The Sony Mylo is back (remember that little Wi-Fi messaging device?), and it's looking a bit more mature and wiser after learning some lessons the first go-round. Available for $299 (in black or white), the Sony Mylo Communicator 2 has a new look and more features, including a camera, widgets, direct downloads/uploads, and AIM and YouTube support, but is it all enough to lure the young'uns? Sadly, we don't think so. Sure, there may be a small audience that will be lured by the handheld but its downfall is the lack of cellular technology. We understand that Sony isn't trying to go after the cell phone market with the Mylo COM2 and that it's aimed at 14- to 22-year olds. However, when you consider that you can get the T-Mobile Sidekick LX, Helio Ocean, or even an Apple iPhone for around the same price and get more features, including voice capabilities, what's the point of the Mylo? We give props to Sony for making improvements to the Mylo Communicator 2, but we just can't find a compelling reason to buy it.
The Sony Mylo COM2 has grown up in looks, and we're glad to see it since we thought the original Mylo looked like a child's toy. Gone are the bubbly, plasticky parts and in its place is a more solidly constructed handheld with a sophisticated design. The Mylo 2 isn't a particularly compact device. It is 5.2 inches wide by 2.6 inches tall by 0.8 inch deep and 6.8 ounces, so it's a bit thick and heavy for slipping into a pants pocket. Sony does package the handheld with a soft carrying case, so you can always throw it in there and put it in your bag.
You'll also want to use the case to protect the gorgeous 3.5-inch diagonal WVGA touch screen on front. The display is one of the Mylo's greatest assets as it delivers an amazingly sharp picture, making it a pleasure to surf Web sites, watch videos, and view photos. The touch screen is also responsive, though you'll probably want to use the included stylus (attached to the hand strap) for more precision.
The user interface is intuitive with self-explanatory menus, and you can navigate and manage the device using the touch-sensitive controls that flank the screen. On the left side, there are Option, Display, and Back buttons, while the right side has shortcuts to the Info, Mylo, and Home pages. If you touch the Mylo , you'll be taken to a customizable page where you can add widgets--a new feature to the Mylo 2. They're all quick ways to access the other menus and functions of the Mylo. There's also a joystick on the left to help you scroll through the various menus, and you can press it in to select an item.
For text entry, there is a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, which you can access by sliding up the front screen. The individual keys are a bit small, but it helps that there is ample spacing between the buttons. Still, we didn't have the easiest time typing on the Mylo 2. There were a couple of times when it didn't recognize a keystroke, and the number keys aren't highlighted or marked differently from the other keys so they're a bit hard to find at first.
Other controls on the Sony Mylo include a power/hold switch and a wireless on/off button on the left spine, and a volume rocker and a Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo expansion slot (supports up to 8GB cards) on the right side. On top of the unit, you will find a proprietary headset jack, a power connector, a mini USB port, and the camera activation button. Finally, the camera lens, self-portrait mirror, and reset button are on the back.
Aside from the aforementioned accessories, the Sony Mylo COM2 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a pair of earbuds, a software CD, and reference material. There are other accessories available for purchase, including faceplate packs ($20 for two covers), a charging cradle ($29.99), and screen protectors ($19.99).
The Sony Mylo COM2 includes a number of new features and enhancements that certainly make it more attractive, but we still have major reservations about the handheld. Like its predecessor, the Mylo 2 relies solely on Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) for connection. It works with WPA and WPA2 encryption, and you get a free, unlimited subscription to Wayport public hotspots (available at 9,000 McDonald's, 70 IHOP restaurants, and 600 hotels), which is nice but doesn't make up for the lack of a cellular connection or even Bluetooth. This limitation essentially kills the device, and in this day and age of the iPhone and Sidekicks, the Mylo is going to have a hard time capturing or growing its audience.
It's rather unfortunate since the Mylo offers a fairly good heaping of features for the younger crowd. The Web browser is excellent as it provides an experience very similar to what you get on your desktop or laptop. There's full Adobe Flash support with direct downloads and uploads, allowing you to get the most out of sites like YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. You can also check your Web-based e-mail accounts, such as Gmail and Yahoo, but there is no integrated e-mail application.
The Mylo is more optimized for instant messaging and comes preloaded with several clients, including Yahoo, Google Talk, and now AIM. Again, the IM interaction is very much like the PC experience and not a completely watered-down version of the applications. And while there's no cellular support, the Mylo COM2 does have Skype on it so you can make VoIP calls.
For entertainment, the built-in media player plays MP3, AAC, and ATRAC formats, as well as WMA (secure and unsecured) music files. The player has repeat and shuffle modes, and it displays album art and track information. There's also a built-in equalizer so you can tweak the sound, and you have the ability to create playlists on the fly. Video support is fairly limited with the Mylo COM2 able to only play MPEG-4 files. There's a full-screen mode, and you can also create playlists and adjust audio. Aside from music and video, you can now listen to podcasts and subscribe to RSS feeds. There's 1GB of onboard memory on the Sony Mylo COM2, but that can be supplemented by the Memory Stick expansion slot.
One of our gripes about the first Sony Mylo was the lack of a camera, so we're happy to see that it is now equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera. There's no flash and it doesn't have video-recording capabilities--yet. Sony didn't rule out the idea of adding this functionality in the future. You do get five size and quality choices, white balance settings, zoom in/zoom out, and a macro mode. There's also an integrated photo editor for tweaking images afterwards. Overall, the Mylo 2 took decent pictures. Color tones were OK, and images had sharp definition but it was a bit difficult to get a steady shot, especially since the front cover had a tendency to shift when trying to take pictures. There is also an image viewer.
The Sony Mylo COM2 tested our patience in the performance department. The handheld had no problem finding and connecting to our test access point and within seconds we were ready to surf the Web. Unfortunately, sites took a while to load, particularly graphics intensive sites. Plus, when scrolling through a page you would have to wait for it to fully render again before being able to do anything. Links were also difficult to click on since they were so tiny. You can zoom in on pages but again, you'll have some waiting time. Connecting to CNET.com required several tries and took about 10 seconds to do so. We also checked out Facebook and despite the delays, we liked having the full functionality of the site available to us. The Facebook widget is also useful for checking updates to your in-box, "wall," and so forth.
Multimedia performance wasn't bad. Music playback through the handheld's speakers was slightly tinny but still listenable. Just be sure not to lay the Mylo speaker side down. It also would have been nice if Sony equipped the device with a standard headphone jack. Video playback was smooth overall, when it worked. We watched several YouTube clips, but on a couple of occasions the system froze trying to connect to the video. We had better luck with videos from our personal library. As expected, there was some slight pixelation but images and audio were synchronized, and we enjoyed smooth playback overall. The Sony Mylo Communicator 2's 1,200mAh lithium-ion battery is rated for up to 6 hours of VoIP calls or Web browsing, up to 20 hours of music playback, and up to 7 hours of video playback.