Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:56:30 PM
Well executed motion gaming, speedy browser, Facebook app, high quality build
No 3.5mm audio jack or adaptor, one of Sony Ericsson's lesser cameras
Sony Ericsson just invented a whole new type of gaming phone. Sure, the motion-sensitive Yari is kind of like a tiny version of Nintendo’s Wii console, but for the technology to be so perfectly implemented in a mobile is pretty cool. Yari is the third in Sony E’s new range of multimedia devices, and it does everything else quite well too – music, five-megapixel camera, GPS and even social networking with an extremely well integrated Facebook app. It's not a smartphone, but it manages a whole lot of the same things.
The Yari might be an entry-level model, but its black rubber and plastic chassis is quality. The black face with white accents is stylish and classy, and it slides smoothly upwards to reveal a flat, rubber keypad with keys that are easily thumbed. The user interface is the new Sony Ericsson standard – a grid style menu with modernised, fluoro-edged icons. On the home screen are hot links to Media, Search and Menu, and you can also customise it with a ‘game carousel’, a scrollable list of shortcuts to games on the phone.
The Facebook app is new for Sony Ericsson, and developed just for this manufacturer, so it’s very well integrated and having it running on the home screen means you get push notifications – messages and status updates as well as the ability to comment or ‘like’ items direct from the home screen. You can also access Facebook directly from the Messaging menu (though Facebook messages don’t appear here, as they do in more social networking oriented handsets like the INQ Mini 3G).
The other new feature is the ‘Conversations’ view – debuted on the Satio, this means you can now view your SMS in threads via contact, and you can easily switch between that and traditional view.
The most unique aspect of the Yari is its use of motion sensor and the accelerometer in gaming. You get three preloaded motion games that admittedly are quite similar to Wii titles... but then again, tennis and bowling are the obvious choices aren't they? You play by propping the phone on its included stand, and swinging your arms around in front of the motion sensitive front camera. The tennis game, for example, recognises five different strokes, and actual gameplay is quite realistic. The sensor was also on point, making it easy (not to mention fun) to get the hang of playing. Bowling used the accelerometer quite neatly – hold down the D-pad to aim your ball, then swing your arm to release. Twisting your hand at the end resulted in a top-spin. Again, the accelerometer worked really well, and we never got that frustrated intent you do with games that just don't work.
There are also a few 'regular' arcade style games plus numerous trailers for more complex games like The Sims 3. However, the screen at 2.4 inches and a modest 240x320 resolution isn't great for detailed imagery, and scenes from The Sims 3, and even Bubble Town, a simple puzzler, looked pixelated. From the games menu, you can link to PlayNow Arena to buy full games, though we found the £5 price tag for most games pretty steep.
As usual, Sony Ericsson has omitted a 3.5mm audio jack, and this time, even an adaptor, so you have no choice but to use the provided earphones, which aren't in-ear and don't fit very well. We also would have liked to see a sturdier stand – the phone fell off a few times when we were pressing navigation buttons – and even a charging feature, so you can top up the battery while playing a game.
Despite being a low-end phone, the Yari still has a five-megapixel camera. It's not Sony Ericsson's best one ever – for example, you can launch the function via the dedicated shutter release button, but you have to press really hard, or at a certain angle. Same with actually snapping the photo – and in fact, it was much easier to take a photo just by pressing the nicely weighted D-pad in the middle of the phone. Auto setting produces good snaps in most situations, though low light shots turn out a bit blurry. Low light shots without flash also had too many pink undertones, while low light shots with flash tended to overexpose objects that were closer than 60cm (so those self-snapped shots on a drunken night out are likely to look a tad ghostly). The camera isn't great at action shots either – though the shutter released less than a second after we pressed the button, the resulting image was slightly blurred with colours darker than in real life. We did like the post-photo tools though – pan and zoom to pick out those details (and pores), and photo fix, which generally improved photos.
By now, we're used to even the dinkiest Sony Ericsson phones having a nice little music player, and it's no different in the Yari – your tracks are kept in the same media interface as photos and videos, with a link to preview and buy new ones on PlayNow Arena. So it's a pity you're limited to such ineffectual headphones.
The Yari has a great little NetFront 3.5 browser that loads all sites, mobile optimised and not, really quickly. Non-mobile optimised sites come up pretty fast but the layout is totally off, and pictures, which again load quickly, don't render well. It's very easy to browse via the D-pad – little skips scroll you around the page, and the cursor turns into a hand at hyperlinks. Text input is simple too – just select a field to fill it in, and you can easily switch between predictive and normal typing too.
Push-email is present and correct, with support for several webmail accounts as well as Microsoft Exchange. The phone will search and download appropriate settings for most popular webmail, streaming each account into its own separate mailbox. When composing an email, you can easily switch between accounts, an efficient feature we appreciated.
Yari may not have the high octane spec list, but it packs plenty of above average features into an affordable and stylish device, and we love the innovative take on gaming. Its dinky display may not be enough to topple the king of casual gaming off its iThrone, but it's an impressive all-rounder, especially for consumers who prefer 'normal' phones over smartphones.