Motorola Rokr E8 - (T-Mobile) review: Motorola Rokr E8 - (T-Mobile)

The E8 offers a Talking Phone feature that will read out contacts, menu choices, dialed numbers, e-mails, and text messages. The feature is quite effective, as the robotic voice is audible. Just make sure you really want to use it since it can get annoying after a while.

As a Rokr phone, the E8 is all about its music player. And on that front, it does a good job. The interface supports album art and colorful wallpaper. Features are plentiful and include shuffle and repeat modes, an airplane mode, an equalizer with 11 settings, bass boost, 3D stereo, and playlists. We also were pleased with the many ways to get music on the phone. You can send files in a multimedia message or you can transfer tracks via Bluetooth, a memory card, or a USB cable from a computer. When using the latter method, the E8 works with Windows Media Player 11 to transfer files with ease. The E8 supports a variety of file types and the included software will convert nonprotected AAC files to MP3 format, which can be used as ringtones. Though the 2GB of internal memory is more than respectable, we suggest investing in a microSD card (though your handset might come with a card in the box). The E8 will accommodate cards up to 4GB.

The phone also includes a SongID application for identifying mystery tracks heard on the radio. When you hear an unknown song and you start the application, it will use the phone's browser to analyze the music via a third-party provider. The application was accurate during our testing and our results came back in about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, you can't then purchase identified songs--that's another option that's available in overseas models. Alternatively, you also can send your friends an audio postcard with your favorite tunes. And for even more music fun, the E8 offers an FM radio.

The Rokr E8's camera lacks a flash and self-portrait mirror.

The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions and three quality settings. Other editing features include six color tones, a self-timer, a night mode, a multishot mode, a brightness setting, a digital zoom, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. You also can take photos with a caption. Photo quality was decent. Colors were bright and there was an acceptable amount of light but most images had a lot of noise. The E8 is not a phone you buy for its camera.

The Rokr E8 has decent photo quality.

The camcorder takes clips with sound in two resolutions. Editing options are similar to the still camera if a bit more limited. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 10 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. Videos were average; the sound was rather quiet and it couldn't handle quick movements. That's hardly unique for a cell phone, though.

The handset offers a full HTML Web browser of sorts, but the pages are formatted to fit the small display. The result isn't very effective, we had to squint to see small text and the zooming method is clunky. Also, given the tricky scroll wheel, it wasn't very easy to move around pages.

You can personalize the Rokr E8 with a variety of screensavers, wallpaper, color themes, and alert tones. More options are available from T-Mobile's t-zones service using the wireless Web browser. Four demo games are included--Diner Dash 2, Millionaire Music, Midnight Pool 3D, and The Sims Bowling--you'll have to download the full versions for extended play.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Motorola Rokr E8 world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was pretty good, voice sounded natural, and the audio was clear. The signal was strong as well and we rarely encountered static or interference. We detected a slight background hiss at times but it wasn't distracting.

The E8 has Moto's CrystalTalk technology, which we first saw in the Razr2 V9. CrystalTalk automatically adjusts the phone's volume audio level based on surrounding ambient noise. It works quite well overall. As we passed from a building outside onto a noisy street, we could hear the phone adjusting the volume level. The phone's overall volume level gets moderately loud, and we rarely had to ask our friends to repeat themselves. It was only in very noisy places that we couldn't really hear, but that's typical for a cell phone.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could hear us well on almost all occasions and they reported good voice clarity on their end. In fact, some callers didn't even know we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone calls were satisfying as well. The volume was quite loud, and we could understand our callers plainly. The audio crackled a few times, but overall we had a good experience. On their end, callers could hear us most of the time, though we had to speak no more than few feet from the phone if we wanted our callers to hear us.

It's disappointing that the Rokr E8 lacks support for 3G networks (EDGE speeds is the fastest it will go). Now that T-Mobile has 3G, the gate is wide open for phones that support the service. Also, on a phone like the E8, which offers a full Web browser and such extensive multimedia features, 3G would be a natural fit. When we were using the Web browser, the slow loading speeds were burdensome, so much so that it made us not want to use it.

As mentioned previously, the E8's controls took some acclimation. And on a related note, we noticed that phone's menus tended to be a bit sluggish. Particularly when we were selecting items in secondary menus, we noticed a lag of a second or two. When coupled with the tricky scroll wheel and navigation toggle, the experience was a bit plodding and confusing.

The Rokr E8's music quality was quite good and it befits the phone's music-centric image. We were pleased with both the clarity of the sound and the volume output. As with most music phones, bass was lacking and it won't replace a standalone MP3 player, but the Rokr's audio had a lot of warmth. Certainly, it's one of the better music phones we've tested. According to Motorola, the phone offers a simulated surround sound.

The Rokr E8 has a rated battery life of 7.5 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. In our tests we beat the promised talk time by almost 3 hours for a full 10.63 hours. We tested the music playback time at 16.44 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rokr E8 has a SAR of 1.02 watts per kilogram.