Available in white, red or silver, Sony Ericsson's K610i is designed for mass market appeal with its small 102 by 45 by 17 millimetre dimensions and good looks. Tipping the scales at a mere 92 grams, it's possibly the lightest 3G-capable handset we've seen, 6 grams lighter than Samsung's slender Z510 flip phone.
Sony Ericsson has replaced the tiny navigation joystick found on earlier models such as the K750i with a small four-way directional keypad with a selection key in the middle. We're quite fond of this swap as, unlike the joystick, it is next to impossible to accidentally hit the wrong direction. We've also heard from some Sony Ericsson users that the joysticks tended to lose sensitivity over time.
The K610i's numerical keypad is small but comfortable to use, with equally sized and shaped buttons. Its bright screen supports up to 262K colours and acts as a landscape-oriented viewfinder when taking photos. Below the display are six shortcut keys with functions including Internet, call log, menu, back and cancel. On the flanks are launch keys for camera, volume and music.
As a mid-range 3G phone, the K610i isn't exactly brimming with features, although it does have a handful of fun applications and useful tools.
On the imaging and entertainment side, there's a 2-megapixel camera for stills and videos and an MP3 player with a loudspeaker for music. Unlike Sony Ericsson's Walkman-branded phones, no headphones come with the K610i. Two time-filler Java games come pre-installed: a Tetris-like puzzle game called QuadraPop and a graphic-rich 3D tennis game, which allows you to play against a partner over Bluetooth. The K610i allows you to download extra content to customise the phone, such as themes, ringtones, message alert tones, games and applications through the Fun & Downloads section of Sony Ericsson's Web site, which is accessible from the phone's browser.
Business and productivity features include the NetFront browser -- the same one on Sony Ericsson's baby Walkman, the W300i -- for rendering HTML, xHTML and WAP pages on its 4.8 centimetre, 176-by-220-pixel screen. Another way to stay on top of your favourite news sites and blogs is with the K610i's RSS reader. Tucked away in the Messaging menu, the reader allows you to subscribe to valid RSS feeds and receive updates directly to the phone, either periodically or when you choose to check for new content.
Although the K610i sports a 2-megapixel camera, the photos and videos it captured didn't impress us. As there is no flash of any kind, night time shots turned out dark and grainy, even when we set the camera to night mode. Perhaps we were spoiled by the exceptional 3-megapixel Sony Ericsson K800i, but there were still a couple of aspects of the K610i's camera that let it down. While landscape and portrait photos focussed well enough, we ended up with a whole bunch of blurry pics when we tried to take close-ups shots. Images taken in the highest resolution were jagged when viewed at actual resolution and seemed quite pixelated. Other features absent include autofocus and macro mode.
Video capture didn't fare much better. At 176 by 144 pixels and around 10 frames per second, they don't look too bad on the K610i's screen. However, when viewed on a PC we found ourselves squinting at the footage, which was only slightly bigger than a postage stamp.
In our experience, the pre-loaded NetFront browser didn't cope as well as Opera Mini when navigating graphic-heavy Web pages, although it was good for WAP and built-for-mobile sites. The K610i locked up twice when we were browsing Web sites, both times required us to take the battery out to power cycle the phone.
With only 16MB of internal memory and a rather crumby 64MB in the box, don't expect the K610i to store much more than an album of music, as well as a couple of photos and videos. With a hotswappable card slot concealed under the battery cover, you are able to expand the memory with Sony's Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards while keeping the phone switched on.
We can't fault what are arguably the K610's -- and any mobile phone's -- core features: battery life and call quality. Sony Ericsson rates the K610i's battery to be good for 7 hours of talk time on GSM, or up to 2.5 hours on 3G networks. Testing the phone under normal usage conditions -- with a 2G SIM -- we got around 4 days before needing to recharge the handset.