LG Voyager review:

LG Voyager

With so many multimedia features included on the Voyager, it's difficult to name one offering as the best of the bunch, but if one comes close it would have to be Verizon's stellar V Cast Mobile TV service. With the $15 per month Basic package, you get eight channels: CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN Mobile TV, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go, and Nickelodeon. Not all the offerings are "live" as in simulcast; some of the content is timeshifted, others delivered specifically for mobile viewers. Mobile TV is currently available in 25 U.S. markets, with more to come. For full details see our full review of Mobile TV or the LG VX9400 review.

The Voyager's has a solid 2-megapixel camera, though it's short on a few options. And frankly, we were hoping that LG would bump up the resolution from that of the enV. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,600x1,200; 1,280x960; 640x480; 320x240) and choose from four color effects and four white-balance settings. There's also a 2.5x digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution), spot metering, a brightness control, a night mode, a self timer, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). The nifty autofocus is carried over from the enV; it's quite useful, as it helped us to the keep the phone steady and eliminates blurriness when taking our shots. The controls are easy to use, as long as you can access those buttons on the left spine--remember, you must have the Voyager fully open--and you're careful not to confuse them with the soft keys. And as we said earlier, we were hoping for a flash.

The Voyager's camera doesn't have a flash, which is disappointing.

We like that when taking photos you can use the full display as a viewfinder, but it's too bad that the same isn't true when you're viewing images form your album. In that case, the pictures take up only part of the display. Also, while it's great that you can se you can switch to the external display for vanity shots, it takes a few too many steps to get you there. Unlike the enV, you can access the camera's menus on the external display, but the touch interface is a bit clunky. For the most part, photo quality was quite good, but it was somewhat inconsistent. The majority of our images features bright color resolution with sharp definition. On a few other occasions, however, our photos were washed out and a tad blurry. The camera seems to work best when it's held completely still, for which the autofocus helps. Dim conditions are tricky without a flash.

The Voyager took admirable photos.

The camcorder takes clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) with sound, and it has a set of editing options similar to that of the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are limited to 30 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. You can use the external display to record videos and even film yourself when the phone is open. Though a message on the external display will command you to hold the Voyager horizontally in order to film, it's not completely necessary that you do so. It's just that filming in landscape mode will better represent the frame's true size. As with photos from your album, filmed clips will take up only a portion of the display. Videos were comparable with the enV, which is to say they're decent if you hold the camera steady. On the other hand, the camera couldn't handle quick movements.

With a full HMTL browser, the Voyager offers a great surfing experience that almost rivals the iPhone's. The external display renders full Web pages in all their glory; there are no clunky WAP pages to be seen. It won't support flash but you can click through multiple pages, view photos, and select links at will. As mentioned earlier, you can maneuver through pages by sweeping your finger cross the display while getting the tactile feedback. Though the motion isn't as fluid as on the iPhone, and it can be a bit tricky to your select preferred link on a crowded page, LG deserves a lot of credit for presenting the mobile Internet in this form. Like so much else that's new, it may not be perfect, but it is big step ahead. And even without Wi-Fi, it ups the ante over the iPhone by offering the Web in 3G. You can use the internal display to view the full Web pages as well, but using the toggle to navigate is tedious.

You can personalize the Voyager with a variety of color themes, wallpaper, screen savers, and clock formats, and you can write a personalized banner. We were surprised that the Voyager offers one full game with Pac-Man. Usually, Verizon doesn't give us any games.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) in San Francisco and Los Angeles using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was quite admirable. The signal remained strong and was free of static or interference. Also, voices sounded natural, and we enjoyed plenty of volume--even when talking on a noisy street. Our only complaint was there was a slight hissing sound on our end. Still, it didn't happen all the time, so it wasn't a bother.

Callers reported satisfying conditions on their end. They could hear us plainly, and the audio was clear. In fact, some of our friends couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. They didn't encounter the hissing noise, but a couple of callers said we sounded slightly tinny. Automated calling systems could distinguish our commands as well, even when we were talking on a noisy street.

Speakerphone calls were also agreeable. The volume was louder than we expected, and the audio clarity was some of best we've encountered on a speakerphone. Callers reported the same conditions, but on the whole we had the best experience when talking in a quiet room. As for Bluetooth calls, we successfully paired a headset and experienced decent call quality. Like with most touch-screen phones, the external display locks automatically during calls to avoid an accidental hang-up. You can unlock it by pressing the aforementioned unlock icon in the lower-left corner. That's not an issue for the most part, except for when you need to use the dialpad while on a call.

The EV-DO connection was relatively strong as measured by the number of reception bars on the screen, yet our actual experience was somewhat mixed. V Cast videos loaded in about 15 seconds, which is more or less average, and navigating through the V Cast menus was speedy. Downloading a game took just a few seconds as well, and surfing the Web was relatively zippy. Web pages such as Yahoo and CNET loaded in about 10 to 15 seconds, which isn't bad. We were hoping to see it move a little faster, and of course, offer Wi-Fi as an alternative, but the browser is perfectly satisfying for what it offers. And in any case, it's better than AT&T's EDGE network. On the other hand, the V Cast Music service was pokier. Songs took more than minute and a half to download, which is slower than we've seen on other Verizon EV-DO phones such as the LG VX8350.

Contrary to earlier impressions, the response time for the touch screen was rather swift. Yet we noticed a few times that the touch screen seemed to freeze for a couple of seconds. On those occasions, we had to wait momentarily before the screen would respond to our touch. It happened very infrequently, and with no pattern, but it's still worth noting.

The Voyager's streaming video quality also was uneven. We really wanted to watch videos on the external display, but the experience left us disappointed. Though the menu is a tad slicker than the normal V Cast interface, and the videos cover almost the full width of the landscape display, the quality was rather poor. There was frequent pixilation, and small images could be almost blurry. Likewise, while the sound matched the speakers' mouths, the volume was muffled. Since all V Cast sound comes from the twin speakers inside the phone, the level is rather low when it is closed.

The V Cast experience has less pixilation when using the internal display, but the size of the frame is much smaller. Clips weren't unwatchable by any means, but we were hoping for better. On the upside, however, videos never froze, and we didn't have to pause for rebuffering. Although the San Francisco Bay Area won't get V Cast Mobile TV until early 2009, we were able to test the feature in Los Angeles. On the whole the experience was satisfactory with clean video and no distortion. It was comparable with the other V Cast Mobile TV phones we've reviewed.

Music quality was satisfying on the whole. The twin speakers gave enough volume, and the audio was clear. As is typical with a music phone, it's not good enough to replace your standalone MP3 player, but it's fine for most uses. Try headphones for the best experience.

The LG Voyager VX10000 has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and 20 days standby time. It fell a bit short in our battery tests, reaching 3 hours, 45 minutes of talk time. That's still a decent result for a CDMA handset, but it's 4 hours less than what the iPhone delivered. According to FCC radiation tests, the Voyager has a digital SAR rating of 0.765 watt per kilogram.

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