Sony Ericsson Aino – The PS3 Attitude Review
With an 8.1 megapixel camera and a new (for Sony Ericsson) touch-screen interface, it would seem that this phone is perfect for any PS3 owner. But is that really the case?
The Aino comes in a nicely presented box, similar to the W995, and includes a couple of useful accessories so that you don’t have to shell out extra cash to get the most from your new device (take note Apple and TomTom). One of these is a charging stand that allows you to place the phone in landscape mode on your desk. On the side of the stand, an extra charging point is designed to receive the second free accessory – the Aino’s own Bluetooth streaming and remote control unit.
This remote control has a standard 3.5mm jack socket allowing you to plug in your favourite headphones, or connect the remote to your stereo system. The result? You can stream the audio and music from your Aino wirelessly to the device of your choice. As the remote has a built-in microphone, you can turn any headphones into a full hands-free solution for your mobile phone.
Whilst in ‘landscape’ mode, with the sliding keypad docked, the Aino features a new interface that allows you to navigate through an XMB-like interface to access music, video, photos, FM radio and the camera. The touchscreen certainly works well, and is a decent size allowing for clear viewing of video content, but it doesn’t feature the slick pixel-perfect screens found on Apple’s iPod Touch and iPhone. In fact, you really have to press hard on the Aino in order to get it to register your ‘strokes’. The screen doesn’t support multi-touch, but this isn’t an issue as the interface doesn’t require it.
When you slide the keypad open to access the usual phone buttons, the Aino shows off its split personality and turns into a regular Sony Ericsson phone. Well, we say ‘regular’, but that isn’t quite the case.
SE aficionados will immediately become confused when using the Aino. For some reason, the buttons have been moved so that the standard SE setup – with the space on the hash button, and the capitalisation options on the star button – have all been moved around. The result is a few days of hitting all the wrong button combinations whilst you get used to the new layout.
And that isn’t the only thing that has changed for the worse. The T9 predictive text software is also different to that found on most other SE phones, and doesn’t work nearly as well when trying to combine words to create one long string, or when you just want to put some initials down on your text or notes.
These differences do take some getting used to if you’ve been using any of the Cybershot or Walkman phones for the last few years. If you are new to SE they’re going to make very little difference to you, of course, except for the T9 software which will still take a little getting used to over other makes of mobile device.
Other than those gripes, the phone personality of the Aino works a treat, and the phone sports everything you would find on the similar specification C905+ – an 8.1 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi with media sharing, Bluetooth, SMS conversations, GPS and FM Radio to name a few of the features.
The only downside compared to the C905+ is that the Aino has no lens cover, so the photos you take can often be blurry and streaky thanks to the build up of grime that can affect the lens itself. This reviewer found it prudent to carry around a lens cloth and clean up the back of the phone before every photo session, which hardly lends itself to candid and quick-fire photo opportunities.
Despite the issues with the key layout, T9 changes and the lack of a lens cover, the Aino is a highly capable device and gives you two distinct experiences depending on whether you have it landscape (keypad closed) or portrait (with the keypad open). Landscape mode allows you access to the touch-screen controls and you’ll find no fault with the clarity and quality of the screen for video/photo playback. The Walkman elements are well implemented and sound quality is superb. The ability to use any headphones you like further increases this devices appeal to audiophiles.
The Bluetooth remote unit is easy to keep charged up thanks to the included docking station, and provides a neat way to share your music with your friends. Plugging the device into any hi-fi unit and then streaming your music wirelessly certainly increases the likeability of this device.
We are also pleased to report that the Aino doesn’t suffer some of the Bluetooth connectivity issues found with other SE phones of late. Connecting the device to any of the Sony Ericsson Bluetooth watches gives you faultless control over the music and call functions, even when paired with the Bluetooth remote for audio playback – an area where other SE devices, including the C905+, fail.
Just like the C905+, connecting your Aino to your Wi-fi router and switching on ‘media sharing’ turns your Aino into a DNLA server, which allows you to access your photos and music wirelessly on your PS3. Copying photos on to your PS3’s HDD for on-screen HDTV viewing is a breeze.
Of course, the jewel in the crown for PS3 owners with the Aino is the Remote Play feature. This is effectively a software version of the PSP ‘s Remote Play functionality, with the addition of being able to access the PS3 using 3G as well as Wi-fi.
Under Wi-fi the Remote Play feature works extremely well, and we were able to access a powered-down PS3, watch movies, play music and launch various Remote Play-capable titles. PlayTV, for example, recently had an update that allows the Aino to access it on the move. We were able to launch PlayTV and watch live Freeview TV programmes on the road without any issues.
Under the 3G option, however, we were unable to get the PS3 to connect on three out of the five occasions we tried. When we did get access, it worked well if a little sluggishly. When connected to an HSDPA signal, the Remote Play was as good as Wi-fi, so look out for the ‘H’ symbol on the Aino before you connect, as trying to access your PS3 under standard 3G could be a little problematical.
Of course, the prevalence of free and cheap Wi-fi across the world makes it fairly easy to gain access at high-speed to your PS3 wherever you are, so you should be able to avoid having to resort to the slower (and more expensive, depending on your data plan) 3G option.
In all, the Sony Ericsson Aino is a highly capable phone with a lot of features. Sure, we have some gripes as long-standing SE users with the new layout and T9 software, and after a week of use we found that we hardly used the landscape touch-screen at all except for taking photos, but none of these issues outweighs the fact that what you’re looking at here is a sleeker C905+ (one of the leading phones available today) with a bigger, clearer screen and the inclusion of that clever PS3 Remote Play feature.
Just remember to keep a lens cloth in your pocket…
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