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Motorola Razr VE20 - silver (Sprint) review: Motorola Razr VE20 - silver (Sprint)

Motorola Razr VE20 - silver (Sprint)

CNET Reviews staff
8 min read


Motorola Razr VE20 - silver (Sprint)

The Good

The Motorola Razr VE20 has a satisfying multimedia feature set, brilliant displays, and decent call quality. It also has excellent music and video quality.

The Bad

The Motorola Razr VE20's memory card is located behind the battery. The mirrored face is a fingerprint magnet and the keys are flush.

The Bottom Line

Yes, it is another Razr, but the Motorola Razr VE20 is solid and reliable phone in its own right. If you're searching for a satisfying Sprint multimedia phone, it's worth a look.

Just when you thought the Motorola Razr was dead, Moto has brought it back for another round with the Razr VE20 for Sprint. Before you start grumbling about Moto never having anything new--a sentiment we've no doubt shared--we advise you to give this Razr a chance. Sure, the design is old hat, but the VE20 is sparkly and slim with big, bright displays. The feature set doesn't offer anything new, either, but with a full slate of multimedia options, it should deliver everything you need. And attention sports fans; Sprint is positioning the Razr VE20 as a premier model for its NFL Mobile service. Call quality is generally good, but the VE20 excels as a streaming video and music device. You can get it for $99 with service.

As we mentioned already, the Razr VE20's design should be instantly familiar to just about anyone. Elements of Sprint's original Razr V3m are clearly visible, from the sleek profile (3.9 inches by 2 inches by 0.6 inch) to the design of its hinge. However, even with all that retro styling, Moto did incorporate few tweaks that give the VE20 its own identity. Graceful curved edges replace the V3's boxy, angular figure--the trademark "double hinge" in particular is more streamlined--and the brushed metal skin with red highlights is quite attractive. At 3.5 ounces the VE20 is just a hair lighter than the Razr V3m, but it feels sturdier in the hand.

Other major design changes include a revamped external display and the addition of a mirrored panel on the phone's front face. While the V3m's external display was small with a low resolution, the VE20's screen measures 1.6 inches and supports 65,000 colors. It's bright and beautiful and it incorporates the onscreen touch controls with Haptics feedback that we saw on Sprint's Motorola Razr2 V9m. Those buttons give you convenient access to the music player, a shortcuts menu, and your text message in-box--all without opening the phone. The screen also shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. You can use it as a viewfinder to take self-portraits and you can adjust the screen saver, clock type, and backlighting time. Our only complaint with the display is that it's nearly impossible to see in direct light because of the Razr VE20's reflective skin.

The Razr VE20's large, bright display features onscreen controls.

The mirrored panel has other consequences as well. Though it lets you check your teeth before a job interview, it catches fingerprints and smudges by the ton. We were constantly swiping the VE20, but even then it never looked completely clean. You should also be careful when using the phone in bright sunlight. If it catches the light just so, which is it prone to do, the effect can be blinding.

The Razr VE20's camera lens sits just above the display. There is no flash, but self-portraits are a cinch with the display or the reflective skin. On the left spine are the volume rocker, the micro USB/charger port and the Moto "smart" key. A camera shutter sits on the right spine just about the convenient 3.5mm headset jack. What isn't convenient, however, is the microSD card slot behind the battery.

The internal display measures a generous 2.2 inches with support for 262,000 colors. The result is a rich, vibrant screen with sharp graphics and readable text; you can change the messaging font size and the backlight time. The text on the menu interface may be a little for small users, but the interface is otherwise attractive and intuitive. Sprint made a good decision when it ditched flash-heavy interfaces in favor of simple icon and list-based designs. The VE20 also offers six menu shortcuts on the standby screen that you can cycle through using the navigation toggle. The feature is easy to use, though its design looks a lot like the bubbles for T-Mobile's My Faves service.

The Razr VE20's navigation controls and keypad buttons take a lot of cues from the first Razr, but Moto redesigned them as well. Two soft keys, a camera shortcut, a Back button and the Talk and End/power buttons surround the circular toggle and central OK button. Though the controls are flush, their arrangement is spacious. The toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions and the left soft key opens a secondary user-programmable shortcuts menu. The keypad buttons are flush as well, but the raised numbers give some then tactile definition. We could text and dial quickly, but dialing by feel wasn't so easy. Though the backlit keys are clearly visible in the dark, in bright sunshine the white numbers blend in with the silver skin of the phone.

The Razr VE20 has a 600-contact phonebook with room in each entry for six phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web address, a job title and company, a street address and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them a photo or one of 27 polyphonic ringtones. Alternatively, you also can pair them with a video ringtones or a voice recording.

Though it's far from being a smartphone, the Razr VE20 offers a very decent feature set with a full range of low and high-end options. Essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, a notepad, a world clock, a voice memo recorder, unit and currency converters, a tip calculator, and a stop watch. Beyond the basics there's USB mass storage, instant messaging and chat, a file manager, a speakerphone, stereo Bluetooth, phone as modem capability, voice dialing, and remote backup for your contacts. E-mail is also onboard for POP3 accounts such as Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL, and you even can get work e-mail if your company uses Outlook Web Access. The e-mail user experience is pretty clunky, and your work access is limited only to your inbox, but it's usable in a pinch of you need it.

As an EV-DO phone, the VE20 offers full support for Sprint's 3G services. You can connect to Sprint's Power Vision for Sprint TV, which include live and on-demand programming from a wide variety of sports, entertainment and new channels. You also can check out movie previews and stream more than 150 channels from Sprint Radio. For sports fans, Sprint's NFL Mobile application offers scores stats, and live audio and video streams of selected games beginning November 2008. We've said it before and we'll say it again: it's an exhaustive selection of programming with much of it exclusive to Sprint. And to top it off, the TV interface is intuitive.

The VE20's music player is relatively similar to that on Sprint's other music phones. You can access the Sprint Music Store for simultaneous downloads both to your PC and wirelessly to your phone or you can transfer music from a PC using a USB cable. The music player interface is pretty plain but you get album art and the controls are easy to use. We also like the multiple searching options in the online music store. Features are limited to playlists, repeat, and shuffle modes, and you can't use MP3s as ringtones. There is an airplane mode, however, and you can send the music player to the background while you're using other phone functions. When a call comes in, the music will pause automatically and will resume again after you hang up. Finally, we love that the Razr VE20 uses a 3.5mm jack.

With its GPS, you also can use the Razr VE20 as a directional too with Sprint Navigation. Features include spoken driving and visual turn-by-turn directions and integration with Microsoft Live Search for searching for local businesses. The Razr VE20 also uses your location for Sprint's On Demand service, which offers a range of information that includes news headlines, sports scores, and weather updates personalized for your ZIP code.

The Razr VE20's camera doesn't have a flash

The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions from 1,200x1,600 down to 120x160. Other editing options are plentiful. They include seven color tones, nine fun frames, a self-timer, adjustable brightness and white balance, a multishot mode, three quality settings and six shutter sounds (plus a silent option). Photo quality was quite good on the whole. Colors were bright and natural, and there was little distortion or image noise. When finished snapping shots you can transfer them off the phone using Bluetooth or a multimedia message. You also can transfer them to a computer or a printer using a USB cable.

The VE20 offers great photo quality.

The camcorder shoots clips with sound in three resolutions. Editing options are similar to the still camera but you also get a night mode and you can mute the sound. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 20 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. The VE20 comes with a very respectable 500MB of memory but you can use a microSD card for more storage.

You can personalize the Razr VE20 with a variety of screen savers, themes, greetings, clock types and alert tones. You can download more options and additional ringtones from Sprint's online service using the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The VE20 has demo versions of two games: Wheel of Fortune Deluxe and Monopoly Here & Now. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.

We tested the dual-band CDMA 800/1900) Razr VE20 in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality was generally good; voices sounded natural and the volume level was loud. We noticed that the audio has a slight fuzzy quality. It's rather hard to describe but it also sounded as if our callers were a little "breathy." By no means was it distracting, but it was noticeable during our testing period. The signal had the tiniest amount of static as well, but that wasn't a big problem either.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine. Most could tell we were using a cell phone, but it was only when we were speaking in very noisy conditions did some callers have trouble hearing us. A few callers said we sounded tinny, but they were satisfied overall. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time as well. Speakerphone calls were fine. The volume was loud, and the audio was clear. The speaker faces the back of the phone, but that didn't seem to be an issue. We had to speak close to the phone to be heard, but that's typical for a cell phone.

We were quite impressed with the Razr VE20's multimedia quality, which was some of the best we've seen on a Sprint phone. There was little pixelation and the video even could handle sharp movements. What's more, clips downloaded quickly, and the videos never froze or paused to rebuffer. Keep in mind that it wasn't perfect, streaming video never is, but it was quite satisfying overall. E! was the only channel where we noticed issues with quality.

Music quality was admirable as well. The audio is sharp, and the output of the phone's speaker is impressive. Of course, the audio will lack the range of a standalone MP3 player but it's more than suitable for commuting and ruining errands. Also, the music controls on the external display are a big help. Headphones will provide the best audio experience; remember that you can use your own headphones thanks to the 3.5mm headset jack.

The Motorola Razr VE20 has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time. According to FCC radiation tests the Razr VE20 has a digital SAR rating of 1.34 watts per kilogram.


Motorola Razr VE20 - silver (Sprint)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 8
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