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Review posted December 6, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
For the 2007 holiday shopping season, Verizon Wireless pushed out two innovative phones: the LG Voyager and the LG Venus. There are a lot of similarities between the two phones: both come with a touch screen and both have dual displays, both have a 2 megapixel camera (the Voyager adds an auto-focused lens) and both have a very strong set of multimedia features that make them very competitive feature phones. While the Voyage is large to accommodate the excellent QWERTY keyboard, the seductively named Venus is more compact and it has a sexy look to match its name. The Venus (LG VX8800) has very good call quality, excellent audio, a sturdy build and a microSD card slot. For multimedia lovers, the Venus offers V CAST content support including music, video and 3D games, and you can play music through stereo Bluetooth headsets via A2DP support. Like Voyager, the Venus has aGPS support and works with Verizon’s VZ Navigator very well.
The Venus is sold by Verizon Wireless in the US and it currently comes in black. As of this writing, the phone is priced at $249.99 with 2-year contract ($199.00 if you buy it from Verizon Wireless’ web site). The Venus is a music-centric device, like the LG Chocolate.
Design and Ergonomics
The Venus (LG VX8800) indeed looks very sleek: the front part of the slider phone is as shiny as a mirror and the plastic back has a black pebble grain texture. When you turn the phone on, two bright and colorful screens give you that “wow” feeling. The top, larger display is not a touch screen while the bottom screen is touch sensitive. Like the Voyager, the Venus’ touch screen has vibration feedback. The phone will vibrate whether or not you’ve successfully pressed an on-screen button (that’s right, if you press anywhere on the touch screen the phone will vibrate). This can be confusing at times because the jolt doesn’t confirm a successful press, it only tells you you’ve touched the screen (and your fingertip already knew it had touched the screen). The menu layout in calls and in most applications is very logical, offering common actions that allow you to operate the phone without sliding out the keypad. The on-screen controls include not only buttons, but also include directional controls. There’s a short lag in response time when using the touch screen compared to the iPhone and PDA phone touch screens. It slows you down a bit if you are used to PDA phones’ touch displays, but you will get used to it after a few days of use. When viewed indoors, the dual-displays are gorgeous—bright and color saturated. Games, videos and photos look great on the displays. But outdoors the screen just turns into a mirror and you can see your own reflection clearly but not the phone’s screen.
They number keypad has the normal 4 rows of number keys and one row of menu keys that include call Send, Clear and call End keys. You won’t miss dedicated hardware buttons including speakerphone, call log and more, because they’re on the touch screen. The lower display and thus the number pad that appears on it are backlit and you can adjust the brightness for the keypad. The Venus’ sides are busy with controls including a 2.5mm audio jack, volume up and down, voice command, charging port on the left side, and microSD card slot, music and camera buttons on the right side. The music key also acts as the lock/unlock key for the touch screen.
The 2 megapixel camera lens lives on the back of the phone and you don’t have to open the slide to use it. The phone’s battery door is on the back below the lens. An excellent rear-firing speaker sits on the lower right corner of the back. The leather-like texture on the back of the Venus adds not only a classy look, but also adds grip since the front mirror-like panel is slippery.
Phone Features and Reception
The LG Venus is a CDMA digital dual band phone that operates on the 800/1900 MHz bands and is offered by Verizon Wireless in the US. The Venus gets full bars in well-covered areas and gets 1-2 bars in spotty coverage areas. The phone never dropped a call in our tests even when it had just 1 out of 4 bars in signal strength. The Venus has very good voice quality by CDMA standards and both in-call voice and ringtones are very loud. You can take or reject a call without opening the slider as the phone gives you on-screen controls, and it offers call waiting, speed dialing, voice command and other common call management tools. Like other feature phones, the Venus has a contacts database. The phone book can store up to 1,000 entries, each with up to 5 numbers, 2 email addresses and a picture ID. You can assign 95 speed dial numbers and 3 emergency contacts, an increasing popular feature on cell phones. For voice dialing, the Venus comes with the excellent Voice Command software by VoiceSignal. It can voice dial via the phone, wired headset and Bluetooth headset; and can also finds numbers and email addresses for sending text and MMS messages. Voice commands worked like a charm in our tests even with Bluetooth headsets.
The Venus has text, picture and video messaging support. Sending and receiving MMS is very fast if you are exchanging messages with other Verizon users. Unlike the better web browser on the Voyager, the Venus has Verizon’s usual Openwave Mobile Web 2.0 WAP browser. There are also web-based email, IM and chat tools. Other applications bundled include Calculator, Calendar, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, World Clock, Notepad and Ez Tip Calc.
V CAST Multimedia and VZ Navigator
While most Verizon feature phones support V CAST content, few can top the Venus in audio quality, video playback and screen quality when it comes to playing V CAST content. Like the LG Chocolate, the Venus’ music player supports background playback. As with other recent Verizon music phones including the Samsung Juke and the Voyager, the Venus supports not only the usual MP3 and WMA files, but also unprotected AAC and AAC+ files (non-copy protected iTunes format). You can put music on the phone directly using the included USB cable, put it on a memory card or buy and download songs over the air from Verizon’s V CAST Music catalog. The Venus dedicates 64MB of internal memory for music storage. 64MB is hardly enough space for a serious music library but you can easily expand that with microSD cards. The phone supports SDHC microSD cards up to 8 gigs in capacity.
How is the sound quality for music playback? Fantastic! Audio quality through the speaker is excellent (one of the best we’ve heard on a phone), and the volume is very loud. It can easily fill a room with music just using the built-in speaker. Audio through a 2.5mm wired headset (not included) is excellent as well and it even sounds good through stereo Bluetooth headsets. You will be hard pressed to find something that sounds better than the Venus for audio quality. The music player offers basic features including shuffle, repeat, 3D sound effects (Rock, Jazz, Classical, etc.) and more.
Great audio quality also helps the V CAST Video experience, along with smooth playback and a bright screen. V CAST video clips look very good on the Venus with no blockiness or obvious frame drops, and video and audio are in perfect sync. Video buffering is pretty quickly and the crisp and bright screen makes the clips look good. In very spotty coverage areas, we’ve experienced EV-DO connection drops once or twice. In good coverage area V CAST videos load fairly quickly with no connection drops. Most V CAST videos are free with V CAST package.
If you’re a mobile gaming fan, you are in for a treat. The Venus’ screen really shines in most 3D games we’ve tested including Glu Mobile’s Diner Dash 2, EA’s Orcs & Elves II, Sims 2, Superscape’s Ultimate 3D Pinball and more. All games played fast and smooth on the Venus. Graphics looked awesome, and background tracks and sound FX were excellent through phone’s loudspeaker. The touch controls are well integrated as game controls and we didn’t feel like we needed a traditional D-pad and control buttons. Interestingly, the touch controls are actually more responsive in some of these games than in phone menus.
Like the Voyager and Juke, the Venus has assisted GPS onboard that works with Verizon’s VZ Navigator. The aGPS got a very quick fix in various locations in the Dallas metroplex, and map download over ED-DO was fast. VZ Navigator gives you turn-by-turn driving directions along with route maps and voice guidance. The maps and routing were very accurate and the voice guidance for driving directions were spot on in our road tests. If you have family and friends using the same service, you can send them restaurant and other POI locations via message and they will get turn-by-turn directions to that location.
Like the Voyager, the LG Venus comes with a 2.0 megapixel camera minus the auto-focus lens. We were very impressed with the cameras on the first and second LG Chocolate and several other LG feature phones that came out in the last year or so. While the camera on the Venus has been upgraded to 2 megapixels, the quality of the photos is sadly pedestrian. The images had lots of noise in both indoor and outdoor shots with a distinct cool color bias. Photos taking in sunny settings showed large areas of white out, even though these shots weren’t taken in very strong and bright sunlight. Images don’t look sharp either for a 2-megapixel camera phone even in good lighting conditions.
To launch the camera, press the dedicated camera key on the right side of the Venus. The camera application uses the upper display as the viewfinder. Though the camera application tells you to take photos with the phone in landscape mode, you can take photos with the phone in portrait position as well. You can take still images at 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 resolutions. You can customize the brightness, white balance, color effects and more, and the camera application also has night mode and gives you choices for shutter sound (including off). The photo viewer uses the touch screen cleverly: the touch screen displays thumbnails of the photos in your library and when you touch a photo, it opens in the larger non-touch display.
The Venus can also record video at QVGA (320 x 240) and 176 x 144 resolutions. You can record either a short 30 second video clip for MMS video messaging or up to 1 hour long videos that you can save to the phone or a memory card. The video player on the Venus can playback videos in WMV, MP4, 3GP and 3G2 formats. The video clips taken with the phone are not super clear and have some blockiness in fast moving scenes but in good lighting with stable subjects, the videos are passable.
The Venus (LG VX8800) has Bluetooth v1.2 and supports Headset, Hands-Free, DUN (dial-up networking), A2DP, AVRC, phone book access, basic printing, FTP, basic imaging and Object push (for vCard and vCal) Profiles. It can save up to 20 pairing partners and the Bluetooth software has very friendly interface to help you pair the phone with computers, headsets and car kits. We tested it with several mono Bluetooth headsets for hands free calling, stereo Bluetooth headsets for music playback and PC and Mac desktop machines for sending files; the Venus paired with all easily. The Venus was fast at transferring photos, contacts and other files via Bluetooth. In our hands free calling tests, we tested the Venus with the Plantronics Discovery 650 (branded as the Palm S3 Bluetooth headset) and Cardo S-800 mono Bluetooth headset. Voice quality through the Plantronics was choppy and we could hear artificial noise even at very close range. We could still hold a conversation, but the digital noise and choppy audio were quite noticeable. The DSP worked reasonably well, reducing road noise and wind noise. The range with the Palm Bluetooth headset was about 10 feet. The voice quality was better on the Cardo S-800 Bluetooth headset, but not by much. The choppy audio was a bit smoother and there was less distortion. But we could still hear some artificial noise on both incoming and outgoing ends. The DSP worked relatively well for road noise but wind noise reduction wasn’t very effective. The range was about the same as with the Palm headset, reaching at about 10 feet.
While the mono Bluetooth headset performance was nothing special, the Venus performed exceptionally well with the stereo Bluetooth headsets we tested: the Plantronics Pulsar 590 and the Motorola S9 stereo Bluetooth headsets. The sound was full and the volume was very loud with excellent separation and balance. Listening to music via either headset was absolutely a joy. The range between the Venus and the stereo Bluetooth headset was better also compared to the mono headsets, reaching from 15 feet to 20 feet. The AV remote controls for track forward/rewind and volume worked very well.
The Venus comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery (LGIP-330B) that’s 800 mAh in capacity. The battery is user replaceable and you can charge it with the included world charger. The claimed usage time is up to 4 hours and the claimed standby time is 20 days. The usage time was a bit shorter than the claimed time but not by much, and our standby tests were closer to a week and a half. The biggest battery-draining task was watching video clips on V CAST via EV-DO. If you need more juice than the standard battery provides you can get the extended 1500 mAh battery sold separately.
If you are looking for a stylish, strong multimedia phone, the Venus should be on your short list. The excellent audio, smooth video playback and crisp screen make for a very pleasurable multimedia experience. The phone has good looks and good build quality. The touch screen technology indeed adds to its appeal. We love the fact that the Venus, like many recent Verizon phones, comes with aGPS and supports VZ Navigator which has good location-based services.
Pro: Excellent multimedia experience with fantastic audio and gorgeous screen for indoor use. V CAST videos play smoothly and better than on many other Verizon phones. Games play well on the phone and VZ Navigator has outstanding performance.
Con: Can’t see the screen outdoors. Pedestrian camera performance. No wired headset included.
Web sites: www.verizonwireless.com, www.lge.com
Price: $249 with 2 year contract (currently $199 when purchased online from Verizon's web site).
Display: Main display: 262K color TFT, 320 x 240 pixels. Diag. 2”. Touch display: 262K color TFT, 176 x 240 pixels. Diag. 1.49”.
Battery: 800 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed usage time: up to 4 hours. Claimed standby: 20 days.
Performance: 64 megs internal memory for storing music.
Size: 4 x 2 x 0.62 inches. Weight: 3.79 ounces.
Phone: CDMA dual band digital with EVDO rev. 0 and 1xRTT for data. Has speakerphone, voice command and 95 speed dials. It also has 3 emergency contacts.
Camera: 2.0 megapixel with fixed-focus lens. Up to 2x digital zoom. Camera Resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240. Video Resolutions: 320 x 240, 176 x 144. Up to 1 hour of video recording or 30 second clips for MMS, can save images and video directly to a microSD card.
Audio: Supports 72-Note Polyphonic ringtones. MP3 player onboard to play MP3, WMA, WMA Pro, AAC and ACC+ files.
Networking: Bluetooth v1.2. Supports Headset, Hands-Free, DUN (dial-up networking), A2DP, AVRC, phone book access, basic printing, FTP, basic imaging and Object push (for vCard and vCal) Profiles.
Software: Phone Book, Calculator, Calendar, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, World Clock, Notepad and Ez Tip Calc. VZ Navigator, games and other applications are supported and available for purchase.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot. Supports up to 8GB cards.
In the Box: The Venus phone, standard battery, USB cable and CD, travel charger and printed manual and guide.