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Audiovox CDM-8500 (Sprint) review: Audiovox CDM-8500 (Sprint)

Audiovox CDM-8500 (Sprint)

John Frederick Moore
3 min read
Review summary
While the pay-as-you-go strategy is a great way to reach younger cell phone customers, it helps if the handset itself is as hip as the target audience. Enter the Audiovox 8500, a slick, little number that operates on Virgin Mobile's service and is sure to turn a few heads. Unfortunately, as fetching as this model might be on the surface, it's not exactly a crack performer.
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Minor player: This pocketable phone is small and slim.
The Audiovox 8500 (Virgin Mobile markets it under the sexier Vox 8500 moniker) is the type of phone you whip out in public just so that everyone can see you with it. Sporting a brushed-silver design, measuring a mere 3.3 by 1.6 by 0.9 inches with the cover closed, and weighing a svelte 3.2 ounces, it's both stylish and compact enough for the youth market that Virgin is targeting, but it wouldn't look out of place in a boardroom, either.
With such style come some compromises. The keypad is a bit cramped, and the buttons lie flat on the unit. The menu buttons are even smaller, so it's easy to strike the wrong key. Even worse is the dim backlighting on the keys and the nine-line displays, which makes the unit difficult to operate in low-light situations. Never mind that you can choose among seven colors for the screen--they're all equally dark, and adjusting the contrast offers minimal relief.
But we did like the sturdy feel to the unit. The flip cover gives a solid click when opening and closing, and the construction seems solid enough to withstand the handset being carried in the front pocket of your pants for long periods.
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Easy access: The phone's dedicated buttons launch popular features such as the built-in speakerphone.
It took less than five minutes to activate our service online through virginmobileusa.com. Because of Virgin's promotional offer of $20 of bonus airtime just for signing up, we didn't even have to give our credit card information, but you'll have to do so whenever you plan to replenish your account.
Within five minutes of completing the activation process, we received a text message notifying us that the phone was ready for use. However, Virgin notes that this process can take up to four hours.
Unlike AT&T Wireless's GoPhone service, which automatically replenishes your account, Virgin Mobile lets you decide when to "top up" your account and for what amount. You also have the option of automatically topping up $30 or $50 each month if you don't want to be caught unconnected.
As long as you add at least $20 to your account every 90 days, your entire balance is good for 90 days, beginning each time you top up. Conversely, you can't carry over unused funds in the GoPhone from month to month. Overall, we prefer the flexibility of Virgin's payment plan.
As for the handset, the 8500 has more features than you'd might expect. You get a built-in speakerphone; a 300-number phone book; a selection of 40 ring tones as well as a vibrate mode; a Web browser via the high-speed 1xRTT networks; and Virgin Xtras, with which you can get music clips, ring tones, and movie listings. There's no charge to browse Virgin Xtras, but you'll have to pay for airtime when using the applications.
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Mixed bag: While the 8500 won't win any medals for talk time, it does well in standby mode.
Performance is where the Audiovox falls apart. We tested the trimode (CDMA 800/1900/AMPS) phone in the Chicago area and found that call quality ranged from poor to abysmal. Virgin Mobile utilizes the Sprint PCS network for coverage, which is typically strong in our calling area when using Sprint PCS handsets, but our signal was consistently weak both indoors and out. Additionally, the 8500 heats up dramatically after 30 minutes of continuous use.
That weak signal may have accounted for the weak talk-time battery life. We managed only 1.75 hours on a single charge, compared with the rated 2.6 hours. In contrast, some phones with color displays offer better talk time than this model. Standby time, however, was an excellent 220 hours (more than nine days), easily beating the rated 150 hours.

Audiovox CDM-8500 (Sprint)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 5