Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sony Ericsson K790a Review

September 22, 2006 by · 8 Comments 

The introduction of the Sony Ericsson k790a to the US market takes a good step forward with a legitimate 3.2megapixel Cyber-shot digital camera integrated into a cell phone. With a few noted exceptions, the k790a is full-featured and well-designed.

Package configuration: The k790a comes with only a 64mb Memory Stick Micro2 card in contrast to the w810i’s 512mb. Plan on spending some money for an upgraded card, especially with the 3.2mp camera and mp3 capabilities. Also included, a cheap fake leather lanyard, charger, USB cable, headphones, the usual manuals and CD software bundle.

The big splash this phone generates is the 3.2megapixel CyberShot digital camera. The camera has a number of interesting features, including BestPic, which takes a series of nine photos in instantaneous sequence, then allows you to select the best one and discard the rest. There is also a panorama mode, which splices together three images taken in sequence. The ghost image of the previous picture is superimposed on the subsequent shot to help aligning the panorama. Note that you’re best off very carefully aligning this ghost image with the next shot, because the auto-image splicing doesn’t work wonders. There are a number of other shooting modes, including black and white, as well as sepia tone. Some of the most commonly adjusted features are menu-driven, which can be an annoyance. For most commands, the navigation and selection can take several seconds. And unlike some cameras, the settings selected remain active until you change them back, even if you leave the camera mode and return. So no return to ‘default’ shooting settings per se. The camera’s auto focus works well in low light, but doesn’t work instantaneously, and the small-ish screen can make it difficult to tell if the camera got it right. When viewing images the phone has a one second or so lag where it interlaces the image being displayed, which means the image will be fuzzy at first until rendered fully on the display, like having a slow internet connection and downloading large images. But for a 3.2 mp camera, I’m not really surprised. You can print images directly to a printer with the supplied USB cable.

Movie mode has similar image adjustment features as the camera, including shooting in black and white, sepia tone, negative, solarize, as well as other white balance adjustment. The camera also has a Night Mode and three focus modes, including Auto, Macro, and Infinite. I didn’t find the Night Mode to produce significantly different results from standard mode, so no voyeur capabilities with this camera. The camera also has an image stabilization feature which helps reduce image jitter when using such a small device. The main downside is the video quality – output size is 176X144 pixels on the high quality setting.

The supplied software takes some time to install, but works reliably and allows easy USB or Infrared port phone syncing with Outlook or other organizing software. The phone can be charged through the USB port. The sync option has three configurations: 1. update phone with computer’s lists 2. update computer with phone’s lists 3. sync both. Note that the sync option will create duplicate entries in your lists if the contact already exists, and you modify their filing information. The software doesn’t notify you of the pending duplicate, but simply adds it. So over time your contacts could get a bit unorganized with unwanted copies.

I’ll reiterate prior comments about the contact list limitations. You cannot store more than one instances of one kind of contact type within an address book. As Carlos Eduardo said in the w810i review: “For example, I know people that have one work cell phone and one home cell phone, and SE’s phonebooks will not let you have two mobile phones assigned to one contact… you can either rename one as ‘other’ or you’ll have to create a new contact for it.” The k790a is the same. The phone does allow you to back up contacts to the Memory Stick as well as keeping them in the phone memory.

The handset reception has been very good, but not so exceptional that it warrants special note. I haven’t had any dropped calls or other bugginess. Battery life is great. The animated graphics and applications interface are sharp.

The mp3 player and the FM radio are acceptable for this type of device. It’s no iPod in terms of usability, but the radio functions well. The radio is easy to program, and has good reception with the headset attached as an antenna. The radio functions will not work without headphones since the phone has no internal FM antenna. You can, however, use the radio with speakerphone. Aside from the annoying headphone cord antenna dangling in that case the sound quality is very good. Sound volume is good, though adjustment is incremental and a little slow as a result. The radio and mp3 player drop out momentarily if using the camera, when the shutter is depressed.

One major complaint is the fit and feel of the unit. The buttons aren’t unusually small, but they are flat and close together which makes them difficult to push. The numerical keypad feels extremely mushy, which exacerbates the challenge of pressing the right button when text messaging because the key sinks in a good way before functioning. The navigation buttons feel sturdier, and the joystick controller is easy to use. The camera slide lens cover is external to the body of the phone, which makes it susceptible to damage or possibly even being ripped off if it gets caught on something. The battery cover attaches securely to the phone, but taking it off makes you think you’re either doing it wrong, or that you’re going to break something in the process.

The k790a is a great all-in-one phone, and would recommend it to anyone that didn’t have issues with small buttons, or didn’t type much with their phone. I wonder why the stock memory card is 64mb, which is largely useless with today’s cameras and mp3 devices, especially with a combined device. Since the W810i comes with a 512mb card, I was surprised this (more expensive) phone was not similarly equipped.

Quirks: If the clock screen saver’s time flips to the next minute while browsing through the menus, the screen sometimes goes blank and reverts to the screen saver. Pressing any button will re-activate the screen and return you to where you were, but it’s odd to have the screen suddenly blank out.
If you are a left-handed phone user, you’ll find the camera shutter button is where your fingers go when you hold the phone, so you’ll occasionally hit the button inadvertently. The shutter button has no functionality during calls though so it isn’t a major concern.

Click below for sample pictures taken with the K790a:
Picture 1
Picture 2
Picture 3

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