If you're tired of taking grainy images on your camera phone, if you like to listen to radio on the way to work, or you want a phone that won't make your pockets bulge in an inelegant fashion, then you might consider the K750i.
If all of these things matter to you, then you should consider it, because, with a real no-nonsense look and feel, the K750i offers this triptych of features plus nearly 100MB of memory right out of the box -- at some very attractive prices. The K750i is available from several operators in the UK and you can find it for as little as free with a £20-a-month contract, or around £250 SIM-free.
First impressions: it's black and very, very small. And it looks just like a camera from the back. The camera-on-one-side-phone-on-the-other idea is not new for Sony Ericsson, but this time it has done the concept proud and squeezed in plenty of good camera features.
For example, to start the camera software you simply slide its large lens cover aside. To shoot an image you use the shutter button, which, when you've swivelled the handset onto its side so images are framed in landscape format, sits where a shutter button should: under your right index finger. You use the 4x digital zoom with a rocker on the upper left of the casing when it's held in this orientation.
The opposite edge of the handset has a slot for a Memory Stick Duo, which is protected by a rubber cover. On this edge you'll also find another button with play and pause markers on it. When the stereo headset is plugged in, this button starts and stops music playing. The handset remembers where you stopped listening to take an incoming call, so you can plunge straight back into your music.
Because of its small overall size, the K750i's screen is comparatively squeezed, but that does not stop it offering 262K colours, and it's pin-sharp. Nowhere is this more apparent when using the camera, but games benefit too.
There's a mini joystick beneath the screen. It's physically well separated from the back and delete keys that flank it -- though if you have stubby fingers you may find it inconveniently small. Calls are started and ended with softkeys rather than dedicated buttons, which means green and red coloured keys don't interfere with the black-and-white hardware design.
The joystick has four programmed functions that kick in as you push it up, down, left and right. Out of the box, three are set up to start the messaging software, open your contacts and run the media player, with the fourth ready to be programmed by you. In addition, there is a button between the two softkeys providing more comprehensive access to shortcuts. You don't have to use all these features, but you can really go to town personalising this handset.
As the back of the handset is a camera, the battery lives under a small cover on the back of the casing. Once the cover is removed, the battery slides out easily. Your SIM lives under this cover too.
Where many current handsets fall down with regard to images and music is memory, but the K750i does better than most with 34MB of internal memory and a 64MB Memory Stick Duo combining to provide an immediately available 98MB of storage.
The camera shoots images at three resolutions -- 160x120, 640x480 and 1,632x1,224 -- and has a macro mode for close-ups. You won't have seen one of those on a camera phone before, and its presence is related to the autofocus feature that kicks in as you half depress the shutter button, just like on a full-blown digital camera. When it's okay to take the shot, the handset beeps.
There are other useful camera features including a self timer, image effects such as sepia and black and white, a mode for shooting at night, a three-shot panorama assistant, a range of 24 frames, a burst mode, and white balance settings for conditions like fluorescent light and cloudy outdoor conditions. These all help to make image quality much better than we are used to seeing from camera phones.
You can also shoot video at resolutions of 176x144 and 1,280x960, and many of the still camera settings apply here too -- including the macro mode shooting.
The K750i has some truly lovely touches. In dark conditions, the camera shutter button is briefly illuminated by the same white light that provides keypad backlighting, so you don't need to fumble for it. Another is that you can use the LEDs as a torch.
There's little doubt that the star of this particular show is the camera, but the K750i has a good deal more going for it.
Music playback also impressed us. The sound quality is good, though at the very highest volume levels there is some distortion. You change volume using the same rocker button that zooms the camera, which saves on button-clutter around the handset.
Too few handsets have FM radios built in. The K750i does, adding RDS capability so it can show the name of the station you are tuned in to, and automatic tuning to find the strongest signal for your current location. There are 20 presets. If you can't be bothered to set your favourites up, just get the handset to auto scan and then use the joystick to flick through. It takes just seconds to set up a range of stations in this way.
The headphones have a proprietary connector, so if you don't like the fit or the sound quality, you can't change them for your favourites. You can't charge the handset while using the headset either, because the power adaptor uses the same connector. You can send sound output to any device that has a pair of standard audio-in sockets if you buy the accessory -- and that uses the proprietary connector too.
As for the rest of the software provided, there's an email client, diary and contact book, PC desktop software for file and data sharing (connected via Bluetooth or the provided cable), and several additional applications including Music DJ, a rather groovy four-track composer you can use to create ringtones. There are picture and video editors too, and three games: 3D aircraft-based shooter Aero Mission, Super Real Tennis and Puzzle Slider.
In general use this handset performed very well. Call quality and reception were both good. We could hear people perfectly well, but sometimes they said we were too quiet.
Battery life was very impressive. We got through a working week of use without charging if we were light on music and radio, but did manage to deplete the battery much more quickly when using those features a lot.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide