Motorola Razr V3c Review: For Those Who Wait
If you're on Verizon, you've had to hear friends on Cingular and T-Mobile gloat about their ultra-thin phones. Well wait no more -- Motorola is releasing the Razr V3c for Christmas. Instead of the repackaged Pink and Blue Razrs, the V3c has upgraded features, like a 1.3-megapixel camera, MP3 player, Ev-Do speeds for video-on-demand and Bluetooth.
The familiar ultra-thin profile is painted in a refined steel-gray finish. Due to its 14-millimeter thinness, rigidity was a concern. Due to the thickness of clamshells, when folded, the keypad is a problem when creating thin phones. Raised buttons increase the thickness, so Motorola's engineers needed to figure out a way to create a flat design. Voila. By covering a touchpad in nickel-plated copper-alloy, numbers and symbol are chemically-etched into an electro-luminescent strip. The result? A sci-fi, wafer-thin keypad that glows light-blue in the dark.
The V3c has two 65,000-color displays -- a bright internal one at 176-by-220 pixels, and a dull outer one at 96-by-80 resolution. The main screen, similar to the V3, is made from TFT technology, where transistors are placed on the glass, for faster refresh rates and superb contrast and brightness. The external display, meanwhile, is made from slower, yet battery saving, STN technology and shows basic information like time, network status and battery strength. Compared to the 4,000-color display on the V3, the V3c is much improved. Now on par with high-end devices, it follows the trend of videos streaming.
Hidden in the slim shape is a powerful 1.3-megapixel camera. Built with a hardened lens, you can snap pictures up to 1,280-by-1,024 pixels, high enough in resolution to make great prints. To get closer, an 8x digital zoom sounds impressive. But regrettably, digital zoom merely crops the photo, so you lose quality. It's not like true optical zoom that actually gets up-close.
Why? Optical zoom requires moving parts to focus at different distances and the slim design offers no space. But some devices such as the A970 got around the limitations by ingeniously building the camera lengthwise along the hinge. If you're looking for a better camera, that's one of the few options. Regardless, the V3c has a bundle of filters like lighting conditions for sunny, cloudy, fluorescent and incandescent and effects for sepia, black and white and negative. You can also record videos in 3GP format, though it's a novelty more than anything.
You can play harmonious ringtones on the 72-chord engine. Music is replayed beautifully, but if you'd rather have MP3s, you get that too -- it's becoming the norm in ringtone technology. Unlike polyphonic, which recreate music by playing "sheet music" through a synthesizer, MP3s are straight recordings -- lyrics and all -- so you get the real song, not just a representation of it. To listen to music, load up the MP3 player. But the 30-megabytes of storage limits you to around 10 songs. That's a big problem, since that memory is shared with all multimedia. If you run out, you'll need to delete files.
I found the keypad a bit harder to type on, but with iTap predictive text -- it's similar to T9 -- it shouldn't be a problem. You get all the goodies: SMS, EMS and MMS, so you can attach photos and sounds to those messages. You can also chat in real-time through Verizon's IM client. AOL, MSN and Yahoo are all there, but data charges apply.
The original Motorola interface is replaced with a Verizon menu. I though the layout was overly simple -- it leaves only the bare essentials -- but the menu is fast. For fun, you'll find '80s style console games preloaded. They run on Brew platform, so you can buy more, like Duke Nukem Mobile 3D, EA Sports Madden '06 3D, Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm Multiplayer, Need For Speed Underground 2 and The Incredibles 3D through Verizon. If you need to work, there are a few useful apps too. The basics: alarm clock, calculator, calendar, notepad and world clock. In addition, you can check e-mail through Verizon, which connects to Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo accounts.
One of the great things about Motorola is MotoSpeak, its voice recognition software. If you want to make a call, you can just say the digits. Want to launch the camera? Just say it too. In fact, you can even call voicemail, send pictures, reply to a text and more -- all without training.
The V3c runs on Verizon's faster Ev-Do service, for realistic speeds of around 300- to 500-kilobits per second. Verizon has one of the largest networks in the country, and it's expanding to more than 171 markets and 68 primary airports, so you should have plenty of coverage. You can link to VCast to watch clips of TV shows up to five minutes long. Programs include 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. Just choose your preferences. It'll alert you when new content is ready. Of course, you'll have to pay a subscription, but it's a nice distraction when you're on the road.
You can transfer files to and from a PC over a mini-USB port. You can also pair a wireless headset for up to 30 feet of range. But unfortunately, you can't transfer files over Bluetooth. Verizon disabled OBEX profile. Conveniently, though, you can buy multimedia online. The 740 mAh battery is plenty -- I got around three hours of talk and slightly less than a week of standby. Out of the box, you'll also get a travel charger, battery door, welcome CD, quick reference guide and user manual.
If you've been on Verizon, you've been waiting for the V3c. When the slim revolution hit, Verizon was forced to sell thicker devices. Now, a year later, the Razr V3c rewards your patience with an upgraded version of the original. Compared to the V3, the V3c is better, improving the camera, both displays and MP3 playing, as well as adding faster Ev-Do speeds.
But it's not without drawbacks, most noticeably the crippled Bluetooth. As a trait among Verizon products, you can't transfer multimedia from a PC, forcing you to buy ringtones and wallpapers. If you want its full potential, you'll have to pay too -- services like VCast and Get It Now require a monthly fee. I can't get over the measly storage space, and the lack of an expansion slot. It basically turns MP3s into a novelty feature than a fully-functional player. I mean, seriously, 10 songs?
Regardless, the design is what you want. As one of the best-looking device on Verizon, the Razr V3c is a rare device that captures desire through design and beauty. Even with shortcomings, it's well-rounded in imaging, audio and entertainment. The uniquely aesthetic design is the cherry on top. ♦
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