Sony Ericsson has recently modified its model line up of Cybershot camera phones to begin with a “C” prefix whereas before the letter “K” was used. The “K” series of phones now seems to be focused to a younger audience at the low-end of the pricing spectrum based on the specifications of the new K660i.
The Sony Ericsson K660i is a nice candy-bar form factor handset that has a basic feature set including a camera and media playback capabilities with the addition of HSDPA support for high speed access. It is indeed a curious combination as Sony Ericsson is pitching high speed internet access to a younger group which may not have the need or can afford to use it. However, let’s not get bogged down in marketing rhetoric and dive into the nitty-gritty of the K660i.
As one would expect from a budget oriented handset, there are no outstanding features in the Sony Ericsson K660i. However, you will find all the standard features including full multi-media playback using a modified version of the Walkman media player and a decent two megapixel camera. There is also a FM radio with RDS functionality built into the unit. Connectivity options include USB 2.0 and Bluetooth 2.0.
Sony Ericsson have not strayed anywhere in terms of modifications to its operating system and owners of previous Sony Ericsson phones will feel right at home in terms of the usability and standard features of the Sony Ericsson K660i. The operating system is very polished allowing for multi-tasking, meaning that it is possible to have tunes playing on the music player while using Java applications or surfing the web. The handset’s media player is able to play CD tracks ripped and transferred in compressed formats from a computer via USB using the Sony Ericsson’s PC Suite software. A modified version of Sony Ericsson’s Walkman media player is included and is able to play a number of file formats to including MP3, AAC and MPEG4 formats. The Sony Ericsson K660i features a reasonable loudspeaker and the sound quality on it is good. There is also a pair of wired stereo headphones included in the package and these are of reasonable quality allowing the user to listen to music through the proprietary USB port.
The 2.0 inch, 240 x 320 pixel, 265k colour main display is most prominent on the front of the phone and although it is good, it’s small considering the size of the phone. That said, it is adequately bright and clear and manages to do an excellent job of displaying images, photos and text even in direct sunlight. What is a curious addition to this budget phone is the 3G internet support. It is a rare sight to see HSDPA support in a low end phone but the K660i will let you surf the net at speeds of up to 3.6 Mbps on a shoe string budget.
The K660i gets a low score as there are no outstanding features in this handset. Except for the HSDPA functionally, all the other features are standard and mediocre.
The Sony Ericsson K660i is available in two distinct colour schemes - Wine on Black and Lime on white. Both colour schemes do look classy especially for a budget oriented phone. The handset is finished in a glossy exterior which looks good but will be prone to scratches and smudge marks. The handset measures in at just 104 x 47 x 15 millimetres and weighs 95 grams. Nothing particularly thrilling here - it is a medium sized handset. The antenna is internal; there are no protrusions sticking out from the handset.
As is expected from a standard form factor, the most prominent component of the front face is the medium sized 2.0 inch, 262,144 colour, 240 x 320 pixel LCD screen. Above it is the phone speaker and secondary VGA camera, while situated below the screen is the typical directional pad and keypad. The four direction arrow pad is surrounded with six other keys which allow dialling and hanging-up, cancelling and provided access to shortcuts along with two soft keys for easy operation of the menu system. On the left hand side is the expandable Memory Stick Micro (M2) card slot. The right side features buttons for volume control as well as quick access to the camera. The top section of the phone has the power button, while on the bottom there is a proprietary USB connector for recharging and connecting the K660i to a PC as well as doubling up as head phone jack. Finally on the back section there is the camera lens and a mirror for self portraits. The whole rear cover can be removed to reveal the battery, and underneath this is the SIM card slot.
The physical aspects of the handset are for the most part positive however the persistence to use a proprietary USB/head phone connector port does detract from the device’s user friendliness.
User interface & display
The display used in the Sony Ericsson K660i is a 2.0 inch TFT LCD capable of displaying 262,144 colours and has a resolution of 240x320 pixels. The brightness of the screen can be adjusted over six increments but the backlight timeout cannot be varied. With the brightness set to maximum, the screen becomes legible in outdoor light. Everything is clear and vivid. Colour replication seems good and the high resolution accounts for the crisp lines around objects and text. However, the screen could be a tad bigger as there is plenty more real estate on the front panel. A smaller cheaper screen is used to keep the price lower.
The candy-bar phone factor is now well established and in terms of the user interface, there is nothing new that has been done with the K660i. It is possible to make use of most of the functions almost immediately. While the K660i has only a basic feature set, Sony Ericsson have positioned menu options, application and settings in a simple and logical manner which makes it a breeze to find anything even when looking for it for the first time. The operating system’s user interface is very simple and a joy to use. It is possible to theme the interface and the review handset from 3 included 6 good quality themes with the possibility to download and install further themes.
Customization of the user interface is very simplistic and not very flexible which keeps in line with its minimalistic and budget oriented design approach. It is only possible to adjust the clock size, start up screen and screen saver. Other customizations must come though the preselected theme.
The main menu is accessible through the middle button of the directional pad and is displayed as a grid of 12 icons. The menu options are Planet 3, 3 Launcher, Entertainment, Camera, Messaging, Media, TrackID, Contacts, Quicklinks, Calls, Organiser and Settings. Numbered shortcuts are supported in the Sony Ericsson K660i.
In general, the user interface is neat and tidy, due to it simplicity and lack of features. The handset will appeal to more casual users which are not interested in lots of customization options and want to just want to use the phone out of the box. With this in mind, out of the box, the K660i is very capable of performing the basic functions required of it.
Making and receiving calls
Call quality on the Sony Ericsson K660i is satisfactory. It is possible to use the handset in conventional mode, as a speakerphone, plug in a wired headset or connect a Bluetooth headset. The loudspeaker is reasonable but could be a bit louder for speakerphone voice calls. Talking through the K660i’s microphone was generally problem-free and worked well. Several times there was crackly call quality due to usage in the black spot where this reviewer lives which resulted in only two bars for reception. Reception was found to be sub par compared with other handsets available.
The included stereo handsfree can also be used for calls, and it provides slightly clearer audio quality than the K660i’s own speaker due to the speaker being close to the ear. They are however, fairly basic so don’t expect them to have a good quality for music playback. A Bluetooth headset was tested with the Sony Ericsson K660i and worked without any dramas.
The phone book system supports a large amount of different fields within each entry, and these include standard things from name and address to particulars like birthday and office addresses. A total of 1000 contacts can be stored in the phones memory. Contacts can be sent to other phones via MMS, Bluetooth or e-mail and can also synchronised with Microsoft Outlook via Sony Ericsson’s PC Suite software.
There is a selection of ringtones available and these are of reasonable quality but nothing to get excited about. There are seven profiles available – Normal, Meeting, In car, Outdoors, Handsfree, Home and Office which will cover most situations. It is possible to edit each of these profiles and setting options include Ring Volume, Silent Mode, Increasing Ring, Vibrating Alert, Key Sound, Divert Calls, Accept Calls, Answering Mode, Profile Name and Accessories attached. Profile settings are comprehensive but it is not possible to add or delete any of the profiles.
Typing and sending messages is fairly standard affair on the K660i. T9 predictive text support is available and will attempt to complete words as they are typed. Suggested words are displayed as you type so it is possible to select a word quickly using the arrow pad. Words that are not present in the dictionary can be added so that they are predicted in future. The Sony Ericsson K660i is responsive in terms of text messaging and won’t slow down if large amounts of words are present in a message.
There is full support for SMS, MMS and email. Long SMS can be composed so messages aren’t limited to just 160 characters. MMS support works with up to 300 kilobytes per message and can have pictures, sounds and videos attached. It is possible to create slides and add even more files this way. The messaging program also sports an incorporated email client which is able to handle POP3 and IMAP4 protocols. The email client allows notification and downloading of incoming emails on multiple accounts. There is also an RSS reader provided so that you can get headlines and articles on the run. It is a simple matter of entering a web address and the K660i will check for updates according to your settings.
Messaging on the K660i is pleasantly simple. It is easy to set up email accounts and manage your email boxes. While there are no frills, the set up is intuitive. The keypad is also good as the each of the buttons sticks out quite a lot so that text input is tactile.
The Sony Ericsson K660i includes a good array of connectivity options for a budget oriented handset. While the ancient infra-red connection is not there, what makes the K660i stand out of the crowd is that it provides 3G internet support. Included in the K660i is a quad-band GSM radio, able to connect through the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands, as well as the UMTS 2100 MHz. GPRS, EDGE and HSCSD are supported but Sony Ericsson has included HSDPA allowing broadband access up to 3.6 Mbps. In terms of cellular connectivity, the Sony Ericsson K660i supports a comprehensive frequency band, meaning that there shouldn’t be a problem for using this handset anywhere around the world.
Over shorter ranges, USB 2.0, or Bluetooth 2.0 are available. The K660i uses a proprietary USB connector socket to connect to a PC, recharge the phone, synchronise core applications and transfer data between the K660i and a PC. Sony Ericsson has made an effort at consolidating all connectors into one socket however proprietary plugs are an inconvenience should you forget or loose the cable. The USB 2.0 data transfer between the K660i and the PC is fast. Bluetooth can be used for data transfer, wireless headsets and wireless headphones can be attached for stereo music playback.
The Bluetooth connectivity was tested to make phone calls with a Nokia wireless headset and with the stereo headphones provided. The transfer of data between the phone and a computer was also tested and no problems were encountered with either of these features. The Bluetooth support seems to be reliable and can also be used to send pictures or documents to Bluetooth enabled printers.
While the K660i looses points for the proprietary USB plug, it does shine in the usability department as the menu settings are logically thought out and that makes connecting the phone to other devices very easy.
A re-skinned version of the Walkman player is the main application used for playback of photos, video and audio files on the Sony Ericsson K660i. The media player catalogues music and videos stored on the internal and external memory so that it is possible to find a song by artist or album name. The software does take a while to get used to but it is well polished and functions well.
There is a FM radio chip onboard the K660i and a radio tuner application has been also included to manage stations. Just like with all handsets, it is necessary to plug in the wired headphones so that the phone can use the leads as an antenna. In addition to this, Sony Ericsson has included an application which can detect the artist and song name based on the sound coming from the radio. The internet connection is required for the handset to be able to download the song/artist information.
The PhotoDJ application allows simple touch up and editing of photos. It is possible to mix the video clips for those memorable moments using VideoDJ while MusicDJ offers you the chance to compose your own ringtone or tune. These are typical applications found on Sony Ericsson phones which are very simple and polished.
A file manager provides an interface to the K660i file system, including the memory card (if inserted). Bluetooth A2DP is included for stereo communication with compatible devices.
As the results show, JBenchmark performance is reasonable but it won’t win you any races, but you expected that from a budget handset, right?
Offered on the K660i is a comprehensive suite of PIM and productivity applications. The Alarm Clock, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Timer and Calculator are all included and surprisingly are all located logically in the menu system in one menu called “Organiser”. The Calendar is simplistic and is mainly used to manage appointments. There are five alarms that can be set and detailed settings for the alarm can be set such as repeatability and the tone.
The other PIM application such as Notes are capable of storing large notes and the Task List can have title, due time/date and toggle to trigger a reminder. A voice recorder application is included and recordings are limited only to the size of the memory.
Sony Ericsson’s PC Suite software is used with conjunction with the K660i and a compatible PC to transfer files and synchronize the handset. It can sync notes, calendar entries, to-do/task entries and contacts list. It is possible to connect the K660i using USB Mass Storage to access the file system and memory card in Windows Explorer and this makes for quick and easy transfer of data. The PC Suite software is simple yet effective without any fancy frills.
Other applications included are MSN Messenger for instant messaging and Skype which can be used for VoIP phone calls. Both these programs are a welcome addition to expand functionality of the handset but take note that both use the data connection to function properly and this may be a costly option for some users.
The K660i also has a built in modem, which can be used with a PC over Bluetooth or USB cable to provide a PC with internet access. Due to the 3G support the modem will be able to provide the PC with speeds of up to 3.6Mbps. It was found that the Bluetooth connection is slower than connecting the modem to the PC using the USB cable.
Java is also supported on the Sony Ericsson K660i. It is only possible to install applications on the handset buy downloading them from various websites. This is inflexible as users should be able to install applications simply by transferring them to the phone from the PC if they have stored them so. There are no Java applications preloaded on the K660i. The ones that have been installed are locked and need to be purchased to be usable. The following benchmarks were achieved with the K660i using the JBenchmark application suite:
||HQ: 436; LQ: 434
The build quality of the Sony Ericsson K660i is excellent. There are no moving or loose parts, nor did the phone creak or groan when bent or twisted. The battery cover comes off nicely, however feels like it may become loose after a lot of reattachment. The black finishing and the unit’s weight give a good solid feel to the handset. Despite being geared toward the lower end of the marked, the K660i is an attractive looking phone and is encased in a glossy type of plastic which is unfortunately susceptible to smudge marks and scratches.
The only thing that the K660i lacks is a port protector for the connector to keep the contacts as clean as possible. Also the camera could use a cover and curiously around the camera are several holes which I imagine are the outlets for the loudspeaker. The holes are large and may be susceptible to dust and small particles entering inside the chassis. Despite these small qualms, Sony Ericsson has done a good job in designing this handset.
The Sony Ericsson K660i ships with a 950mAh battery and the official claim is that the handset is able to stand-by for 330 hours and provide close to 9 hours of talk time on GSM networks and 4.5 hours of talk time on 3G networks. Just looking at these figures, the battery life is very good but does drop significantly with the use of the MP3 player and wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth. So with heavy phone usage expect to get about several days worth of charge before you make a grab for the charger again. During testing under normal usage, the K660i lasted over a week without getting the charger out. The phone takes several hours to fully recharge but Sony Ericsson has thoughtfully included USB to PC port into the K660i and it is possible to recharge the handset via a PC USB port.
The battery life for the Sony Ericsson K660i is excellent.