Sanyo Zio Review

Introduction and Design

For years there had been rumors on Sprint forums about a Sanyo smartphone; at first it was going to kill the Treo, then the BlackBerry.  These were back in Sanyo’s heydays when the manufacturer was winning customer satisfaction awards left and right.  That mythical smartphone never appeared, and Sanyo has fallen into the ranks of also-rans since then.  Sure, there have been some decent phones, but they have yet to venture out of the featurephone market, often content to stick with entry-level devices.  But now we have the Zio, the first smartphone from Sanyo to run Google’s Android platform.  The Sanyo Zio is a bit of a mixed bag, offering at the same time higher-end features such as a WVGA display and low end elements like a bit of a cheap feeling.  Like we said, it’s a mixed bag.  Included with the Zio you’ll find a 2GB microSD card, microUSB cable and AC adapter.


The Sanyo Zio is a black slab device, except that it’s got some significant silver on it.  The 3.5” 480x800 capacitive display dominates the phone and is quite a nice screen.  With 262K colors the TFT panel looks very good, especially with a high resolution and smaller screen size (the 4” Epic 4G and 4.3” EVO 4G also have WVGA resolutions) the pixel density is very good. The colors, however, are a bit off and in sunlight the display was washed out almost entirely.  When placed next to the Samsung Transform and HTC EVO 4G you could tell that the colors were over saturated, and in the same lighting conditions we could still use the Transform whereas the Zio needed to be shaded to be used.  The display also has responsiveness issues.  We often found ourselves having to select something multiple times before our input was registered, much like you would have to do on resistive touchscreens.  Another drawback is that it does not support multitouch, a feature we have grown accustomed to even in entry level smartphones. 

At just 3.7 oz the Sanyo Zio feels incredibly light in the hand.  This is nice because the device easily slips into your pocket without being noticed, but at the same time makes it feel cheap.  The lightness is likely due to the heavy use of plastic- in fact the total use of plastics.  It is nearly an ounce lighter than Sprint’s HTC Hero, a similarly sized device with a smaller display.

You can compare the Sanyo Zio with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Again we’re back to the mixed bag thing here, because while the device feels cheap at the same time it feels well-built. The back door has a nice coating of soft touch paint, and while it is very light, the Zio does not feel poorly constructed.  Below the display are four capacitive keys for home, menu, back and search and two physical keys for send and end/power. There is also a trackball in this navigation cluster that looks and feels very much like the one from the BlackBerry Tour 9630.  Like with the Hero we really never found ourselves using the trackball, though it is nice to have for fine navigation from time to time.  The capacitive keys offer haptic feedback.  Like the display, it sometimes took multiple presses for the input to be registered.  The physical ones are small but offer a reassuring click so you know they’ve been actuated.  Not helping Sanyo’s case is the poor backlighting on the capacitive keys: it is uneven and certain areas (like the right side of “menu”) are noticeably dark.  None of these things are deal breakers, but at the same time it is clear that Sanyo/Kyocera remains a minor player in the hardware business.

Overall we’re not very impressed with the Sanyo Zio.  On paper things look good, but in reality the design and more importantly the execution could be better.  If the phone was light and worked well that would be one thing, or the device came in at the original rumored price point of free then we couldn’t complain too much, but at $100 to have a display with color and responsiveness issues and less than stellar materials we feel we have a right to gripe.

Sanyo Zio 360 Degrees View:

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