By June 15, 2010

Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro review

VivazPro-main The Vivaz Pro is the second of four phones Sony Ericsson announced back in February at MWC. It is very similar to the Vivaz spec-wise, although with a few notable differences such as the sliding 4-row keyboard. Despite this addition, there is a minimal increase in size, just 2mm thicker, which is no mean feat. It may have a ‘downgrade’ in the camera megapixel count, but it still keeps the 720p video recording of the original Vivaz.

The camera and keyboard makes this phone an ideal contender for messaging and media types, but is the Vivaz Pro good enough to compete with smartphones from like the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson themselves?


What’s in the box?

  • Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro
  • 1200mAh battery
  • 8GB microSD card
  • USB wall charger
  • USB to microUSB cable
  • 3.5mm headset with mic
  • Manuals and warranty information

For an unboxing and demo of the Vivaz Pro make sure you check out Matt’s video.


Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro specification:

  • Operating System – Symbian 60 5th edition
  • Processor – 720MHz, PowerVR SGX graphics
  • Memory – 75 MB
  • Display – 3.2 inch 360 x 640 resolution
  • Network -GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
    UMTS/HSPA 900/2100
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
  • AGPS
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • microSD memory card -up to 16GB
  • 5 megapixel camera with autofocus, LED flash and smile detection
  • Navigation buttons with sliding QWERTY keyboard
  • Talk Time – GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 – 12 hours 30 min
    UMTS/HSPA 900/2100 – 5 hours 20 min   (manufactures approximation)  
  • Standby Time – GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 – 430 hours
    UMTS/HSPA 900/2100 – 440 hours (manufactures approximation)  
  • Dimensions – 109 x 52 x 15 mm
  • Weight – 117 grams with battery


The curved top edge has absolutely nothing because of the slide mechanism and the curvy design.

The bottom is also quite bare, with just a lanyard loop.



The left hand side houses the microUSB port with a plastic cover. Just below it we have the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the microphone hole further down.



The right hand side has a volume rocker, which also doubles as a zoom control for the camera. Further down there are two shortcut buttons for the camera; one for still images, the other taking you to the camcorder. The camera button is two-stage for focusing, and the video button is single-stage.


On the back there is a small speaker next to the Sony Ericsson logo, and of course the 5 megapixel camera lens and LED flash. The small hole next to the flash is a small red light that’s on when recording, and there’s the on/off and lock button just beside it.



The front is mainly taken up by the 3.2″ screen, with a speaker and ambient light sensor above, and three buttons below.




  • Decent keyboard
  • Runs fast, multitasks well
  • Screen has very good viewing angles
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Audio quality (with decent earphones)


  • No proximity sensor for screen lock during calls
  • Placement of lock button
  • Screen could be more responsive
  • Slide mechanism could be smoother
  • All-plastic construction feels pretty cheap



If you’ve seen or held a Vivaz, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between the two – the design is almost exactly the same, for better or worse. Some may like its ‘Human Curvature’ design but I’m not so keen. Sony Ericsson says it’s designed to mirror the human body shape which does actually help to make it seem thinner than its true 15mm-deep waistline.

The build quality of the phone is fairly reasonable. It doesn’t ooze quality, but it feels good enough to be able to survive a few knocks. To get at the sim and battery compartment, the back cover has to be ripped off from the bottom and the cracking noise isn’t particularly comforting to hear. In fact the entire plastic casing feels rather cheap, but at least it looks good and handles fingerprints pretty well. The screen is glossy and set unusually low on the front – the first thing that came to my mind when I picked it up was that it looks upside down. The logo is telling me it’s the right way up, but the screen’s position is telling me to turn it around. Another design quirk is that the curved shape prevented the designers from placing the lock button on the top which is fair enough, but putting it on somewhere on the side like some Samsung and LG phones would have made it more convenient to reach than on the back.

The Vivaz Pro is scarcely bigger than the Vivaz – the extra height and width of the Vivaz Pro is barely noticeable, and it’s only 2mm thicker despite the added bonus of a qwerty keyboard, the main differentiator between this and the ordinary Vivaz. The only sacrifice they have made is that the camera is down from 8.1 to 5 megapixels – not too bad a compromise.

The keyboard that earns it the ‘Pro’ name is pretty good. The buttons aren’t the largest but they are decently spaced and tactile. It’s easy to get used to and there are a few useful keys like dedicated comma and full stop buttons. That internet shortcut button didn’t seem to do anything apart from change the input language so its usefulness is questionable. The slide mechanism itself is not the smoothest we’ve seen and it’s very heavily sprung compared to other similar phones; it needs quite a lot of force to open one-handed, but that’s about all there is wrong with the keyboard. My favourite thing about the keyboard is that the edges of each key light up as well as the actual letters themselves. In the dark, this is very useful and lets you know exactly where each key is – I found my accuracy in typing was better in the dark because of this. There are three on screen keyboards, the 14 key standard one, the mini and full qwerty. Why you would use them though is beyond me when you have a good slide-out keyboard.


The screen is 3.2″ diagonal and it’s crisp and clear with a 360×640 resolution. The viewing angles are surprisingly good, and the colours are vibrant and accurate. It is of the resistive type though, which relies on pressure rather than using the conductive properties of your finger. The advantage of this is that you can use anything to prod that screen, be it a stylus or a gloved finger. The trade off is that they tend to be less responsive to finger swipes and taps. The Vivaz Pro’s screen is no different and could do with being more responsive, though its fast processor means there’s rarely a slow down, and most taps are registered.

The OS on the Vivaz Pro is Symbian 5th Edition with Sony Ericsson’s home-grown skin on top, identical to the Vivaz. The skin adds a more touch friendly home screen interface, and their Walkman media player is very easy to use. The home screen theme can be changed to one of five different interfaces. The standard one has 5 tabs, one of which is an integrated Twitter client. Although conveniently on the home screen, it’s quite basic with writing tweets and basic viewing of tweets really the only things you can do. Underneath their interface it’s still Symbian, which although is stable and has a wealth of third-party apps, the lack of fancy transitions emphasises its age and the fact it wasn’t initially designed for touch input – there is no kinetic scrolling and lists require double tapping whereas icons don’t. These inconsistencies could be confusing and frustrating for new users, but current Symbian users should feel right at home. Whether that is a good thing or not is down to personal preference and needs.

The killer feature of the Vivaz Pro is obviously the 5MP camera and its ability to record video at 720p resolution. The camera on the Vivaz was 8.1MP and so at first it may seem like a downgrade, but there is more to cameras than simply the megapixel count. James found the Vivaz’s camera to be rather disappointing (you can read his review here) but I found that the Vivaz Pro’s camera is slightly better (and I mean slightly). Whether it’s because of less megapixels reducing the noise or just improved hardware we don’t know, but the pictures it takes aren’t too bad. In ideal lighting conditions, the results are actually pretty good. Anything less than perfect though, produces images that are average at best for its class. Here are some untouched sample shots:

Landscape - Vivaz Pro Keyboard - Vivaz Pro

Stone - BB 9700 Stone - Vivaz Pro


Since it only has one small LED flash, its low light performance is dismal at best. In pictures of anything a few metres away, the flash makes little to no difference. In fact, calling it a ‘light’ is probably a more suitable name because, like the Vivaz, it doesn’t actually flash. You have to go into the menus to turn it either on or off. When it’s on, it stays on. I compared it to the 3.2MP camera on my BlackBerry 9700, which also has a single LED flash. The Vivaz is on the left and the 9700 is on the right:

As you can see, the Vivaz’s flash light gives it a cold white tint to the floor and a blue tint to the stone – the BlackBerry shot’s colour is much more accurate and closer to life than the Vivaz.

Video however is supposed to be the Vivaz’s forte. It can record at an impressive 720p resolution (1280×720) so I was expecting some pretty high quality footage. The video app interface is pretty simple to use – there are some shortcuts to the left of the screen such as night mode and focus mode. Going into the settings will reveal a self-timer, light, white balance and effects. Some footage of my garden is below (settings on automatic, and continuous focus), and I was somewhat disappointed. It’s not a bad camera, but seeing as it is the big feature, it doesn’t perform as well as I’d hoped. With sharp movement there is little blocking, but the colours are washed out and it’s rather noisy. For a phone it’s not bad, but for a phone that’s marketed as a replacement for your point-and-shoot, it’s not up to scratch.


Vivaz Pro sample HD video


Both the camera and video camera buttons on the side can override the keypad lock allowing you to take quick snaps, but it is a double-edged sword – quite often I took it out of my pocket to find that the camera had been activated by accident and a sizeable chunk of the battery life gone.

Speaking of battery life, the 1200mAh unit powering the device is more than adequate to last a day of heavy usage. I could get through a day and a half of heavy browsing, texting and calling before requiring the services of a power outlet. On very light usage, I could last 3 full days thanks to Symbian’s relatively low power requirements.


There is a Facebook app preloaded onto the phone which is quite full featured, allowing easy status updating and profile viewing. A Youtube app is also preloaded and works extremely well. Featured videos and your subscriptions are available after login and videos are very quick to load, but the videos themselves aren’t of particularly good quality.

Like the Vivaz, there’s a 30 day trial of Wisepilot which provides voice guided navigation of both driving and walking routes. The maps are downloaded on the fly from the web so if you’re going to use it often, it’s a good idea to have an unlimited data plan. After 30 days you are going to have to shell out for this, and it’s worth mentioning that Nokia have just added free lifetime navigation on their devices, and the maps are stored locally on the microSD. Google Maps is again preloaded, but doesn’t provide guidance instructions.

Sony Ericsson’s own media app is, as I’ve mentioned before, very easy to use. The music quality through the headphones is superb. I couldn’t hear any background hiss, and both the high and low ends of the sound spectrum sounded rich, providing you plug a pair of your own quality headphones – the provided headphone set are cheap and plasticky, but luckily you would never have to use them as Sony have opted for a standard 3.5mm jack rather than their proprietary FastPort – always a good thing.



The Vivaz Pro is a mixed bag. It has a very good keyboard, yet the standout feature turned out to be disappointing, even if it is slightly better than its twin. There are other similar and better Symbian options out there, the closest being the Nokia N97 Mini. That has an equally good keyboard and a better build quality, but lacks the 720p video. Unless that’s an important feature to you, I really cannot recommend the Vivaz Pro over it – the N97 Mini has a more responsive screen, is built better, and is generally a better all-round phone. The Vivaz Pro however is (at the time of writing) the only phone on the market to have a hardware qwerty and 720p recording, so if (mediocre) HD video recording is just as important as a good keyboard, then maybe this could be for you. Maybe.


Review by: Vince

[ Post Tags: Sony Ericsson, Vivaz Pro, Symbian, ]

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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