Sony Ericsson is bringing music to the masses with this inexpensive slider running the Walkman software – does it represent power to the people or revolution blues?
Retailing for between £80 and £1o0 on pay as you go, the Sony Ericsson Zylo is a budget music slider that looks set to make a lot of noise. It comes equipped with the famed Walkman player, but surely Sony Ericsson has made some cutbacks to its software on a handset this affordable?
Thankfully the answer is a resounding no. The main focus on the Zylo is of course music and in this area it excels with an excellent implementation of the WalkMan player. Sound quality is crisp and punchy through the supplied earphones, although there’s no 3.5mm jack so to use your own headphones you’ll need to purchase a separate Sony Ericsson adaptor.
Take the FLAC
The player is able to handle all the common audio formats such as MP3, eAAC+ and WAV and even supports the relatively unknown format FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). Incidentally for video it likes MP4, H.263 and H.264 on its player.
There’s plenty of attention to detail gone into the Walkman player itself, in particular with a range of stylised themes that take the form of animated background wallpapers. The mocked up audio cassette image that you see in the product shots is one of them, with the tape heads spinning as the music plays and the current track written in red ink. It’s a really neat aesthetic touch. Other animated themes include an amplifier, a spinning CD, a vinyl record playing on a turntable and a silhouetted cartoon DJ.
It’s good to see that none of the traditional Walkman features have been dropped, so you still get the TrackID service for identifying obscure tracks and SensMe for collating music of a similar ilk, according to a particular mood. You can also create playlists on the fly and there’s support for Album Art. Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow service is of course readily available.
All in all then the Zylo features a fantastically comprehensive music offering that you wouldn’t normally expect to find on a phone at this price point.
Make the cut
Inevitably there have to be some cost-cutting measures somewhere on the handset and these are most noticeable in the hardware design.
The front and back of the Zylo is constructed in a lightweight plastic material that feels cheap and tacky, and this can’t be saved by the slightly more upmarket metallic silver band running around the perimeter of the device, nor the attractive keypad in reflective silver. It feels more like a toy than a cutting edge gadget.
It doesn’t get any better when it comes to the control system. The central four-way navigator is fine, in a thumb-friendly recessed circular shape that’s nicely proportioned. The call and call end buttons to each side are equally ergonomic. However it all falls down with the other buttons that sit in between.
The left and right soft-keys are ridiculously small, as if someone accidentally dropped a couple of hundreds and thousands on there. Worse still they don’t even line up with the parts of the screen that they’re meant to relate to. The shortcut and clear buttons below these aren’t much better either – too close to the other larger buttons making that whole area cramped. It’s a massive design fault and a big hindrance to usability.
Display it again
The one bright point about the handset design is the screen. It may not offer the greatest resolution at 240×320 pixels and only 256k colours, but it still looks vibrant and most importantly covers a large proportion of the front fascia. On so many devices you see real estate being wasted, but not here. The main beneficiaries of this are the web browser and video player.
Indeed video is well supported on the Zylo, with movies playable in widescreen and a direct link to YouTube for browsing or uploading clips. The handset will automatically switch between portrait and landscape modes when you turn it thanks to the built-in accelerometer, which is another surprising and welcome feature on a phone of this particular class.
Social networking support is a mainstay of budget handsets these days and the Zylo is no exception. The standby screen can be set to feature a scrollable set of five widgets, activated by pressing up on the controller, with news feed boxes for Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
The remaining two widgets are for Music Genie and Walk Mate applications, seeing as you asked. Facebook even makes a couple of other appearances elsewhere, with its own listing in both the messaging and the photo folders.
The camera deserves a mention, if only because it’s been overlooked on the handset. There’s no flash or any of the usual Sony Ericsson extras.
Overall the Sony Ericsson Zylo is a mixed bag. It has so much going for it, with an excellent Walkman player and varied social media offerings, but is let down by a ridiculous control system and a tawdry shell. Still, I think the positives manage to outweigh the negatives, especially when you consider the price.
As a cheap and cheerful music device the Zylo has a lot of plus points. First and foremost is an excellent implementation of Sony Ericsson’s renowned Walkman software, with support for lots of audio (and video) formats. Navigation is hampered severely by the buttons around the central circular controller – they’re way too small and cramped together. Also the device itself feels plasticky and toylike. Ultimately however this handset is great for music and social media (with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) and for many that will be absolutely fine.
Ratings (out of 5)