Review of the Kyocera K494


The Kyocera K494 is a CDMA phone available in Canada through Telus PCS.

Last Updated: 31-Dec-2004

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

Leading up to my review of the K494 Iíd been hearing people say that it was just a Kyocera Blade in a new shell. While that might be true, the K494 does seem to have improved on the Blade in a few areas.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: In this regard the K494 is among the best CDMA phones Iíve so far tested. This comes as no surprise, given that the old Blade model was extremely competent in this aspect of performance too. The K494 can hold onto a signal extremely well, and it manages to do so with very little muss or fuss. The audio remains quite solid until there is virtually no signal left.

Over-the-road Performance: Sadly the K494 is much like the Blade in this respect. When used in a moving vehicle the K494 seems to draw attention to even minor signal issues, and it produces an annoyingly large number of audio dropouts and malformations when on the move. I must confess that the K494 seems to be a bit better than I remember the Blade, but not enough that couldnít be explained away by admitting that my memory of the Bladeís performance may have been a little inaccurate. Never-the-less, the K494 performed noticeably worse in this regard than the Nokia 3205i that I tested at the same time.

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: Like the Blade before it the K494 has a fairly natural-sounding balance to its sound, with a tendency to be a bit boomy at times. The boominess isnít excessive, and you only really notice it when talking with people who have naturally boomy voices (both male and female). The tone of the phone is nice enough to carry on long conversations without experiencing any fatigue.

Sound Reproduction: The K494 has very good incoming sound reproduction, which does seem to be an improvement over the Blade (based on my previous comments for that phone). Voices are reproduced quite accurately, with little detectable distortion (unlike the Nokia 3205i, which produces an extraordinary amount of distortion) and good sibilance (reproduction of ďsĒ sounds). Outgoing audio isnít great, but it seems to be much improved from the Blade, which was virtually the worst-sounding phone you could subject your callers to. Unlike the incoming audio however, the outgoing audio suffers from sibilance problems that make your ďsĒ sounds seem scratchy.

Earpiece Volume: The K494 really shines in this regard. Not only is the earpiece loud and clear, but the phone also includes Kyoceraís excellent Smart Sound feature, which does a couple of things to help you hear the phone under adverse conditions. First off it tries to level-off each of the calls so that faint and loud callers alike sound roughly same volume. This goes a long way to compensate for extremely faint callers. Secondly is boosts the volume of the earpiece when loud background noise (at your end) is detected. This is great when you have to use the phone in an extremely noisy environment such as a crowded mall or on a busy street corner.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: Like many phones these days the ringer on the K494 is really not up to the task. Even when the loudest possible ringtone and the loudest possible ring volume are selected, the phone is still difficult to hear in noisy environments, especially if it is put in a purse or pocket (thus muffling the ringer somewhat). The ringer is more than adequate for less severe conditions however, and so it will probably suit a large number of usersí needs.

Keypad Design: The keypad of the K494 is a marked improvement over that of the Blade. The keys have generally excellent feel, but I wasnít too pleased with the fact that they butted up against one another at the tops and bottoms. This made it difficult to feel which button your finger was actually on. However, Kyocera seems to have learned their lesson, and they no longer paint on the numbers (which on the Blade simply wore off after repeated use). Like proper keypad designs, the K494 has the numbers molded into the keys.

Headset: The K494 comes with an industry-standard 2.5 mm headset jack, which means that you can use just about any headset or earbud with this model. Sound quality and volume through the headset is very good, so you wonít feel like youíve been demoted to second class citizen just because you decided to drive safely.

Display: The color display on the K494 is no different from the one on the Blade. Itís quite a small screen, but to their credit Kyocera has at least used fairly handsome and sharp fonts. Color rendition is good, but the display is poor in direct sunlight and totally useless when the backlight goes off. The display is about average for a bottom-end color phone.

Phonebook: The phonebook on K494 shares the same excellent search features found on the Blade. There are few phones with such an amazingly easy-to-access phonebook. You can search for a phone number based on a partial sequence of digits (like finding a number that ends in 7113 for example). You can also set up the phone so that as you dial digits it treats them as though they were T9 letter and displays matching phonebook entries as you go. If thatís not what you want, you just continue to enter the full phone number and dial as usual. These search capabilities make the K494ís phonebooks one of the best on the market.

Conclusions

The K494 is mostly a good phone, but its over-the-road performance is sub-par, and that really takes away from the overall performance of the phone. However, for anyone looking for an entry-level Telus PCS phone at a low price, the K494 is still an excellent choice.
 

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