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Panasonic VS3 review: Panasonic VS3

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The Good Amazing screen quality. One-push button to auto open flip. Plenty of customisation options. Sega classic Sonic the Hedgehog included. 1.3-megapixel camera takes sharp photos.

The Bad No Bluetooth. Limited to 32MB of internal memory. Lacks external display for caller ID.

The Bottom Line The VS3 is an impressive mid-range handset with a smart design, fantastic screen and good camera. No doubt it will appeal to fans of flip phones, but its one-push easy open button may even convert those who are not.

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Did you think when you upgraded to a 262K-colour screened mobile you'd be futureproofing your phone for years to come? Well, we hate to burst your bubble, but the latest phones hitting the market sport 16 million-colour displays. And they look pretty amazing from what we've seen.

Design
The VS3 is a compact flip phone with an industrial-looking finish due to a barrel hinge and four miniature screws on the front of the handset that hold exchangeable covers in place. Panasonic provides a teeny screwdriver and a second cover in the box; it took us around a minute for a cover swap. We received black and silver covers but depending on your region, colours may vary. On the side of the hinge is a release button that can flip open the VS3 with a simple push, which means no fussing about with two hands to answer a call.

On the inside of the flip you'll find a smooth, glossy keypad with even-sized, oval buttons. There are two programmable soft keys surrounding a four-way navigation pad with a silver selection key in the centre. Down the right side of the phone are volume keys and the camera shortcut.

Panasonic VS3 display: 16 million colours

The display on the VS3 the best we've seen on a flip phone to date. Even in direct sunlight the screen is quite readable. Panasonic claims its phones are the first to offer a 16 million-colour, 2.2-inch display with 300 candela brightness.

We were immediately attracted to the look of the VS3 (VS stands for visual slim according to Panasonic), but at 102g and 96 x 46 x 17.6mm, it still has some weight to lose to get down to the size of the RAZR.

Features
The VS3's 1.3-megapixel CMOS camera has a handy macro mode switch at its side that generally isn't found on camera phones. Stills can be taken at five resolutions up to 1280x1024, at normal, fine and super fine image quality.

32MB of internal memory is included to store photos, videos, MP3s and Java applications. Panasonic licensed the Sega classic Sonic The Hedgehog for the VS3, which is a great way to kill time while commuting, although the graphics can get a little bit jerky when trying to get the little blue character to zoom through levels at lightning fast speed.

Infrared and a USB port are onboard for connectivity but unfortunately the VS3 doesn't support Bluetooth. The VS3 is a tri-band handset with a WAP browser for mobile Internet sites.

Panasonic VS3 display: 16 million colours

Performance
Panasonic says the VS3 is good for two to six hours of talk time or up to 250 hours of standby. Under average phone and SMS usage, we got four to five days between charges. However, we noticed that playing Sonic the Hedgehog drains the battery considerably. In fact, we went from three bars of power (maximum) down to one bar after playing the game for under an hour with sound and vibration switched on. A full recharge only takes about 3 hours, though.

It has been a while since we've put a Panasonic mobile through its paces and we must say we are impressed with the overall performance of the VS3. People looking for stylish flip phone with a good camera and customisation options should consider the VS3 and the VS2, which has almost identical features but a more curvaceous exterior.

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