Reviewed October 9, 2006 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Just when you thought that Sony was out of the handheld business in the US, they surprise you with the mylo in August 2006. Mylo, stands for my life online, and though it isn’t as smart as the once very popular Sony Clie PDAs it’s targeting at a smaller segment of mobile users who don’t need every bell and whistle the Clie VZ90 had to offer. Armed with 802.11b WiFi, and a QWERTY thumb keyboard the mylo can keep you connected with your friends via IM, web mail and Skype voice calls; and keep you entertained with its digital music player and video player. On top of that, it looks darn cool too! The mylo is available in two colors: black and white. It sells for $349 in the US—is it worth it? Read on.
It’s All About ME!
The first thing you will need to do when you turn on a fresh mylo is to tell the world about yourself. The mylo asks you to create “My Profile” that takes info such as your name, birthday, nickname and a 32-character description of yourself. You can also select a background color for the music player and add a face icon. What is it for? It’s for your friends to see when they connect to you using their mylo via Ad Hoc WiFi. You will of course be able to find your friends and see their profiles as well when you are on the same WiFi network. The question is do you dig IM-ing your friends across the room on a real QWERTY keyboard? Students who are bored in class might, but we’re not sure adults will have much use for it. Mylo’s standard (infrastructure) connection to WiFi access points and the world outside the room you’re in broaden mylo’s appeal and reach.
Who Shrank the PSP?
There is no denying that the 5.3 ounce mylo is a hip device in terms of the design. It looks like a shrunk-down PSP that is much easier to grip, with a slide-up display that reveals a keyboard, making a design nod to the Sony Vaio UX180P micro PC.
The Sony PSP (top) and mylo.
It’s small enough to slip it in a cargo pants pocket yet it feels solidly built, though it looks plasticy. The round disks on each side of the device make for a snug fit in hand. The 2.4” color LCD (just a bit larger than the average Nokia smartphone display and a bit smaller than Windows Mobile smartphone displays) is sharp and has 3 brightness settings. Flip the display upward to reveal the QWERTY keyboard. Most controls such as Home, Info, Option and Back along with the 5-way d-pad flank the LCD. You will find the speaker for Internet calls and the mic on the front. The QWERTY keyboard seems very large thanks to the mylo’s landscape orientation, and the keys feel a little too far apart from each other. There is no dedicated number row or symbol row, but you can hold down the Num, Sym and Fn keys to get the desired numbers, symbols and functions. The spacing of the keys isn’t hard to get used to, but the biggest problem with the keyboard is that there is no backlight. Grey keys on a dark silver background will not get you typing in the dark. On the white version the keys are white with light orange markings, also not easy to see.This is an obvious mistake.
What is lit up and looks cool are the translucent disks surrounding the mylo. The right disk serves as status indicators for WiFi modes (blue for infrastructure mode and orange for Ad Hoc mode). The left disk has lights for Memory Stick Pro Duo access status and the power status. The lower part of the left disk is the power on/off switch which you need to spin counter clockwise and the top part is the WiFi switch which you need to spin clockwise. Very cool integration of functions and device design here!
You will find the USB connector and the headset jack on top of the mylo and a jog wheel music control on the bottom. The battery, the Memory Stick Pro Duo slot and the speaker are on the back of the Sony along with volume controls and hold button.
Are You There?
The wireless LAN function on the mylo allows you to IM, make VoIP calls and browse the Internet including web mail access. To hop on a WiFi network you will need to find them first, and the mylo will locator nearby hotspots for you. You can choose from the list of access points the mylo locates for you or you can enter an access point manually. It’s largely a plug-n-play feature, except when you turn network auto connect on when you turn on the device. The mylo will try to connect to the last access point you used and if you have changed location, you will need to re-select the current access point or scan for new ones. Ad Hoc is handy and fun when sharing music tracks with your friends. You can stream music off of each other’s mylo.
Back of the mylo
It’s My Play Time!
Since everything including the Swiss Army Knife can play music, the Sony mylo won’t leave you without your tunes. The music player can play MP3, ATRAC and WMA files and it can play it in the background while you are IM-ing or web surfing. Music through the device speaker is mediocre but is very good if you use the supplied stereo headset. The companion Windows-only CD that comes with the mylo includes SonicStage which helps you put tracks burned from CDs or purchased online to your mylo. You can also view photos and video on the device as well. The Image Transfer tool helps you put images on the device and you can use them as wallpapers as well. It supports most popular image formats including jpg, bmp, gif, png and tiff. The tricky part is the video: there is no software on the CD to help you easily get video onto your mylo’s internal memory or more likely the Memory Stick Pro Duo card. The easiest way to get videos to play on the mylo is to use the Image Converter 2 program which is not included with the mylo. You will need to buy it separately, or if you’ve recently purchased a Vaio notebook or desktop PC, you’ll find it pre-installed on the PC. It will ensure the encoding of the MPEG 4 video you rip will play on the mylo. We tested some MPEG4 videos that played fine on the PSP but not all would play on the mylo. If you decide to do videos on your own, make sure that you follow the instruction to the letter; you must follow the naming convention and directory structure outlined in the manual EXACTLY or your videos won’t show up on your mylo.
So how much memory does the Sony mylo have exactly? 1GB of internal memory. The device has a Memory Stick Pro Duo slot which means you can expand storage capacity significantly if you’d to carry a library of tunes or videos with you.
Another thing you will like if you are going to play lots of music on the mylo is the large battery capacity. The user replaceable Lithium Ion battery has 1200mAh capacity and that’s much bigger than the Nokia N91 which has a 4 gig hard drive or the iPAQ rx1955 which offers more features than the mylo. The battery can last you about 3 hour of talk time for Internet calls, 5-6 hours of video playback and very, very long time when you just play music. Sony claims the mylo will play up to 45 hours of music playback.
Am I Cool or Am I a Dork?
The flashy design will ensure that you look cool when you pull mylo out of your cargo pants pocket or your backpack. Quite a few heads turned when we showed it off, not only younger folks but older as well. But the coolness comes at a high price, $349.95. That’s a little too high for the device to replace the SideKicks that folks can use anywhere the carrier’s cell services are available. But if you are on a campus or office where WiFi is blanketed and free, then you save the monthly service charges that come with a SideKick. You be the judge as to which suits your budget best.
Pro: Simply cool looking and feels great in hand. WiFi made easy with automatic search and connect. The keyboard makes it easy to IM and email. Great for playing music, viewing photos and videos thanks to the high quality screen and the expansion slot. Very good battery life by mobile device standards.
Con: Expensive for what you get and for the intended (youth) market. Limited built-in IM clients. No backlight on keyboard. No video converter software supplied. Only supports web-based email, no email client included.
Size:4.84 x 2.48 x 0.95 inches. Weight: 5.3 ounces.
Audio:Built-in speaker, mic and speaker for VoIP, Sony’s proprietary stereo mini connector. Headset included. Plays MP3, ATRAC and WMA (secured and un-secured files). Plays MPEG4/ACC video, QVGA 30 fps, 384/768 kbps.
Software:Music Player, web browser, IM client for Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk, Skype for VoIP calls, photo viewer and video player. On the companion CD: SonicStage and mylo Utility.
Expansion:1 Memory Stick Pro Duo slot.
In the Box:the mylo communicator with battery, headset with remote controller, USB cable, AC charger, a carrying case, companion CD and printed Start-up Guide.