Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman review: Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good

Average User Rating

4 stars 18 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Compact design; 720p video; Stereo speakers.

The Bad Bundled 2GB card is too small; Screen could be bigger; Not a great music player.

The Bottom Line Although it bears the once-prestigious Walkman name, the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman isn't actually that impressive as a music player. However, for the price it offers a fantastic amount of value, leaving similarly-priced Android budget devices in the shade.

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The Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman is a music-focused smart phone running Android 2.3. It boasts a 1GHz processor and 720p video recording.

You can pick it up on contract for as little as £10 a month, or alternatively you can take the SIM-free approach and purchase one for around £150.

Should I buy the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman?

If you're old enough to recall the days before MP3s and portable media players, then you'll no doubt have a certain degree of affection for Sony's famous Walkman brand. Back in the days when Dolby was cutting edge and your playlists were confined to 90 minutes per tape, Sony ruled the roost.

However, it's best to cast aside any of these nostalgic feelings when considering the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman. Although it is marked with the distinctive logo, it's not actually that strong a music playback device -- at least when compared with the competition.

Aside from a special Walkman shortcut button, there's nothing here that hasn't already been seen on Sony Ericsson's Xperia phones. The Live with Walkman even uses the exact same music player app.

The fact that it only comes with a 2GB microSD card is an even clearer indication that this handset isn't going to usurp the iPhone as the public's portable music player of choice; 2GB just isn't enough space for serious music fans.

With a SIM-free price tag of roughly £150, the Live with Walkman isn't meant to compete with Apple's expensive phone. But its spec sheet manages to out-shine many similarly-priced Android devices.

It may not live up to that illustrious Walkman name, but this cheap and cheerful device is compact, relatively powerful and even offers exotic features such as 720p video recording and external stereo speakers. For Android rookies, it's the perfect introduction to the operating system.

Timescape 4.0

Sony Ercisson's Timescape user interface came in for some stick when it launched on the Xperia X10 a while back, but the company has wisely taken the criticism on board. Version 4 -- which is installed on the Live with Walkman -- is attractive, feature-packed and surprisingly quick.

Just like the Sony Ercisson Xperia Active, the Live with Walkman uses smart corners to make the most of its small 3.2-inch screen. These are areas in each corner of the screen where you can stow away application shortcuts.

You can dock four apps to each corner. They remain in place no matter which of the five home screens you're currently looking at.

This system is a real time saver. It's important to note that these shortcuts are in addition to the ones you can place on the home screens themselves.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Timescape
Pinching with your fingers results in this widget overview (left); like HTC Sense, Timescape has its own weather widget (right).

The widget from which Timescape takes its name is still here, although we struggle to find a reason to actually use it. Timescape collates information from your texts, social networking updates and Twitter feed. This data is then presented in a stack of scrolling cards, which look nice but serve very little purpose otherwise.

Timescape 4.0 also introduces xLOUD audio enhancement, which boosts the volume of your music and notifications. As we've seen on several Xperia handsets, this feature is a little overbearing. Sounds end up being distorted, and we preferred to switch it off.

Another cool addition is the ability to snap screenshots using the phone's power button. A long-press brings up the standard shutdown menu, but with an extra box for taking a screen grab. Seeing as this functionality isn't currently available in stock Android, it's great to see that manufacturers are taking it upon themselves to add it in.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Swipe Keyboard
Timescape 4.0 features Sony Ericsson's challenger to the popular Swype keyboard.

Like HTC has done with its Sense 3.0 user interface, Sony Ericsson has imbued Timescape 4.0 with robust media sharing power. Using the Connected Devices application, you can stream music, photos and video to any compatible DLNA devices in the area. Some TVs and stereos support this feature, but you can also use your Sony PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.

Timescape 4.0 does drop a few balls though. Android veterans will miss the stock Power Widget, which has been removed in favour of Sony Ericsson's own variant. Dubbed Status Switch, this exclusive widget adds in the ability to toggle Airplane mode and disable your mobile network, but it omits the data sync switch. This means you have to dig deep into the settings to turn off synchronisation of your email.

Android 2.3.4

Sony recently updated many of its phones to Android 2.3.4 , and that's the exact same variant of Google's OS that ships on the Live with Walkman.

One of the most recent iterations of Gingerbread, 2.3.4 adds in video calling on apps such as Google Talk and Skype, allowing you to talk face-to-face with your friends. However, video calls across your mobile network aren't supported.

Despite the fact that Android 4.0 is soon to be upon us, 2.3 remains a solid operating system. It boasts multi-tasking, live widgets and an app marketplace that's bursting with new downloads.

Walkman

No matter how hard it tries, Sony Ericsson just can't seem to let go of the past. It's been years since the Walkman brand carried any kind of cachet, yet the manufacturer still insists on plastering the logo across a select few phones each year.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Headphones
The bundled headphones are terrible -- music buffs will want to invest in a replacement set.

Alluding to former glories doesn't get the Live with Walkman very far. Despite its music focus, the phone is curiously lacking when it comes to aural entertainment.

The most obvious shortcoming is the fact that it's sold with a 2GB microSD card, which is woefully insufficient for even the most casual of music fans.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Music Player
The Walkman music app is decent enough but it's not exclusive to this phone and is available on other Xperia devices.

We also have to take issue with the bundled headphones. While they possess a solid construction and offer a relatively decent level of sound quality, we noticed a crackling noise in the background, even when music isn't actually playing.

We assumed this was a problem with the phone, but when we tried our own set of earphones the crackling sound vanished. It's possible that the pair of headphones supplied with our review handset were defective, but even so, serious music lovers are unlikely to find them acceptable.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Music Player
You can tinker with pre-set sound options and find out more about artists via web links.

It's also lamentable that the in-line remote control doesn't have proper music buttons such as volume control. As it stands, you have to press the single button once to pause a track, twice to advance and three times to go to the previous song. To alter the volume you have to extract the phone from your pocket and use the dedicated button.

The actual Walkman software is decent, offering a wide range of options and even the ability to link to relevant YouTube and Wikipedia entries. There's a quick-access button on the top of the phone, which launches the app automatically, allowing you to get to your tracks with the minimum of fuss.

The problem is, this is the same software that has already shipped on Sony Ericsson's other non-Walkman smart phones. At least a couple of additional extras to boost the Walkman branding would have been welcome.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Back View
The stereo speakers provide a surprisingly punchy sound.

It's not all bad. We like the stereo speakers on the back of the phone. Not only do they deliver impressively punchy sound, they also ensure that you're unlikely to miss a call, even in a noisy environment.

Processing power and internal storage

As a mid-range device, it's almost a given that the Live Walkman comes with a 1GHz processor.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Storage
With only 320MB of app storage to play with, you'll need to be careful with what you install.

With 512MB RAM to back it up, this CPU may sound a little anaemic when you consider that quad-core phones like the HTC Edge are looming menacingly on the horizon. However, the low resolution of the Live with Walkman's screen means there's less legwork for it to do. Moving around the phone's user interface is a lag-free affair.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Benchmark
Live with Walkman's AnTuTu Benchmark results in all their lurid glory.

There's 320MB of internal storage available and a microSD card slot. A 2GB card is supplied with the phone, but you'll almost certainly want to ditch this in favour of something a little roomier, especially if you're serious about this being your main portable music player.

Design

The Live Walkman's dumpy design calls to mind fellow Sony Ericsson small-fry the Xperia Mini and Xperia Active . At just 106mm tall and 56mm wide, it's a truly pocket-sized proposition. Those dainty dimensions come at a cost: the phone is 14mm at its thickest point.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Side View
At 14mm thick, the Live with Walkman feels quite dumpy.

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Where to Buy

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman

Part Number: CNETSony Ericsson Live with Walkman

Typical Price: £150.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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