LG VX8100 Review| By Allen Tsai
With each new release, handsets grow more advanced; combining a broad range of features into a compact device. Due to the widespread use and popularity of the cell phone, it's the perfect foundation to build a multifunctional gadget, being just a pocket's reach away.
Initially digital cameras broke ground, making sure users would never have an excuse for leaving the camera at home. Then, as MP3s overshadowed polyphonic ringtones as the sound of choice, portable music players begin being integrated.
But Asia and Europe have always been light-years ahead of North America when it comes to handsets. And a glimpse overseas has given anxious consumers of what's to come in the future.
With Verizon Wireless' launch of EV-DO, more possibilities emerged; allowing subscribers to access broadband-like speeds on their mobile device. Through Verizon's VCAST service, movie and television clips are able to be streamed and watched on the go.
The LG VX8000 was the first device to feature the promising new 3G technology, but drawbacks in size, weight, and design hindered its appeal to the mass market. But with the release its successor, the VX8100, LG hopes to correct past mistakes and attract tech-hungry consumers.
Contrary to the no-nonsense boxy shell of the VX8000, the relaxed curves of the VX8100 evokes a more entertaining feel; adding a cool blue texture instead of the metallic casing. Measuring 91 x 49 x 26 mm, the VX8100 is more compact, albeit thicker, than the VX8000. And its 118 g adds more weight to lug around.
Closed, the VX8100's external 65K Color TFT screen displays 7 lines of information, including date, time, battery level, signal strength, and a small wallpaper. Additionally, incoming calls are shown for convenience.
Above the LCD, the lens to the 1.3-megapixel camera is positioned to capture lasting memories; activated with the press of the Camera Key along the right side. While a built-in flash can be triggered to ensure those recollections show up bright and clear even in low-light conditions.
Navigation and shortcut keys provide convenient access without opening the VX8100. Below the external screen, Left, Right, and Select buttons allow consumers to Rewind, Fast Forward, and Play / Stop when listening to the built-in MP3 player.
On the left side, up and down keys adjust the ring and voice volumes during standby and calls, and doubling as scroll buttons through months in the Calendar or pages in the MiniBrowser. Pressing the dedicated Voice Dial Key below records and playbacks memos; even activating the speaker-independent voice recognition system.
Since the VX8100 is a video phone, an ample amount of storage is needed to stream and store large files. And should users find themselves out of internal memory, an expansion slot along the right side accepts miniSD cards.
Opening the VX8100 reveals the internal screen; able to display a brilliant 262K colors at 176 x 144 px in resolution. Conveniently placed, the 5-way directional keypad is surrounded by Send, Camera, Clear, Power / End, and Left and Right soft keys for additional shortcuts.
Out of the box, the LG VX8100 comes with a standard 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery, AC adapter, back cover plate, Welcome CD, and user manual.
Pressing the camera button converts the LG VX8100's internal screen into a viewfinder. Built on CMOS technology, the VX8100's 1.3-megapixel camera captures images up to 1280 x 960 px in resolution. Advancing significantly from the days of thumbnail-sized pictures, which were more of a novelty than practical, the VX8100's camera takes photos high enough in resolution to make decent prints.
Fitting approximately 50 images, consumers who want to conserve memory can snap pictures at lower resolutions (640 x 480 px, 320 x 240 px, 176 x 144 px, and 160 x 120 px) to store up to 100 photos.
The VX8000 was the best camera on the market, with high-resolution images clearly captured with outstanding exposure and color representations. Unfortunately, VX8100's accuracy representations have digressed, partly due to the sensor change from CCD to CMOS. Improved through manual setting adjustments, the VX8100 is still better than most cameras on the market, just not the VX8000's.
Using the navigational keypad, users can adjust Brightness Level (Up / Down) and 8x Digital Zoom (Left / Right). Additionally, an abundant array of camera filters and controls are incorporated including White Balance (Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent), Color Effects (Normal, Sepia, Black and White, Negative, Solari), Self-Timer (3, 5, and 10 seconds), Night Mode, and Flash.
Encoded in 3GPP2 codec (MPEG-4 and H.263 Video, AAC, AMR, and QCELP Audio) format, video clips up to 176 x 220 px in resolution can be recorded. Limited to 15 seconds in length and 15 frames-per-second, the VX8100 takes advantage of MPEG-4 for delivery of video and audio. Video adjustment settings include Brightness, and White Balance. Computer playback for clips requires QuickTime 6.5.
Powered by the same Qualcomm MSM6500 chipset in the VX8000, the VX8100 is optimized for Verizon Wireless' 3G network. Built on an all digital dual-band CDMA (800 / 1900 MHz) network, consumers who rely heavily on analog should be wary.
LG rated the VX8100's 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery at 3.75 hours and 163 hours (6.8 days) of talk and standby times respectively. However, those are under optimal conditions. Handset manufacturers and carriers often list talk-time and standby-time ratings with disclaimers about variable performance and often refer to the times they publish as maximum times.
Featuring dual displays, the LG VX8100 brings color to life. Having a 0.168 dot pitch, the external LCD displays 65K colors at 128 x 128 px in resolution; showing 7 lines of text and even doubling as a viewfinder when closed in Camera Mode.
The main LCD features an advanced 262K-color 176 x 220 px screen, similar to the one found on the VX8000. Having considerably fast refresh rates and a 0.18 dot pitch, the TFT screen is comfortably bright and clear for video applications and camera functionality.
The LG VX8100's dual external stereo speakers ensure that audio is crisp and vibrant, making ringtones sound spectacular. Overlaying 72 chords simultaneously, the VX8100 creates beautifully sounding polyphonic ringtones. Reading MIDI files, a local synthesizer reproduces the music. With more simultaneous chords supported, more sounds can be combined, producing richer sounds.
However, polyphonic ringtones can never achieve the versatility and quality of MP3s. As opposed to synthesized tones, MP3s recordings are the exact audio source. So any audio input can be set as a ringtone; whether it's music with lyrics, voice, or sounds.
With the built-in MP3 player, users aren't just limited to ringtones. Hours of music can be enjoyed on the VX8100 without having to bring an extra device. Supporting handsfree stereo audio, the VX8100 features a standard 2.5 mm headset jack along with full-duplex speakerphone functionality.
The messaging features combined with Verizon's 3G EV-DO service allows an added level of versatility not found in other generation devices. Aside from the standard SMS (Short Messaging Service) and EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service) text messaging formats, MMS (Multimedia Message Service) allows consumers to send large video clips and high-resolution photos at broadband speeds.
Whether users are sending postcard messages with an attached video clip, or sharing an unexpected moment with the 1.3-megapixel camera, the LG VX8100 allows consumers to personalize messages like never before by adding multimedia for unrestricted creativity.
Using the T9 predictive text standard, messages can be typed faster. Choosing from a dictionary of words and phrases, the VX8100 anticipates what is being written, allowing one-press messaging for added convenience. Also supporting Yahoo and MSN instant messaging clients, consumers can always keep in touch no matter where they are in the world.
Featuring standard PIM (Personal Information Management) applications found on most phones, the LG VX8100 comes with Phonebook with a 500 contact capacity, able to store 5 numbers, 2 email addresses, and a picture ID. The VX8100 also incorporates an Alarm Clock, Calculator, Calendar with Scheduler, EZ Tip Calc, Notepad, Voice Memo, and World Clock. Through the integrated email client, consumers can access third party POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP accounts on the road.
With the bare essentials, the VX8100 is hardly a replacement for a PDA. But fortunately, the VX8100 supports BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) for downloadable Java-based applications. Allowing users to transfer and install games and applications from the web or PC, its versatility lets users add programs from third party developers. With the popularity of BREW, an abundance of developers have created software for business users and gamers alike. Most cost a fee, some or free.
Additionally, through Verizon Wireless' Get It Now service, users can conveniently download applications and multimedia at a price. Utilizing the EV-DO broadband connection, consumers can also take advantage of Verizon's Get It Now service with 3D Gaming. Costing more than standard games, about $10 for a 3-month subscription, the 3D games are considerably more entertaining providing 3D rendering and effects reminiscent of the 90s consoles.
Currently a few games in a wide range of genres including EverQuest: Hero's Call, Frogger, JAMDAT Bowling, Name That Tune, NBA Basketball 2005, Suzuki Motocross Challenge, SpongeBob Darts.
Being one of the new phones supporting Verizon Wireless' 3G service, EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) allows consumers to browse the Internet, stream videos, and transfer high-resolution photos at speeds of up to 2.4 Mbps, theoretically; realistic rates will be more around 300 to 500 kbps. Using the Openwave UP 6.2 browser, web pages are rendered upon the WAP 2.0 standard.
But the main application to unleash the VX8100's power is Verizon Wireless' VCAST service. Coupling EV-DO broadband speeds with VCAST video streaming service, consumers have a mobile television at the palm of their hands.
Using Windows Media, the highest-quality digital media format available for streaming applications, unlimited access to more than 300 daily video clips are accessible for a $15 monthly fee. Providing live and prerecorded TV programs, VCAST allows users to stream clips from news and entertainment programs such as ABC News, CNBC, MSNBC, the Weather Channel, the News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox studio, and Viacom Inc.'s VH1 and Comedy Central cable channels.
Also preloaded with thePlatform, a media publishing technology, Video-On-Demand is available through Get It Now service. Allowing customers to subscribe and select preferences for their favorite content, text messages alert users when new videos are available for viewing within their favorite channels. Paired with PacketVideo's media player, the VX8100's content catalog allows users to fast forward and rewind streams, or download them for local playback.
Storing all the photos, music, video, and applications takes a considerable amount of space, and luckily the LG VX8100 comes with 32 MB of internal memory. Dynamically shared among all stored files, the VX8100 also features a miniSD card slot should more memory be needed.
Having the freedom to move without wires, users can connect wirelessly to a variety of Bluetooth-enabled devices including headsets and many new vehicles.
However, Verizon Wireless disables OBEX (Object Exchange) profile support. Limiting functionality by preventing multimedia transfer from the VX8100, Verizon Wireless forces customers to use its fee-based Get It Now service rather than allowing users to share ringtones, wallpapers, games, and videos.
With the release of the VX8000, Verizon Wireless officially launched its EV-DO and VCAST service; providing 3G broadband speeds for video applications. The VX8000 met some mixed feelings as consumers praised its outstanding multimedia features, but were turned away by its large unappealing box-like exterior.
With the launch of the VX8100 six months later, LG hoped to fix past mistakes which held back a technologically impressive device. Adding more shape and color, as well as reducing its size, the VX8100's form is much more reasonable.
However, some features of the VX8100 have actually declined in quality. While still excellent, the external LCD's screen colors were reduced from 262K to 65K. And while both devices feature 1.3-megapixel cameras, the VX8000 camera's ISO selection and macro mode features were removed completely.
But, LG has improved the VX8100 as well; increasing the internal memory to a large 32 MB and adding a miniSD card slot. Allowing more room for multimedia, users will have the flexibility to store files without having to count each byte.
However some limitations stayed the same. Verizon Wireless had once again disabled Bluetooth transfer and dial-up capabilities. Not surprisingly, all Verizon Wireless Bluetooth-enabled phones are crippled to encourage paying for content.
Regardless, the highlight and foundation of the VX8100 is its EV-DO capabilities. Allowing users to browse, download, and stream high-quality multimedia at blazing fast speeds, users will never want to go back.
Packing robust imaging, audio, and messaging capabilities, the LG VX8100 is a high-tech phone for the gadget enthusiast. Well-rounded and state-of-the-art, high-speed 3G EV-DO streaming and transfer speeds allow users to do and share more than they ever had before. ♦
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