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Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro Review


Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro Review

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The Sony Ericsson Vivaz was the first smartphone to feature 720p video recording, but amongst other things it suffered from a very poor on-screen keyboard that made email, messaging, and Internet browsing some what tedious affairs. Hoping to rectify this is the Vivaz Ppro, which adds a physical keyboard into the mix.

Just like the Vivaz, the Vivaz Pro is a surprisingly slim and sleek device. Partly this is due to the simple fact it is smaller than many high-end touchscreen smartphones, with a screen just 3.2-inches from corner to corner. However, at just 15mm thick it is one of the thinnest slider phones we've seen. Tapered ends also help to make this phone feel even slighter than it actually is.

There are some nice design touches as well. The front buttons, which are incorporated into a silver strip along the bottom, are mirrored by a symmetrical silver strip at the top, while the Sony Ericsson logo is small enough to remain unobtrusive. Likewise, we like the way all the features on the back are lined up, keeping the phone from looking cluttered despite a fair number of potential eyesores.

Sadly the pleasing design isn't matched by build quality. The main disappointment is the screen, which because it uses resistive touch sensing technology is finished in flexible plastic that scratches easily and looks rather crude. Likewise the keyboard is surrounded by clear plastic that wobbles and flexes beneath your fingers as you type. One consequence of all this plastic is the phone remains quite light at 117g, but for an extra 20g or so we'd have preferred to see a capacitive glass screen and a more solid keyboard surround.

Other immediate concerns are the position of the headphone socket, which being on the side means any headphones without an angled jack will snag on your pockets, and the microUSB data transfer and charging socket, which is covered by a plastic flap. While we can appreciate the merits of protecting the socket from dirt ingress and knocks, these plastic flaps are a right pain when you actually want to connect a cable. On-board storage is limited to just 75MB, but a microSD slot sits under the backplate, giving you the option of adding up to 32GB more storage – you get an 8GB card in the box. Thankfully you don't have to remove the battery to add or remove a card.

In use the Vivaz Pro's screen is good if unexceptional. Thanks to a fairly high resolution (360 x 640) for its size, it has above average sharpness and it produces strong yet natural looking colours. Also, despite being an LCD panel, viewing angles are also very good. As such it's generally nice to use with the only major caveat being the amount of scrolling around required because of its small size. Its only other downside is the unimpressive contrast level, and the quality of its blacks. Consequently, videos and pictures don't really leap out of the screen and look a bit muted.

Muted certainly isn't the word we'd use to describe the pictures this phone takes, though. Admittedly we took these photos on a particularly bright and hot day so the sky was bluer than we're used to, but it certainly wasn't as blue as in these pictures. Neither was it quite so mottled and grainy. Ultimately, despite the Vivaz Pro's focus on its camera, it is in fact entirely average – fine for Facebook, but poor for printing.

Likewise, its HD video recording abilities are now far from unique, with both the Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung Wave sharing the same basic hardware. In fact, thanks to the iPhone 4's on-board editing abilities, the Vivaz Pro has now fallen behind. That said, there are still few handsets that can record in 720p and it is still markedly better footage than you'll find on non-HD phones.

One oddity with the camera is that, unlike the majority of handsets, the Vivaz Pro doesn't use a single shutter button and a software based switch for flipping between video and stills modes. Instead it has two hardware buttons. These sound fine in theory, but in practice it constantly catches you out as you go to start recording some video and press the camera button instead and end up switching modes. At least it has a button for the camera, though, unlike the iPhone 4.

We mentioned at the start of this review that the Vivaz suffered from a rather poor on-screen keyboard amongst other things, and it's now that we get to those other things.

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