Product Type: Sony Ericsson mobile phones
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Takes getting used to, but stylish and capable smartphone
Sony Ericsson Vivaz
Member Name: veronica115012
Sony Ericsson Vivaz
Advantages: HD video, great 8 . 1mpixel camera ( * see review), small, light, looks stylish
Disadvantages: Not intuitive, a lot of sub - menus, no proper flash in the camera
----- Background -----
I got this phone over a year ago after a lot of searching for my first ever smart phone. What attracted me to Sony Ericsson Vivaz (also known as U5i or Kurara) were its stylish slim line look and a promise that it can record videos in high definition. I had never before had a Sony Ericsson phone or accessed the internet on a mobile, so it was all very exciting for me.
This phone costs up to £340 for the handset only, but luckily my dad's contract with Vodafone was nearing the end and he got it for me for free. I use my mobiles on pay as you go basis, so forking out over 300 pounds would prevent me from getting this phone on my own.
----- Design -----
My Vivaz is in Venus Ruby colour, which is not really red, but more like fuchsia. Other available colours are Moon Silver, Galaxy Blue, and Cosmic Black.
The looks of this phone really attracted me to it, especially the stylish design, small size and a big touch screen that covers almost the whole surface of this phone. I find the touch screen responsive and easy to use; the size is great too. The back, top and bottom of Vivaz are slightly curved, which makes it fit perfectly into the palm of my hand. The phone is so thin, that sometimes it gets lost in my small handbag.
Because this is a touch phone, there aren't many buttons on the handset. On the top of the phone there is an on/off button, which also can be used to lock the handset. I am not sure whether the position of this button has been well thought out. When I first got the phone, I used to switch it off by mistake because the button is positioned where my index finger normally sits while I hold my Vivaz. There are only three buttons on the front panel of this phone - call, end and menu button. The side has only zoom/volume, video and camera buttons. Even though I feel the front panel is relatively sturdy, the side is rather flimsy and it takes a bit of force to take a picture or video for example.
----- What's in the box? -----
Of course the phone is the main thing you find in the box. Also included are:
* USB to micro USB cable so you can connect the phone to your PC
* Separate plug that can be connected to the USB cable when you want to charge the phone
* Micro SD card with capacity of 8GB
* Memory card adaptor for transferring data from your mini SD card to your PC
* Headphones with built-in microphone
* Stylus in a matching Venus Ruby colour
* Very short manual and some leaflets with warnings
I personally never use the stylus or headphones as I don't have any need to them. The headphones are simple plastic ones with no sponge ear buds and the stylus is just far less comfortable to use than fingers.
----- Messaging -----
The phone gives you an option to view messages in a standard layout or you can view the messages in a conversations layout (something that is new to me in a mobile phone). There is a choice of setting up and sending/receiving email messages. I rarely use this option on my personal mobile - Vivaz downloads all the messages from my email, including spam and I still haven't figured out how to change this.
Writing a message is easy and you can switch between various input modes: handwriting, mini QWERTY, full QWERTY and alphanumeric keyboard. I tried all of these options but find that standard alphanumeric keyboard is what I feel most comfortable with. The handwriting option works but is very difficult to write properly with an index finger on a mobile phone screen and I can't be bothered to carry the stylus with me all the time (using stylus is not comfortable for me either). The QWERTY keyboards take me longer to write a message, maybe because I am not used to them in a mobile phone.
The alphanumeric option with predictive text is the easiest way of writing a text but the predictive text is not very good. I found that there are several basic (in my opinion) words or symbols that are not included, eg. a smiley face. However, it is easy to add words on to the library of the phone.
----- Internet -----
I don't have much to say about it as I only occasionally connect to the Internet from my personal mobile. I find it much easier to connect using my company's Blackberry. However, on the rare occasions that I go online with Vivaz I found the speed of connection satisfactory. However, before I even get connected I have to confirm whether I want to connect using Contract WAP or other connection point. This can be quite frustrating as you get these messages every time you want to update your email, connect to the web or for any other reason you would need the online connection.
----- Battery life -----
On an average day it lasts about two days, but beware when using the music player as it gets through the battery with an impressive speed. An hour or two of playing music will finish the battery off. Charging takes about 2.5 hours. You can apparently charge it also by plugging the USB cable to your PC; however, in my experience this doesn't give enough power to charge the phone's battery at all.
Another issue is physically accessing the battery. Not that you need to access the batter a lot, but it is quite tricky to remove the cover if you need to access the SD card or battery. The whole back cover of the phone has to be removed by inserting a fingernail into a little whole between front and back covers and pulling the cover away. There really is no button to eject the cover and you have to use force. I only did this a few times when I got the phone, but each time hoped that the plastic cover wouldn't brake as it does feel a bit flimsy. I think Sony Ericsson could have found a better solution to this.
----- Camera/video -----
The camera in this phone was what mainly attracted me to this phone. Vivaz camera has 8.1 megapixels and offers options and quality that very closely resemble those of a digital camera. I wanted a phone that is slim but powerful and that can replace a need for a digital camera, because I don't like carrying too many gadgets with me and always find a digital camera too bulky.
I am very happy with the photos that this camera takes, especially during daytime. The colours are bright and images sharp, so I really cannot complain here. There are also some scene and focus options to choose from: macro, landscape or portrait (among others), which I find very useful. The camera also features smile detection and panorama shoot modes. The settings are quite easy to operate. Also you can add various effects to your photo: sepia/black &white colours, photo frames and various other effects which are nice to have.
The camera was certainly one of the most important features that I wanted from my new phone. To my disappointment, I found that Vivaz is rubbish at taking photos in low light conditions. They always come out grainy and dark. The camera doesn't have the flash option. It features "light" but I am not sure why it is there as it certainly doesn't help achieving better photos. The light feature can only be switched on in Auto and Portrait scene modes and gives a photo a bluish tinge but doesn't make them less pixelated.
The video option has a separate quick access button and is shot in 720p high definition. I used this feature several times and think it is of decent quality, although when filming very fast moving objects, some of the images get slightly blurred. For example I tried filming two of my capoeira teachers play, and some of their fast kicks are not sharp at all. The camera shots with 24fps and in most circumstances it would be perfect - the images are sharp and clear.
----- Media ------
I like the MP3 player in this phone. The sound quality is good for a mobile phone and the 8GB on the memory card allows you to store a decent amount of songs on the phone. The volume is very good and when I am at home, in terms of volume, this phone can replace a standalone music player. In the car, with the road noise, it isn't as loud, though but you could still listen to some music if you like. One thing that I don't like about this player is that there are several ways of accessing it, but not all of them show you the same files. I still haven't managed to figure it out, but some of the songs I downloaded using the phone are in a different place, the songs that I recorded with the phone are in a different place and those I downloaded from my PC are somewhere else altogether.
There is an application to play FM radio, but that can only be accessed with the headphones as they also serve the purpose of antenna. You don't actually need to listen to the radio through the headphones but they need to be connected to the mobile in order for the radio to work. The radio is a nice feature but I rarely use it.
----- My user experience in general -----
One of the very annoying things about this phone is how long it takes to switch off and on. Sometimes, I am wondering whether I have actually pressed the on/off button because it takes so long.
Another thing related to that is sometimes when locking the phone it is difficult to say whether you actually pressed the button, because it is almost the same level as the top of the screen. So you click it again harder and the phone switches off. It doesn't happen to me so often now, but at the beginning, with less practice this happened quite often and was very frustrating.
Yet another slightly annoying thing is auto-rotation feature of the screen, but mainly its speed. It can take a second or two for the screen to switch from horizontal to vertical positions (and other way round), which is especially frustrating when you tilt the phone accidentally. Basically what happens is that the screen becomes blank (or shows a background picture) for 1-2 seconds which is annoying if you are trying to read a text message or write one. Although the touch screen is responsive, the phone is quite slow in responding to instructions and switching between various menu options is not impressively fast.
Talking about menu options, I think the main menu is straightforward and easy to use, but the sub menus have a lot of options and sometimes navigating the menus and finding what you are actually looking for can be tricky and confusing. I remember I had some problems at the beginning and even had to contact Sony Ericsson once because I couldn't find out how to delete an error message from my phone about the SIM card being full. It also took me a while to figure out how to set up a Yahoo mailbox on this phone as it already had 4 mailboxes preset; none of them of any use to me. I might not be a technical geek but I normally can find my way with electronic devices without having to read manuals. This time, however, I searched the manuals, phone menus, Sony Ericsson website and still didn't know how to resolve my issue. I also had problems finding out how to assign a picture and ringtone to a specific contact or to find the logic in functioning of the light feature of the camera.
I am not the only person that had problems with this phone. My mum has the same phone and she doesn't use half of the phone's features, because she doesn't even know they are there (they are not readily visible). Also, my colleague from work got the same phone a few days after I got mine and she managed to keep it for a week, then returned the phone and got a Blackberry instead. Although I am now used to some of the inconveniences of Vivaz, I still think this phone is not the most intuitive to use - and not only for me.
----- Some of the main features -----
* 8.1 megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom, auto focus, face & smile detection, image stabiliser, touch capture
* HD video with continuous auto focus
* Media: music player, FM radio, Track ID, sound recorder
* Video calling, flight mode
* Symbian operating system
* Preloaded apps: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Maps
* 75MB internal memory, 8GB mini SD card included
* Standby time: 440 hours, calling time 320 min (up to)
* 3.2 inches touch screen
* Size: 107 x 52 x 12.5 mm
* Weight: 97 grams
Of course these are not all; please check online for full list of features and to find out more.
----- Recommendation -----
In spite of several annoying things about this phone, I got used to it and I will stick with it probably until it breaks. I really like the fact that it is a smart phone with all the features I can think of using, yet it is much smaller than a Blackberry, iPhone or HTC. It is also much more stylish and the camera (apart from the low light situations) is great - so is the video quality.
I think if you previously owned a Sony Ericsson phone, you will find it easier to get used to the weird location of options. Also, if you need the above described features in a small device that looks good, this phone is for you. I would advise the less technically minded users and those who are looking for a simple phone to skip this one though and choose something else.
My final rating is 3 out of 5.
Summary: Great if you want a small and stylish smartphone
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