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Motorola ZINE ZN5 review: Motorola ZINE ZN5

The Motorola ZINE ZN5's camera is one of the better ones to have graced a phone, with impressive low-light performance and 5-megapixel action. It's got a 3.5mm jack and amazing battery life, so you can play around on it for hours. But there are some drawbacks to keep in mind, most notably the phone's lack of 3G support

Frank Lewis

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3 min read

The Rokr E8 already signalled that Motorola was getting over its worrying fixation with Razr-style handsets. Just to prove the point the company has now teamed up with Kodak to deliver this candybar phone which comes packing a mean 5-megapixel shooter. The handset will be available soon for around £250 SIM-free. But does the tag team of Moto and Kodak really have the grunt to grapple the camera phone crown from Sony Ericsson and its Cyber-shot range?

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7.5

Motorola ZINE ZN5

The Good

5-megapixel sensor; good low-light performance; great battery life.

The Bad

No 3G; flimsy lens cover; ugly design.

The Bottom Line

The ZN5's camera is one of the better ones to have graced a phone, with its low-light performance especially impressive. But the handset has a pretty boring design and its lack of 3G support is unforgivable. So, at the end of the day the ZN5 falls into the unfortunate trap of being a better camera than it is a phone

Positives
From the front, the ZN5 looks like a pretty run-of-the-mill phone, but when you take a peak around the back it becomes obvious that there's more to this handset than initially meets the eye. This is because a bulge on the rear houses a lens cover with a 5-megapixel sensor hiding underneath. Of course, we've seen phones before with higher megapixel counts, but this one promises to deliver better picture quality thanks to some clever processing courtesy of Kodak.

Slide the lens cover open and the camera quickly springs into action. The smartly laid-out menus make it easy to set up many options like low light mode, flash settings and white balance. Hit the dedicated camera button on the side of the phone shutter and you'll find that the snapper has incredibly little shutter lag -- in fact it's probably got the lowest shutter lag of any camera phone we've used.

As you would expect, the ZN5 has a xenon flash for shooting in low light, but Motorola has also used some clever technology from Kodak that helps the camera produce good results, even in overcast or dimly lit conditions, without the use of the flash. Shots definitely look great on the ZN5's 320x240-pixel screen, but when you transfer them to a computer it's plain that they're not up to the standards of today's compact shooters. Nevertheless, they are a cut above the usual camera phone standard and on par with pictures from Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot models.

In terms of phone functionality, the ZN5 scores reasonably well. Motorola has improved its menu system so it'll be less confusing for users who are moving over from Nokia or Sony Ericsson handsets. The call quality is also first rate. Unlike most phones this one has a full-size 3.5mm jack so you can listen to music from the onboard MP3 player or FM tuner via your own headphones -- without the need for an adaptor. Another neat trick is that the phone can output video via this jack when used with the supplied AV lead. Battery life is also good at a mammoth 9 hours and 30 minutes of talk time.

Negatives
When the Motorola designers were handing out good looks, the ZN5 must have been hiding at the back of the queue, as it's one of the least attractive handsets the company has produced in quite some time. The sliding lens cover is also a disaster zone. It's so flimsy and plasticky that it feels like it's going to fall off at any time. Compared to the lens covers on Cyber-shot handsets, it's fairly shoddy.

And although the phone manages to pack in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you won't find any mention of 3G support in its spec list. With even many bargain basement pay-as-you-go phones coming with 3G, it seems like Motorola has had a moment of madness leaving it off the ZN5.

Conclusion
Tradition dictates that those after a phone with an above-average camera should automatically look at Sony Ericsson's Cyber-shot range. While it's true that the camera on the ZN5 is indeed a match for those handsets, the unfortunate truth is that the phone part of the device is a let-down, with its lack of 3G support its biggest failing.

Edited by Marian Smith

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