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VAIO's debut Windows 10 phone is prettier than its name suggests

VAIO Phone Biz sounds like a toy, looks like a dream.
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A few years ago, Windows phone tried to make a splash with vibrant colors, sharp contours and unusual palettes. Then things got a little quiet. Now Windows 10 phone is suddenly upon us, and Japanese phone makers are generally keeping colors a little bit more muted, while moving to classier-looking materials. Going toe-to-toe with the textured beauty of the NuAns Neo Windows Phone, here's VAIO's second smartphone. It's called the VAIO Phone Biz, but I'd prefer if you were more distracted by the pretty aluminum shell than the ridiculous name. It's dressed for business, even if no-one's looking to shake hands with a Japan-only (for now) Windows phone.

Gallery: VAIO Phone Biz hands-on | 9 Photos

vaio, vaio phone bize

The good and bad part is, it feels like many hit smartphones from the past. There's a satin-like shimmer to the aluminum body, like we've seen on multiple Android phones in recent memory, and it all feels classy, if a little bit already-done. And while I'm more than happy with a phone that sticks to 1080p resolution, the screen quality isn't all that good. Tilt the phone away from square-on and the brightness and colors fade away. Bright spotlights and daylight soon make viewing a challenge unless I crank the brightness levels to full, and it already feels odd to see a new smartphone without a USB-C port -- aside from an iPhone, that is.

The aluminum engineering ensures it feels suitably premium though the press release fluff about how someone is going to want to use one for years and years is lost on me. Then again, Japan is the country where flip-phones still cling to life -- so perhaps VAIO has chosen the right market. Priced at more than $400, SIM-free, it might have to do a hell of a lot of networking to sell itself to the typical phone buyer: a challenge for all Windows phones.

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Mat once failed an audition to be the Milkybar Kid, an advert creation that pushed white chocolate on gluttonous British children. Two decades later, having repressed that early rejection, he moved to Japan, learned the language, earned his black belt in Judo and returned to UK, and soon joined Engadget's European team. After a few years leading Engadget's coverage from Japan, reporting on high-tech toilets and robot restaurants as Senior Editor, he now heads up our UK bureau in London.

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