|Name||Smartphone: Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman|
|At a glance:||Good sound quality,Dedicated Walkman button,1GHz processor,Entry-level price|
|Summary:||Sony Ericsson have stepped up their game – the Live with Walkman offers excellent performance at a low price.|
Admit it: thinking of your old Walkman, with its cassette tape slot and two-inch-thick body, gets you a little misty with nostalgia. Who didn’t have a Walkman in the 90s? I still remember how excited I was when I was gifted my first by my parents in 1996, along with the Spice Girls’ first album. I was nine.
Unsurprisingly, Sony Ericsson is still trying to cash in on that nostalgia. Sony Ericsson’s Live with Walkman phone has the orange detail of old cassette-based devices, a dedicated button to open the Walkman music player, and like the old music players, is short and stout in design.
But in order to fly the flag high, the phone can’t just talk the talk – it has to walk the Walkman. If a device is selling itself on its ability to play music, then the music had better sound good. Fortunately, whether we were playing music through the device’s speakers, through the included earbuds, or through our own high-quality headsets, the Live with Walkman sounded better than every phone we tested it against. When using its speakers, the lower range was much improved on other smartphones, although the upper range was still a bit tinny. There’s also an ‘extra loud’ setting that can be switched on, and it really does get quite loud. Of course, I’m concerned it’s going to encourage the kind of people who blast music from their phones on the train, walking down the street, or in elevators (inconsiderate jerks), but it’s certainly good for those people who want to listen through their phones without wearing an extra accessory.
There are a couple of things that are missing from a music-centric phone – while the volume keys can be used with the phone locked, which is useful, there are no dedicated pause, play, or skip buttons. In order to perform any of those functions, you have to unlock the phone, which isn’t ideal if it’s in your pocket or your bag.
Aside from music, the Live with Walkman phone works well as a smartphone. It has a 3.2-inch screen, which is a bit small for big texters and emailers in portrait mode, but big enough when the device is turned sideways. However, the quality of the 480 x 320 pixel display is high and animations look great. It’s also extremely responsive for a phone in this price range, most likely due to its 1GHz processor, and games run smoothly. Call quality was fantastic as well.
The rear-facing camera is 5MP, with autofocus and LED flash, and pictures are surpringly clear, although (as usual) not so good without the flash in low light. It can also record video in 720p – no one’s expecting 1080p in this price range anyway. There’s also a front-facing camera for Skyping.
While the phone itself doesn’t have a whole lot of storage space – only 320MB on board – it comes with a 2GB microSD, and like most microSD-based phones can take up to 32GB. If you’re going to be storing lots of music on your phone, take the extra $50 cost of a bigger card into account.
The display and the processor of the Live with Walkman are significantly better than anything we’ve tested in the same price range, and what’s more, it’s running the latest version of Android, 2.3. Even if you’re after a low-cost phone rather than a music player, Sony Ericsson is offering serious value for money with this one. As a music player, it has fantastic sound and is lacking a key feature or two, but as a smartphone, you’ll struggle to find anything better around the $400 mark.