LG VX9800 (Verizon Wireless) review: LG VX9800 (Verizon Wireless)

The 1.3-megapixel camera on the LG VX9800 is rich with features, but it doesn't always perform well. You have to hold the phone absolutely still and gently tap the stiff shutter button, or else you'll risk a blurred image. We had trouble getting a distinct image, but a few shots came out with distinct colors and shapes. You can take pictures in four resolutions--1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 176x144--but for some reason, the phone defaults to 640x480. Other features include a flash; a 4X zoom; a self-timer; a choice of shutter sounds; and a host of image-editing options, including brightness, white balance, a macro switch, color effects, and photometry. The video recorder films 15-second clips with sound at two resolutions, 320x240 and 176x144. When finished with your shots, you can send them in a multimedia message or save them to the phone's memory. The LG VX9800 comes with 128MB of internal storage, or you can get more space with the Mini SD card slot. You also can use the camera as a business card scanner. However, it works only marginally well and was not able to pick up all information on our test cards.

The LG VX9800 has good photo quality.

In addition to being a text-messaging powerhouse, the LG VX9800 is a solid multimedia phone. Beyond the aforementioned camera, you get an MP3 player, and the EV-DO support means you can sample Verizon's V Cast offerings. You can tap into hundreds of streaming video clips, ranging from CNN news updates to episodes of made-for-mobile TV shows, such as 24: Conspiracy and Love and Hate; Verizon charges $15 a month for V Cast access. You can also download 3D games. Keep in mind, however, that only major urban areas get EV-DO coverage; take a look at CNET's quick guide to 3G for a complete list. The MP3 player was oddly stuck in the menu for Verizon's Get It Now Web service, so it took us a few minutes to find it. But once we were up and running, the interface was easy to understand. It plays only MP3 clips (no AAC or WMA) saved to the Mini SD card, but you can save clips as ring tones.

Access to the personalization settings, such as ring tones, wallpaper, and other features, is limited from the external display. You can customize each of the screens separately with a variety of wallpaper and screensavers. With the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, you can download more options and more ring tones from Verizon's Get It Now download store. There are no games included--not even demo samples.

We tested the triband (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) LG VX9800 in New York City using the Verizon Wireless service. Overall, it did not perform well for voice calls, although it was still above average on Verizon's Manhattan network. Conversations cut in and out a little more frequently than we were used to on Verizon or with other LG phones. This may be the price to pay for the aesthetic decision not to include a protruding external antenna.

The LG VX9800's voice quality was hollow and metallic, not unlike that of a bullhorn but easily discernable with plenty of volume. Performance of the full-duplex speakerphone, activated by flipping the phone open, is enhanced by dual speakers to produce a cleaner conversation than with the earpiece. Conversationalists reported only the expected minor speakerphone echo at the other end. Stereo and multimedia audio from the speakers sounded a bit too separated and lacked sufficient volume for any environment other than a quiet room's. Audio quality using the Jabra BT350 Bluetooth headset and the Jabra C220's wired stereo earphones, however, was above our expectations.

With its large display, stereo speakers or optional stereo headset, and 3G capability, the LG VX9800 is a wonderful multimedia phone. Like most EV-DO phones, the VX9800 downloads most simple apps, V Cast TV clips, and all manner of messages expected at high EV-DO velocity (300Kbps to 500Kbps). However, fatter stereo and video files tended to clog the download pipe. Green Day's 7-minute "Wake Me Up When September Ends" video ($3.99), for instance, took around 3 minutes to download. Videos looked sharp on the large internal screen and flowed naturally without the usual stutter found on slower networks. Images can be zoomed to full frame, resulting only in slight color and flesh-tone splotches, as well as barely discernable jerkiness.

Considering the large internal screen and the stereo speakers, the rated battery life of a hair more than 4 hours of talk time and 8.3 days of standby time is exemplary. In our tests, we got a very respectable 5.5 hours of talk time and a solid 12 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG VX9800 has a digital SAR rating of 1.1 watts per kilogram.

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