After its success with Walkman phones such as the W800i, the W810i, the W550i and the W900i, Sony Ericsson is attempting to bring Sony's compact camera brand, Cyber-shot, to the mobile phone market. The standout feature on the K800i is its 3.2-megapixel camera, complete with autofocus and a 'real' Xenon flash.
But don't get too wrapped up in the camera. There is a lot going on here, from 3G support and video calling, FM radio, a high standard of music playback, a fun ringtone maker and a good calendar application.
The K800i is styled in understated slate grey tones rather than pink, blue, green or orange. Bright colours can be appealing, of course, but for those who don't wear their outgoing personalities on their sleeves, the muted tones of the K800i are more appropriate -- especially as they hide a bevy of great features.
The neat and self-effacing colouring is mirrored in small overall size and weight. At 105 by 47 by 22 mm and 115g, Sony Ericsson has done a great job in keeping this handset fit for smaller pockets.
Like other handsets from Sony Ericsson, the K800i relies on a mini joystick for navigation. When we reviewed its predecessor, the K750i, we didn't think its joystick was particularly well designed. Things have changed though, and this time around the joystick is responsive and easy to use. The four points control music playback and have other functions within applications. They can be configured to application shortcuts, while a press takes you to the main menu.
The joystick is surrounded by six keys -- two softmenu keys, delete, back, two absolutely tiny keys that take you to the Web browser, and the 'activity menu' which is yet another set of shortcuts.
There are actually two cameras in this handset. The front one is for video calling and its lens is embedded in the speaker grille. It is so tiny that if you aren't looking carefully you'll miss it. It did well for us during experimental video calls, though.
The main attraction is the 3.2-megapixel camera and, as you'd expect from such a highly specified piece of technology, it has a lens cover. This is small but substantial, and when you glide it free of the lens, the 240x320-pixel front screen turns into your viewfinder.
Every good camera phone needs a side button for control and the one here is on the bottom-right edge, so you can hold the K800i sideways like a camera when shooting. The other buttons on this side are a two-piece volume and camera zoom controller.
On the left edge is a play/stop button for music control. When you are holding the K800i sideways to take photos, your left thumb may rest on this button, but in a clever bit of attention to detail Sony Ericsson has recessed this slightly so you don't accidentally press it.
Below that is a covered slot for Memory Stick Micro memory cards. This replaces the Memory Stick Pro Duo slot on previous Sony Ericsson phones, enabling you to downgrade (in size terms) to the new 15 by 12.5 by 1.2mm card format. Although they save a little space, these very small cards can be awkward to handle, and we preferred the older format.
Now for the camera -- the 3.2 megapixels are the headline but they are by no means all that make this camera special. The flash, for example, is a proper one like that found in 'real' cameras and low light and indoor photographs are of a higher quality than you'd usually get from a phone camera.
There is a massive 16x digital zoom, but you should be wary of digital zooms -- the closer you get to the action, the more fuzzy and blurred images become. A more useful feature is the autofocus, which makes shots appear much sharper.
Another handy setting is BestPic. This lets you take nine photos in quick succession when you press the shutter button. You can then browse the lot and choose the one you want to keep, which could be handy for situations like group shots where the subject is quite fluid.
Then there is the easy-to-use photo blog -- you just choose to 'blog this' when you've taken a shot you like. The first time you do this you are automatically set up with a Web site and your own login, which you receive as an SMS. Send this to others and they can access your blog, as can you thanks to the built in Web browser.
Camera aside there is an organiser section, complete with calendar, tasks manager, notes taker, alarms and a calculator, and you get the PC Suite software for managing synchronising information, like your diary with a PC.
Entertainment is very important for this handset. To that end there is an FM radio, and if you don't like the provided ringtones you can create your own using MusicDJ. You also get three games: Mini Golf Castles, which switches the screen format into landscape and has a Bluetooth multiplayer option; Foto Quest Fishing, which sees you trying to snap at underwater life; and a tennis game which shows off the fast processor and 3G graphics capability of the handset particularly well.
Of course, the K800i boasts music playback of good quality. But sadly you have to use the provided earbud headphones, which share a proprietary connector to the handset with the mains power adaptor and PC connection cable.
We had no problems with voice and video calls. We could hear and see the caller and they could hear and see us, and the speakerphone was loud enough for most calls.
Music playback was good in the volume department and pretty good in the quality department too -- certainly good enough for everyday commuting.
Camera image quality was impressive. There is no substitute for solid autofocus. In bright sunlight colours were rather washed out, but indoor pictures were surprisingly sharp even without using the flash.
Battery life was good enough to get us through several days at a time on standby, though if you are a heavy video caller, user of the camera flash, Bluetooth user or music fan you may find more regular charging is required.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield