Sony Ericsson is an alliance of two tech giants and with phones like the Vivaz it shows. It’s a gadget all the way, one that will galvanize geeks and charm the regular user.
Sony Ericsson Vivaz official photos
A whole bunch of point-and-shoot cameras today boast 720p video recording, but are they not an endangered species feeling enormous pressure on both sides? For one, there are compact video recording DSLRs pushing down with competitive price tags, and then cameraphones are eating into compact camera territory with comparable still image resolution and video capture.
Eight megapixel still images and 720p video with continuous auto focus make the Sony Ericsson Vivaz a predator of point-and-shoot cameras. The Vivaz is not just a cameraphone though, it’s a smartphone as well – a tricked out Symbian running on a 720MHz CPU with a 3.2” nHD display to show it all off. That’s all in a package more compact than any combination of a stand-alone camera and a phone you can think of.
High-end smartphones have a long history of trading compact size for cramming in one feature more than the competition. The Sony Ericsson Vivaz strikes a perfect balance between being compact and feature-full – great news for anyone who doesn’t appreciate the recent craze of smartphones the size of a table… umm… tablet.
- 3.2″ 16M-color resistive touchscreen of 640 x 360 pixel resolution
- 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, face and smile detection, geotagging and touch focus
- HD 720p video recording @ 24fps with continuous auto focus
- Symbian OS 9.4 S60 5th, topped with a custom-brewed homescreen and media menu
- 720 MHz CPU, PowerVR SGX dedicated graphics accelerator
- Quad-band GSM support
- 3G with HSDPA 10.2Mbps and HSUPA 2Mbps support
- Wi-Fi and GPS with A-GPS
- microSD card slot (up to 16GB, 8GB card in the box)
- Built-in accelerometer
- TV out
- Stereo FM Radio
- microUSB and stereo Bluetooth v2.0
- Web browser has full Flash support
- Preinstalled Wisepilot navigation software
- Office document viewer
- Decent audio quality
- No camera lens protection
- No auto mode for the flash/video light
- LED flash not powerful enough
- The S60 5th edition UI isn’t to the best in class standards
- No proximity sensor sensor to lock the screen during a call
- No DivX or XviD support out-of-the-box
- No smart or voice dialing
- No office document editing (without a paid upgrade)
- No stereo speakers
- No digital compass (magnetometer)
- Videocalling uses only the main camera (no secondary one)
The feature list leaves very little to complain about, so is it time retire your old compact camera and make the jump the Vivaz? That’s what we’ll try to find out. As for its performance as a smartphone the list of key features suggests smooth sailing most of the way.
How the Sony Ericsson Vivaz stacks up against he competition
Hold on to your hats folks, we’re jumping into the hardware part of this review.
Neat and stylish UI
Sony Ericsson Vivaz runs the Symbian OS 5th edition but you’d never tell by just looking at the homescreen. It’s quite different from how other manufacturers see the touch-operated Symbian. In a nutshell, if you are familiar with the Satio, Vivaz won’t be a surprise.
For starers, we’ve prepared a short video demo of the Vivaz user interface. It should give you a better idea of most of the changes introduced by Sony Ericsson.
The homescreen uses a tabbed interface but not like the “Vertical icon bar” often seen (though rarely used) in Nokia handsets. There are five tabs, which are in effect five alternative homescreen panes. You can assign a different function to every tab – favorite contacts, flow animation, camera album, shortcuts, static picture, Flash animation or the Twitter app.
The S60 5th edition homescreen has grown tabs
There are five shortcuts on top of the display, one for each tab. Alternatively, horizontal finger sweeps can be used to navigate the tabs. The transition itself is visually pleasing with its smooth animations – even if you switch from the first to the last tab, things will roll across the screen with no lag at all.
There is no home tab this time, you can show or hide the status window with a hit on the End key. At the bottom of the screen you get the operator name, time and date (though time is also visible in the status row on top) and music controls. The music controls act as a shortcut to the music player and if there’s a song playing it will display track info (with album art) and basic player controls. There are four additional shortcuts at the bottom – Dialer, Media, Messaging and Web search.
The available tabs
Let’s take a closer look at those tabs. They are very similar to the XPERIA panels, but we might say they offer more functionality and style. The five tabs are actually slots that you can assign your choice of content. Well, almost – you are limited to one of the eight options.
The first one is the Favorite contacts option, which makes the homescreen tab show a selection of contacts. They are displayed in a list with contact photos if available, so nothing fancy. Tapping a contact, brings up a popup with three options – Call, Message, View in contacts.
Favorite contacts • Album tab
The Album option shows a vertical list of all your photos and videos, sorted by date. It comes with kinetic scrolling and is the fastest way to view the latest photos. By the way, for some strange reason kinetic scrolling is not available anywhere else throughout the interface.
Next up is the Shortcuts option , which puts a list of eight shortcuts on your tab – be they shortcuts to applications or bookmarks.
Then you have the option of setting a tab to show a single picture or a Flash animation, while the third option displays running water as an interactive (accelerometer-based) animation.
The final one is the Twitter option, which speaks for itself. It’s a homescreen Twitter tab allowing you to read or post tweets on your profile. We wish there was a Facebook option as well, but who know, perhaps developers will be able to answer to that and add many more.
Shortcuts • Picture • Flow • Twitter tab
The Vivaz main menu is more standard – there’s a choice between grid and list arrangement, and by default the shortcuts are arranged so that they resemble the typical Sony Ericsson menu. The icons will feel very familiar to experienced Sony Ericsson or Symbian users, depending on the theme you are currently using.
The main menu depending on the current theme
The rest however is S60 5th edition – the D-pad and soft-key based navigation translated into touchscreen. Lists still require a double tap to select and confirm, while icons take just a single tap. There’s a shortcut to the task switcher or you can long-press the menu key.
Telephony still needs smart dialing
We didn’t experience any problems with the in-call performance of Sony Ericsson Vivaz. Reception levels are good on both ends of a call, the earpiece is loud enough and there was no interference whatsoever.
The two things the phone lacks are Smart dialing and voice dialing. These two are included in other versions of Symbian and should have been available here.
The dial pad
Form the options menu you can find more settings like hold call, mute, lock screen and keys, switch to video call, new call, etc.
Thanks to the built-in accelerometer you can silence an incoming call on the phone by simply flipping it over.
Unfortunately, your screen doesn’t switch off during a call, because the lack of a proximity sensor.
Vivaz can snap some nice shots
The Sony Ericsson Vivaz packs an 8-megapixel camera and is capable of taking photos of up to 3264 x 2448 pixels. It also sports a LED flash, but its serves video better than the still images.
The Vivaz camera interface is reasonably comfortable with the viewfinder occupying only the central part of the screen when you select regular 4:3 aspect ratio. When shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio, however, the whole display is put to use from side to side.
On the right side of the viewfinder there are five shortcuts. Those cover Scenes, Shoot mode, Focus settings, Exposure compensation and Auto mode. When you select Auto mode the handset takes care of applying the most appropriate scene settings for your photos.
Sony Ericsson Vivaz produces splendid photos. The colors are vibrant and rich (too bad we don’t have the weather to prove it), the amount of resolved detail is very good and the noise levels are low.
Vivaz edges out Omnia HD
The Sony Ericsson Vivaz captures 720p videos at 24 fps, venturing to kick the Samsung Omnia HD out of its complacency.
Vivaz HD video has its own flaws though
The quality of the Sony Ericsson Vivaz videos is nice with reasonably well-resolved detail and faithful colors. Still there are a few things to nitpick about.
Of course, the Vivaz is still not a completely ready product, so improvements to video recording may as well be under way. But here’s our two cents the way we see it now.