UTStarcom CDM-8945 (Verizon Wireless) review: UTStarcom CDM-8945 (Verizon Wireless)

The UTStarcom CDM-8945 had average photo quality for a camera phone.

As one of Verizon's EV-DO phones, the UTStarcom CDM-8945 includes access to the multimedia V Cast service. V Cast content includes live and prerecorded material, such as NBC News updates, music videos, special offerings from E Entertainment and VH1, movie trailers, and video on demand; see our separate review for a full description. The phone also has an MP3 player, and it supports Verizon's V Cast Music, which lets you download music wirelessly and play it on your phone or your computer. Even though it's designed to use a TransFlash card (up to 512MB) to store music downloads and pictures, the CDM-8945 is equipped with just 64MB of flash memory and 32MB of RAM, enough to hold only a dozen songs or so.

You can personalize the CDM-8945 with a variety of wallpaper, sounds, themes, screensavers, and your own banner. You can download more options from Verizon with the WAP 2 wireless Web browser. You don't get any games, but the phone supports BREW 2.

The UTStarcom CDM-8945 lagged a bit behind the LG VX8100 in almost all performance components, including voice reception and quality, Web access, and content downloading. (We did not have a Samsung SCH-A950 at the time of this review for side-by-side testing.) We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) CDM-8945 in New York City using Verizon's network. Voice reception in Manhattan was solid; though comprehensible, voice quality at our end was warbled, thick, and muddy. At the other end, conversationalists reported echo and a "bottom of the barrel" sound. Top volume was adequate for no more than a quiet room.

But the CDM-8945 is fatally flawed in its lack of stereo speakers, its ring loudness, its speakerphone clarity, and especially its music capabilities. If you're going to be like that bowler in the Verizon Music commercials and hold your phone up for all to hear, you'll find that the CDM-8945's single speaker doesn't cut it. Speakerphone conversations are marred by frequent dropouts and only moderate volume, especially when compared to the boisterous dual-speaker sound of the LG VX8100. Both ring-tone volume and vibrate violence on the CDM-8945 can best be described as polite, as if the phone is apologizing for alerting you to a call. Ring tones are nearly impossible to hear when the CDM-8945 is in a pocket or a purse.

While it won't be noticeable to anyone not doing a side-by-side comparison, the CDM-8945 lagged a second or two behind the VX8100 in accessing and running applications or accessing and loading Web pages. For V Cast video, the VX8100 usually accessed menu screens faster, and clips buffered around five seconds faster than on the CDM-8945.

Music-download speed was a wash between the CDM-8945 and the VX8100. Oddly, neither downloaded a track at the same speed; one phone was always clearly faster, with no seeming rhyme or reason to the difference. Each phone ranged between less than a minute to more than two minutes to download a track. But our test UTStarcom phone suffered the oddest glitch on playback: no sound at the top volume level. Volume kicked in only when we lowered the volume a click, and music continued to play fine when we took it back up to the top volume again--weird.

With a promised talk time of 3.5 hours, the CDM-8945 offers the lowest rated time of the three Verizon music phones but not by much: 15 minutes less than the VX8100 and 25 minutes less than the SCH-A950. In our tests, however, we beat the rated time by an hour and measured an impressive 16.5 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the UTStarcom CDM-8945 has a rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.

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