Sony recently began offering an updated version of its mobile Internet device (MID), called the mylo COM-2.
(view large image)
This can access the Web on its WVGA screen and make free Skype phone calls over Wi-Fi, and it also includes some additional features, like a built-in camera.
Table of Contents
As I use a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet as my daily computing device, I initially pegged the mylo COM-2 as an Internet Tablet. To a good degree it is.
Like Nokia’s series of devices, it is built on a variant of Linux (QT by Trolltech is what the user interface is built on), though it is closed to third-party application development. It comes with the Netfront browser, which is capable of rendering most websites quite well. It uses Flash Lite in order to view Flash-based aspects of websites. And basically both devices are about the same size.
Both the Nokia Tablets and the mylo COM-2 work as a gateway to connectivity and multimedia anywhere. However, the Nokia devices are for the most part a gateway to the Web; the mylo COM-2 does both a lot easier. It does seem to want to be more of a media center than just a web-box. But, being that music is about the only thing that the mylo COM-2 does when not connected, that media focus gets lost pretty quickly.
Compared to the N800 (running Maemo OS2008), there are some considerable differences in the refinement and cohesion of the included applications. Applications on the mylo COM-2 share more common interactions and overall a tighter adherence to a similar user interfaces. This focus makes the mylo COM-2 a bit more refined in day-to-day usage than the N800.
(view large image)
For example, the RSS/Podcast application is quite simple. Navigating through content is done easily by hitting the on-screen buttons. This attention to media takes place in all the applications. From setting bookmarks in the browser, to viewing Google Talk IM contacts, to just looking at photos; the bright and clear screen of the mylo COM-2 shifts to a manageable media center.
Like the N800, the web browser offers the ability to view Flash within webpage. And has a zoom in/out feature for those pages that are designed for larger than 800px width screens.
That being said, it could do with some considerable user interface work.
A few people who saw me with both the N800 and mylo COM-2 asked if they could play with both. I let them play as long as they could before moving to the other device and before asking questions.
In all cases, the mylo COM-2 scored well in the looks department. Everyone was impressed with its appearance. But it scored very low in usability. One person even got frustrated enough to say that he would have returned it within an hour of purchasing it because it was so hard to just figure out how to type an address in the web browser.
The mylo COM-2 has some neat features for those who are connected often.
Like the N800, Sony’s device has a home screen that has widgets on it. Google Search, Facebook Notifier, RSS feeds, Contacts, and YouTube are the default ones. Unfortunately, going to the Sony mylo widget site did not show any others that were downloadable at this point.
One of the better applications found on the mylo COM-2 is Skype. Compared to my experience with the N800, using Skype is as simple as being connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, then opening the Skype application and inputing your credentials. Voice conversations can be had only when using the included Sony headphones. Of normal solid Sony quality, calls remained clear and there are a few controls on the ear-buds for controlling volume and answering features.
Voice quality coming from the other end will depend on a few things, such as the congestion of the network. In my testing, both sides of the conversation had no issues with hearing one another. There was some distortion in the hearing of the other line when using more than four apps which were also connected (Google, Yahoo IM, Skype, and the browser were all going at the same time), but normally, you can expect to have little issues with multitasking and using connected applications on the mylo COM-2
The music player was simple, but nice and to the point. The ability to create playlists in just a few taps or just listen to all the music made things easy for listening (especially compared to the N800’s Media Player).
There is an equalizer with several presets for various types of music (rock, pop, jazz, classical, r&b, electronic, and two user customizable settings). Having one speaker though felt as if I were missing a few things in the sound. Nevertheless, it was plenty loud and clear no matter the volume or equalizer setting.
All music formats except for Apple’s Fair Play ACC format are playable through the mylo COM-2.
The video player mimicked the usability of the music player. Like the music player, media is sideloaded to the mylo via mini-USB connections to a PC.The latest update to the mylo COM-2 firmware adds the ability to transfer and view Windows Media Video content on the device.
There is no additional software needed to do this; upon connecting it to any type of PC, the device shows as a removable drive that can have content dragged and dropped into it. Windows Media users will have no problem with this, as the mylo COM-2 will just show up as a removable media item.
The mylo also comes with a 1.3 megapixel camera. It is nothing to write home about in terms of quality, but like those on most mobile phones, it is there when needed. Features such as digital zoom are present. While taking a picture was easy, the weight of the device is what got to me. Like many PMP devices, this something you would have in your hand for a little bit, and rarely in a pocket for very long.
Overall, the mylo COM-2 makes for a suitable PMP. Sony markets the mylo to tweens and teens and its that group that I could see getting the most out of this functionality.
The mylo COM-2, like the Nokia Internet Tablet series, is very easy to mistake for a PDA. In fact, it is easier to do so with the mylo COM-2 because of some of the included applications:
- A communications suite including AIM, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk
- File Manager
- Text Editor
- Netfront-based web browser
Actually performing as a PDA was another story. The communications software requires an active Internet connection to do much, as does the web browser. I resigned after a few days that the mylo COM-2 is not a PDA in the way Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices are.
There are no third-party developers for the mylo COM-2. All development of programs, widgets, and any enhancements happens within Sony. While this can feel like a bad thing to those used to the open nature of some PDAs, this allows Sony to design software that is designed with tighter integration to the device, and there is less chance of using software that would brick the mylo COM-2.
The 800 by 480 pixel touchscreen dominates the front of the mylo COM-2, along with a single joystick. A friend of mine asked me if it was like the iPhone because of its similarities at first glance.
(view large image)
Like the iPod Touch, the mylo COM-2 has a single button on its face. However, this is directional-select button. It doesn’t bring you to Home or much anything else.
Under the screen, a slide out keyboard is available. This is something of a mixed bag. On one end, it was neat that it was a sliding type. Unlike the on-screen one of the Nokia N800, it did not get in the way; and like the sliding one of the N810, it was great for mashing out quick IMs or emails. The orange backlighting was fine for most settings, but gets a bit washed out in mid-level lighting conditions.
I would rate the keyboard feel as OK. It was something that I just had to take some time to get used to.
Because of the width of the mylo COM-2 in the landscape position, though, I did find that reaching for some of the keys, or even doing some symbols, was a bit more of a chore. Nevertheless, I did find it easy to get up to speed with typing on it.
The right side of the mylo COM-2 has a volume up/down button, and the Memory Stick Pro-Duo card slot.
The left side has the on/off power and wireless buttons. The power button also has a hold feature.
(view large image)
The rear of the device has a single speaker, 1.3 megapixel digital camera (with a macro mode), and a reflective mirror.
The speaker on the rear sounded stereo in output; but mostly sounds were flat and unassuming. Headphones stick into a proprietary slot at the top of the device. There is no Bluetooth, so Bluetooth headphones are a no-go.
In terms of weight, the mylo COM-2 felt fine in the hand or pocket. Though if one were comparing it to a mobile phone, it would definitely sit on the large and heavy side of things. Nevertheless, it was weighted well, and despite the plastic used all over the device, easy to keep hold to.
The mylo COM-2 has excellent battery life. I managed to keep it on standby for more than 2 days at one point. In use, it was able to go for 4 hours on a Wi-Fi connection while I browsed, listened to music, and did some IMing.
I sat for a few weeks before starting to pen this review. I had the hardest time trying to put down preconceptions of the iPhone, iPod Tablet, and Nokia Internet Tablets when looking at the mylo COM-2. It is a mixture of all of those devices, and at the same time part of that growing list of handheld devices that are more than just the PDAs that we were used to.
In light of where MIDs/Internet Tablets are going, Sony has a device that is one part on the right track, and another, not quite easy enough for the target audience.
It’s very much a PC-like product. Being that its target audience is teens and tweens, it’s more of a device that is finding its way in terms of function and need. But it is also something different, a device that given a few enhancements in terms of simplifying the user experience a bit more can, and should, find its way into the pockets of those in Wi-Fi environments. That, and a teen could get away with using the mylo COM-2 and Skype for a much cheaper alternative to owning a mobile phone.
I did come away impressed with the screen, excellent battery life, and wealth of installed applications. It’s clear that Sony, Apple, and Nokia are on in same mind frame towards these advanced personal devices. The mylo COM-2 seems to be getting that focused massaging with its latest update. At some point they will all get it, and the market for these personal communicators will be ready to pass the test for whatever purpose it is used for.
- 800 by 480 pixel touchscreen
- 1.3 Megapixel camera
- Sliding QWERTY keyboard
- 1 GB built in RAM; Memory Stick Pro-Duo slot supporting up to 8 GB
- USB 2.0 connection
- Music player supports MP3, WMA, AAC, ATRAC
- Photos application supports JPG, PNG, BMP
- Video player supports MPEG4, AVC