available memory, of which 24.3MB was available for BlackBerry storage. The user file storage separately reported about 8.25MB available, of which 4.9MB was free -- the remainder was populated with preloaded data, including a couple of themes, some sound clips and various animations for use in MMS messages.
We have used BlackBerry email services on a wide range of devices, including a number of RIM's own BlackBerry devices (including the 7100v, 7100x and 7100t series), and have experience of many other mobile email clients. Reading email on the SK65's small screen is not the most compelling experience. The text is rendered well enough, but it's delivered to a portion of the screen just 31mm wide and 33mm high. The upper and lower horizontal bands are reserved for menus and suchlike. Such a small space does not provide for a truly satisfactory reading experience, despite Siemens' best efforts to maximise screen contrast.
On the other hand, the keyboard is remarkably good. When compared to the diminutive keyboards on devices like the T-Mobile MDA III and PalmOne Treo 650, we found it easier and faster to use, but there are two important points to bear in mind: unlike either of the aforementioned devices, the SK65 can't be used one-handed, because the distance between the two halves of the keyboard is simply too far to reach; and the keys themselves are very small, presenting the same problem for the stubby-fingered as other thumb keyboards.
Battery life is quoted as up to 250 hours standby and five hours talk. We certainly didn't need to charge the SK65 daily to get good use out of it, and it will probably survive the odd night away from the office without a charge cable -- so long as the games don't prove too distracting.
With no way to expand the on-board memory, no music player and limited access to third-party software (via Java), the SK65 pales besides devices such as the Treo 650, Windows Mobile-powered smart phones, Nokia's 9500 and 9300 and Sony Ericsson's P910. However, it may prove suitable for controlled deployment in companies where mobile access to email is paramount and IT managers don't want people to use company hardware for anything resembling fun.
Edited by Charles McLellan
Additional editing by Nick Hide