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Even though LG has ventured into the realm of super skinny phones with the LG Chocolate and the LG Shine, it still has softer, curvier phones in its lineup for those of us who tire of the thin-phone phenomenon. The LG VX8350 is one such device, and it is a fantastic update of the LG VX8300, which debuted last year. Not only is it sans the stubby antenna of its predecessor, it's also far more ergonomic, supports MP3 playback, and unlike a lot of Verizon phones, it also supports a wider range of Bluetooth profiles. The VX8350 is also feature-rich, with a megapixel camera, EV-DO support, and access to Verizon's array of V Cast broadband content. The LG VX8350 is available for $79.99 with a two-year contract, which we think is an absolute bargain considering it is such a quality device.
Gone is the stubby antenna of the LG VX8300; the LG VX8350 is now in a smooth, pebblelike shape with soft curves all around. Measuring 3.73 inches by 1.97 inches by 0.87 inch, the VX8350 is a joy to hold in the hand due to its curvy design, and it's also quite lightweight at 3.3 ounces. The overall design is far more ergonomic than its predecessor, with a much more streamlined and stylish appearance.
Even the external screen of the LG VX8350 is slightly improved over the VX8300. Though it still measures around 1.2 inches diagonally, the screen on the VX8350 now supports 256,000 colors as opposed to the 65,000 colors on the predecessor. The display shows the typical date, time, battery, and signal strength, as well as caller ID. It also acts as a self-portrait viewfinder when the camera is activated. When the music player is activated, you are also able to view album art and track information right on the external display.
Underneath the external display are the music player controls in the form of three round buttons. Though they are on the small side, the buttons have a nice spun-metal texture and are raised enough above the surface so they are easy to press. A volume rocker and voice recorder button sit on the left spine, while a dedicated camera key and microSD card slot sit on the right. The LG VX8350 has stereo speakers, but they are located on the back of the phone, which we think muffles the sound of the phone a little bit.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a fabulous 256,000-color, 2.0-inch diagonal internal display. Colors appear to pop from the screen, and images look vivid and rich with detail. You can adjust the screen's backlighting time, as well as the dial font size. Perhaps our only gripe is that the LG VX8350 still maintains the annoying standardized Verizon menu interface.
We absolutely love the LG VX8350's user-friendly keypad. All the keys from the navigation controls to the alphanumeric keypad are tactile, well-spaced apart, and have a pleasant raised curved texture that make them really easy to press and dial by feel. The navigation keys consist of two soft keys, a five-way toggle that doubles as shortcuts to four user-defined functions, Send and End/Power keys, plus a Clear key. There's also a dedicated speakerphone key that can be activated prior to a call.
The LG VX8350 comes with almost the same features as its predecessor, save for a couple of refinements here and there. As far as basics go, the LG VX8350 has a generous 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can then organize them into groups, pair them with an image for photo caller ID, or assign them one of 17 different ringtones and alerts. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, instant messaging, voice recording, a notepad, a calendar, a calculator, a stop watch, an alarm clock, a world clock, a tip calculator, and voice command capabilities. On the higher end, you also get e-mail, a wireless Web browser, EV-DO support, and stereo Bluetooth. A departure from most Verizon phones, the LG VX8350 supports a wide array of Bluetooth profiles--you can transfer files via Bluetooth as well as use it as a modem if you wish. Another great feature of the LG VX8350 is that you can use it in USB Mass Storage mode.
Like its predecessor, the LG VX8350 supports both Verizon's V Cast as well as V Cast Music. Thanks to the VX8350's external music player controls, you can access the music while the phone is closed and treat it like a normal MP3 player. The album art on the display is a nice touch. The MP3 player itself is fairly generic, but you do get a decent track listing plus the option to play the playlist in shuffle mode. Also another upgrade from the VX8300 is that the VX8350 supports both WMAs as well as MP3s. Songs from V Cast Music cost $1.99 each if you download it over the air, but you can also load your own music onto the phone via a microSD card with Verizon's Music Essentials Kit ($19.99). We wish we didn't have to pay extra for the kit, however.
The LG VX8350 also comes with the 1.3-megapixel camera similar to that on the VX8300, and that's a good thing. Photo quality did not disappoint, with sharp images and vivid colors. Camera settings include three different resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240), a self-timer, white balance, shutter sounds (with a silent option), color effects, brightness, a night mode, photometry/spot meter modes, plus the option to save the image to the phone's internal memory or to a microSD card. We were, however, slightly disappointed that the camera had no flash. Camcorder settings are similar to that of the still camera, though there is only one video resolution of 176x144 pixels. The video length depends on whether it'll be for sending via MMS (which is up to 30 seconds), or whether it'll be for available storage on the phone (which is up to an hour or so). Video quality was quite acceptable for a camera phone like this, but it was still pretty low-quality with pixelated images and jerky movements.
Personalization options are abundant with the LG VX8350. You can change the wallpaper, display themes, clock styles, ringtones, alert sounds, and more. And if you aren't satisfied with what's included in the phone, you can always download more from Verizon. There aren't any included games, but you can feel free to purchase a game for either a subscription rate or for an unlimited-use, one-time download fee.
We tested the LG VX8350 in San Francisco using the Verizon Wireless network. Call quality was exceptional--we were very impressed with the clarity and crispness of the sound quality. We experienced no static, and callers said they heard us loud and clear. They didn't even think we called from a cell phone at first. The LG VX8350 also comes with built-in "Voice Clarity" mode that automatically adjusts the voice level based on surrounding noise. Speakerphone mode also did admirably well--we held the phone about a foot or two away from us, and callers still heard us just fine, albeit slightly muffled. Our only gripe is that the speakers are on the back of the phone, so the volume wasn't as loud as it should be. Similarly, music quality was fantastic as well--probably among the best we've heard from a music phone. It was still slightly light on bass, but that's to be expected from a device like this. We paired the phone with the Cardo S-2 stereo Bluetooth headset and used it for both calls and music without a problem.
EV-DO speeds made surfing and downloading files a painless experience. We managed to download a Simpsons game in a matter of seconds, and a song we purchased downloaded in less than a second, it seemed. Streaming video quality was very good as well, with little to no buffering.
The LG VX8350 has a rated battery life of 3.45 hours of talk time and a rated standby time of up to 8.75 days. We got a tested talk time of 4 hours and 15 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the VX8350 has a digital SAR rating of 1.30 watts per kilogram.