Noah's Sony Ericsson K750i review

Published: April 25, 2006

Sony Ericsson's K750i is a powerhouse of a mobile phone.  Its executive styling belies the vast array of multimedia features beneath an all-business black and silver exterior. 

K750i front with headphonesPacking a best-in-class 2 megapixel camera, full-featured digital music player, and 262,000 color screen with 3D graphics support into a tri-band GSM handset, the K750i is boardroom friendly but ready for some serious fun.


Design

The K750i is a relatively compact candybar-style handset featuring a black exterior set off by silver trim around the edges.  At 1.8" w x 3.9" h x 0.8" d and 3.5 oz in weight, it's not the sveltest phone out there, but still falls within the realm of easily pocketable devices.  This phone has a bit of heft to it, which some may find surprising given the variety of flyweight mobiles available right now.  I rather like the heft, as it gives me the feeling I'm holding a serious, solid device.  As a friend of mine put it when I handed him the 750, "There's some stuff in there ... you can feel it."

The front of the phone is divided almost equally between a gorgeous 262K TFT LCD screen on the top and a keypad on the lower half that's topped by a five-way joystick and five function buttons.  Buttons are done up in black with grey labeling and the joystick is silver.  The keypad is slightly cramped, with the "2" button in particular a bit difficult to use given that its top edge is cut into by the curved housing of the joystick.  I have fairly large hands, and while I got used to the K750i's keypad in short time, I must say it's not my favorite set of buttons I've ever mashed.

K750i back viewFlip the K750i over and suddenly you're holding a digital camera and not a phone.  Perhaps the coolest thing about the phone, physically speaking, the rear panel looks like a horizontally aligned, high-tech camera complete with sliding lens cover that reads "2.0 Megapixels Auto Focus," an LED photo light, and SE logo.  A dedicated camera button is located along the right edge of the phone (top edge when holding the phone as a camera), as is a rocker switch that serves as both volume and camera zoom control depending on what mode the handset is in. 

One minor complaint I have with the rear panel design is that the sliding lens cover bulges out to the point that the phone is noticeably not flat when laid flat on its back.  In fact, set on a desk face-up, the device is prone to spinning around at the slightest knock.  You will notice that it balances on the raised, mid-mounted lens cover and not flush against the table.

The phone's left edge has a single button for music Play/Pause at the top, and a rubber-capped Memory Stick Duo slot on the bottom.  A power button and IR port are found on the top edge of the phone, and the bottom edge is taken up by SE's multi-connector port.


Camera

The 2.0 Megapixel camera on the K750i is the best camera I've ever used on a phone, and one of the best available today.  Head to head shootouts with Nokia's N90 set featuring its 2MP Carl Zeiss optics regularly give the K750i a slight edge in picture quality, and after a few snaps it was clear to me why.  Taken in good lighting conditions, highest-quality photos from this handset are sharp, detailed, and color accurate.  The 4.0x digital zoom works quite well given the limitations of digital zoom (no optical zoom is available), and a plethora of options including white balance adjustment, self-timer, auto focus and macro mode, night mode and picture quality settings are accessible with a few flicks of the joystick.

Bear in mind that this is a mobile phone and not a dedicated digital camera, so serious shutterbugs won't find the K750i a true replacement for their Canons and Leicas.  Particularly in low light, the phone's pictures suffer from graininess and color degradation - the integrated photo light helps some with this, but it's not really a true flash and only goes so far.  I, however, have never carried a digital camera around with me and only started snapping pictures regularly when I got my first decent cell phone cam (a VGA-quality Motorola V551).  As such, I'm pretty floored by the pictures that the 750 takes.  Transferred to a computer via USB or Bluetooth and viewed on a monitor at full 2MP resolution (1,632 x1,224 pixels), pictures taken with this device say "camera" and not "cell phone."

A video mode is also available.  Videos are saved in the 3GP format, and while digital zoom and multiple shooting modes are similar in function to the still camera, video quality is jittery and blocky - not at all on par with the stellar performance of the camera.  Basic photo and video applications are included, and they're fun to fiddle with if not all that useful.


Features

Beyond its show-stopper of a camera, the K750i packs a serious list of features that appeal to both the business and pleasure desires of the high-end mobile user.  The K750i is a tri-band GMS phone, with 900/1800/1900 bands and high-speed GPRS functionality.  While the phone is marketed as a world phone, the lack of an 850 MHz band may be a drawback for some potential buyers. 

The other featured goodie here is the music player application.  The K750i supports mp3 and AAC audio files, and the included 64MB Memory Stick Duo card can be upgraded to 2GB, turning the phone into a very capable music player and photo vault.  The music player features a graphic equalizer with preset and manual modes, shuffle and loop playback modes, and an FM radio with 20 presets.  While the music player controls aren't quite on par with standalone mp3 players or SE's line of Walkman phones, they're still easy to use and quite functional.  The included stereo headset plugs into the bottom-mounted connectivity port and includes an inline microphone for use as a hands-free headset for calls.  An optional 3.5mm adapter is available if you'd rather use your own headphones.

K750i full view

Sony Ericsson's user interface is excellent, and access to the phone's plentiful connectivity options, applications, customization settings, and 510-entry phone book with picture and ringtone user ID is intuitive.  All of the features one expects from a high-end handset are here: Datebook with to-do list and alarm reminders, MIDI and mp3/AAC ringtone support, vibrate mode, voice dialing and memo support, and speakerphone.  Contact and datebook syncing is supported via USB (a data cable is included) and Bluetooth, and works with both Windows and Mac-based computers.  The phone even features a Remote Control mode that lets you take command of your computer's cursor via Bluetooth: Geeks rejoice!

The file manager application provides on-phone management of audio, video, photo, game and other files, including Bluetooth/USB transfer and installation/deletion of applications.  The included software CD is PC-only and supports file transfer and management when your phone and computer are connected (or if you pop the Memory Stick out of the phone and mount it on your PC's desktop).  Mac users can browse the phone from their computers without any software, and third-party applications that support advanced file transfer and management are available.

Three games come preinstalled on the K750i, and many, many more are available for WAP or Web-based download.  The included Super Real Tennis game absolutely blew me away.  Its first person 3D graphics and game play are quite impressive and despite the physical confines of playing a video game on a phone (and how hard the game is!), I was addicted to this one from the first forehand winner I stroked.


Screen

The 175x220, 262,000 color display on the K750i is absolutely excellent.  At nearly 2" diagonal, the TFT screen is sharp, detailed, and a worthy compliment to the handset's stellar camera.  As with almost all high-res phones, the Sony's screen is somewhat difficult to read in direct sunlight and prone to fingerprints and smudges, but it's still a joy to use.  The animated menus built in to the phone's UI are speedy and render well.


Audio

Call quality on the K750i is quite good.  The phone's speakerphone is housed beneath the rear panel camera assembly, rendering it basically invisible, but callers' voices still came through acceptably loud and clear.  The speaker also works surprisingly well as a makeshift way to share your music with others.  It won't take the place of a stereo system by a long shot, but it works fine when you need a quick music fix.

The included stereo headset functions well for calls and music playback.  As mentioned above, a 3.5mm adapter is available for using the phone with any standard stereo headphones of your choice.  Sony Ericsson should have built the phone with an integrated 3.5mm (or 2.5mm, anyway) audio jack, instead.  While the included headset is fine, switching to a quality pair of stereo phones or connecting powered speakers really makes the K750i a serious music device; audio playback from high-quality music files approaches iPod quality.  A stock K750i upgraded with the 3.5mm adapter and a larger Memory Stick means you can leave your mp3 player at home on most days.

K750i with Bluetooth headsetSE seems to have a thing for proprietary connectors on their phones, and I must say it's rather annoying.  The sole multi-connector port on the K750i can only be used for one thing at a time, and as its the place where both the headset and charger plug in, this means that the phone can't be used with headphones while charging.  While not a deal-breaker, this does bring up some potentially annoying situations, say wanting to listen to music through headphones (or a car stereo adapter) when the battery is running low ? using a headset and charging the phone shouldn't be mutually exclusive. 

Support for Bluetooth headsets is included, and works very well with both Sony and third-party devices. 


Messaging

The K750i supports both SMS and MMS messaging protocols.  MMS messages allow for audio, pictures, and videos to be included with text in your message, provided that both the sender and receiver's cellular service supports MMS.  Full quality photos taken with the 2MP camera may prove too big to send via MMS, but the files can be compressed to sizes suitable for this use.  The phone features T9 predictive text input with a user-definable dictionary.


Internet

Support for GPRS data transfer, mobile Web browsing and POP/IMAP email makes the K750i a capable Internet device.  While not a full-on smartphone, design features such as email fields in phonebook entries lend a robustness to this phone's data features.  The phone may also be used as a cellular modem with compatible computers.


Connectivity

With built-in Bluetooth 1.1, USB, IR, and a removable Memory Stick Duo card,  the K750i has the flexibility to sync with your PC/Mac, ISP email, corporate email servers, and transfer files to other Bluetooth-equipped devices.  The phone does not support Wi-Fi or GPS.

K750i view


Conclusion

Sony Ericsson's K750i is an amazing phone, period.  The call functionality is solid, the user interface is exemplary, and all of the connectivity you'd expect from a high-end non-smartphone is here.  Add to that the flexibility of a full-featured music player supported by removable memory and you've got a very cool multimedia device disguised as a cell phone.

And then there's the camera.  To say it again, the K750i's 2 megapixel camera is simply stunning. 

While certain design features such as the bulging rear panel and somewhat cramped keypad could have been improved upon, the K750i is comfortable and intuitive to use - particularly so given all that it can do.  It should be noted that SE's w800i Walkman phone shares many of the K750i's features, but features an upgraded music player and a slightly different housing in terms of both physical design and color scheme/branding.  The K750 is boardroom sleek (black and silver) whereas the w800i is fun and flashy (white and orange).

The K750i is not formally available in the United States, but it is widely available as an unlocked import both online and in independent cellular stores.  If you're in the market for a powerhouse phone with a killer camera, I highly recommend checking this baby out.

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