The Sony Ericsson Vivaz is the Japanese-Swedish tech team’s latest Symbian S60 smartphone, replete with snazzy 8.1 megapixel camera and HD video recording. Essentially a successor to the 12MP-packing Sony Ericsson Satio, it’s been billed as the latest in a long line of cool camera-phones from the mobile manufacturer.
But the question is, can this touchscreen titan keep Sony Ericsson in the spotlight? Or is it just another own goal from an increasingly bewildered gadget making giant?
Slide the Sony Ericsson Vivaz from its box and you’ll find yourself handling a truly slick, slimline mobile phone. Sure the plastic design can’t match the ace HTC Legend, but few phones can. It slips into even the tightest of pockets with ease. Crank it up and you’ll find the familiar Symbian S60 UI with the skin last seen on the Satio grafted on. The former is obvious to mobile fanatics, but the shortcuts screen and plethora of menu systems breeds confusion when there needn’t be any.
That said, having dedicated video and camera buttons slapped on the side means you can easily tap into the Vivaz’s visual powers, with no faff switching between shooting clips and snapping stills. For the first five minutes you handle the Vivaz, you’ll truly believe this could be Sony Ericsson’s get out of jail free card.
As mentioned previously, the Vivaz is a great to look at. Measuring just 12.5mm deep and rocking a substantial enough 3.2-inch touchscreen, it’s undoubtedly Sony Ericsson’s best looking phone ever. While the Satio’s 12MP sensor gave it the look of a compact camera, as well as the heft of one, the Vivaz is far sharper and slicker. Its design is minimal, but that does cause a couple of niggles.
Firstly, the tapered ends mean the 3.5mm jack, something Sony Ericsson has only recently turned to, sits on the side of the phone. It means your headphones stick out uncomfortably and that pocketing the phone while you’ve got your buds in is an uncomfortable experience. Likewise, keeping things slim means there’s no room for a lens cover. So you have to be super careful to avoid scratches and scrapes that’ll mar your snaps when you shovel them on Flickr or vids when they land on YouTube.
The camera on the Sony Ericsson Vivaz is its hottest feature. It shoots HD Ready 720p video which really does look the part, with continuous focus meaning clips take on a clarity never before seen on a phone. It shoots at 24fps, and means you can ditch any standalone camera like the FlipMinoHD in favour of this. The fact it uploads direct to YouTube makes it even more of a winner and Sony Ericsson has done a great job of making this work like a dream.
The stills camera is also brilliant. Instead of beefing up the megapixel count, it’s decided to stick with a decent lens and optimised optics. The results are superbly detailed, with the camera even doing its thing in low light conditions. It will happily replace any basic compact camera.
Symbian S60 is the OS of choice here and it remains difficult to use on a touchscreen. That’s down in large part to the average resistive number that’s shoved on top of the Vivaz. That said, it’s easy enough to navigate once you’ve got beneath the five homescreen skin that Sony Ericsson favours. The latter is a real love/hate affair, dividing punters when it arrived on the Satio last year.
The shortcuts for contacts, Twitter, customisable apps and media are all well and good, but the screens seem to have no order to them. Instead of flicking them out of the way, a la HTC Sense, you become bogged down in moving back and forward between tasks using the impossible to hit icons. That said, music access from the homescreen is a winner, with Sony Ericsson’s Walkman skills brought to the fore.
- 3.2-inch, 360x640 resistive touchscreen
- Symbian S60 OS with custom skin
- 8MP camera, 720p HD video
- HSDPA, Wi-FI,
- FM Radio
- 5 hours 20 minutes talk time (3G)
- 440 hours standby (3G)
Overall Mark 8/10