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Review of Sony Ericsson Vivaz U5i GSM/UMTS Phone

Live photos of Sony Ericsson Vivaz

Contents:

  1. Positioning
  2. Design, Dimensions and Controls
  3. Screen
  4. Keypad and Text Input
  5. Battery
  6. Memory
  7. USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  8. Camera
  9. Software Details and Sony Ericsson Add-Ons
  10. Impressions

In the box:

  • Phone
  • 8 GB micro SD memory card
  • TV cable
  • HPM-60J stereo headset
  • 1200 mAh ≈–500 battery
  • Charger with the removable USB cable
  • Stylus

Positioning

This model was developed as a temporary solution to generate sales for Sony Ericsson until its Android models enter the market. It was envisaged as a part of Symbian powered range, opened by Satio. During the development Sony Ericsson changed its plans several times and by the time of its release future Symbian models of Sony Ericsson were called off. A couple of handsets may appear, but these will be niche models. The company does not plan a systematic development of this range because Nokia aggressively lowers the price of such solutions driving the margin down. Earlier Samsung was the first to abandon Symbian plans, now they are followed by Sony Ericsson. It's a pity as the company created much needed diversity in the Symbian market and offered alternatives for Nokia models.

What is the positioning of Vivaz U5i? Who will buy it? The answer is obvious: this is a solution for the young, who need value for money, but will not concentrate on hardware details and prefer nice design and good features. And they need a smartphone, of course. Another group of buyers consists of those who somehow did not buy any Nokia smartphone as it is a real alternative to the models from the Finnish manufacturer. This alternative has a slightly altered interface, which is becoming a signature of Sony Ericson after Satio. This option is viable only in the Symbian world and does not work in the entire smartphone market, because Android models offer similar quality of execution and have interesting features.

All in all we have a good choice for the customers who need a smartphone on S60 and are interested in the interface, which is a departure from Nokia solutions. These are predominantly the followers of Sony Ericsson, who have been long waiting for a product with the adequate initial price. Here they get what they wanted.

The model suits both women and men. The age group is between 20 and 30. Surprisingly, but the first months of sales highlighted one more target group Ц the employees of large companies seeking a feature rich device with stylish design, but at a reasonable price. It offers the golden middle and as the looks of Vivaz models are highly original its owners can stand out from the crowd. There is also Vivaz Pro with QWERTY keypad, but we will discuss it in a separate review.

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Design, Dimensions and Controls

It is a neat and small candybar phone. With dimensions of 107x52x12.5 mm (4.21"x2.04"x0.49") it weighs 97 g (3.42 oz) and is comfortable to hold in your hand, though it is not tiny. The body has an oval shape, which is the unique feature of Sony Ericsson. For a model with such dimensions these curves don't offer anything new and even make it a bit clumsy to hold. So, try to keep it in hands and use the model to make sure you get what you expect in terms of overall ergonomics. This is very individual and I can't give any advice here.

Sony Ericsson Vivaz vs HTC Legend:

Sony Ericsson Vivaz vs Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro:

This model was created to compete with mass phones on Symbian, for example Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and Nokia X6. The materials and build of Sony Ericsson device win hands down. The dimensions of Vivaz are also an advantage:

  • Nokia 5800 XM - 111x51.7x15.5 mm (4.37"x2.03"x0.61"), 109 g (3.84 oz)
  • Nokia X6 - 111x51x13.8 mm (4.37"x2.00"x0.54"), 122 g (4.30 oz)

In any case the model is thinner and the oval shape adds to the feeling of the compact size.

The phone is offered in four colors Ц Moon Silver, Cosmic Black, Galaxy Blue and Venus Ruby. The model you see in the review is in Cosmic Black.

All color solutions are offered in glossy plastic. If you look at it in the light you may notice some shades and the plastic sparkles on edges, which is nice. The back cover gets scratched easily and after several minutes of use the fingerprints will be left there as well. It is difficult to find a case for the model, you should look for the branded ones, if they are sold in your city. On the other hand, there is no point in hiding this phone in the case as its main feature is the unique design and why not to exploit this.

The top features the on/off button, which also locks the keypad. On the left side we have a 3.5 mm headphones jack followed by a microUSB (synchronization, charger) protected with the rubber cap. On this side you also have a loudspeaker. The left side hosts the dual volume control button, video recording and camera buttons, which are separate ones. The bottom has an opening for the hand strap and the microphone.

The camera and LED flash are on the back of the handset. The back cover feels a bit loose, but this feeling does not appear straight away and it usually remains the same afterwards. There is some squeaking when you hold the model in hands, but it is not a big deal. The build is excellent with one small drawback. We have no serious issues here.

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Screen

The model is on par with typical Nokia solutions in terms of its screen. It has a 3.2" screen with 640x360 (39x69 mm) resolution, aspect ratio - 16:9 and can boast up to 16 million colors. The picture is bright and juicy and attracts attention. The screen cannot compete with state-of-the-art AMOLED display, but it is quite good for its price range.

We have resistive screen here, so multitouch is not supported as it is always the case in similar products.

The screen is covered with plastic, which is quite thick and hard. There is no difference from glass. I would like to stress, that if you scratch it on purpose the marks will be left, but during the usual everyday use you will not notice any problems. This is not what you get in Nokia 5800 and its clones, but it trails X6 with another plastic type ("glass protection").

The screen fits up to 14 text lines and 3 service lines. The information is well legible, while the fonts are not similar to those used by Nokia, so you get a different impression from the model. Some will like it, some will not, but this is only the issue of habit.

In the box you will find a stylus, which is not necessary as the majority of operations can be carried out with fingers.

The screen orientation changes with a small delay and it is not as swift as in Android models or iPhone. The reason is in Symbian capabilities.

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Keypad and Text Input

There are three hardware buttons on the front Ц call, end call and menu buttons. In all menus end call button moves you one level up. The text can be entered in three different ways or to be more precise by using three keypads.

First, we have a traditional keypad with consequential button pressing, which imitates ordinary phones on the touchscreen. It works only vertically and is easy to use with one hand. All language packages available for S60 are supported.

The second type of the keypad is called miniQWERTY and it works both horizontally and vertically. Stylus allows more convenient input with this keypad, but you can use your nails as well. By the way, women will be able to work with the keypad easily and even the long nails are not a problem here. When you choose a letter it is highlighted and becomes larger in size.

The third type is represented by a usual QWERTY keypad. It works only horizontally. The buttons are convenient and can be used with two hands. I can't say anything particular about input types. The device offers the maximum available number of them. You can choose to use hands or a stylus.

During the predictive text input the word is underlined and by clicking on it you can select its analogue.

Handwriting recognition is a mere trifle, but if to employ a stylus then it can work well. I am not sure many will use the feature, though it is extremely popular in Asia.

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Battery

The model features 1200 mAh lithium-polymer battery EP500. The manufacturer claims up to 5.5 hours of talk time and up to 440 hours on standby.

The average operation time is around 2 days in real life networks. This time includes 1.5 hours of talk time, a couple of dozens of camera shots, two minutes of video recording and up to one hour of radio or music playback. It takes about 1.5 hours for a full recharge.

The maximum operation time in different modes is the following:

  • GPS navigation– 4-4.5 hours
  • Video playback – 2 hours 45 minutes (H.264 in hands free mode)
  • WEB surfing (EDGE connection) – 4 hours
  • Wi-Fi (permanent data download) – 5 hours
  • Music playback in headphones – 29 hours
  • Radio – 30 hours
  • Games – 4 hours

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Memory

The phone has around 256 MB of RAM (Nokia usually offers 128 MB) and after the start of operation 120 MB are available to users. 75 MB in the phone itself can be used to store data. In the box you will find an 8 GB memory card, which is enough for the majority of users. We tested the phone with a 32 GB card and it was detected by the phone with ease. Hot swap is also supported, but you have to open the back cover.

The company cut its expenses on the memory card and it is of class 8. In many menus you can see some sluggishness if you use the card from the box. When you change the card the speed goes up dramatically, so I strongly recommend doing this trick.

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USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

USB. In USB settings 4 modes are available:

  • Data Transfer (Mass Storage USB) – here you have access to the phone memory and memory card without any drivers. The OS sees the phone without any help.
  • PC Suite – work with Nokia PC Suite, access to all handset functions, backup of all information, etc.
  • Image Transfer – transfer of photos.
  • Media Transfer – transfer of multimedia files (MTP).

Data transfer speed reaches 5 Mb/s. During the connection of the USB cable the phone starts charging in all modes but Mass Storage.

Bluetooth. This smartphone uses Bluetooth version 2.0 with EDR support. The phone supports the following modules:

  • Dial Up Networking Profile (Gateway)
  • Object Push Profile (Server and Client)
  • File Transfer Profile (Server)
  • Hands Free Profile (Audio Gateway)
  • Headset Profile (Audio Gateway)
  • Basic Imaging Profile (Image Push Responder and Initiator)
  • Remote SIM Access Profile (Server)
  • Device Identification Profile
  • Phone Book Access Profile (Server)
  • Stereo Audio Streaming:
  • Generic Audio/Video Distribution Profile
  • Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (A/V Remote Control Target)
  • Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (Audio Source)

Data transfer speed via Bluetooth reaches on average 100 Kb/s. We tested the transfer of stereo to a headset like Sony Ericsson DS970. Tracks handling, rewinding and skipping work without any problems, but the name of the track played at that time is not displayed on the screen.

Wi-Fi. The phone supports Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 b/g). All safety standards (WEP, WPA, WPA2) are available and the settings are maximum. There is Wi-Fi networks wizard and it can search for such networks in the background mode and connect to them if necessary.

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Camera

The phone has an 8.1 MP CMOS matrix with the autofocus. It is an inexpensive module, but offers decent quality of pictures. It does not reach the top level, the quality is medium, so there is nothing outstanding here. The manufacturer emphasizes that the device records video in HD quality (720p), but this feature is already available in many models. This solution is typical of its class. Many customers bought the magic words "HD" and "8 MP", but did not compare it with other models.

The camera lens is protected by plastic, gets soiled quickly, but it does not affect the picture quality. The LED flash cannot be used as a torch. The phone has dedicated keys for camera and video.

In the camera mode you can choose Scenes Ц portrait, landscape, twilight landscape, sport, document, snow/beach, twilight portrait. In the shooting modes you can choose focus on smile or screen (select the area by touching the screen) and panoramic shot. Focus centers on the face Ц macro or infinite. Exposure adjustment from -2 to +2 is also available. Picture resolutions supported are 8 MP (4:3), 7 MP (3:2), 6 MP (16:9), 2 MP (16:9), 2 MP (4:3). The following effects can be applied Ц Negative, Solarise, Sepia, Black&White.

Look at the photo samples to make conclusions as to the camera quality.

Video recording. The company decided to make this feature central for the model. HD recording is available with the resolution of 1280x720 at 24 frames per second. The recording quality is decent, but there is not much of a difference in comparison with other models on the market. Unfortunately, the cheap matrix does not allow getting the quality similar to comparable Samsung models.

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Software Details and Sony Ericsson Add-Ons

This model is based on S60 5th Edition and I am not going to describe many features and will refer to a separate article. The work with contacts, messages, organizer and other standard applications is described here:

S60 5th edition software

Nevertheless I would like to mention the changes, which Sony Ericsson implemented in the standard platform. It is not a secret that standard icons in S60 5th Edition are boring and not attractive. Sony Ericsson changed all standard dialogue windows and icons by offering their own variant. The screen savers and icons are bright and appeal to the young.

In the standby mode you can select standard themes or chose Sony Ericsson variants. In the latter case you will have 5 screens and on each you can place something else Ц select the wallpapers or access to media files (photo and video), Twitter, Flash animation and apps, the shortcuts list or contacts for quick dialing. Sony Ericsson tried to improve Symbian as much as possible and stay afloat until the next versions of this OS appear. Unlike Nokia, the interface is more convenient to use.

There is a window with applications shortcuts and the player launch (its controls are displayed here as well), date, time and the selected profile. The workspace is arranged conveniently and instinctively easy to use.

Unfortunately, nowhere in the menu (apart from the quick dialing list) we can use touch panning (it is routinely supported in Nokia products). It is a negative feature of the interface.

Media menu was borrowed from A200. You have PSP style from Sony. You see different sections, can select photos, video and music. This application easily beats the standard gallery from Symbian. On the downside we have the slow presentation of pictures, but it is caused by the slow speed of reading from the memory card.

In the player the equalizers are absent and the company somehow believes that the users should download the appropriate free application from PlayNow. Such an equalizer will work in all applications dealing with sound. It should naturally be opened in the memory.

There are no complaints about the FM radio. The interface is minimalistic.

Navigation works well. Google Maps and the trial version of WisePilot are available. I think, the owners of the model will not pay for the full version of this software, but some people may need it. It clearly looses to standard OVI MAPS as Google Maps cannot substitute Nokia product if you need full-time navigation, but if you require this feature occasionally then you will not see the difference.

In SMS you can display all communication as the chat. It takes some time to start, especially if you have many saved messages.

The handset has only one game Ц "Rally", but it is quite interesting.

I will not describe the apps for YouTube and Facebook, because they are quite traditional. The same applies to TrackID (music recognition).

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Impressions

The ringtone volume is medium and you can miss a call if the phone is in your pocket, especially in winter. The same can be said about the vibro, which is not powerful enough to be noticed at all times. These drawbacks are predetermined by the model's size. There was no space for a more powerful loudspeaker and better vibro. Unlike Sony Ericsson X10 this model has no problems with the voice reproduction and transfer.

The dictaphone does not work during the call and the phone cannot be used without the SIM card.

I like this model and I treated as a designer phone, first of all, for women, but men can use it as well. It suits everybody who loves small models. It is a good solution only in the case mentioned above. Those who look for maximum features will be disappointed, because this phone offers good value for money. In terms of music it has no particular distinction Ц the headphones from the box offer a mediocre sound quality and the equalizers are absent. These are the explicit deficiencies of the model you cannot easily ignore. Nokia devices have better sound (with identical expensive headphones from the third party manufacturer).

But we have to give due respect to Sony Ericsson product. It is more interesting than its Nokia counterparts by the customized interface and is more pleasant to work with. Operation time is also slightly longer, which is also good. In terms of drawbacks I have to mention slow change of screen orientation. It does not perform well enough. In R2CA024 firmware released at the end of May this issue was addressed, but the remedy turned out to be partial and there are still some issues there.

Cost cutting on the memory card considerably spoils the impressions from the phone. If you want to view pictures and watch video properly and have no problems with the speed of operation you should get rid of the card from the box.

At the moment the phone costs around И340, which is justified if compared with Nokia 5800, but is way too high if we remember about Nokia X6 8 GB priced at И220. The market is full of rival models, for example, HTC Hero. It was a flagship model for HTC last year and its price today equals that of Vivaz. This model now is the slowest from Androids, but if we compare its speed of interface with Vivaz (one of the fastest Symbian phones before the release of Nokia N8), then Hero will win. This price range and even lower offers many Android models with similar or better features Ц HTC WildFire, Acer Liquid, etc. This phone became a temporary solution and became the victim of Symbian declined popularity. This did not help its sales. The figures were good in March and April, but it virtually stalled in May. Today Sony Ericsson Vivaz sells well only for Sony Ericsson, but plays no role on the market in general and does not put pressure on Nokia products, which it often surpasses.

The company also offers Vivaz Pro, which has a slightly bigger body and boasts a full size QWERTY keypad. That model is nice, but only serves the niche market as it does not offer anything new, but costs more than the rival models. We will speak about it in a separate review, but now let's go back to Vivaz.

We cannot expect Sony Ericsson to work hard in order to improve this model. They use all resources for Android smartphones, which is confirmed by the slow speed of troubleshooting here Ц it took the company three months to offer a new firmware, though we did not get the necessary fixes.

Finally, if you like the design of the model and plan to call, send messages and use the rest of its features a bit you will be happy. But if you are looking for a full fledged smartphone think twice why do you need a Symbian model, because Android offers better interface and more apps for the same money. This nice model was created to boost Sony Ericsson sales, but it was not noticed by the wider audience and the market in general.

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Related links

Review of GSM/UMTS-communicator HTC Hero

Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Nokia X6/X6 16 Gb

HTC Wildfire. The First Look

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net)

Published — 22 June 2010

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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