Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro review: HD gets a Pro flavor
Touch Symbian Sony Ericsson style
Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro runs the Symbian OS 5th edition – it’s the touch enabled Symbian that all Nokia touch smartphones use (aside from the Nokia N900 that is).
However, the 5th edition user interface is identical to the non-touch 3rd edition. And what was convenient to use with a D-pad, turned out less convenient for finger use. And while the Symbian Foundation scrambles to deliver Symbian^3, which should improve the touch experience, Sony Ericsson have refurbished the old OS.
In a nutshell, if you are familiar with the Satio, Vivaz pro won't be a surprise. The changes are restricted to the homescreen, the gallery (Sony Ericsson have put on their excellent Walkman UI), and the camera.
The homescreen uses a tabbed interface but not like the "Vertical icon bar" often seen (though rarely used) in Nokia handsets. There are five tabs, which are in effect five alternative homescreen panes. You can assign a different function to every screen - favorite contacts, flow animation, camera album, shortcuts, static picture, Flash animation or the Twitter app.
There are five shortcuts on top of the display, one for each screen. Alternatively, horizontal finger sweeps can be used to navigate the tabs. The transition itself is visually pleasing with smooth animations - even if you switch from the first to the last tab, things will roll across the screen with no lag at all.
There’s a status window at the bottom of the screen, which shows the operator name, time and date (though time is also visible in the status row on top). There are four additional shortcuts at the bottom - Dialer, Media, Messaging and Web search. The End key shows and hides the status window so it doesn’t get in the way of, say, the Twitter app.
Let's take a closer look at those tabs. They are very similar to the XPERIA panels, but we might say they offer more functionality and style. The five tabs are actually slots that you can fill with your choice of content. Well, almost - you are limited to one of the eight options.
The first one is the Favorite contacts option, which makes the homescreen show a selection of contacts. They are displayed in a list with contact photos if available, so nothing fancy. Tapping a contact brings up a popup with three options - Call, Message, View in contacts.
The Album option shows a vertical list of all your photos and videos, sorted by date. It comes with kinetic scrolling and is the fastest way to view the latest photos. By the way, for some strange reason kinetic scrolling is not available anywhere else in the interface.
Next up is the Shortcuts option, which puts a list of eight shortcuts on your screen - be they shortcuts to applications or bookmarks.
Then you have the option of setting a tab to show a single picture or a Flash animation, while another option displays running water as an interactive (accelerometer-based) animation.
The final one is the Twitter option, which speaks for itself. It's a twitter homescreen allowing you to read or post tweets on your profile. We wish there was a Facebook option as well, but there’s been no change.
The Twitter app lets you post updates and see the updates of the people you follow. It’s not very advanced with no fine grained filtering of posts but it does the job just fine. Sliding out the keyboard rotates the screen into landscape mode.
The Vivaz pro main menu is more standard - there's a choice between grid and list layout, and by default the shortcuts are styled and arranged to resemble the typical Sony Ericsson menu. The icons will feel very familiar to experienced Sony Ericsson or Symbian users, depending on the theme you are currently using.
The rest however is S60 5th edition - the D-pad and soft-key based navigation translated into touchscreen. Lists still require a double tap to select and confirm, while icons take just a single tap. There's a shortcut to the task switcher or you can long-press the menu key.
Phonebook is typical Symbian
Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro uses the standard Symbian S60 5th edition phonebook. It has virtually unlimited capacity and functionality is among the best we've seen. You can set whether the contacts on the SIM card, the phone memory and the service numbers will get displayed.
You can order contacts by first or last name and you can naturally search any contact by gradual typing. To speed things along, the search keyboard is special - letters are in alphabetical order and not the entire alphabet is available. For instance, if there are no contacts whose name starts with a C, the letter C won't appear on the custom keyboard.
Of course, you can use the physical keyboard to type in the name, but as we said in the previous chapter, you can’t do that directly on the homescreen – you need to launch the phonebook first, which is an extra tap or two.
Editing a contact offers a great variety of preset fields and you can replicate each of them as many times as you like. You can also create new fields if you happen to be able to think of one that's missing.
You can also assign personal sound ringtones and videos to the individual contacts. If you prefer, you may group your contacts and give each group a specific ringtone.
The Call log keeps track of your recent communications. The application itself comes in two flavors - accessed by pressing the Call key on the standby screen or from the main menu. The first one brings 20 call records in each of its tabs for outgoing, received and missed calls.
If you access the Call Log from the main menu, you'll see a detailed list of all your network communications for the past 30 days. These include messages, calls and data transfers (even WLAN connections are included).
Telephony still needs smart dialing
We didn't experience any problems with the in-call performance of Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro. Reception levels are good on both ends of a call, the earpiece is loud enough and there were no signal drops whatsoever.
Two things the phone lacks in the Telephony department are Smart dialing and voice dialing. These two are included in other versions of Symbian and should have been available here. On touch phones without keyboards, lacking smart dialing is not that big a deal, but it would have been very useful if you could use the QWERTY keyboard on the Vivaz pro to type in the first few letters of a contact’s name and hit dial.
Thanks to the built-in accelerometer you can silence an incoming call on the phone by simply flipping it over. This works for snoozing alarms too.
Unfortunately, your screen doesn't switch off during a call, because of the lack of a proximity sensor.
We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test on Vivaz pro. The handset performed better than the original Vivaz, but it scored only an Average mark for its loudspeaker performance. You might want to keep a closer look on it when it's noisy around.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Ringing ||Overall score|
|Samsung I9000 Galaxy S||66.6||65.9||66.6||Below Average|
|Sony Ericsson Vivaz||64.8||59.8||69.1||Below Average|
|Sony Ericsson Vivaz pro||69.2||65.6||72.6||Average|
|Samsung S8500 Wave||69.8||66.6||75.5||Good|
|Sony Ericsson Satio||71.8||66.1||78.2||Good|
|HTC HD2||75.7||73.2||75.7||Very Good|