Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro review: HD gets a Pro flavor
Unboxing the Vivaz pro
The Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro comes in a medium sized box, but it packs only the essentials. There’s a microUSB cable and a charger, which uses the USB cable, and a one-piece headset.
There’s an 8GB microSD card in the retail package, which is no small thing.
There’s also a user guide in the box and the Sony Ericsson PC Companion application is preloaded on the memory card.
Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro 360-degree spin
At 109 x 52 x 15 mm the Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro is just barely bigger than the original Vivaz – this makes it one of the most compact phones that can shoot 720p videos, and it does well in the hardware QWERTY category too. But put those two features together and the Vivaz pro is perhaps the best you can get in terms of size and weight.
The Vivaz pro continues the Human Curvature trend in Sony Ericsson designs and its looks trace back to the Satio. The Vivaz pro comes in Black or White only – the first Vivaz had more color options, but along with the “Pro” tag comes an air of seriousness we suppose.
Design and construction
The front of the Sony Ericsson Vivaz is almost identical to its QWERTY-less sibling. There’re only minor changes around the earpiece, but those are hard to spot. The sides, and mostly the back, are what has changed the most.
By the way, you’ll only spot the difference if you’ve used a Vivaz before. Otherwise the Vivaz pro is reminiscent of the Sony Ericsson Satio, which kicked off Sony Ericsson’s return to the Symbian OS.
What sets the Vivaz duo apart from the blocky design of the Satio is the Human Curvature design – the curved back for the Vivaz pro makes it more comfortable to hold in hand.
But let’s stop the comparisons for a second and look at the Vivaz pro with fresh eyes.
The front of the phone is built around the 3.2” screen. It’s set quite low on the face of the Vivaz pro – there’s plenty of headroom above the display, but the keys below the screen feel very cramped, almost pushed off the bottom edge.
This makes the physical keys – a central menu key and the Call and End buttons –and the virtual soft keys at the bottom of the display, a bit uncomfortable to use.
The screen is the same as on the original Vivaz – nHD resolution of 360x640 pixels spanning the 3.2-inch diagonal. The viewing angles are great, colors remain unaffected even at extreme angles.
The screen uses the resistive touch technology, which fails to match the response and sensitivity of capacitive displays, but still does reasonably well.
Unfortunately, the sunlight legibility is poor – the screen washes out when hit by direct sunlight.
Moving away from the screen, we find the earpiece alongside the ambient light sensor. The Vivaz pro lacks a proximity sensor or an auto-locking feature, so the display is always prone to incidental presses during a call. Perhaps they’ll fix that in a future software update.
The hardware keys below the display are a bit too thin and poorly positioned. They are not that hard to use but they still bring usability down.
On the left side of the Vivaz pro, the 3.5mm audio jack and the microSD card have swapped places compared to the non-pro Vivaz. The connectivity port is on top with the audio jack just below it. The microUSB port is covered by a plastic flap.
Below the USB port there is a small LED that blinks red while the phone is charging. Towards the bottom of the left side we also find the mic pinhole. Make sure you don’t cover it with your finger when you hold the phone to your ear.
The right side hosts an array of controls. In the top half, there’s the volume rocker, which also doubles as a digital zoom control. The bottom half offers not one but two shutter keys – one for the still camera and one for the camcorder. Both can start up the camera directly overriding the phone lock.
The power key of the Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro is placed on the very top of the back of the phone. Quite unusual but the curved top and the slider form factor didn’t leave designers much options. As on any other Symbian handset, you can also use the power key for locking the phone (a double click on the key will do), switching profiles or handling the memory card. The power key location isn’t the most comfortable though..
All there is at the bottom is the lanyard eyelet.
The back of the phone features the camera lens, which is integral to the Vivaz experience. Unlike the original Vivaz, the camera resolution has been brought down to 5-megapixels but it keeps the 720p video recording.
The camera lens is accompanied by a LED flash. Compared to the unorthodox positioning on the non-pro Vivaz, where the camera was placed very near the center, things on the Vivaz pro are more traditional. The nest of the camera lens protrudes slightly from the back, which makes it scratch-prone.
A small red light between the flash and the power key blinks while the video camera is recording.
Removing the battery cover reveals the 1200 mAh Li-Po EP500 battery – the same as the original Vivaz uses. The cover is quite hard to remove – you need to pull hard at the top and the cover just doesn’t feel flexible enough – we feared breaking it more than once. On the other hand, the rear panel fits tightly in place, no wobbles or creaks.
The microSD card slot is under the battery cover, though not under the battery itself. The Vivaz pro comes with an 8GB microSD card in the package and supports up to 16GB cards.
The SIM card compartment is here too. The SIM eject solution is simple – you just slide the card in and out.
Sliding out the Vivaz pro reveals a four row QWERTY keyboard. The keys sit quite low to the surface but still have a solid enough press. There’s plenty of room above the top row too. The keyboard’s biggest problem however is that keys are quite small and close together, so you can accidentally press several keys at once. It’s by no means a bad hardware keyboard but it will take some time getting used to. Anyway, four rows of reasonably thumbable keys is the best they could offer on such a compact device.
The Vivaz pro is really pocket-sized – it’s taller and wider than the QWERTY-less variant by a whisker and it’s thicker by only 2.5mm. That’s no small feat considering Sony Ericsson managed to fit a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard. It is 20 grams heavier than its predecessor but at 117 grams the Vivaz pro is one of the lightest phones with QWERTY and a screen over 3-inches.
The phone is quite compact and will slip into your pocket with ease. The curved back lets it sit more naturally in the hand but that’s only true in portrait use. The human curvature doesn’t make much sense in landscape use, plus the phone is wobbly on a level surface. It tilts the wrong way if you place it on a table – keyboard raised and the screen lowered.
The build quality is solid though the slider is not the smoothest we’ve seen. It is spring assisted but requires quite a push to fully open it. If you try to slide it open by putting your fingers on the front and back, you’ll encounter even more resistance.
The black plastic around the display and the display itself will quickly become a fingerprint mess. The back is much better at hiding fingerprints, and the finish is quite nice.