MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
Sony Ericsson K550i
- 2 megapixel Cyber-shot camera with auto focus and flash, M2 storage, TrackID service, A2DP Bluetooth profile, Price
- Small keypad and controls, Battery cover annoyingly needs clips to lock into place, Proprietary headphones and AC charger
The K550i isn't without its faults, but for this price you certainly get good value for money.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Sony Ericsson is launching a multitude of models over the next six months, and the K550i is their latest low-mid range handset. While it offers a 2 megapixel Cyber-shot camera with auto focus and flash, a Memory Stick Micro (M2) for extra storage and push email, the K550i is unfortunately let down by a frustratingly small keypad and controls.
The K550i is a standard GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) handset and in-call quality is above average. In particular, we found volume to be loud enough at its highest setting, even when taking in a noisy or crowded area. The hands-free speakerphone also worked well, and the K550i also allows you to record telephone conversations for playback later. These recording are automatically stored under music in the file manager menu, and are conveniently labelled with the telephone number of the call made.
The 2 megapixel, auto focus camera is Cyber-shot branded and its lens is mounted behind a metal cover. Conveniently, it's rigid enough not to slide open accidentally in your pocket and overall it feels strong and sturdy. A self-portrait mirror is hidden beneath the lens cover, while above the lens are two flash LED's for night time photography. Like most mobile phone cameras, the K550i is best suited to an occasional snapshot rather than everyday use. The camera includes a number of settings with 2.25x digital zoom, panorama, frames and burst shooting modes, a 10 second self-timer, colour effects including negative, sepia and black and white and white balance settings with modes for auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent and incandescent. The camera doubles as a video recorder with a microphone, but its performance is quite poor thanks to excessive image noise and poor clarity.
Despite not being a Walkman branded phone, the K550i has both a music player and the TrackID service. The latter allows you to record a few seconds of any song you wish, through the external microphone. The recording is then sent to a music database and if the song is recognised, the title, album and artist name are sent back to you. It then allows you to download the full track if it is available on Sony Ericsson's PlayNow service. The K550i also features A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) which enables you wirelessly stream your music to a pair of compatible Bluetooth headphones, or other such wireless accessories. The basic music player can play MP3 and AAC files, and it has shuffle and loop play modes, four preset equalisers (normal, bass, voice, treble boost) as well as a five band customisable equaliser and a stereo widening sound setting. Unfortunately, the MP3 capabilities are let down by the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The K550i includes 75MB of internal memory but it supports Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards for extra storage. Unfortunately, Sony Ericsson doesn't include in the sales package so you'll have to factor this cost into your purchasing decision. The M2 card slides into the left side of the handset, but you have to remove the battery cover to access it.
Other features include Bluetooth and infrared connectivity, a host of PIM functions (alarms, calendar, tasks, notes, calculator, timer, stopwatch) and synchronisation with a PC. The K550i also has standard SMS, MMS and push email messaging with T8 predictive text input, and should keep you entertained with games, video, photo and music DJ applications, as well as a sound recorder.
The K550i is a standard candy bar design, and sits nicely in your palm. It measures 102mm x 46mm x 14 mm and weighs 95g. Its appeal is definitely in a sophistication sense; the gloss black finish combined with chrome and silver edging gives this handset a really classy look and feel. The rear battery cover is a bit of a pain though; instead of just sliding off, it uses two small plastic locks on the right side of the phone, and takes a bit of effort to clip back into place when removed.
The biggest drawback of this handset is the keypad and controls. In opting for a design that obviously places style over function, the K550i keys are small, and hard to press. We found it troublesome and slow to type an SMS message and navigating using the five-way pad was also a hit and miss affair. A far more pleasing aspect of the K550i's design is the display, capable of 262k colour at a resolution of 176 x 220 pixels. It has a good viewing angle, is bright and clear and performs well in sunlight.
Battery life is average according to Sony Ericsson figures of up to seven hours talk time and 14 days standby time. We found ourselves charging the handset every two or three days, depending on usage. The K550i can be charged via the AC adaptor, or the proprietary USB cable, both included in the sales package.
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