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Editor's note: If you're looking for stainless steel high fashion and a 2MP camera, also check out the LG VX8700 for Verizon.
Review posted February 25, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
When the LG Chocolate (VX8500) came out on Verizon, folks who like slider phones got to enjoy a music-centric device that had a silky-smooth surface and innovative touch-screen music and phone controls. Several flavors of Chocolate later, Verizon is now offering the flip version of the music phone that features similar sexy looks and strong music capabilities. Yes, you also have the touch-sensitive music controls on the VX8600, but a more standard navigation pad. Those who have been following the LG Chocolate should be familiar with the LG VX8600 specs: EV-DO support, 1.3 megapixel camera, GPS for use with VZ Navigator, built-in Bluetooth, MicroSD card slot and integrated music features that include easy access to V Cast, the bundled MP3 player and more.
The LG VX8600 is a dual digital phone operating on the 800/1900 MHz CDMA networks. It’s offered by Verizon in the US and supports EV-DO for fast data and Verizon’s V Cast service.
In the Box: the phone with standard battery, travel charger, headset adapter, Quick Reference Guide and printed user manual.
Design and Ergonomics
Good things come to those who wait. The slider Chocolate was a big hit, but if you prefer some thinner and in a flip phone style, the LG VX8600 is even better. Coming in at 0.58” thin, the VX8600 is slimmer than the MOTORAZR V3m and the slider Chocolate but a bit thicker than the ultra-slim Samsung M610 on Sprint. Though thin, the LG has a normal width (compared to the narrower Motorola KRZR K1m) and good weight that make it feel good in hand. The casing on the VX8600 is very similar to the VX8500 Chocolate with its shiny smooth surface in black with chrome accents and edges. As with so many fashion phones, it’s a fingerprint-magnet.
The front cover features an external LCD and touch-sensitive music controls. When you close the flip you will need to push a hardware button on the side to unlock the key guard that prevents accidental activation of the touch-sensitive screen. And the LG VX8600 has only three music controls that are touch-sensitive, those who think the Chocolate controls were too cumbersome should have not trouble using the VX8600 controls. The 1.3 megapixel camera lens lives on the front face of the flip above the external LCD. On the sides of the flip cover, you will find the volume controls (left) and the quick launch keys for the camera and voice command (right). On the bottom you’ll find the charging/headset port and the MicroSD slot (we love the accessibility). The battery door is on the back of the phone, and you’ll slide the latch to open it and access the battery. We were surprised to see that the phone has no dedicated music launch button since the LG is billed as a music phone. You can however reprogram one of the four-directional keys for music.
The inside surface of the LG is less shiny and slick, making it easier to work the keys and phone controls. As you’d expect, the internal LCD sits on the top flip with the earpiece above it, and the number pad and phone control cluster live on the bottom half. The entire keypad and control keys are almost flush with the casing, and there are only a few very slightly raised silver lines providing a bit of tactile feedback. While the backlight is strong enough for dialing in the dark, this is not a phone to use often for blinding dialing. The rectangular d-pad is large enough to play games comfortably. Since the keys sit flat, fingernail dialing will yield good results while a person with substantial fingertips will have some trouble pressing the correct number keys.
Phone Features and Reception
The LG VX8600 works well on the Verizon’s CDMA digital networks and has good RF. It’s on par with the LG Chocolate’s reception, a bit better than the LG VX8300 and a definite step up from the Samsung a990’s reception. The voice quality is very good and volume is quite loud. Though the sound quality through the earpiece and speaker is less stellar than the superb sound on the LG Chocolate, through it is still quite good compared to other feature phones currently on the market. The speakerphone however, is a bit on the quiet side.
For data, the LG VX8600 has EV-DO high-speed data support and music tracks, video clips and games download faster than the Chocolate and the Samsung a990 on Verizon. Though you won’t get the speed test reading on the DSL mobile speed test, the LG feels zippy accessing WAP sites such as the Verizon news portal, my account port and V Cast sites. Like most currently Verizon feature phones, the LG VX8600 comes with Mobile Web 2.0 for Internet browsing, web-based email and IM support and the ability to access your account balance, minutes and payments via the web. Non-WAP sites will display in one-column view with images intact and as expected the browser doesn’t support some Java Scripts.
The LG VX8600 comes with a messaging tool that gives you an at-a-glance view of your SMS, picture messages and video messages. The LG can store up to 386 messages that include all message types such as voice, text and multimedia messages.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The LG has a bright and color saturated internal display that has 220 x 176 pixels resolution. It’s lower resolution than the display on the LG Chocolate, and it looks less sharp than the Chocolate. The display settings on the phone don’t offer brightness settings but the default setting is bright enough for most environments. You can of course personalize the themes for the display and enlarge the fonts. The outer display actually looks sharper in contrast since it’s a physically smaller screen with 160 x 128 pixels resolution. You can use the external display to listen and control music, read SMS or take self-portrait photos using the LCD as the viewer while the phone is shut. There isn’t a dedicated music launch button while the phone is close, you can launch the music on phone’s keypad and continue to listen to the music after you close the flip. To launch the camera with the phone close, just press and hold the Camera quick launch key on the right side of the flip.
The LG VX8600 has about 10MB internal memory for you to store tunes, videos and photos. If you need more storage space, make use of the MicroSD slot that’s conveniently located on the right side of the phone. The MicroSD card slot supports the latest SanDisk 2GB MicroSD cards and all microSD cards are sold separately.
For music, the LG VX8600 has a music player that plays MP3 and WMA songs. Verizon wants you to buy shop large collection of music tracks, ringtones and other sound content from the V Cast services. Music is usually priced at $2.99 per song. If you have tunes from your CDs or PC, you do have the option to either put them on a MicroSD card or sync directly to the phone. Please note: you will need a USB cable with the LG’s proprietary connector for syncing music, which you can buy separately from Verizon. The LG doesn’t come with a headset for calls or music, but it does come with a connector adapter that allows you to plug in a standard 2.5mm headset. Given the phone’s music capabilities, we have liked to see a stereo headset included. Sound through the built-in loudspeaker has plenty of volume and good quality. It can’t compete with the LG Chocolate’s excellent loudspeaker in terms of quality though, and the VX8600 speakers sound tinny sound at high volume. Music plays smoothly without any delays or skips.
The Motorola RAZR V3m and the VX8600
The Verizon V CAST services also covers your video needs. You can watch tons of short video clips for free including news from major sources (CNN, ABC, Fox, ET and more), weather reports, comedy pieces, snippets of TV programs, movie clips and more, all free of charge. Very cool! The video quality is much better than the Samsung A990 and the last generation LG VX8300. It’s even a bit better than the Chocolate when it comes to video playback performance. The clips look quite sharp without the noticeable blocky-ness we noted on the afore-mentioned phones and the audio stays in sync with the video.
Games play well also with good performance and no delays. The menus and files open quite fast and game loading is also responsive. Game download times have improved, as have music and video.
For a fixed focus lens 1.3 megapixel camera phone, The LG offers solid but not superb imaging. The camera offers 8x digital zoom and takes still photos at 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 176 x 144 and 160 x 120 resolutions. The camera application offers the usual settings for white balance, color effects, brightness, self-timer, shutter sound and night mode. The automatic sensor for the light level and color is quite accurate. The photos have balanced light and natural and correct colors. You will see a bit of yellow colorcast in low-light indoor environments, which isn’t unusual for a camera phone. There is some noise on the indoor low-light shots, but the noise level is acceptable given the camera’s specs.
Sample photos taken a highest resolution then sized down to fit this page.
The LG camera also takes video with audio at 176 x 144 resolution. The videos are in 3G2 format and you can shoot videos in either 15 second snippets for MMS or up to 1 hour clips (assuming enough storage space on the MicroSD card). The video quality is good in well-lit areas and decent in low-light environments. Videos are sharp in good lighting But there’s some blockiness under poor lighting. The video clips don’t have any noticeable frame drops and audio is in sync with video.
The LG VX8600 has an integrated Bluetooth v1.1 and supports Hands-Free, Headset, A2DP, Serial port, DUN, File Transfer, AVRC and Object Push (for vCard) Profiles. The phone works with all headsets we tested it with, including a Bluetooth stereo headset. It paired with all the headsets with ease and the phone can store up to 20 pairing partners though can connect to only one device at a time. When working with the Plantronics Discovery 655 Bluetooth headset, the call volume was quite high with clear incoming and outgoing voice. It does have a bit more digital sound compared to the more natural voice quality on the Treo 750 using the same headset. But the slight amplification isn’t a bad thing. The noise reduction also works well. The Bluetooth range between the LG VX8600 and the Discovery 655 is about 15-17 feet. When working with the Cardo Scala-700 Bluetooth headset, the LG has clear voice calls on both ends with loud volume. It has similar digital processing sound as with the Discovery 655. The range however is a bit less with the scala-700 and it can reach about 10-15 feet. When play music through the Plantronics Pulsar 590A Bluetooth stereo headset via A2DP, the LG produced some nice sound for music playback and good quality for voice calls. The music controls work well via the Bluetooth stereo headset and we got about 10-15 feet range between the LG and the Pulsar before the music starts to drop out.
Since the LG supports transferring files between the phone and your PC (Windows and Mac), you can pair the VX8600 with your PC and use Browse Device option to transfer files back and forth.
The LG VX8600 comes with a standard 800 mAh Li-Polymer battery (model LGLP-AGQM) which is the same capacity as the LG Chocolate phone’s battery. The VX8600’s battery life is better than the Chocolate when it comes to heavy duty V CAST downloads and video/music playback. The claimed talk time is over 3.5 hours and standby time is 16 and half days. These numbers are very close to what got in our tests. When playing music with the phone closed and screen off, the battery lasted 6 hours. Playing V Cast videos for 1 hour will use up about 25% of the charge. Keeping the Bluetooth radio on didn’t significantly impact battery life. If you find the battery is too short, you have the option to get an extended high capacity battery.
The LG VX8600 comes with a full set of PIM applications including Contacts, calendar, notepad, calculator, alarm clock, world clock and more. The Contacts database can store up to 500 address book entries and each contact has 5 number slots, two email addresses, ringtone, group association and a picture photo ID. You can program any number as one of the 95 speed dial numbers. The calendar has month view, weekly and date view with options for you to schedule events and set alarms.
It’s great to see that Verizon has been bundling VoiceSignal’s voice dialing and voice command application for free. You can dial numbers, initiate messages (only to bring up the contact, you will still need to type the message), check system info, lookup names and more. The voice recognition is speaker independent, which means you need not pre-record voice tags in order to use voice commands. The voice recognition works quite well, as long as you speak clearly with your mouth close to the mic.
Another nice application, though not free like the VoiceSignal software, is VZ Navigator. VZ Navigator is a navigation service that allows you to get turn-by-turn directions on the fly. The LG comes with a GPS that supports the VZ Navigator service. You will have access to the POI (points of interest) database, maps and plan trips using the VZ Navigator service. You can purchase the VZ Navigator for $9.99 and you must turn on the Location On option (under settings & tools/phone settings) to use the service. The routing is quite accurate in our test and routing speed isn’t blazing but acceptable.
A stylish follow up to the wildly popular LG Chocolate, the LG VX8600 possess the sleek look and a good set of features that make it a strong contender in the music and fashion phone space. Those who have wanted a Chocolate phone in flip form factor, should be happy with the VX8600 It’s a solid phone for the money.
Pro: Very stylish looking in shiny black with silver accents. Strong reception and very good EV-DO speed make the LG a good for V Cast fans. The touch sensitive music controls are easier to use than those found on the Chocolate. The camera is quite good despite being a 1.3 megapixel affair. Videos play nicely on the phone.
Con: It’s never a good idea to offer a music phone without giving the user a stereo headset. The screen resolution could be higher. Not a lot of internal memory to store multimedia files but you do have the expansion slot.
Price: $179.99 with 2-year contract (online $50 discount brings it down to $129 direct from Verizonwireless.com)
Web sites: www.lgmobile.com www.verizonwireless.com
Display: External LCD: 65K Color TFT, 160 x 128 Pixels, 8 Lines. Internal LCD: 262K Color TFT, 220 x 176 Pixels, 11 Lines.
Battery: 800 mAh Li-Ion Polymer battery (model LGLP-AGQM). Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time: 3.5 hours, claimed standby time: 16.5 days.
Performance: 20 megs of internal memory with roughly 10 megs for user to use. Undisclosed CPU.
Size: 3.89" (H) x 1.93" (W) x 0.58" (D). Weight: 3.26 ounces.
Phone: CDMA digital dual band (800 MHz and 1900 MHz). 1xRTT and EV-DO for data.
Camera: 1.3MP camera and camcorder. 8x digital zoom for still pictures and 4x zoom for video. Camera resolutions: 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 176 x 144, 160 x 120 pixels. Video resolution: 176 x 144 pixels, record up to 1 hour of video.
Audio: Built in speaker, mic and LG’s proprietary headphone connector. Voice Signal voice command and voice memo software included.
Software: Verizon UI. Mobile Web 2.0, messaging for SMS, picture and video messaging, Contacts, Calendar, Notepad, Alarm clock, World clock, calculator and Tip calculator. Music play included for MP3 and MWA files. GPS and VZ Navigator support included.
MicroSD memory card slot.