Samsung’s i8910HD was the first phone capable of shooting in glorious 720p high definition when it launched back in summer 2009. And with no challengers emerging to take it on since, it’s been free to strut down easy street – until now.

The Sony Ericsson Vivaz matches the i8901HD’s ability to shoot 720p video and also runs the Symbian Series 60 OS. But the similarities end there; while the Samsung can intimidate the iPhone with its brutish physique, the compact and lightweight Vivaz is immensely pocketable. In fact, it might be the smallest HD recorder we’ve seen.

Curvaceous model

The Vivaz also sports Sony Ericsson’s new ‘human curvature’ design, bringing some much needed style to the slabbish touchphone genre and providing a comfortable feel in the palm. The blue tinted side panels also add a dash of subtle colour.

Disappointingly, the Vivaz apes its 12MP-papping stablemate, the Satio, by featuring a resistive touchscreen. It’s a familiar tale of double taps to get a response and fitful scrolling, while typing out messages on the virtual QWERTY requires aggressive prods.

At least Sony Ericsson has skinned the Symbian OS with its own likeable homescreen design. It follows the Satio’s format of five sliding screens for favourite contacts, customisable shortcuts, Twitter app and media, accessed either by tabs or by a quick swipe of the finger.

The Vivaz’s overall performance is generally pretty nippy, but as we’ve found with most Sony Ericsson phones, the accelerometers are slow to react with much lag during the transition between portrait and landscape.

Straight to video

The fact that the Vivaz has a dedicated video button next to the camera shutter key shows it takes its HD video responsibilities more seriously than the i8910HD, and it took just seconds to fire up the camcorder.

It’s also the first ever phone to feature continuous autofocus and this proved very quick to find its eye when the handset followed a moving subject.

The Vivaz may lack the i8910’s richer colours and stronger contrast but it delivers smoother footage, reaching its 24fps more efficiently. And once you’ve finished shooting you can upload straight to YouTube or eBlogger via Wi-Fi.

But be warned: HD video gobbles up memory like fat kid in a pic n’mix so you’ll need to invest in a high capacity microSD card, especially if you’re stashing other multimedia clobber like music and photos.

Photo opp

With Sony Ericsson’s fine cameraphone pedigree, it’s no surprise to find the Vivaz is a pretty mean photographer, with the 8.1MP snapper taking vibrant pics and particularly excelling in lowlight conditions, even without the help of its LED flash. Standout photo mods include touch-focus and Smile Shutter tech and our only gripe is the lack of lens protection.

Sony’s now familiar ‘Media cross bar’ ushers in your photo, music and video content. Like the Satio, the music player is bereft of any audio enhancements, although thankfully it does boast 3.5mm headphone jack. The Vivaz’s tapered design does mean it’s shifted to the side rather than up top but it’s certainly better than nothing.

If you’re looking to supplement the Vivaz with a range apps from Sony’s PlayNow Arena then you’ll be severely disappointed. Not only is choice very limited but there’s a serious shortage of free apps to get you started, although Spotify is certainly worth downloading.

If you can live with the erratic touchscreen, then the Vivaz is a stylish little smartphone. It edges the i8910 HD as the best video recording phone but can’t match similar 720p shooting pocket camcorders for quality. That said it’s still a capable stand-in if you don’t want to clutter your trouser pouch with too many gadgets.

Stuff says... 

Sony Ericsson Vivaz review

The finest video-shooting smartphone we've seen is marred only by an unresponsive touchscreen