The Sony Ericsson Vivaz is the successor to the Satio, featuring a snazzy new ergonomic design and HD-video shooting capabilities. With an 8.1-megapixel camera on board and a 3.5mm headphone jack, will it meet all your media needs as well as fulfilling its role as a handset in its own right?
What we like
The 8.1-megapixel camera is delightfully easy to use, with separate buttons to launch the video and still camera functions. With onscreen icons showing you what settings are currently in place and clear menus handling the multitude of options. And you do have a wide ranging control over the images, from setting varying types of auto-focus (infinite, macro and portrait focus modes are available, as well as general auto-focus) to overlaying effects like Sepia tone or Negative effect.
The HD-shooting video camera function is just as user-friendly, and offers a similar range of effects. Because you'll fill the internal memory up pretty quickly with the massive HD video files, Sony Ericsson bundles the Vivaz with an 8GB memory card. If you're worried about using too much space, you can set the video to record in the lower-resolution VGA or QVGA instead. In HD mode, the picture quality is mighty impressive for a handset but the lower-res modes will see your videos lamentably mobile-phonic.
We're happy, nay, thrilled that Sony Ericsson has finally done away with its proprietary FastPort connector in favour of a microUSB port for charging and connecting to PC, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The sound quality of the music through a pair of good quality headphones was great, although we sometimes yearned for an equaliser function to balance the treble and bass better. The music player interface is clear and easy to use, with album artwork and the ability to create playlists on the fly a nice addition.
Video playback was also good quality, and web shortcuts to YouTube and iPlayer both a welcome addition - the YouTube interface was particularly nice to use. In terms of social networking, the bundled Facebook app met all our needs, but we were disappointed with the Twitter application which couldn't hold a candle to the mobile version of the site, lacking access to replies, direct messages or specific profiles.
The ergonomic design of the handset means it nestles nicely in your hand, and the TFT screen is lovely and sharp. Menus are sensibly laid out and the home screen plays host to five tabs which you can assign various shortcuts to and scroll through with ease. Call quality is average but we didn't experience any issues other than a tiny little bit of feedback on the Vivaz's side.
The touchscreen is, sadly, still resistive like its predecessor the Sony Ericsson Satio. However, the good news is that it's one of the best resistive screens around, very smooth and reasonably responsive.
What we don't like
Although we don't hate the resistive touchscreen with the passion we've expressed for poorer showings in the past, we still don't like it. Go capacitive all the way, or at least give us a hard Qwerty keyboard so we don't have to resort to using a stylus to write text messages and emails.
The Sony Ericsson Vivaz did suffer a few speed-related issues; turning the phone on and off is quite slow, as is starting up the camera. The auto-rotate function was also a little highly strung; sometimes a little too eager to rotate when the handset hadn't even moved, sometimes refusing to budge.
Locking and unlocking the screen and buttons was a real fiddle. The lock button doubles as the phone's power button, so if you push it too hard you end up turning the phone off - a real frustration.
The Vivaz does have access to the PlayNow store, where you can download apps, games, wallpapers and themes - but these aren't cheap, with prices varying from around £1 to upwards of £70.
For a mid-range feature phone, the Sony Ericsson Vivaz stands up surprisingly well. If you're after a phone for constant internet access and on-the-go email, this isn't it - but if you want something that you can use recreationally for photography and media playback then it's a top-notch choice.