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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sony Ericsson K660i

Sony Ericsson is keen to make its K660i stand out from its other mid-range handsets by emphasising its web-friendly set-up. The K660i isn't all about web browsing though; as is becoming standard for Sony Ericssons, you get a decent spread of functionality and applications to play with.

Although not Walkman-branded, the K660i has a re-skinned Walkman-style built in music player inside, with an FM radio too. A 2-megapixel camera is included on the back panel, while the 3G capability means you get a secondary video calling camera perched above the display on the front.

With the latest high-speed HSDPA 3G connectivity, browsing the internet or downloading content over the air is a short and sweet business - full music tracks or videos from a mobile operator's portal take just a few seconds to purchase and download (or stream) to your phone.

Web optimised controls
In truth, though, although Sony Ericsson puts the spotlight on the K660i's web orientated features, this model doesn't move the mobile surfing abilities of the Sony Ericsson range anywhere radically new, despite introducing some novel illuminated shortcut keys on the numberpad.

A similar well-equipped browser as the one employed on the W890i and other recent mid-tier Sony Ericssons is included on the K660i. You can view pages sideways, in full-screen landscape mode - the default option - with a user friendly launch page featuring Google search, while Google Maps and RSS feed support enhancing its mobile broadband-speed web abilities. A decent spread of options, but nothing new for Sony Ericsson.

Its online attributes are given a more prominent position in this handset's feature roster, however, thanks to those unique backlit browser buttons on the numberpad. They come into play when the browser is fired up, appearing in landscape orientation above the 3, 6, 9 and # keys, indicating shortcuts for address entry, bookmarks, homepage and for zoom-and-pan options.

These illuminated button shortcuts take their design cue from Sony Ericsson's Cyber-shot line, where they first appeared for highlighting camera controls. While these buttons on the K660i certainly steer the user more easily through the browser functionality, using keys for browser shortcuts is familiar stuff for Sony Ericsson owners who've read their user manuals properly - only the overt lighting up of keys as a guide is a first.

Design and handling
The design of the Sony Ericsson K660i gives it a certain stand-out quality. It's a regular candy-bar shaped phone, with a fairly average 104 x 47 x 15mm build, but it comes in striking colour combinations. The more sober version is black with a 'wine' coloured band across its control key-studded midriff, while another option is white with lime trimming across the front and sides. A touch of chrome edging sets the black version off nicely. The glossy plastic surface though is a real finger-print and grease magnet.

The numberpad is akin to the K810i's, with round keys well spaced and easily pressable. The control panel is similar to the recent W890i in basic layout, with conventional call and end keys on either side of the phone, and a main navigation D-pad surrounded by two softkeys, a clear key and a typical Sony Ericsson Activity Menu fast access button for useful functions and apps.

The D-pad is labelled up for quick key access to the web browser, although you can also program in other function shortcuts. Again, the buttons are nicely sized and responsive, giving standard menu navigation a smooth flow.

The browser operation is well implemented too, and it is novel getting the launch page automatically up in landscape mode. The 2-inch QVGA 262k-colour display does a decent job presenting pages, and as well as pan and zoom controls - so you can see a thumbnail of the whole webpage and focus in on the part you want to see - there is a regular zoom option to boost the size of any particularly small text or enlarge pics.

The launch page offers a Google search option, address bar input, plus option for RSS web feeds, plus a history list and links for Sony Ericsson download site. The illuminated web address input fast key brings up an address bar in portrait mode, which may seem odd until you realise it's designed to simplify using the text keys.

As we said earlier, the browser does nothing radically new but carries out the job pretty well, offering options for full webpages or mobile optimised Smart-Fit versions. HSDPA makes it suitably snappy too.

Music player
You get a fine music player on this phone, capable of a performance on a par with its Walkman phone stablemates. The supplied earphones provide a reasonable performance, but switch in some Walkman earphones or a higher quality headset via an adapter lead, and you get a noticeable improvement and a better balanced sound. Unlike Walkman earphones, there's no adapter included in the box, which is shame. You can though add Bluetooth stereo headsets.

The player interface on here is similar to the Walkman (apart from the colours used), with tunes organised in familiar categories - artists, albums, tracks, playlists, audio books and podcasts. An FM radio is also part of the spec, and Sony Ericsson's clever TrackID application is included too, helping you identify tracks you hear around you or on the radio by recording short samples and interrogating a database automatically to give you the answer.

Supplied Media Manager software and a USB cable help you manage tracks and sync with a PC, although drag and drop copying in mass storage mode is another option.
A 256MB Memory Stick Micro memory card is packaged with the phone, boosting the modest 32MB internal storage.

Camera quality
There's a dedicated camera button on the side for switching on the camera and capturing images in landscape mode. The 2-megapixel shooter here is one of Sony Ericsson's more average efforts, with no flash or autofocus system to boost performance. Pictures are acceptable though the detail is limited. Colour rendition is good on well-lit subjects but suffers in dark environments, where images are noisy and grainy. The camera system can struggle too in sharply differentiating subtle colour tone changes. But as a cameraphone snapper for basic shooting, it's acceptable if lighting is OK.

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