Sony Ericsson Zylo review

3 out of 5
Dependent on contract

For

XMB, FLAC support, HSDPA, reasonable video quality, nice keyboard

Against

No 3.5mm jack, poor bundled headphones, no Wi-Fi, operating system a little tired and convoluted

It would be easy to forget that the world isn't only about smartphones and that some people still want a regular handset. At least Sony Ericsson is hoping so with the Zylo (aka W20i), a slider handset coming with Walkman branding and a price tag for every pocket.

It measures 103 x 52 x 16mm and is a light 115g. The design is a slightly rounded version of the slider handset that Sony Ericsson has produced a large number of in recent years, and to a certain extent could be described as typical.

The choice of materials is plastic, with the softly curving back making the Zylo sit nicely in the palm of your hand. Soft, smooth corners mean there are few hard edges and whilst this lends an elegance to the phone, it also looks rather basic. Ours was finished in a fusion of silver and chrome colours, with highlights in turquoise.

The slider action is soft too, opening to reveal the 12 keys that make up the keyboard. The keys are all of a reasonable size and easy to hit; the soft precise action makes texting a pleasure and they all seemed to be securely attached to the frame.

The top of the phone is dominated by the 2.6-inch display which offers a 320 x 240 pixel resolution. This isn't the sort of cracking high resolution display you'll find on high-end handsets, but fits the icon and menu based operating system, which could have been plucked from any point over the past few years of Sony Ericsson phones. 

Running beneath the screen is the usual array of control buttons. These work in tandem with on-screen prompts, but design has taken the lead, so you'll find the corresponding buttons don't align with the on-screen options. If you've used a Sony Ericsson phone in the past this won't bother you, but it is slightly odd.

What is also odd, and perhaps the phone's critical failing, is that this is a Walkman-branded handset that doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone jack. As far as we know, this is the end of the line for this arrangement from Sony Ericsson. But it means you are still faced with that bulky connector for charging your headphones and any data transfer you might want to do. It also means you can't just plug in your own headphones, which is a real drawback.

The bundled headphones are of the hard plastic variety and we found that we struggled to get a good fit from them. When we did get a decent fit, after much fiddling, we were rewarded with sound quality that was nothing to get excited about - subdued mid and high tones, with dominant bass lacking the sort of clarity that you'd expect from a Walkman branded device.

Amusingly in the features of the phone, Sony Ericsson details that it supports FLAC (for lossless audio), but then go on to outline that you should upgrade the headset: "Complete your Zylo with a premium headset and enjoy a clear audio experience (not supported by included headset)". The only way we can read this is that a clear audio experience is not supported out of the box, which seemed to be the case in our tests.

An external speaker supplies a surprising level of volume and isn't as tinny as some - we can see it being a little irritating on the back of the bus.

Dedicated music controls aren't as prominent as they have been on other Walkman handsets. In this case, a button on the right-hand side will launch the music player and the central four-way controller has a play/pause symbol in the centre. Media is presented using Sony's Xross Media Browser, which makes it easy to find all your content and it's an interface we like a lot.

Photos lets you view not only your local content (on the phone), but also lets you log into various online accounts to access your images, so you can hook-up with Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and Blogger for example. Video, likewise, will give you access to YouTube content and any local content you have.

You also get access to Sony Ericsson's PlayNow offering which will offer to sell you a whole collection of content, but it doesn't really represent very good value for money - if you are buying music, you'd be better off using your PC and transferring it to a memory card. A microSD card slot sits under the back cover giving you the chance to expand on the 260MB of internal memory.

We've complained about the organisation of this type of handset before, and you'll find the radio hiding in the main menu rather than the media menu, which we've always felt is a little convoluted.

In terms of connectivity, the phone features 3G HSDPA, so you'll be able to get access to a thick fast data stream, if your contract supports it. There is no Wi-Fi, however, but you do get Bluetooth.

The browser is a little slow by modern standards, and never really does justice to online content designed for a full browser, throwing up a mobile version from Google searches and prompting you to view the full version after an additional click.

Around the back of the handset is a 3.2-megapixel camera, a little lower than average. Unfortunately it is of the fixed focus variety so doesn’t really deliver the best results possible, with the usual heavy fringing on display and a general lack of detail. Video is slightly better catered for, with "normal" resolution of 640 x 480 at 30fps, which gives better results than you might expect for this type of phone.

Elsewhere there is a nod to social networking with the inclusion of a Facebook application which will move a widget onto your homescreen too. You also get sharing options, so you can send a photo out to Twitter, Facebook or your web albums, as well as via the more usual email or messaging.

Email is supported, although we found that the screen and layout make it difficult to really get to grips with emails. But we do like the Zylo as a messaging phone, it is fast to bash out SMS messages with the usual Sony Ericsson predictive text.

Calls came across loud and clear and were comfortable to make. The battery will give you around 26 hours of music listening and up to 4 hours of talk time. In practise, we found the Zylo would last over a day before it needed charging again.

Verdict

There is little to surprise with the Sony Ericsson Zylo. There is also little to set this handset aside from similar models from previous years, from the design to the operating system.

The biggest let down is the music performance seeing as this is a Walkman branded device. The poor headset, and the lack of support for a standard 3.5mm jack, means you'll have to buy additional headphones from Sony Ericsson, or an adapter dongle, to get the most out of it.

As a simple mobile phone it works well enough and is simple to use, with good messaging for those who don't want to be overwhelmed in the new world of smartphones, but it does little to sell the Walkman branding.