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If you like your phones with a bit of flare then the Motorola Z8 should put a kick in your step. This bendy slider phone is a marked departure from Motorola's popular Razr V3 and comes with its fair share of features.
It's currently available from several network operators for free on a monthly contract.
There's something different about the Z8, both on the inside and out. Parts of it look like they've been made out of green kryptonite, and when you slide it open it curves towards you like a tech-filled banana.
Not everyone will like the black and fluorescent-green casing but it is eye-catching -- almost everyone who saw it wanted a closer look. The bendy slide mechanism or 'kick slide' also had people flocking around since it's rather unusual.
The idea behind the kick-sliding mechanism is that it curves the phone closer to your mouth and ear. While it's a nice idea, in practice we're not sure it's completely necessary and there's an unwelcome side effect in the form of a curved keypad.
Slider phones are renowned for not leaving enough space at the top of the keypad to type comfortably -- the Z8 is another offender, but worse still the keypad is curved and rather hard to press. There simply isn't enough tactile feedback when you click a key.
Add to all the above a large lip at the bottom of the Z8 where the keypad is housed, and what you get is a difficult-to-manoeuvre keypad that left us unimpressed. We also have a problem with the navigation keys on top -- they're too squashed together to press properly.
If, however, you can overlook the keyboard issues, the Z8 does have some, albeit small, redeeming design features. The SIM card slot, for example, is easily accessible from the outside, as is the microSD slot, and the loudspeaker is well positioned too.
Underneath a rather quirky exterior hides a growling tiger. The Z8 is jam-packed with features that will keep you infinitely more entertained than you would be using a Razr V3. In fact, this is one of Motorola's most feature-filled handsets to date.
The Z8 runs on the Symbian OS so it supports third-party software, such as Quickoffice, which lets you view Microsoft Office documents on your phone. It also runs on a new and improved user interface that is so much better than previous offerings.
If you've ever owned a Motorola product, you'll know how painful it is to use the old Motorola interface. Fortunately, Motorola has seen the light -- it has developed a new interface for the Z8 that is much prettier to look at and far more logical to use.
Thanks to HSDPA (3.5G), browsing the Web is very fast and the Z8's Web browser isn't too bad, either. We were disappointed to see that you can't watch videos via YouTube's mobile site, though -- you can on certain other handsets.
We could, however, watch the The Bourne Identity, which comes bundled for free on a microSD card. The Z8 plays video at 30fps and the screen displays 16 million colours making it relatively watchable -- just don't expect high-definition quality.
Equally, don't expect high-quality pics from the Z8's 2-megapixel camera. You do get a relatively decent shot for MMS messages and small prints, though. You can also use the camera to shoot video if you're in the mood for something a little more lively.
There's a secondary camera (VGA) on the front for making video calls -- if you really want to that is. Alternatively, you can use it to take pictures of yourself, which we found just as satisfying as staring blankly at our friends, if not more so.
One of the Z8's best features, and potentially most useful if you're a telly addict, is the ability to program your Sky Box using the pre-installed Sky Box app, and watch a variety of Sky channels over a 3G connection. This feature works rather well.
In order to listen to programs on Sky, or your music using the Z8's music player, you have the choice of using the loudspeaker, wired stereo hands-free kit or a pair of Motorola S9 Wireless Stereo Headphones that come bundled free with the Z8.
Not only do the S9 headphones look good but they're also quite comfortable to wear and have very easy-to-use controls on the side of each earbud. The other great thing about the S9s is that they let you listen to music wirelessly -- no more annoying leads.
In terms of the day-to-day features, sending text messages, setting an alarm and inputting calendar entries is fairly straightforward, but it is worth pointing out that most of the Z8's features are hindered by the awkward-to-use keypad.
Audio quality during calls was loud and clear, as was the loudspeaker which performed as expected.
Battery life was okay when we didn't use HSDPA (3.5G), but it did get drained if we used Bluetooth and HSDPA for prolonged periods.
Picture quality from the camera was relatively good but, again, don't expect to print out large high-quality prints.
The Motorola Z8 looks great and is a definite move in the right direction for a company that, since the success of the Razr Z3, has remained relatively conservative with its designs.
Our only reservations are that the handset doesn't feel as good to use as we expected, and even though it comes packed with features that we like, the keypad and navigation keys make accessing them a bit of a pain.
If you're looking for a similarly feature-packed handset, we recommend you give the Nokia N95 a once over. Alternatively, if you prefer a phone that turns heads the Motorola Razr 2 V8, which will be out very soon, is a real looker.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield