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LG VX8100 (Verizon Wireless) review: LG VX8100 (Verizon Wireless)

LG VX8100 (Verizon Wireless)

Stewart Wolpin
8 min read
LG VX8100
It's often said that life is all about compromise, and to that end, cell phones are no exception. Take, for example, the LG VX8000. 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 V Cast 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.

True blue: We like the VX8100's design.

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.

Use the eye-catching multimedia buttons to control the player.

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.

Smile: The VX8100 has a conveniently located camera lens.

LG has improved the 1.3-megapixel CMOS camera functionality in the VX8100. You get a variety of editing functions, including an 8X zoom; five resolutions (1,280x960, 800x600, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120); a self-timer; a night mode; two shutter sounds, plus a silent option; and adjustments for brightness, white balance, and color effects. There's also a light, but when you're taking pictures with the flap open, you can't use the aforementioned key on the left spine to activate it. Instead, you must drill down into the menus to turn it on and off. Rather than automatically saving each shot, the VX8100 lets you either erase or save your snap, which is convenient because, like with many camera phones, you have to hold the VX8100 stock-still after you click Capture until the image appears on the screen--or else you risk a blurry mess. Images are acceptable, although they're obviously no substitute for those of a real digital camera when capturing important moments.

We like the VX8100's photo quality.

Despite the initial promises when the VX8100 was first shipped, it didn't come with an MP3 player. Of course, we were sufficiently miffed at the time, but that changed with the launch of Verizon's V Cast Music store. Now, the VX8100 is one of the Verizon handsets that supports the service, and an upgrade is available through the carrier. With access to service, you can download and play a variety of streaming video and audio, but keep in mind that you will have to pay for it. Inside the VX8100, there is 4MB of built-in memory, enough to store up to 100 (15-second) 176x144-pixel video clips shot in the 3g2 format, viewable using QuickTime, or up to 100 still photos. We would have liked to see more integrated memory, and although the Mini SD card definitely helps, we are disappointed that the phone didn't ship with a memory card. Happily, you can transfer most kinds of files between the card and the phone, including pictures and video clips. Ring tones are an exception, since only the tones you buy from Verizon can be saved to the phone.

The LG VX8100 includes a variety of wallpaper, themes, and alert sounds, and you can use 16-character personalization banners. The VX8100 ships with a measly five monophonic and six 72-chord polyphonic ring tones. You can download and play polyphonic and MP3 ring tones available from Verizon's Get It Now download store, along with the usual assortment of screensavers, wallpaper, games, and so forth. There are no games included, not even demo versions of titles that are available through Get It Now.

LG not only added a number of feature and function improvements to the VX8100, but the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) phone performed noticeably faster on Verizon's broadband EV-DO network than the VX8000 did in CNET Labs' tests in Manhattan. Pictures transmitted much more quickly, and best of all, lag time on loading and buffering video was faster. We had watched 30 seconds of a CNN news report on the VX8100 by the time the same clip on the LG VX8000 loaded and started to play. And thanks to LG's browser switch--to Verizon's Mobile Web 2.0 from OpenWave--Web pages loaded significantly faster as well. ESPN's MLB home page filled a full 20 seconds faster on the VX8100, for instance. V Cast still isn't nationwide, so make sure you get it in your area before you buy the phone.

We discerned little difference in earpiece quality between the two phones; most delivered loud and crisp conversations. The VX8100's side-mounted stereo speakers, however, were far louder than the speakers on the . On the other hand, the widely separate, side-firing VX8100 speakers produced a bit of an echo that was exacerbated when we cupped the handset in our palm or down on a desktop in an attempt at redirecting the sound. We tried pairing the phone to the and had no problems doing so. Ringer volume also was much louder on the VX8100, thanks to the side-mounted speakers.

LG dropped the ball a bit on battery life, however, stepping down to a 1,000mAh lithium from the 1,100mAh on the VX8000. As a result, the LG VX8100's talk time is rated at a still-robust 3.75 hours, but that's 40 minutes less than on the VX8000. Standby time is similarly shrunken by almost a day, 6.8 days instead of 7.6 days. In actual usage, we eked out 3.5 hours of talk time and 5.75 days of standby time. According to the FCC, the VX8100 has a digital SAR rating of 1.16 watts per kilogram.


LG VX8100 (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 7