Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
8/23/2011 12:03:19 PM
Good form factor, stylish design
Home button is stiff, screen can look too small
Sony Ericsson’s latest phone is a chunky little tiddler with an all-touch interface. As you’ll guess from the name, it’s a music-oriented machine. Weighing just 115g, the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman won’t weigh you down, but it’s not small enough to replace a mini music player like the feather-light iPod nano.There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack in the middle of the top edge, with a power button to the right and a Walkman button to the left that takes you with one press to the music player. The only other buttons are the volume rocker and a dedicated Camera button on the right edge. Oh, and the Home button on the front which wakes the screen. It takes a firm press to operate it – it could be more responsive. Still, it’s a cool-looking handset with plenty of features and a neat design. Sony Ericsson seems to have found its stride of late, with successful handsets like the Xperia Arc S and the recent Xperia Ray leading the charge.
This phone doesn’t match the Ray’s high resolution screen but it still looks good. The display here is smaller, at 3.2 inches, and it has the “hot corners” seen on smaller Xperia phones. These are areas at the corner of each screen that work as context-sensitive shortcuts. So on the home screen the top left corner takes you to your messages, for example. These are useful and work well, though they make the screen feel smaller. As if to confirm that, when the phone is held in landscape orientation you get a QWERTY keyboard, while in portrait the default is a traditional 1-9 keypad. You can change this easily enough, and the QWERTY in portrait is small but usable. Sony Ericsson’s take on Android, seen here in its Gingerbread 2.3 version, is neat enough. There’s the Timescape social networking aggregator from the Xperia series of phones, and there’s also a dedicated Facebook app. Best of all, the phone has the Facebook Inside Xperia set-up, which means Facebook is deeply integrated into the handset in a satisfying way. The graphics on this phone are well thought out. Look at what happens when you edit a screen. A long press on, say, the Google Search bar, makes it wobble to let you know you can move it. Plonk it wherever you want and as it lands it flexes like it’s made of jelly. It looks cool.
Anyway, back to the Walkman button, which offers a great musical interface. Press it and it launches the Walkman screen, a sophisticated set-up with album artwork and the buttons you’d expect like Play, next and last tracks and a timing bar so you can move back and forth in a track. But there are more buttons, including a Thumbs Up icon so you can instantly create a post related to the track you’re playing. And there’s an Infinity button that offers extra content related to the artist you’re playing. It finds music video on YouTube, looks for relevant info on Wikipedia and searches for lyrics on Google. Some parts work better than others and vary according to what’s available, and the strength of your data connection. But this is a neat extra that’s fun to use and makes the phone an excellent choice for music lovers. There’s also Music Unlimited, Sony’s subscription music streaming service, which has its own widget here to take you to the website. There are other music-related extras, like TrackID and a stereo FM radio, but it’s the Walkman screen and its Infinity option that really stand out.
The Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman looks good and works well because of its handy size and slick interface. It’s fast and responsive with lots of neat extras, particularly the Walkman interface with added information and one-button access. It may lack some of the high-end features of its Xperia brothers, but this is a fun, effective handset.