It's often said that life is all about compromise, and to that end, cell phones are no exception. Take, for example, the . While its multimedia capabilities make it one of the most well-endowed mobiles on the market, it's missing one major component: Bluetooth. Fortunately, LG has corrected this omission in its VX8100, much more than just a simple upgrade of its predecessor. While both are flip handsets that offer EV-DO connectivity and a 1.3-megapixel digital camera, the VX8100's smaller, contoured body and dark-turquoise color are a big improvement upon the boxy and bulky silver makeup of the VX8000. Also, we are pleased to see the addition of an expandable memory slot. However, not all about the VX8100 is better. Although faster for downloading, especially for video clips, the VX8100 has less battery life, and the display size is a bit smaller. Even more important, we are extremely disappointed to see that some promised features have been disabled. The handset is priced at $249.99 with a one-year contract or $149.99 with a two-year contract. Where aesthetics and ergonomics are concerned, LG has decided to eschew the flashy for the functional. Except for its unusual, dark-turquoise clamshell cap and its multimedia control array beneath the external display, the LG VX8100 is similar to dozens of other handsets from a variety of cell phone manufacturers. But given recent industrial-design excesses executed purely for the sake of product differentiation by handset makers, this likeness isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is it a critique. As we said before, the VX8100's curved lines are an improvement upon the boxy form of the LG VX8000.
There are several minor but significant ergonomic differences between the VX8100 and the VX8000. As noted, at 3.58 by 1.92 by 1.03 inches--compared with its predecessor's 3.76 by 1.97 by 0.93 inches--the VX8100 is shorter, which makes it a bit more comfortable in jeans or khaki pockets. Yet at 4.16 ounces, the VX8100 is mysteriously 0.28 ounce heavier. On the outside, the speakers on the VX8100 have moved from the top of the clamshell to the caps on either side of the clamshell hinge. As a result, sound direction and volume don't change when the phone is open. On the left spine are a volume rocker and a voice-command control that also conveniently turns on the flash when you're in camera mode. Meanwhile, a dedicated camera key and a Mini SD slot are on the right spine. The VX8100's stumpy antenna doesn't telescope like the VX8000's, but the camera lens and flash are on the same place: at the top of the phone's hinge.
The postage stamp-size external screen supports a bright 65,000 colors and shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). As with the VX8000, you can use the external screen as a camera viewfinder, but this time, you can do so with or without the clamshell up--a nice touch. You can change the wallpaper and the backlighting on the external display, but the maximum is just 30 seconds. On the upside, pressing any of the external controls on the handset turns on the screen, so you don't have to open the flip to check the time. Unlike its predecessor, however, the LG VX8100 doesn't have the ability to act as a mini menu for the camera features. The aforementioned multimedia controls let you use the MP3 player with the phone closed, and they also act as a Back key when in camera mode.
Inside the mobile, the most visible difference is the quarter inch you'll lose in screen size: 2.25 inches diagonally on the VX8000 vs. 2 inches on the VX8100. But the VX8100's 262,144-color LCD displays more color saturation and deeper blacks; the red menu frame is actually red, not a deep orange, as on the VX8000. You can change the font size, the clock style, and the backlight time, but you can't alter the brightness setting. Overall, it's ideal for viewing photos and video clips and for navigating through the user-friendly menus, which are in the same style as the VX8000's.
Keypad buttons, backlit blue and flush, are somewhat crowded with small fonts, but the Clear and camera-activation keys on the VX8100 are both more conveniently and centrally located on the VX8100's superior navigation array. The five-way toggle resembles something you'd find on a Samsung phone, and you can set the down direction to act as a shortcut to user-defined functions. In a wise move, LG designed the Clear control to also turn on the speakerphone before you make a call.As one of Verizon's EV-DO phones, the LG VX8100 is loaded with lightning-fast, wireless Web surfing, but there's much more under the hood. You get a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, picture caller ID, and personalized call and message ring tones. You also can organize contacts into caller groups. Other goodies include a vibrate mode, multimedia and text messaging, a duplex speakerphone, MSN and Yahoo instant messaging, storage for up to 200 1-minute voice-memo recordings, voice commands and dialing, a USB port, a calendar with a scheduler, a notepad, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, and a world clock. An optional data-connectivity kit lets you use the phone as a laptop or PDA modem. With the additions of Bluetooth 1.1, stereo output, and a Mini SD card, the only advanced feature that the VX8100 is missing is e-mail. We are puzzled, however, as to why LG didn't opt for Bluetooth 1.2, considering the VX8100's multimedia capabilities. Also, be warned that as with the , you can use the Bluetooth only to connect to a headset and not to wirelessly transfer files. This is cheap move, but it's typically Verizon.