Sony Ericsson K810i

Despite our hopes and prayers, the revival of styles from the 1980s continues apace. Quite why anyone would want to recreate the looks from that awful decade is beyond us (granted, we're not dedicated followers of fashion) but when it spills over into our mobile phones, a line has to be drawn.

It's actually the new Sony Ericsson K810i that's the subject of our ire, looking as it does as if it's dropped out of the pocket of a pair of stonewashed Levi's with roll-ups. It's all straight edges, bits of chrome effect plastic and little round keys without anything as fancy as a light-up number in the centre.

A questionable step backwards in terms of design, then. And yet, in all other respects the K810i is the very model of a modern mobile phone.

Lined up in the Cyber-shot range of SE handsets, it's a solid, durable feeling phone, which stands it in stark contrast to the most recent Nokia N-series models. With the rear casing coated in soft-touch rubber and minimal slack in the moving bits, the K810i feels far better constructed than just about any other handset we've laid our grubby mitts on recently.

Equipped with a crisp 3.2-megapixel digital camera, xenon flash and 192MB of combined memory (64MB onboard allied with a 128MB M2 Memory Stick), it's a brilliant picture-taker. The 240x320 resolution screen cements Sony Ericsson's new position as provider of the best displays on a handset (largely by squeezing in more pixels into a smaller space) and, as it's a 3G handset, audio is equally well catered for.

So, dare we say it, it's all looking good for pocket gaming. Particularly as the K810i features a thumbstick for control – our favoured manner of interacting with games, thanks to the ease with which it can be used. And thankfully, our expectations are more than met: the K810i emerges as a brilliant gaming handset.

There isn't a game, either individually or as a genre that isn't unsuited to play on it; the thumbstick makes playing football and sports games a breeze, enabling you to change direction and scamper about after the ball with aplomb. Meanwhile, the spaced-out number buttons actually make finding specific keys easier than when they're clumped together.

3D performance is great, though obviously not up there with the high-end Nokia N93i and N95 handsets, and the bright screen makes any game – 2D or 3D – look its best. And, because it's a Sony Ericsson, you can be assured of wide support from developers and publishers.

In other words, it's the usual high standard of performance we've come to expect from the more expensive Sony Ericsson handsets, and whether you'll want one comes down to its design. And even if you share our opinion, you have to admit that – for a 3G handset – it's pretty lithe. Even though it's only a few millimetres smaller in size than the N73, it looks far more diminutive.

But aesthetics aside, in all other aspects it's hard to find fault. Certainly a bigger memory would be welcome, especially considering that this is a phone aimed at photographers, but for gaming purposes it's accomplished and well specified. We wouldn't take it over one of the high-end N-series phones (the prospect of the next-gen N-Gage platform is just too tempting) but if you were to be offered one as part of your network contract, you'll be as happy as a yuppie grasping a magnum of Moët.

Sony Ericsson K810i

Top notch gaming and general performance marred only by a questionnable appearance