Sony Ericsson Vivaz
We review the Sony Ericsson Vivaz, a stylish smartphone with a great 8.1-megapixel video camera
Verdict: Stylish looks, smartphone brains and a terrific video camera too.
Price: Free with contract or £500 SIM-free
Pros: Stylish looks, 8.1-megapixel camera with nHD video, WiFi, A-GPS with sat nav,
Cons: Resistive touchscreen, social networking could have more integration
Design: Slim, curved sliver of cool
Operating System: Symbian S60 5th edition
More Info: Sony Ericsson website
Following the Satio could have been a tricky option, but the Vivaz manages it with a striking new look, lots of top-notch smartphone functionality and an 8.1-megapixel camera promising 720p HD video recording.
There's no getting away from it, the Vivaz is an extremely stylish handful. Its casing has a metallic sheen in each of its four colours (silver, black, red or blue) but it's actually quality plastic. At 107mm x 52mm x 13mm and 97g it feels just right and its gently curving lines fit the hand very nicely indeed. The plastic sides look black at first but hold them up to the light and they have a deep blue undercurrent that only adds to the classy vibe.
The touchscreen has a thin sliver of buttons immediately below it (call start and stop plus menu) and on the sides are separate buttons for photo and video cameras, a volume rocker, a micro USB power/sync slot covered by a plastic grommet (bye bye FastPort, can't say we'll miss you) and right up in the corner is a 3.5mm headphone jack. At the top is a very slim power button.
The 3.2in TFT LCD touchscreen delivers over 16m colours and 360 x 640 pixels. It looks terrific when web browsing or viewing video but we were a bit disappointed to discover that it's resistive rather than capacitive. So it's not, and never will be as sensitive as the likes of the iPhone or HTC's new Legend. It's far from the worst resistive screen we've encountered though, and proved reasonably adept at distinguishing our brushes from our pushes, though we did occasionally have to double press to make our intentions known. The screen would have benefited from an anti-grease coating too, as it's very quick to attract fingerprints – never good on a touchscreen phone.
Operating system and processor
The Vivaz runs the Symbian S60 5th edition OS with a bespoke Sony Ericsson user interface on top. It's a pretty good marriage, with Symbian's intuitive menu systems (despite the annoying system where you have to tap once on icons, but twice in lists) waiting below SE's five home pages. You can access each of the homepages by brushing the screen to the side, or by pressing directly on one of the five icons at the top of the screen: favourite contacts, Twitter, animated screensaver, gallery and shortcuts. There's also an additional shortcut menu at the bottom of the screen: keypad, media, messaging and web search.
The Symbian browser is functional but looks a bit ugly with its intrusive black menu bars. It does the business though, with the onboard accelerometer flipping the screen into landscape mode and provision for multi-page views, a magnifying window, Flash video support, key word search and the option to save your log-in details which saves you having to tap them out every time on the not-great keyboard. Load speeds are fast too via WiFi or HSDPA network connection.
Email accounts were easy to set up with just address and password and there's a push email option if you're in a hurry. There's a choice of keyboard – mini QWERTY or full QWERTY. You'll not be hitting any high text speeds with either and for the mini QWERTY you'll need the supplied stylus.
The 8.1 megapixel camera is of course the star of the show and it doesn't disappoint. While the still camera capability falls behind the 12-megapixel Satio, it still manages a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels and a few fancy features including smile and face detection, geotagging, macro and panorama (three pics snap automatically as you move through a 45-degree angle) modes. There's no BestPic option, which is the main thing we miss from SE's old Cybershot snappers.
Picture quality is very good if you have decent light (the single LED won't help you much unless you're extremely close to your subject) but it's the 720p nHD video recording that's most impressive. Movement is smooth and largely artefact-free despite the fact that it records in 24fps and the continuous autofocus is a welcome addition, though there can be a little lag while it readjusts if you move the handset around quickly.
Viewing films on the Vivaz's wide screen is a joy since it delivers such clarity and smoothness of movement. You can view movies in their native resolution or opt to stretch them to suit the screen's 16:9 cinematic proportions – though you'll lose a little definition, it's generally worth it to have the film fill the screen. YouTube and BBC iPlayer apps are welcome additions and both worked without any hitches. Only MP4 video formats are supported though, so no DivX or Xvid.
The music player doesn't have all the fixtures and fittings of the better Walkman players but it's a good nuts and bolts affair playing MP3, AAC and WMA files with decent sound quality through the supplied headphones with their noise-isolating grommets. The FM radio offer 20 preset stations but no RDS, though SE's TrackID service is present and correct for unveiling mystery tunes.
One of the homepages is actually a basic Twitter app that shows the latest Tweets you've been following and offers a space to compose your most recent thoughts. You can't organise or search your Tweets though. There's a Facebook app on board but it won't sync with your contacts and there's no option to include it as a homepage a la Twitter, which seems a shame.
A-GPS is supported by Google Maps and WisePilot sat nav, which offers voice guidance, route planning, 3D map views, points of interest info and speed camera alerts.
There's a trial version of QuickOffice on board, as well as full versions of WorldMate travel advice and RoadSync for over-the-air synchronising with your PC.
The battery stood up well in our test, delivering a solid day and a half of heavy use.
The Sony Ericsson Vivaz manages the trick of being a very pretty face while delivering some excellent smartphone qualities too. The video camera is quite possibly the best we've seen on a camphone; the screen is great for viewing media and the music player and browser, if not outstanding, are certainly more than capable. We'd have preferred a capacitive screen, though this is still one of the better resistive models we've tried but otherwise, it's a terrific little smartphone in an extremely classy case.