LG VX6100 Review| By Allen Tsai
Motorola has long been king of the clamshells. However, LG has become a force within the market. Its VX series has become a staple in Verizon's lineup with each release outperforming the previous.
The most current release is the LG VX6100, a formidable device sure to draw attention from fans of it's predecessor, the VX6000.
And as the successor, the VX6100 takes technology one step further by adding several hot new upgrades, including tri-mode coverage, a sliding lens cover, embedded flash, and an external LCD with self-portrait capability, making this Verizon's next flagship model. And if the past is any indication of future performance, the VX6100 will be just as popular.
The design of the VX6100 contains similar sleek curves the VX6000 was noted for, and at 90 x 48 x 24 mm is the exactly the same size.
With the VX6100 closed, the front panel features an grayscale external display for quick access to caller ID, time, network status, battery charge, and other useful information. Directly above lies the lens for the built-in CMOS VGA digital camera, able to capture photos at up to 640 x 480 px. A handy feature is the addition of a cover to protect the camera lens. By sliding it down, users can easily activate the camera mode for quick shots.
New to the VX6100 not found on the VX6000 is a flash located next to the lens. Many phones nowadays include digital cameras, but not flashes. For impromptu night shots, these camera phones are unable to low-light shots due to underexposure. By providing an attached flash, the VX6100 becomes is able to provide day and night coverage for those unexpected moments.
When flipped open, an internal 128 x 160 px 262K TFT screen becomes visible, capable of displaying up to 7 lines of text. Additionally, a blue backlit numeric keypad and 5-way directional keys are used to navigate through the VX6100's menu structure.
The sides of the VX6100 contain several functions as well. The left side contains a headset jack, while side keys are used to adjust the ringer volume in standby mode and earpiece volume during calls. A voice command key is also conveniently placed allowing users quick access to voice commands. The right side contains the side camera key for quick access to camera functions.
With camera phones being so popular these days, it should be no surprise that the VX6100 features one as well. To activate the camera, the lens cover must be slide down, activating the LCD screen to function as the camera viewfinder.
The built-in 330K pixel CMOS camera is able to capture photos at sizes of either Small - QQVGA (160 x 120 px), Medium - QVGA (320 x 240 px), or Large - VGA (640 x 480 px) resolutions, while providing 24-bit color depth at 16 million colors.
The left and right navigation keys function as the controls for the 4X digital zoom. It should be noted that digital zoom is not "true" zoom such as optical zoom. A digitally zoomed image will not actually zoom in with the lens, but rather crop the image to make it larger. So picture quality decreases. Due to the compact size of phones, the moving parts required for optical zoom are not yet available.
Additionally, a robust set of camera tools allow users more control and error correction. Features integrated include Self-Timer (5 or 10 seconds), Brightness Adjustment, White Balance (Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Darkness), Shutter Sound, Color Effects (Normal, Antique, Black & White, Negative), File Quality Adjustment, Multishot Adjustment, Shutter Sound Adjustment (Shutter, Chime, No Sounds), Mirror (For Self-Portraits), and Flash.
Images taken are stored in the VX6100's internal memory. And memory is dynamically allocated depending a large part on other applications. Thus free space can vary considerably. However, up to 60 photos can be saved in the gallery, and on average, approximate image file sizes are 50 KB for VGA, 16K for QVGA, and 3 KB for QQVGA.
Built on Qualcomm's MSM6050 chipset, the LG VX6100 is tri-band AMPS 800 / CDMA 800 / 1900. Several Force Modes allow users to choose which network to stay on: Cell Only, PCS Only, CDMA Only, Analog Only. Since the VX6100 is for the Verizon Wireless Network, it will not work elsewhere.
LG rated the VX6100's 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery at 150 hours of standby and 3 hours of talk time. However, those are under optimal conditions.
When handset manufacturers and mobile phone carriers list talk-time and standby-time ratings, they usually include disclaimers about variable performance and often refer to the times they publish as maximum times. Some quote expected battery life ranges, and in this case you're probably safe to assume you'll experience at least the minimum rated range. Actual talk and standby times are lower.
The external screen is a 4-level grayscale LCD. Although not in color, it does have its advantages. For one, it can be turned on much longer without draining the life of the battery as quickly as a color screen. And since the external display is mostly used for viewing quick information such as the time and caller ID, many people would prefer longer battery life to color.
Additionally, the STN (Super Twisted Nematic) external screen can be used as a viewfinder when taking self-portraits. Although the picture will be in black and white, the images taken are in color. Overall it does not make a very great viewfinder, but it does the job.
Flipped open, the VX6100 has the same color depth as the VX6000. The internal screen is capable of displaying 262K colors at 18-bit depth. The internal screen's TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD allows for quick response and refresh rates when compared to STN matrices.
TFT, as opposed to STN, has the circuit transistors placed on the glass at the pixel location instead of the need to scan the pixel location. This results in much clearer displays while greatly increasing the response times, allowing for very fast refresh rates. Rates needed for using the VX6100's screen as a viewfinder.
The VX6100 supports a full-duplex speakerphone for handsfree access. Additionally, its ring tones are CMX 3.0 MIDI format with support for up to 32 simultaneous chords.
Unlike other formats, MIDI is not a recording of music, but a description, which enables a local synthesizer to play tones from the file instructions. The benefit is that users are able to compose, edit, and send melodies by using sound synthesizer programs.
The CMX format is used extensively in Verizon phones due to its Get It Now service. Created by Qualcomm, CMX allows ring tones "instructions" to be transmitted over the air to the VX6100 rather than the ring tone itself. The result, less bandwidth and faster downloads. The instructions are then followed by the phone to recreate the ring tone file.
The VX6100 also supports short MP3 clips. While 32 chords is decent, for realistic music phones are moving towards "true" tones. Unlike MIDI, MP3s are straight recordings from any audio source. Thus ring tones encoded in MP3 format can be music with lyrics, voice, or any other output.
The VX6100 features all the standard text messaging functions including SMS (Short Messaging Service), EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service), and MMS (Multimedia Message Service).
Up to 160 characters can be set through SMS text messages. Concatenated messages are possible if the character limit is exceeded. The VX6100 will automatically split and send long messages through multiple text messages.
To be more expressive than just using words, EMS goes one step further by allowing users to attach pictures, sounds, and font attributes. While MMS provides true multimedia capabilities with real pictures, sound, and time-based sequencing.
MMS provides consumers with true communicative versatility by sharing it in words, photos, animation, and sounds. Instead of sending a simple text message, users can design animated birthday greetings or digital vacation postcards by combining photographs taken with the phone's built-in camera and a bit of creativity. With MMS, the VX6100 brings exciting arrangements of photography and personalized messaging to life.
Cell phones today feature downloadable applications and games, and the VX6100 is no exception. However, whereas most of the phones use the more popular J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition) standard, the VX6100 uses BREW. From a consumer standpoint, both are virtually identical; users can download and install new games and applications. MIDlets can be transferred from a PC or through the web. However, unfortunately BREW is not as popular a platform as J2ME, so there are less software to choose from.
Verizon Wireless utilizes its network to bring users games, productivity tools, wallpapers, ring tones, and more. With Get It Now, users can transfer multimedia at the touch of a button.
However, transfers require a fee. getIM, getEMAIL and getBROWSING require a monthly access free, plus airtime. And download charges for getTONES, getGAMES, getGOING, getPIX and getFLIX vary by application and airtime charges apply when browsing, downloading, and using certain applications.
Applications preinstalled on the VX6100 include Alarm and World Clocks. While Calendar with Scheduler, Voice Memo (Up to 4 minutes), and Notepad allow people to get things done when away from the office. Additionally, a Standard and EZ Tip Calculator provides convenience in everyday situations.
While surfing the web, consumers use an Openwave UP 6.2 browser featuring WAP 2.0. The integrated browser renders WML (Wireless Markup Language) and xHTML Basic (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language) pages, in addition to normal xHTML and limited HTML.
Higher transfer speeds while browsing or downloading are achieved through Verizon Wireless' cdma2000 1xRTT service. Short for single carrier (1x) radio transmission technology, cdma2000 1xRTT is a 3G wireless technology based on the CDMA platform, and has the capability of providing ISDN-like speeds of up to 144 kbps.
Approximately 2.9 MB of storage is available for images, contacts, messages, and third party applications. Memory is dynamically allocated depending on the amount of free space available. If more space is needed, however, items will need to be removed since the VX6100 does not contain any expansion slot.
The various methods to transfer content to the VX6100 are lacking. Most phones have an option of Bluetooth, infrared, or data cable. Unfortunately should consumers wish to transfer multimedia from a PC, a data cable accessory will need to be purchased separately.
The Mobile Office Kit is also available for purchase, allowing users to connect a laptop onto Verizon Wireless' NationalAcess network. It includes a Mobile Office Configuration CD, USB Driver CD, USB Connector Cable, and Quick Start Guide.
Many of the VX6100's features and functions are carried over from the VX6000 including similar 262K color screens, 330K pixel cameras, and messaging and entertainment features.
But the VX6100 is not without weaknesses, most notably connectivity. With Verizon's Get It Now pay-per-download service, users wishing to customize their VX6100 may pay extra fees. Fees that could have been avoided with the addition of Bluetooth, infrared, or a supplied data cable.
Regardless, the VX6100 is still a very capable phone with robust multimedia, messaging, and productivity functions. SMS, EMS, and MMS messaging features are available. And BREW downloadable games and applications allow users access to hundreds of downloadable software packages. Furthermore, the camera featuring a 4X Zoom and flash make the VX6100 a versatile camera phone. Although photos taken are not print quality (640 x 480 px resolution), it provides quick access to capture fun and unexpected moments.
Overall, not much has changed aside from the addition of a handsfree speakerphone, and camera flash. However, minimal changes to the VX6100 does not make it bad by any means. In actuality, it exemplifies the great features that contributed to the large success of the VX6000 a year ago. Many of the strengths are also included in the well-rounded VX6100.
The VX6100 was released for Verizon Wireless in late October for a retail price of $150 with a plan. ♦
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