Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman
Last shot for the not-so-smart music phone?
Review Recent figures may show that smartphones are now outselling no-so-smart mobiles in Europe, but that’s not to say ordinary handsets are dead and buried. New to their ranks is Sony Ericsson’s Mix Walkman, which attempts to put some life into the old dog by exploiting Sony’s music player branding.
The Mix is rather chunky - it's more than 14mm thick - but is still small and light enough to drop into a pocket and be forgotten about. That's important for anything designed to be used as an MP3 player as much as a phone.
The UI looks like a Sony Ericsson Android skin, but isn't
The Mix's front is dominated by a 3in, 240 x 400 capacitive touchscreen. The only control on the face is the home button, which, like the side-mounted volume controls, has a solid action. The Mix is a well-made device.
The operating system and interface lurking underneath the screen are Sony Ericsson’s own despite the home screen mimicking some of the company's Android skins. Each corner of the screen sports a shortcut icon, each of which can be user-specified with a simple press-and-hold.
Bit in the chunky side
As budget phone interfaces go, it’s slick and fluid. The screen reacts promptly and accurately to both touches and swipes. But using the Mix for anything other than its basic functions is hampered by the absence of a virtual Qwerty keypad.
While you don’t get 3G - hardly a shock at this price - you do get 802.11g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1. This strikes me as an acceptable trade off between functionality and cost, especially as the target market is unlikely to have generous data plans.
The raison d'être of the Mix is the Walkman app, which apart from looking good and being easy to use, produces a very nice sound indeed. It’s also mercifully short on bewildering IQ options and sound modifiers. Sadly, it’s also short on volume. Even at full belt, it’s not loud enough to drown out the background racket of an airliner cabin or tube train.
In the Mix
And codec support isn't up up there with the best PMPs, extending no further than MP3 and AAC for music and MPEG 4 video at or below the screen's native resoution. There’s no support for MTP media transfer either so you can kiss your playlists goodbye.
The camera is fine for a cheap phone
The bundled earbuds don’t look anything special but they produce a well balanced and pleasant sound. Thankfully, Sony has forgone proprietary connectors. The earphones connect through a 3.5mm jack at the top, and the phone connects by Micro USB. You can drag’n’drop media onto it as mass storage.
Alongside the Walkman music player the Mix also packs in Java apps for Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and eBuddy, an e-mail client, FM radio and Obigo’s Q7 web browser, though this is best avoided in favour of Opera Mini.
On-board storage is a measly 120MB but there is a Micro SD slot under the battery good for cards of up to 32GB capacity. You get absolutely nothing in the box, which is pretty poor.
The earphones aren't bad, but the handset's volume could go a lot higher
The 3.2Mp camera may lack autofocus or a flash but the end results aren't at all bad for this price band. They present a natural colour balance and good definition. You get a useful physical shutter button on the side of the handset.
The absence of a fully fledged smartphone OS and 3G has a beneficial impact on battery life. Sony claims 13 hours of music playback, over nine and a half hours of talk time, and 20 days on standby. I’ll not argue with the first two numbers, and this is certainly a phone that can be made to last the best part of a week between charges.
With Android smartphones getting ever cheaper the squeeze is on for lesser phones like the Mix. But its superior battery life and fine sounding music player means this Sony Ericsson could still have made an argument for itself if only it had more audio welly. It’s just too quiet to work on a train, plane or even an automobile, and surely that's the point of the thing. ®
Thanks to Vodafone for the review sample
More Budget Phone Reviews