The Sony Ericsson K610i has shot to stardom in the new James Bond film, Casino Royale. Fortunately, it isn't just a case of good product placement: this 3G-enabled handset really does deliver -- perhaps not for secret agents, but definitely for everyone else. It's small, looks good and has a quality feature set that doesn't distract from the basics of making calls and sending and receiving SMS messages.
The K610i is a compact candybar handset that measures 45mm wide by 102mm tall by 17mm thick and weighs 89g. It's one of the smallest and best-looking 3G handsets we've seen. On the front, on the top right, there's a small VGA camera for video calls and underneath it is a colour screen that displays 262,000 colours and measures 31mm wide by 38mm tall.
Further down, there's a four-way square navigation key with a separate OK button in the middle. We found it easy to use and particularly liked the glowing blue backlight that also illuminates the rest of the keypad area. Either side of the navigation key are six softkeys. The top left and right softkeys access the call list and menu. Below those are the dedicated Web browser and shortcut keys, and below them you have the back key and cancel key.
At the bottom of the front section is the keypad, which features a standard 12-key layout. The keys aren't particularly big and are slightly squashed together, but after a little practice they're quite easy to use. They're wedge-shaped and stick out at the bottom, making it straightforward to distinguish each key, especially compared to completely flat keypads.
On the left side of the K610i there's a dedicated music button that gives you direct access to the music player and lets you play and pause tracks. On the right side there are two volume keys that adjust the volume during calls and in the music player, and they also let you zoom in and out when you're using the camera. Further down on the bottom-right side is a dedicated shutter button that activates the 2-megapixel camera on the back.
You can hold the K610i sideways and use the shutter button and zoom buttons as you would on a normal digital camera. There's a small portrait mirror next to the camera and a loudspeaker for using speakerphone mode or listening to music. At the top of the K610i there's a green flashing LED that lets you know if the handset is on or not and when the battery is fully charged. Next to the LED is the power button.
At the bottom of the K610i is a charging port that also doubles up as a headphone jack. You can keep all your music and photos on a Memory Stick Micro (M2), stored in a slot on the left side behind the battery cover on the back.
The K610i is a tri-band phone with 3G connectivity, which means you can download data and browse the Internet (faster than on a GPRS connection), and make video calls. You can also connect the K610i to a laptop using a USB cable and use it as a 3G modem (althogh data charges will depend on your specific network operator). There's also a built-in email client, so you can access POP3 and IMAP4 email accounts. The K610i also supports push email, so you can receive emails instantly.
Impressively, for such a compact 3G phone there are still more features squashed inside. There's a 2-megapixel camera that shoots still photos and video. It's disappointing that the camera doesn't have autofocus or a flash, but you can adjust the picture quality, picture size, white balance and add a few effects such as negative or black and white. There's also an MP3 player that supports MP3 and AAC formats.
You can listen to music using the proprietary headphones, or use your own with a Sony Ericsson 3.5mm adaptor. Alternatively, you can listen to music wirelessly using stereo Bluetooth headphones. You can also use the Bluetooth connectivity or a USB cable to synchronise the K610i with your PC and backup calendar details and contacts.
Other features include Java games, a sound recorder, MMS and SMS messages, conference calls, vibrating alert, an alarm clock, a calculator, notes, a stopwatch, tasks, a timer, polyphonic ring tones and an RSS feed reader. You can turn the phone off but still use the music player or MP3 player in flight mode. The K610i also doubles as a mass storage drive, so you can store and carry around any files you want on it.
The audio on calls is clear and there were no noticeable distortions or feedback when we made calls to other mobile phones or landlines from the K610i. The music player sounded good over the proprietary headphones, but the loudspeaker inevitably sounded tinny both while listening to music and also in speakerphone mode.
The 2-megapixel camera takes acceptable photos for wallpaper and MMS messages, but compared to the Sony Ericsson K800i, the lack of autofocus and flash really affects picture quality, particularly in low light. Video came out as expected -- blurry and grainy.
Battery life is quoted at 2.5 hours talk time and 350 hours standby time using 3G connectivity, and 7 hours talk time using just a GSM connection. Using the handset moderately over a 3G connection we found that it lasted for more than 2 days without needing to recharge it.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide