We fell in love with the Walkman phones, when the W700i was launched, way back in 2006. Priced at Rs. 15,000, it was one of the hottest selling phones, back then, along with the W810i. A good six years have passed and now the Walkman series has come back with Android on board. Does this sequel spell success for Sony Ericsson, or does the Walkman brand fade into the oblivion? Let’s find out. 

Style comes cheap!

Style comes cheap!

Design and Build Quality 

The Live with Walkman comes dressed in a soft white colour with shiny silver buttons along the sides and a bright orange Walkman logo. It’s extremely similar in looks to the Xperia Mini and has a similar footprint to the Xperia Active, which we reviewed earlier. 

The microUSB could have been better placed

The microUSB could have been better placed

The top consists of the Walkman button (for quick access to music), a 3.5mm jack, the Walkman light and the power ON button. The right consists of the volume rocker button and a dedicated camera button, while the microUSB connector is located on the left. The phone is quite small and, while we generally don’t complain about port placements, we’ll have to mention that we didn’t like the ‘bang in the centre’ slot placement for the charger. This means that when you’re charging the phone, there’s very little you can actually do on the miniscule 3.2-inch screen. Anyway, that’s just a personal rant. 

Moving on with the design, the phone comes with a VGA front camera, the proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor and the notification LED. Another minor question about the design – Wouldn’t it be great to club the notification LED and the Walkman LED into one? That way you’d have a slightly bigger and cooler notification light. The SIM card and microSD card are located underneath the 1200mAh battery, so there’s no hot swapping available.  

Comes in black as well

Comes in black as well

The Live has a predominantly plastic chassis, but it doesn’t look cheap in any way, if you’ll compare it to similarly priced handsets. The back and menu buttons are capacitive whilst the home screen button is a physical one. They’re all backlit, so if you’re a newbie with Android, you’re not going to lose your way in the dark. All the buttons have the right amount of feedback and feel to them. The phone might be slightly tiny, but it fits snugly into the hand and it’s got a weight of 115 grams, so it’s light as well. In terms of design and build, the Live with Walkman is definitely right up there against handsets in the same price category. 

The Walkman light

The Walkman light

Features and Performance

Interface

The Walkman phone is powered by a 1GHz Scorpion processor and an Adreno 205 GPU, along with Gingerbread 2.3.4. Oh, and before we forget, this one is going to get Ice Cream Sandwich pretty soon, so it’s future proofed as well. The display has a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels and though it might not be like the vivid, Clearblack, or AMOLED screens, it’s bright enough for personal viewing. The four corner interface with the Timescape UI that we saw on the Active, makes a comeback with the Live.

The interface

The interface

If you’re unfamiliar with the interface then here’s a quick, short recap. The four corners of the screen allow you to hold shortcuts to applications. Upto four applications can be placed inside each arc. It’s neatly packed and doesn’t cram your homescreen. Timescape UI also means some really nice social networking integration onto one feed. There’s support for call and messages via the Timescape widget as well. 

The 1GHz processor flexes its muscles in the interface department. Despite running a couple of applications, the Walkman phone showed no signs of slowing down. Besides the real world tests, we did some synthetic testing as well. In our AnTuTu benchmark test, the Live with Walkman scored a cool 2912 points – more than the Active and the DEFY PLUS, which are slightly more expensive handsets. In Linpak, this one got a single thread MFLOPS score of 38.228 and a multi thread MFLOPS score of 29.679. 

Benchmarks

Benchmarks

Media

Well, it’s a Walkman phone, so the first and most important question that comes across anybody’s mind is how good is the music? The loudspeaker is well, LOUD and clear and will easily fill up a small area. Music via the headphones is crisp and clear. Though the bass didn’t have that thump we’d expected it to, the mids and lows are covered quite well with the headset that comes with the phone. We’d have preferred the in-ear headphones, as compared to the normal ones, but that’s just a personal preference. 

The Live with Walkman media interface is borrowed from Sony’s Xperia line up of smartphones. It comes with Sony’s xLOUD feature, a few preset equalizer settings and a sound extension tab that allows users to instantly search for lyrics, karaoke videos and song information. But guess what, you can’t manually adjust the equalizer settings to your liking, and no manual tweaking is definitely a downer for us. The Walkman light can be enabled via the menu button and it varies its flashing intensity, according to the beats of the music playing. It looks quite neat, but for us, it was just another battery sucker. 

Walkman FTW!

Walkman FTW!

In terms of video, the phone is capable of playing back 720p videos (it records in 720p, so but naturally) but as usual limited codec support means you’ll need a third party player if format conversion sounds like a tedious job to you. The 3.2 inch screen is definitely small, but that’s the tradeoff at this price tag. 

Connectivity

The SE Live with Walkman is well loaded, in terms of connectivity options. It’s a quadband phone with 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. There’s DLNA, hotspot capability and a few dedicated GPS apps as well. Let’s have a look at each of these features.

Connectivity options

Connectivity options

In call voice quality is good, just as we expected it to be. 3G works quite well and images load up pretty fast in the inbuilt browser. Flash is supported as well. Typing on the onscreen keyboard may be a problem, and you’ll have to get used to it, because if you have even slightly chubby fingers, you’ll be pressing the backspace more often than not.

There’s 320 MB of internal storage, just like the Neo V. Locking into GPS does take a little time, as compared to the DEFY PLUS that we reviewed earlier. Sony has covered the connectivity department pretty well. 

Misc apps

Misc apps

Misc. Features

A few pre-built apps have been loaded on to the phone. There’s AppXtra that geographically segregates trending and popular applications. There’s also Wisepilot that takes care of your navigation needs. A few PopCap games have been included as well, but some are try n buy and only one of them is free. This one doesn’t really have too much content on it, but you know where to look.

5MP shooter with 720p recording

5MP shooter with 720p recording

Camera

A 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash and 720p recording sounds good, ain’t it? Yes, we’ll agree. In our outdoor tests, the Live with Walkman captured colours pretty well. Low light snaps do tend to get a lot of noise, but they’re captured pretty well even without flash. We’ve always liked macro shots on touch focus camera phones and the Live with Walkman is now a part of that list. The front camera is quite good for both, self portraits and video calling. 

Pretty eh?

Pretty, eh?

In terms of video recording, there was some slight colour banding we noticed, while moving from darker to brighter surroundings and the other way round as well. Anyway, it’s quite functional and all your casual videos and snaps are well taken care of. There’s 3D sweep panorama, also put in for good measure. 

Battery Life

1200mAh good enough for a phone with a 3.2 inch screen? Well, the Live with Walkman performed averagely in this department. Under normal usage, it would last about three fourths of a day, with active Wi-Fi usage, music and calling. In our standard loop test, the phone lasted for a total of seven and a half hours. This involved one and a half hours of calling, two hours of video, two hours of audio, two hours of streaming via Wi-Fi. In our video loop test, the phone ran out of juice after six hours of usage. A decent performer, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

Any competitors below 15K?

Any competitors below 15K?

Verdict

The Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman is priced at Rs.14,400. It directly competes with a few older models in that price range – the Galaxy Ace, the HTC ChaCha (which is a couple of grands cheaper) and the Nokia 603 (with Symbian Belle). From the current generation, however, there are extremely limited options from the more popular brands. The Live with Walkman fared well in all our sections. Plus, with the additional Walkman branding, Sony seems to have hit a sweet deal for those looking for a phone below Rs.15,000. 

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