Probably one of the most hip and touted features of the Sony Ericsson Media Go application is that it can take any video you throw at it and transfer it to your mobile phone in a playable format by transcoding it on the go.
Most of our commenting users are quite enthusiastic about the fact that Media Go is a free video converter that will convert their desktop videos hassle-free and then transfer them to the cellphone all in one go.
Well, we didn't share that enthusiasm because we've seen other software take on the task of oversimplifying the matter of video conversion for mobile devices and the results are rarely nice to watch.
All that being said, converting and transferring videos with Media Go didn't manage to impress us too, and there are several reasons for that and we would gladly elaborate on them.
But first, let's take a look at the pros of having an application such as Media Go do your video conversions:
Media Go offers two levels of video quality (Space saving and High quality) and two types of audio encoding (AAC or MP3), both of which have their own three levels of quality (Space saving, high quality, and very high quality).
The Space saving setting for video indeed did what it's suppose do - it shrank our test video 40% down compared to the High quality converted video, however the quality did suffer quite obviously. According to us the compromise was just not worth it. The High quality video however looked flawless on the W995 screen and it still was not that big.
As for audio - we preferred the High quality setting for an optimal output. We were quite impressed by the Sony Ericsson W995 stereo speakers and how rich their sound is.
What we didn't like however is Sony Ericsson's idea of video-capable handset - the W995. It certainly lacks some key features that are important to a portable video player.
(1) You have to encode most videos to run on the phone. You cannot just throw one of the most popular video formats such as DivX or XviD and expect that it plays them. As you can guess the disadvantages of the Media Go video conversion fall under the first point.
a) First off, it's the logic of conversion that bugs us.
You certainly know the black bars displayed on the top and bottom of a video when you watch widescreen material on a non-widescreen display. Well, usually those black bars are not part of the video themselves; they just indicate the parts of the screen that have not been filled with video content. With the Media Go converted videos however, the black bars ARE part of the video.
b) Furthermore, the videos are encoded directly to QVGA resolution.
That means zooming in the video player (at the expense of side cropping) will in fact deteriorate the video quality. That leads us to the second main disadvantage of W995 as a portable video player.
c) And finally, conversion takes time.
Converting a 570MB XviD AVI video clip with 640 x 240 pixels resolution took us 30 minutes on a regular spec'd XP rig with 2MB RAM based on C2D E5200. If we were just copying the file to the handset, it would have taken us only 4 minutes.
(2) Then the second bugger is that the Sony Ericsson W995 screen doesn't have the widescreen ratio that most videos have. So in result the actual widescreen video feed can take up as little as 1/2 of the display size - quite insufficient.
Media Go seems like a capable application and its performance was flawless during our test. Managing music with it is fine, but videos and photos get scaled to agree with your handset. If you use regular aspect videos (4:3, the aspect of VGA-res clips), you would be quite happy with the output quality. Widescreen videos however turn quite small on that screen and zooming in only makes things worse.
On a different note, we couldn't help but wonder why Sony Ericsson decided to ditch their Media Manager, which was only around for a year or two. They could have just upgraded it to accommodate the new stuff such as the Play Now Arena integration and the Podcasts subscription service, but instead they've decided to go for a totally new app.
As a result in a few months time there will be not one but three applications that users will use for syncing various content to their Sony Ericsson phones - Media Go, Media Manager and PC Suite.
We would have really preferred it that Sony Ericsson went for the integration path - merging Media Manager and PC Suite instead so users can sync both their multimedia and PIM with one single application.
Leaving that nuisance aside, our final verdict, is that the combination of Sony Ericsson W995 and Media Go doesn't sound like the best portable video combo we've seen. If video on-the-go is important to you, our recommendation is to stick with powerful smartphones that both support a wide range of video formats and are capable enough to playback desktop videos without any conversion whatsoever.