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The LG VX8300, the company's third EV-DO cell phone for Verizon Wireless, aims to improve on some of the drawbacks that saddled the previous VX8100. And for the most part, it succeeds. Packaged in a similar design and offering a comparable range of high-end features as its predecessor, the LG VX8300 provides improved functionality and slightly better performance. As is typical with Verizon, features such as Bluetooth are limited in scope, though we were glad to see support for e-mail this time around. And if Verizon lives up to its promise to provide a stereo Bluetooth profile and modem capability through Verizon's 3G network, the VX8300 will be an even better choice. The LG VX8300 is fairly priced at $149 with one-year contract or $99 with a two-year contract. When we initially saw the LG VX8000, the company's first 3G phone, we loved the high-speed connectivity but weren't so hot on the boxy design. Fortunately, the LG VX8100 had a sleeker, rounder form factor, and we're glad to see that the LG VX8300 offers the same, though with a few differences. At 3.58 by 1.93 by 0.92 inches and 3.88 ounces, the VX8300 is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, and instead of blue, it comes in gray. Though it's a nice effort overall, we're partial to the more eye-catching blue.
The LG VX8300 has useful external music controls.
LG also made tweaks to other outside features. The 1.2-inch external display is a hair smaller than the VX8100's, though it has the same resolution (65,000 colors). Besides showing the date, time, battery life, signal strength, battery life, and photo caller ID, it acts as a viewfinder for self-portraits. Below the display are the external music controls, which are slightly redesigned as well, while above it are the camera lens and the smaller and relocated camera flash. Like the VX8100, however, the LG VX8300 has a bulky external antenna and nifty side-mounted stereo speakers.
Inside the phone is the bright and vivid internal display. Supporting 262,000 colors and measuring 2.25 inches diagonally, it's unchanged from the VX8100. With eye-popping colors and graphics, it's more than adequate for viewing photos, watching videos, and playing games. The menus look good, but we're not fans of the standardized Verizon selections, no matter how pretty they look. You can change the backlighting time on both displays.
Below the display are the user-friendly navigations controls. Though they bear a slightly different design from the VX8300, they're still tactile and adequately sized. A five-way toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, and we like that the OK button opens the main menu when in standby mode. Surrounding the toggle are two soft keys, the Talk and End/power controls, and a Clear key. In a departure from the VX8100, the Clear key no longer doubles as a speakerphone key, which as been moved to its own control just below. Though we always like a designated speakerphone key, it's worth noting the VX8300 has no shortcut on the main keypad. That's not an issue for us, but you may think differently.
The keypad buttons are large, tactile, and well spaced. The numerals on the keys are big as well, and the backlight is bright. Dialing by feel is also easy, as the keys are raised just above the surface of the phone. As with the VX8100, the right spine has a dedicated camera key and a Micro SD card slot, while the left spine has a volume rocker and a voice-command control.
The LG VX8300 has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can organize callers into groups, pair them with an image for picture caller ID, and assign them on of 11 polyphonic (32-chord) ring tones and four message tones. Other goodies include a vibrate mode; multimedia and text messaging; a duplex speakerphone; MSN and Yahoo instant messaging; call recording; a notepad; an alarm clock; a tip calculator; a world clock; a calendar with a scheduler; and voice memos, commands, and dialing. A duplex speakerphone is included, and though you get Bluetooth 1.1, it won't support object exchange profiles. Though we've grown to accept that from Verizon, we still don't like it. On the other hand, we are excited by the prospect of Verizon adding a stereo Bluetooth for listening to music and the ability to use the phone as a modem over Verizon's EV-DO network with a Bluetooth or USB connection. Hopefully, the carrier will follow through with both. Two additions over the VX8100 are long-awaited support for POP3 e-mail and the introduction of Verizon's flash-based UI. The VX8300 is the first phone to feature Adobe Flash Lite, and we like the animated screensavers it brings to the phone.
The LG VX8300's camera comes with a small flash.
The LG VX8300 supports both Verizon's V Cast and the V Cast Music. You can access the music player when the phone is closed using the handy and well-designed external music controls, and we like that album art shows up on the external display. The interface and menu structure for the music and video players are similar to those of other Verizon EV-DO handsets, and the content offerings are about the same as well. We wish, however, that the player supported native MP3 file playback rather than just WMAs. If you don't want to pay for music downloading from Verizon, you can load your own music files on the phone with a Micro SD card and Verizon's Music Essentials Kit ($19.99).
The 1.3-megapixel camera is virtually unchanged over the VX8100's. You get a variety of editing functions, five resolutions (1,280x960, 800x600, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120); a self-timer; a night mode; three shutter sounds, plus a silent option; and adjustments for brightness, white balance, and color effects. The only real change is with the VX8300's 4X zoom, compared to the VX8100's 8X. Rather than saving each shot automatically, the VX8300 conveniently lets you erase, save, or send your pic after you shoot it. The camcorder's editing options have been pared down, but it nonetheless captures 3G2 videos with sound at 176x144 resolution. Total video length is up to an hour depending on the available memory, and you can save as many shots as will fit on the phone. The VX8300 comes with 28MB of integrated memory, while the Micro SD slot accommodates cards of any size. Image quality was slightly improved over the VX8100, with bright, sharp colors and distinct object outlines.
The LG VX8300 has superior photo quality.
You can personalize the LG VX8300 with a variety of wallpaper, display themes, and clock styles. Since this is a Verizon phone, there aren't many choices included, but you can buy more via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. There are no included games, so avid gamers will have to buy their own titles.
We tested the LG VX8300 in San Francisco using Verizon's service. Call quality was quite clear, with exceptionally loud audio. We experienced little static or disruption, and callers reported few problems on their end. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but the VX8300 performed well even in noisier conditions. The speakerphone also came through admirably, and we had little trouble with conversations. Automated answering services had more trouble with understanding us, however, when we used the speakerphone. We also connected the phone to the Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset and had no issues.
Streaming video quality was on a par with that of Verizon's other V Cast phones. There was little buffering, and clips loaded quickly. Web browsing was also speedy--music files downloaded in less than a minute--and we had no problem finding adequate EV-DO coverage in San Francisco. Music quality was among the best we've heard on a Verizon phone, thanks to the quality stereo speakers. Music also sounded good over a wired headset, but be advised the LG VX8300 uses a 2.5mm jack.
The LG VX8300 has a rated talk time of 4 hours and a rated standby time of up to 16 days. We managed to get only 3 hours, 25 minutes of talk time in our tests and 13 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the VX8300 has a digital SAR rating of 1.21 watts per kilogram.