Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:58:30 PM
Good QWERTY keyboard, preloaded apps including Facebook, HD video and decent still camera.
Weak email feature, user interface isn?t as intuitive or customisable as other handsets, lack of central app marketplace.
Cram all the features you want into a phone, but without that X-factor called intuitiveness, the phone is destined for the mediocre heap. Unfortunately, the Vivaz Pro is such a phone – despite an HD video camera, relatively speedy processor, and a nice little QWERTY keyboard, its aging Symbian operating system means using it is not very much fun.
Like the Vivaz HD, the Pro is a media phone with serious camera and video specs. Instead of eight megapixels, there’s now a five-megapixel lens, with a four-line slide-out QWERTY added to its sleek profile. At just 15mm thick, its rounded silhouette fits nicely in the hand. Dedicated camera and video buttons are positioned on its right side and thankfully it packs both a 3.5mm audio jack and a miniUSB charger port – no more Sony E proprietary ports! Like the Vivaz HD, the Pro’s 3.2-inch resistive touch-screen requires slightly hard prods to operate, but now that there’s a keyboard for messages, it matters less. Sony Ericsson has overlaid the elderly Symbian OS with its own skin – but it’s still quite the OAP, with five home screens that are essentially oversized shortcuts to apps such as the gallery or browser. There’s even an option for ‘Adobe Flash’ – which turns out to be a Flash animated background that changes orientation when you turn the phone around. Scintillating. At least you can link the screens to favourite contacts and weblinks, and we like that in the all programs menu you can reorder the position of the programs. When you lock the phone, a particularly unstylish black box pops up with links to the dialer, gallery, messages and search.
The five-megapixel camera takes superior photos to many other similarly specced phones and its shutter speed is near instantaneous, with a lag of just a second between snapping a picture and taking the next one. However, it feels less steady than the Vivaz HD, as the shutter button is near the keyboard, which we occasionally pressed the edge of instead.The clarity of snaps in daylight is comparable to the eight megapixel Vivaz HD, but lowlight shots are fuzzier with more faded colours. The Pro also tended to overexpose when there was a lot of light, though in shade pictures came out nice and sharp.
The video camera records at a high definition 720fps, and offers ‘continuous focus’, so that when you pan the camera, it is able automatically switch its focus from background to foreground – or onto an object introduced into shot. Playback is very smooth and there’s a TV out port so you can watch your HD goodies on a big screen. A nice addition is the front facing video camera for video calls. Clips and photos can be shared via text or email, or onto Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. There’s also a great Facebook app, and since there is no central app marketplace for Symbian, Sony Ericsson has also preloaded some key apps such as YouTube, the WorldMate travel organiser and the barcode scanner NeoReader, which pulls up info and prices on products you scan.
The browser automatically hits up mobile sites, and though it can handle non-mobile sites (i.e ones that look the way they would on desktop) it doesn’t autofit, so you’ll have to drag the page around to see it all. Text renders with ragged edges, but pictures and graphics look good. The browser loads pages quickly, and even non-mobile sites are fully rendered in 10 seconds. You can open and view multiple windows in a carousel, and subscribe to RSS feeds from the browser. Unfortunately, there’s no cut and paste.
Email is particularly feature-light, with no push notification or HTML support – so you won’t be able to view graphics or pictures. New messages simply render as white text on a black background, and we had to manually refresh our inboxes. We added a Gmail account and the client couldn’t display emails as conversations like it does on desktop Gmail (and indeed, many other phones), though it can access custom folders. We’re fans of the keyboard, with its matte, spacious keys that depress with little pressure. The four-line keyboard has shift keys for capitalising, and an alt key for numbers and common symbols. The question mark has its own key, which is refreshing. However, apostrophes aren’t added for common contractions such as ‘how’s’ and forget about auto-capitalising on ‘I’. To copy and paste, you can do it just like on a PC, by pressing shift and a direction key to select text. You can also hold down a finger and drag, though this requires a lot more trial and error to get right.
The QWERTY keyboard makes the Vivaz Pro much more bearable than the Vivaz HD, and with HD video and a lower-spec camera that still produces decent images, this really is the phone that should been released in the first place. Email is still so anaemic that this isn’t much more than a feature phone with internet features – and with full-on smartphones that retail around the same price, we’re not sure that’s going to cut it.