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Hands-on with the Motorola Rokr E8

CNET takes the top cell phone at CES for a test drive.

Motorola's Rokr E8
Bonnie Cha/CNET Networks

Since the Motorola Rokr E8 nabbed CNET's Best of CES award in the cell phones and smartphones category, it's appopriate to give you an idea of how the phone feels beyond just a list of specs. At 4.52 inches by 2.09 inches by 0.42 inch, it has an average size for a cell phone, and it's actually a bit heavier than I expected at 3.5 ounces. I didn't mind the weight, however, as it gave the E8 a solid and sturdy feel in the hand.

Motorola Rokr E8 Bonnie Cha/CNET Networks

The Rokr's showpiece is, of course, its new keypad. I admit I didn't know quite what to expect, as new cell phone interfaces can be hard to do right. But it was quite easy to use from what I could tell. The vibrating keypad was nifty, and the numeric keys also have tiny bumps to help you find your way. The scrolling toggle doesn't go in a full circle (perhaps Apple has patent on that) so you could move your finger in a full loop. If you tried to trace your digit on the missing portion of the circle at the toggle's bottom, the cursor on the screen would stop and then resume again when you got to the other side. The keypad morphing also worked well. When I pressed the dedicated music button, the backlighting illuminated only the music buttons, just as the E8 is supposed to do. Same goes for the camera; once we selected that feature, only the camera buttons were backlit. Though the transition between the individual functions took a few seconds but that wasn't an issue for me. The new menu interface was simple and attractive, and I liked the position of the 3.5mm headset jack on the top of the phone.

I was able to test the music quality and liked what I heard. It's still too early to tell, however, whether the Rokr E8 will surpass standalone MP3 players as Moto has promised. I didn't get the chance to test the photo or call quality, but I suspect the E8 could just have a bright future ahead of it. The lack of 3G bothers me, but otherwise it deserves its Best of CES award.