The LG VX8100 is a stellar dual-band CDMA mobile phone with a plethora of features crammed into its sleek frame. Visually, it is a vast improvement over its rather blocky predecessor, the VX8000, and features like its 1.3 Megapixel camera, expandable memory slot, Bluetooth compatibility, and stereo sound put it in the top tier of full-service cellular phones.
The new streamlined design of the VX8100 is very appealing, with graceful, stylized curves and a subtle, abbreviated antenna. The unobtrusive silver and slate blue exterior evokes a professional, yet personable style, which is an apt description of the phone overall. It's a great multi-use phone, with the functionality for high-powered business transactions and the media capabilities for discerning technophiles.
By today's standards of pancake-thin, micro-sized phones, this clamshell phone is a hefty unit, but its size (3.58" h x 1.92" w x 1.03" d) and weight (4.16 oz) are put to good use in this feature-packed phone. Personally, I like having a phone with a little substance; it's easier to use the features when the phone fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The VX8100 has a large external screen with stunningly vibrant colors that is diminished only by the clarity of the internal screen, which fills the top half of the phone when you flip it open. The bottom half of the phone includes a navigation panel with four useful shortcuts (Web 2.0, Get Flix and Pix, Calender, and Get It Now) and the OK key. Two additional keys flank the navigation pane, and underneath that are all the standard buttons, as well as a camera and video shortcut key. The front of the phone features buttons that allow you to access the MP3 player with ease, the left side of the phone features volume control buttons and the Voice Command/Voice Memo key, and the right side of the phone features a camera and video key (for self-portraits) and a miniSD expandable memory slot.
I consider the quality of the buttons on a phone to be a deal-breaking feature, since buttons that are flush with the surface of the phone can be difficult to use if your fingernails extend beyond your fingertips. The VX8100 has raised, silver buttons with blue backlighting that distinctly depress when you use them. (You know you've done something when you push one of these buttons.) Plus, the width of the phone allows it to fit in the average-sized hand and still give you access to the entire keypad with your thumb. My only complaint is that the "OK" button in the center of the navigation panel is difficult to use without hitting the keys that surround it, which means I often end up in an entirely different menu when I meant to confirm a command. The best work-around I've found is to use the tip of my nail instead of the pad of my finger; not the greatest solution, and one that might not be viable for someone with larger hands than mine.
The VX8100 is a digital dual-band CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) phone that operates in the 1900 MHz and 800 MHz bands, which means you can't use it outside of North America, although CDMA technology uses its available bandwidth more efficiently, which results in faster data transfer. If you need a phone that works throughout the world, this isn't the phone for you, but it's an outstanding choice for dedicated North American use.
This phone possesses all the standard options and tools, from a schedulable calendar to an audio notepad, as well as some extra-special perks, like the EZ Tip calculator function. Using the EZ Tip calculator, you can quickly enter the bill amount and tip percentage you would like to leave, and it will calculate the correct tip. You also can enter the number of people paying on the bill, and the calculator will split the check, which is probably the bigger bonus of the two features.
The menu structure of the VX8100 is intuitive and user-friendly. One huge improvement (and something that helps reduce the use of the "OK" button ? see above) is the numbered menus. Some LG phones do not have this feature, which means lots of annoying, unnecessary scrolling. With the numbered menus, you can learn the codes of your favorite functions and navigate there with ease. For example, from the Settings & Tools menu, you can click 1 ? 2 ? 1 to set one of the alarms on the alarm clock or 1 ? 4 to view the World Clock, two features I use regularly. This phone also allows you to program your own shortcuts, which is well worth it for the time you'll save.
One of the great pluses of this phone is its external memory port. For a surprisingly low cost, you can buy a miniSD card up to 2 GB in size, where you can store pictures, videos, and music. One nice perk of the miniSD card is that it is packaged with a full-size SD adapter, so you can trade data with your computer using a standard SD card reader (no special hardware required). I literally jumped up and down with excitement when I discovered that the memory port cover is permanently attached to the phone because I'm notorious for losing the tiny, squishy, detachable covers that come with so many phones?not such a big deal when it just covers the charging port, but a much bigger deal for something like a memory port.
With a large (1-2 GB) miniSD card, you can carry an ample supply of music around with you, which increases the possibility that might just leave your iPod at home some of the time. The MP3 player on this phone is no slouch, but it isn't necessarily up to the level of a dedicate music player either. Flat out, it's a good player that gets even better if you hook it up to good speakers. Because of the stereo sound feature, you will have to buy a stereo headset if you want to get the best sound. If you like to fine-tune your listening experience, you can use the Voice Command button underneath the volume keys on the left side of the phone to control the equalization of the music. One user-friendly feature of the MP3 player is that when a call comes in, the phone reduces the volume of the music without muting it completely. If you choose to answer the call, it then automatically turns off the music. This is ideal when you are screening your calls and don't want your music to shut off each time a call comes through.
You can access the player without ever opening the phone, using the buttons on the front of the phone. To start the player, you hold down the play button for 3-5 seconds. (This was not intuitive to me, so I had to ask how to activate it.) Then, with just the push of a button, you can play and pause the songs, as well as navigate forward or backward through your song list.
The interior screen provides a 262,000 color display at 176 x 220 pixels. This relatively large TFT screen has outstanding resolution (the primary advantage of TFT technology), for a crystal-clear display that is visible at most angles, even in the sunlight.
The external screen is a large 128 x 128 pixels with a 65,000 color TFT display. One minor frustration with this phone is that you have to click a button to activate the external screen. While this does not bother me very much, it could be annoying for someone who wants to be able to view the time and date with a quick glance. I have also heard a number of complaints that the white time and date text is hard to read if you have a light-colored wallpaper.
Even with the lightest wallpapers, I do not have any problems viewing the text on the screen; I think the translucent black bar behind the text does its job quite effectively. However, if you do experience this problem, you can resolve it easily by using a dark picture as your wallpaper to improve contrast.
The call quality of the VX8100 is a disputed area; some people complain of issues with volume fluctuation, but I have yet to experience anything but excellent voice and sound quality. The volume variation is distinct and covers a respectable range of volume levels in both regular and speakerphone modes. You can activate the speakerphone for voice or music using the CLR button. While the speakerphone works for short-term sharing of your music with friends, attaching your phone to external speakers will really amp up the experience. This phone also comes with a built-in 2.5 mm audio jack, which allows you to use a variety of stereo headphones without purchasing an adapter. Keep in mind, the better your headphones, the better your audio quality.
The 1.3 Megapixel CMOS camera with built-in flash is of excellent quality for a digital camera. The 8x digital zoom allows a surprising amount of flexibility in shot setup, and five different resolutions are available, from a camera-friendly low of 160 x 120 pixels to a very respectable high of 1280 x 960 pixels. At its highest resolution, you can actually take photos worthy of Photoshopping?pretty impressive for a camera phone.
You can also control a number of options, including brightness, white balance, shutter sound, and color effects. Shutter sound is a completely unnecessary option, but I love it. It's just plain fun to make your digital camera sound like a film camera. (Of course, you can always choose to turn off the sound if you don't think it is as amusing as I find it.) Playing with the color effects is also an entertaining option because it allows you to shoot images in modes like sepia or black and white.
Obviously, the primary function of the VX8100 is not as a digital camera, so it won't substitute for a high-quality digital camera and it probably won't satisfy the dedicated photographer. My biggest complaint is that the accuracy of the color is only above average, when I would prefer fantastic, but it's great for capturing beautifully rendered images at times when you don't have your camera with you. When I go to festivals or concerts, I prefer to carry as little as possible, so knowing that my phone takes good enough photos that I can leave my camera at home is a huge plus.
The delay between when you push the button and when the image is captured (approximately 1-1.5 seconds) can be annoying, especially if you are trying to photograph a moving subject, like a rambunctious kid or a 6-week-old kitten. In these kinds of situations, you might be better off using the video function. Of course, when I WANT to delay the photograph, I appreciate the self-timer feature on this phone. With choices of 3, 5, or 10 seconds, there is a lot of flexibility for shots where you want everyone included, although the makeshift "tripods" I have created to try and take advantage of the self-timer have left my friends in stitches.
The external Camera/Video key is a great convenience that brings an end to the days of shoddy self-portraits where your face is partially blocked by your arm. By pushing this button, you can shoot a photograph or a video without having the camera open, so you don't have to fumble around, trying to push buttons you can't see.
The video function is nice, but you won't win any Oscars with the videos you shoot on this phone. The videos are pretty shaky, so make sure you don't move too fast if you want to know what you are looking at later. You can film videos up to 15 seconds in length at a resolution of 176 x 144 pixels, and they are saved in 3g2 format, which is compatible with Apple QuickTime. Like with the camera, you can also control the brightness and white balance. All in all, the video capabilities are useful, but the output is nowhere near that of this phone's camera.
The messaging capabilities of this phone are quite extensive, although Verizon has added some barriers that limit what you can send to other people. The VX8100 supports MMS, EMS, and standard messaging protocols. The MMS protocol allows you to send and receive messages containing any reasonably-sized combination of text, images, sounds, and video, while the EMS protocol allows you to send text messages with sounds and graphics. Keep in mind that both phones (sender and receiver) need to have the same capabilities for advanced messaging protocols to work properly. The Mobile Instant Messaging is a fantastic feature, which allows you to IM with AOL, Yahoo, and MSN messaging clients and gives you the capability to forward instant messages from your computer to your phone.
Overall, the messaging services on this phone are outstanding, but Verizon's new messaging requirements are unfortunate. Verizon will only let you send pictures or sounds that are stored in your personal folders, which means no more sharing ringtones or music files. This is pretty much an understandable change, but it can be a little shocking the first time you learn of this new limitation.
The VX8100 pairs with Verizon to offer a variety of useful Internet tools. Web 2.0 enables you to browse the internet from anywhere you have mobile service, while V CAST allows you to stream video (from news reports to music videos) and download music and 3-D games. In addition, Get It Now? lets you instantly download music, ringtones, wallpaper, and more. This phone also can serve as a cellular modem for your laptop (with the purchase of additional hardware and service from Verizon).
The Bluetooth functionality is a bit misleading. You can use it to communicate with your Bluetooth headset, but not for file transfer. This means that you have to buy a dedicated file transfer cable or a miniSD card if you want to transfer files between your phone and another device, although with the addition of this hardware, data transfer is quite simple. The Bluetooth applications that are available work quite well, but the limitations on how you can use it might influence whether this phone meets your needs.
The LG VX8100 is a powerful phone for business users and media junkies alike. It provides excellent functionality in all the basics, an intuitive user interface, and a classy, user-friendly design. The VX8100 also boasts a wide variety of features that allow you to maximize your cell phone experience. From its expandable memory slot and robust internet capabilities to its quality MP3 player and superior camera, this is an excellent phone that will not leave you disappointed.
Despite some of its idiosyncrasies, the overall package is well above the mark. Unless your lifestyle demands very specific features, such as full Bluetooth connectivity or world-wide cellular access, it is unlikely you will even miss the features that are lacking. With so many outstanding features, this phone is a good buy that should last you until the next time you are ready to upgrade.