The Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman is a fairly basic phone with a 3-inch capacitive touchscreen and a focus on mobile music. Can it live up to its iconic Walkman branding?
It's available for free on a £15-per-month contract, or you can pick it up on a pay as you go tariff for about £80. SIM-free, expect to pay about £110.
Should I buy the Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman?
Sony Ericsson clearly hopes that the prestige of the once world-famous Walkman brand will enable the Mix Walkman to carve out a niche in the budget sector. Unfortunately, this area of the mobile market is becoming dominated by low-cost smart phones, such as the Orange San Francisco, Samsung Galaxy Europa and Huawei Blaze.
Compared to its smart-phone rivals, the Mix Walkman is merely competent, rather than mind-blowing. Granted, the Walkman software is accomplished and the bundled headphones are of a decent standard, but similarly priced handsets offer comparable prowess when it comes to audio playback. The lack of a bundled microSD card is also a killer -- without one, the 100MB of built-in storage space isn't going to get you very far.
Even if you didn't take these points into account, the Mix Walkman is plagued by other issues that make it a tough sell. The 3-inch touchscreen is capacitive and offers a decent image, but its usefulness is dramatically undermined by a sluggish operating system that often refuses to recognise touch commands.
Overall, it's hard to endorse the Mix Walkman when the standard of the competition is so high.
Although the Mix Walkman isn't a smart phone, it uses an interface very much like the one on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini. Because of the small, 3-inch touchscreen, Sony Ericsson has pinned useful shortcuts into the four corners of the display.
By default, these link to your music player, text message archive, dialling pad and contacts list. You can customise these shortcuts should you wish to do so.
The Mix Walkman possesses three home screens, although, unlike with Google's Android operating system, you can only have one widget per screen. The central screen features your clock, while the other two host a text messaging widget and a Friends application.
The Friends app is an attempt to lend the Mix Walkman some social-networking capabilities, allowing you to link to contacts on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. On paper, it sounds like a grand idea. It also looks pretty cool -- the widget displays your contacts as floating squares, which you can swipe through. Unfortunately, though, the app is very bare-bones and the data it sucks in from Facebook and Twitter is disjointed and poorly formatted.
Friends aside, the Mix Walkman's interface is pretty standard for a phone of this type, offering no major surprises or innovations. Disappointingly, it's quite a sluggish phone to use. Swiping through the menu system is often a hit and miss affair, with the device struggling to keep up with your taps and selections.
When the Mix Walkman falls over, it does so in spectacular style. On several occasions during our review period, the device froze completely, refusing to respond even when the power button was pressed firmly down. We had to take out the battery -- a struggle in itself, due to the awkward rear cover -- and reinsert it in order to bring the phone back to the world of the living.
A 3-inch capacitive touchscreen is reasonably impressive on a phone of this calibre, and the Mix Walkman's display also benefits from decent brightness and good colour depth. The overall resolution of 240x400 pixels isn't too shabby, either. But, alas, the screen is still awkward to use.
Responsiveness doesn't seem to be an issue, because the device is capable of detecting the lightest of touches. The major problem is the lack of processing power -- the phone doesn't seem able to keep up with all of the interface data the touchscreen is sending it.
Quick swipes often go unheeded because the handset is desperately trying to execute a command you gave a few seconds ago, and it's not uncommon to find that the Mix Walkman freezes for a few moments as it tries to catch up.
The relatively small size of the Mix Walkman's screen should give you a reasonably good impression of the phone's overall dimensions. Although it's not exactly a slim customer -- it's just over 14mm thick at its widest point -- it isn't very tall or wide. It almost feels like a pebble when you cradle it in your palm.
Given the Mix Walkman's price, it's hardly surprising that it's constructed almost exclusively from plastic. The battery cover boasts a rubberised texture that improves grip, and there's a faux-metallic accent that runs around the entirety of the phone's sides.
This band of plastic is swappable, and the handset we reviewed came with a luminous green substitute. We can't say we were overly enamoured with it, but those of you that like to give your phone that personal touch may find it a welcome feature.
Because of the Mix Walkman's diminutive size, its designers have clearly had a few headaches when it comes to button placement. While the volume rocker and Walkman shortcut keys are intelligently located, whoever made the decision to place the screen-lock button on the left-hand side of the phone needs cuffing around the ear. It's all too easy to accidentally brush against this button during normal use, because it sits where your hand makes contact with the edge of the device.
Camera and music
The Mix Walkman's 3.2-megapixel snapper feels almost like an afterthought. There's no LED flash and the sensor lacks autofocus capabilities. Well-lit shots are fuzzy and lack definition, while photos taken in anything but broad daylight are plagued by noise. The video-recording feature is similarly disappointing, offering clips that are only suitable for sharing via MMS.
On the upside, the camera interface is reasonably nippy and intuitive, making use of the 'corners' concept seen on the phone's main screen. There's also a dedicated camera button on the side of the phone -- something that many manufacturers seem all too keen to omit.
The phone's music player is robust, and the addition of TrackID (for the identification of unknown songs) and Zappin support (which automatically skips to the chorus of any given track) is welcome. But, when you consider the Walkman branding, it's hard not to feel a little underwhelmed by what's on offer.
It's worth commenting on the high quality of the bundled headphones. We're all too accustomed to complaining about the dire standard of pre-packaged earbuds, but the ones included with the Mix Walkman are excellent, offering plenty of bass and above-average clarity.
Bizarrely, Sony Ericsson has decided against including a microSD card with the phone, even though a card slot is present. With only 100MB of available storage on the handset itself, this is an almost fatal omission.
Many people will pick up this device based on its music credentials, and having to shell out additional cash to use it as a portable music player is likely to cause a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Heck, even the cheap and nasty Mojo Chat came with a 2GB card in the box.
Internet and applications
The default Web browser is slow, and struggles to display detailed sites. Thankfully, the Mix Walkman is capable of running Java-based apps, and an alternative browser, such as the near-unbeatable Opera Mini, will work much better.
Most of the 'apps' installed on the Mix Walkman are in fact merely shortcuts to the Web. The YouTube application promises much but delivers little -- nine times out of ten, the videos we tried to watch failed to even load. When you take into account that we were connected via Wi-Fi during the testing period, this sketchy performance is disappointing.
Connectivity and battery life
Although the Mix Walkman scores points for offering Wi-Fi, the lack of 3G is unacceptable. Given the phone's aspirations to being a portable music player, it might have made more sense to provide 3G rather than Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Mix Walkman's 1,000mAh battery is rated for approximately 9 hours of continuous music playback. This figure may sound impressive, but it's obviously based on the handset being used for nothing but audio. When you throw in Wi-Fi, telephone calls and screen activity, that figure is going to plummet. If you're planning on using the Mix Walkman as your main music device, then be prepared to charge it at least once a day.
The Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman gets some things right, but the positives are far outweighed by the negatives. No 3G, a laggy interface and rubbish camera all conspire to dent the Mix Walkman's chances of mainstream chart success.
Edited by Charles Kloet