Reviewed April 26, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Call it the Verizon Shine, since the LG VX8700 is a member of LG's Shine Black Label Series of phones. That's right, the GSM, mirrored KE970 Shine isn't alone, there are actually 5 phones in the series, with the Korean version of the phone we're reviewing and our own as the only CDMA members (CDMA is the network type used by Verizon and Sprint). The Moto RAZR started the fashion trend, and this year is all about looks for phones. While the original RAZR was feature-poor, the LG VX8700 delivers with a good but not overwhelming feature set, which means we get the good stuff, but not so many features that the device becomes confusing and overly expensive.
Though at intro, the VX8700 isn't cheap (Verizon's hot new phones usually fetch a good price), it's not a bad deal at $179 direct from Verizon's web site. After all, the phone has Bluetooth 2.0, a good 2 megapixel camera, a music player, microSD card slot and a stainless steel body. Think of it as the next step up in style, casing durability and camera quality from the already good LG VX8600.
The brushed stainless steel VX8700 is incredibly attractive. Not one to fall for good looks easily, every time I spied it sitting on my desk I remarked out loud that was one nice looking phone (my poor co-workers grew tired of this by day two ). Generally, the prettier they are, the more they show fingerprints. The VX8700 has an advantage over piano black and mirrored fashion phones, it shows fingerprints less. That's less-- you'll still find yourself polishing off the prints from time to time, though mostly off the back and outer display. Verizon and LG include a nice micro-fiber-like slip case that does double duty to polish the phone.
Metal phones feel solid and the 3.77 ounce LG is no exception: it manages to feel reasonably light but seriously sturdy. To be clear, the front and back panels are brushed metal while the bottom cap and keypad surround are plastic. The keypad and d-pad are made from one piece of flat metal like the RAZR not the best for tactile feedback or ease of use, but great for looks and keeping the phone thin. Shallow lines between the keys and depressed numerals give a slight clue as to where your finger is, and the 5 is raised to help home yourself on the keypad. The keys are evenly backlit in white, and are easy on the eyes. The phone is a bit narrower than the RAZR (but not as narrow as the KRZR) which makes for a good fit in average hands. The flip hinge is stiff and sturdy and the battery latch is easy to operate.
The Motorola RAZR V3m and the LG VX8700
The volume controls are on the phone's left side, as are the voice command and combined charging/headset port. The camera launcher button is on the right side (a short press launches the camera and a long press launches the camcorder). The camera lens is on the flip above the display and the battery lives under the back door. Unfortunately, the microSD card slot isn't just under the battery door, it's under the battery itself, so you'll have to power down the phone to insert or remove a card. Such is the price of thinness and fashion.
As outer displays go, the VX8700 has one that's brighter and sharper than many other flip phones on the market. The inner display is excellent: very sharp, clear and colorful. The default animated silver bouncing balls wallpaper and gray theme really compliment the phone's look and show off the display's clarity and contrast.
Looks are great, but a phone must fulfill its primary purpose: making calls. The LG VX8700 didn't let us down with near-landline voice quality (our call recipients thought we were calling from our desk phones rather than a mobile) and plenty of volume. Crank up the volume to near max and it's more like a speakerphone. The actual speakerphone on the LG is loud but tinny in comparison. Note that closing the phone ends the current call, so you'll use speakerphone with the phone flipped open. Ringer volume is average. Reception is also good, and the phone managed two to three bars of EV and one bar of voice in our severely signal challenged area. We were even able to make and receive calls when the phone didn't register a single bar of 1x, and the call quality was still good. Though it can't beat the Motorola E815 of old (the poster child for amazing RF on Verizon), the VX8700 is pretty good.
The RAZR V3m and VX8700.
Data services over EVDO worked well and are comparable to the LG VX8600 in terms of download speed and video playback performance. V Cast video downloaded with reasonable speed and not too much buffering and the video quality is typical passable (we've been spoiled by Mobile TV on Verizon with the LG VX9400 and Samsung u620!). The phone supports DUN (dialup networking) over Bluetooth for those who need to use the LG as a wireless high speed modem for a notebook.
As with most Verizon feature phones, you get Voice Signal's excellent voice command software that uses true speech recognition rather than recorded voice tags. Voice command works over Bluetooth as well and supports dialing by name, number as well as a basic set of commands for the built-in applications. The LG is compatible with Verizon's VZ Navigator for those who need driving directions on the go (this is a fee-based service).
Multimedia: Music, Video Playback and Gaming
Hard core mobile music users will lament the phone's lack of external or dedicated music controls. Alas, they'd disturb the phone's clean lines. The good news is that the LG has a music player that supports MP3 and WMA formats, and it can play music when the flip is closed and there's a flight mode so you can turn off the phone radio but still listen to tunes. The VX8700 has the same Verizon music player found on most all current Verizon phones. It's not exactly the Cadillac of music players but it does support playlists, sorting by title, artist, genre and more. You can use the player to download songs over the air from Verizon ($1.99 each) and it can sync to Windows Media Player 10 on the desktop (optional cable required).
Since phones are often too thin to house standard 2.5 or 3.5mm headset jacks, thin connectors and dongle adapters are increasingly common. The VX8700 comes with an adapter that allows you to use a 2.5mm stereo headset (headset not included). The adapter is about 4" long with a fairly large block on the end that has both the 2.5mm audio jack and a pass-through sync/charge connector (nice touch!). Audio quality is good through stereo headphones and the VX8700 makes a passable MP3 player, despite the lack of external controls. The phone has 44 megs of internal memory (ours shipped with 30 megs free) and you can store tunes on a microSD card up to 2 gigs in capacity.
We were very impressed with the LG as a gaming device. It handles arcade and action games perfectly and of course has no trouble with less demanding puzzle and board games. If you're into mobile gaming, the VX8700 is a good choice. Video playback as tested with V Cast video downloadable purchased content is good, though not quite as smooth and the LG VX9400 which is the current king of video (and TV) on Verizon.
In the US, you have to look hard and long to find a camera phone greater than the 1.3MP affair that's offered by carriers. Happily, the LG does better with a sharp 2.0 megapixel camera. Though not autofocus, the camera delivers pleasing shots that generally show good focus with less noise than most 2MP and under camera phones. The only thing we didn't like was the persistent brown cast that plagues indoor and outdoor shots. Photoshop's "auto color" had little luck improving things and we had to tweak the colors on our own to reduce reds and yellows while enhancing blues.
The camera can take still photos in JPEG format at 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 (default), 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixel resolutions. It has no self portrait mirror or flash, but it handles low light decently. The camera offers a variety of settings including spot and average metering, white balance and brightness. The camera has night mode, several shutter sounds (including silent), a self timer and you can save photos to a card by default. It has 2x zoom for all but the highest resolution setting.
The video player is also good by US camera phone standards. It can take QVGA (320 x 240) video with audio at 15 fps and 176 x 144 for MMS. The format is .3G2 and videos have good color, not too much blockiness or motion blur. Recorded audio is tinny though. Like the camera, the camcorder has white balance and brightness settings, a self timer and various color effects.
Want to listen to stereo music with no wires attached? The LG supports A2DP and AVRC (though they don't list that profile) for Bluetooth stereo headphones and headsets. We tested the VX8700 with the Plantronics Pulsar 590a and system sounds, music playback as well as the music playback controls on the Plantronics worked well. Music quality is good with decent bass and an overall clarity that's a distinct improvement over A2DP phones from a year or more ago.
Of course you can use standard Bluetooth headsets and car kits with the phone. We tested a variety of headsets with the LG, including the Plantronics Discovery 655 and the Samsung WEP200, both of which worked well in terms of voice quality and volume. Range was about 10 to 15 feet with these two tiny headsets, but they typically don't have great range with most phones. In addition, the LG has DUN (dialup networking), vCard transfer, FTP, printing, imaging and serial port profiles.
The VX8700 has a 800 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable. That's a decent capacity for a thin phone (there's less room for a large battery), and the phone lasted us two days on a charge with average use. LG claims 240 hours of standby and 200 minutes of usage (rather than talk time only, they quote usage time). We got 3 hours of talk time which beats LG's claim. As ever, heavy EVDO use, especially watching V Cast video will eat up the battery faster, while playing MP3s with the screen off drains the battery little. The VX8700 is no marathon runner, but it's good by fashion phone standards.
LG marries fashion and function with the VX8700. The phone is stunning, slim and easily pocketed and it has a good camera, great call quality, good Bluetooth performance including A2DP and good overall response times. In terms of both features and looks, it's serious competition for the Motorola RAZR maxx. We like most everything about this phone lots: a better than average camera, nice video recording quality, strong gaming performance, a very good display (though not quite up to the superb LG VX9400's) and a strong Bluetooth implementation. Our only two dings are the inconvenient microSD card location and the flat keypad/d-pad.
Pro: Great looks, slim, good build quality. Strong 2MP camera that takes pleasing still shots and decent QVGA video at 15 fps. Excellent voice quality.
Con: MicroSD card slot is under the battery. Keypad is board-flat and hard to press with little tactile feedback.
Price: $229.99 with 2-year contract ($179 if purchased from Verizon's web site, retail stores may be higher, other online vendors may be lower)
Display:Main (internal) display: 262K color
TFT LCD, 240 x 320 pixel resolution. Outer display: 65K color TFT, 48 x 160 pixels, displays in landscape mode.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
800 mA. Claimed usage time: 200 minutes, claimed standby is 240 hours.
Performance:44 megs of internal memory, ours shipped with 30 megs free.
x 1.95 x 0.54 inches. Weight: 3.77 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz. EVDO for fast data.
Camera:2.0 MP. Still photo resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 (default), 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixels. Video resolutions: 320 x 240, 176 x 144 pixels at 15 fps in .3G2 format. Has Night Mode, Self Timer, White Balance, and various color effects.
in speaker, mic and proprietary stereo headphone
jack (adapter to 2.5mm included). Music player (MP3 and WMA), video player included. Has flight mode and speakerphone.
Networking:Bluetooth 2.0. Profiles: headset, hands-free, DUN (dialup networking), A2DP, BPP (printing), object push for vCard and vCalendar, file transfer, basic imaging and serial port.
Software: Verizon Flash UI. Mobile Web 2.0, V Cast video player, messaging for SMS, picture and video messaging, Contacts, Calendar, Notepad, Alarm clock, World clock, calculator, Tip calculator, speed dial and voice command. Music play included for MP3 and MWA files. GPS and VZ Navigator support included.
microSD card slot under the battery. 2 gig max capacity.