Reviewed November 21, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Verizon and MediaFLO started a quiet revolution when they put digital TV into mobile phones. These are not on-demand video playback, but the same TV shows you see on broadcast TV, complete with commercials and time slots. The technology is revolutionary because the quality of the broadcast is far superior to current on-demand cellular video services offered by carriers, and because it offers the real TV watching experience albeit with limited channels at the moment. And broadcast digital TV doesn’t use your data plan (EV-DO in Verizon’s case). The digital TV service, or V CAST Mobile TV in Verizon lingo, instead uses a cell phone with a tiny TV tuner built-in; and through MediaFLO, Verizon’s partner for digital TV, you can receive TV signals directly on your mobile phone though you do need to get the mobile TV plan from Verizon. Verizon released two digital TV phones earlier this year: the LG VX9400 and Samsung u620. And now we have the third phone with TV tuner in the US: the Motorola MOTORIZR Z6tv. The Z6tv is a special edition of the Z6 series slider phones with built-in TV tuner that works with MediaFLO service and offers a 2” QVGA display for TV watching, excellent sound with A2DP support, a 2 megapixel camera, over 50MB internal memory and it has EVDO support and a microSD card slot.
The MOTORIZR Z6tv is a dual band digital CDMA phone that operates on 800/1900MHz network with support for 1X and EV-DO. It’s offered by Verizon Wireless and has Verizon provisioning including V CAST Mobile TV (digital TV), V CAST video (streaming on-demand video clips that use EVDO data), Verizon’s music store and VZ Navigator for location-based services. The Z6tv currently sells for $179.99 after a $50 online discount with a 2-year contract.
Design and Ergonomics
The MOTORIZR Z6tv is the only digital TV phone without an external TV antenna. It has the same form factor as the MOTORIZR Z6 series slider phones and the front of the phone has a gloss finish while the back is matte. You can make phone calls with the slider closed using the call send and end buttons on the phone’s front panel. In fact you can run most applications that don’t require a number keypad with the slider closed using the round 5-way d-pad, the Clear/Back key, the TV/Camera key and the two soft key (left and right). The TV/Camera launch key will launch the digital Mobile TV when you press it once, and the camera when you press and hold it. Since the surface is shiny and slippery, Motorola put a push bar under the 2” QVGA screen that proves to be very handy for pushing the slider open and closed. A key lock button on the left side locks external buttons to avoid accidental button presses (the call answer key will still work if a call comes in). Dedicated volume up and down buttons, speakerphone key, Voice Command key, a mini-USB port for charging and accessory and a 2.5mm headset jack on the left and right side of the phone. The MOTORIZR Z6tv package also includes an elbow adapter to make it more convenient to use the phone with your right hand while it’s the AC or USB charger is connected to the phone.
The number keypad under the slider is wide and flat. The raised edge lines that separate each key will help touch dialing somewhat but the flat keys don’t give you much sense of which key you’re on. The backlight is bright and makes the keypad easy to see in the dark. The back of the phone houses the 2 megapixel camera lens, the battery door and stereo speakers under a mesh grill. Fortunately you don’t have to open the battery door to access the microSD card slot as it lives right on top of the phone.
Phone Features and Reception
The MOTORIZR Z6tv is a dual band digital CDMA phone that runs on Verizon’s 800/1900MHz network, and support EV-DO for fast data. The phone has weaker reception than the LG VX9400 but about the same reception as the Samsung u620. These 3 phones were the only enlisted members in Verizon’s small digital Mobile TV phone army when the Z6tv came out, but the LG Voyager recently joined them. The MOTORIZR gets 3 bars (out of 4) signal strength in Verizon’s well-covered areas and gets only 1-2 bars in spotty areas. You might lose the EV-DO signal in a deeper building located in spotty-coverage areas. Although we have not experienced dropped calls, we have had data interruptions when signal strength was low. The data interruptions included music downloads from V CAST music catalog, streaming videos on V CAST, downloading email and accessing the web. Please note that the V CAST Mobile TV doesn’t use Verizon’s data network therefore the EV-DO reception has no effect on the quality of the digital broadcast TV services. The voice quality on the Z6tv is good, but not super crisp. The voice volume is quite high. You can turn on the loudspeaker by pressing the speaker key on the left side of the phone. The rare-firing stereo speakers are loud and clear, great for conference calls and playing music. Cell phone users who like to use wired hands-free headset are out of luck, as the MOTORIZR Z6tv doesn’t come with a wired headset. So you will either need to use a Bluetooth headset or buy wired headset for hands free calling.
The MOTORIZR Z6tv supports common call management features including call waiting, redialing, speed dial (2-99) and voice dialing/voice command. The voice dialing and voice command application by VoiceSignal is an excellent tool that allows you to accurately make calls by giving voice commands. In addition you can also bring up the text message or email window, look up a contact for these messages, check battery and memory status and more via voice command. To store your contacts, the phone comes with a phone book that can save up to 1000 entries and you can assign special ringtone and call ID picture for a contact entry. Other applications bundled with the Motorola include calendar, alarm clock, world clock, notepad and calculator. For messaging, the Motorola Z6tv has support for SMS, video and picture messaging. It also comes with web-based email, web-based IM and chat.
The MOTORIZR Z6tv has assisted GPS built-in and works with Verizon’s VZ Navigator services. The VZ Navigator can get locations, maps and turn-by-turn navigation info to your phone for either a one-time fee or by subscription. VZ Navigator was right on the money in our tests and was able to pinpoint locations and get turn-by-turn directions. It offers voice guidance along with turn-by-turn directions which is handy when you are driving and can’t watch the screen constantly. There are some nifty things you can do if your friends/family also subscribe to the service: you can send them location-based messages. So the next time you make a dinner plan over the phone, you can send the location of the restaurant and your message recipient (who must have VZ Navigator service as well) can get turn-by-turn directions to get to that location.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
For on-demand streaming video delivered over EVDO, there’s Verizon’s V CAST service. Content includes music tracks, music video and on-demand video for news, sports, comedies and more. You will need to pay for music tracks and music videos but there are lots of free on-demand video clips you can watch. If you add the $15/month V CAST Mobile TV plan you can watch 8 channels of live TV. These channels include NBC, CBS Mobile, Fox Mobile, Comedy Central, MTV, NBC, ESPN and Nickelodeon. The shows are broadcast real time and have commercials just like the shows in real TV broadcast. Mobile TV quality is noticeably superior to the quality of the on-demand videos in V CAST. Digital TV shows can play in full screen on the Motorola with excellent clarity and if you are in an area where the signals are strong, you won’t see frame drops or digital artifacts. Dialog is crisp and sound effects are rich and full sounding. In comparison, many of the on-demand V CAST video clips are in very small resolutions (certainly can’t handle full screen playback), and are blocky with lots of dropped frames. The audio often is choppy in these video clips as well. If you are in spotty coverage area for EV-DO, you might even experience interruptions in video playback as the streaming data buffering refills. There are some limitations when it comes to digital TV: there are currently only 8 channels and Verizon has launched this service in only 22 cities as of this writing, but it’s worth to know that Verizon will add more programming channels including some NBA games and launch the service in more metro areas. If you are a TV addict, digital mobile TV is definitely a good service for that long commute on the train. The Z6tv didn’t pull in as strong a digital TV signal as the Samsung u620 and LG VX9400 (both of which have external antennas) but it did better than the LG Voyager which has the weakest TV reception among the four phones.
The Motorola MOTORIZR Z6tv is a decent music phone with support for V CAST music store, stereo loud speakers and a music player application built-in. The music player supports MP3 and wma music files and will play any song you download from the V CAST music store or have ripped from music CDs using Windows Media Player or another application. We tested some unprotected AAC files (the default iTunes format) and the player didn’t work with them. The music player offers shuffle, play all and playlist. The sound quality is very good since Motorola has beefed up the external speakers on their latest model phones including the recently released Motorola Q9 Global. While it’s a good experience playing music via the phone’s loudspeaker and via a stereo Bluetooth headset, the experience is broken for those who want to listen to music via wired headset. The phone’s package doesn’t include any headset, and the 2.5mm audio jack isn’t exactly standard. We tried two different pairs of 2.5mm headsets with 3 rings, neither worked with the Motorola. We assume you need a Moto-specific 2.5mm stereo headet rather than one from another brand phone or a generic headset. The sales package also omits the USB cable which would be handy if you want to transfer music from your PC to the phone. Verizon does sell an essential kit that includes both the USB cable, a wired headset, software and more for an additional cost.
The 2” QVGA display is bright and color saturated. Watching mobile TV is a joy on the Motorola Z6tv. You can adjust the brightness, change wallpaper, screen saver and other settings to suit your taste. Some applications work in both portrait and landscape modes including the camera application and mobile TV.
To store music tracks, pictures and video clips, you can tap into the phone’s internal memory (about 50MB) or utilize the microSD card slot which supports up to 2GB cards. All multimedia content saved to the phone and the storage cards is categorized in a file structure and you must put the right files into the right folders for the phone to recognize them. All the music tracks, photos and video clips in both internal and storage space will show up in their respective applications, and you can copy files between the two storage options.
The MOTORIZR Z6tv has a built-in 2 megapixel camera with fixed-focus lens that takes good quality still images. You can launch the camera with a shared menu button on the front of the phone. The camera launcher button shares duty with Mobile TV. You will need to press and hold the button until it beeps to launch the camera. The camera phone can take photos in 5 resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and Picture ID. The quality of the photos is comparable to if not better than other camera phones with a 2 megapixel camera. The images are reasonably sharp with some over-sharpening and colors are more balanced than photos taken with the Sony Ericsson W580i. Outdoor shots are bright, color saturated and balanced. You will see some white-out effects on objects in direct sunlight. Indoor shots have good color balance as well, and the noise level is low even in shots taken in low-light environments. The camera application on the MOTORIZR Z6tv has the usual set of effects, balance/color settings, fun frames and more. You can store the photos in phone’s internal memory or on a microSD card.
Like other camera phones, the Z6tv can also record video with audio. You can shoot the video in short, medium, video message and long (max memory) lengths in either 320 x 240 or 176 x 144 resolutions. The video quality at 176 x 144 is decent without any frame drops. The 320 x 240 resolution videos show some blockiness. Audio is in sync with video in these clips.
The MOTORIZR Z6tv has Bluetooth v2.0 and supports a wide range of Bluetooth profiles including Headset, Hands-Free, A2DP, AVRCP, DUN, FTP and Object Push for vCard Profiles. The lack of a wired headset in the sales package makes it almost essential for you to use Bluetooth headset for both making hands free calls and listening to music. The phone easily paired with a variety of Bluetooth handsfree headsets and Bluetooth stereo headsets in our tests. The Z6tv didn’t have very clear voice quality when working with mono Bluetooth headsets such as the BlueAnt Z9 and the Cardo S-800 headsets. When working with the BlueAnt Z9 headset, the Motorola had murky voice on both incoming and outgoing ends, though voice volume was quite high. The road noise level was low via the BlueAnt thanks to an effective DSP but wind reduction was minimal: our call recipients could hear loud wind sounds even under a gentle breeze. But at least the wind didn’t disrupt the conversation as it did on the Cardo S-800. The voice quality was worse when we used the Cardo S-800 with the Z6tv and the wind noise was so loud that it was “sheer pain” according to our call recipients. The voice was garbled on the outgoing end via the Cardo headset and we couldn’t hold a successful conversation. The range was middle of the road, reaching about 10-12 feet with both BlueAnt and the Cardo headsets.
In addition to the mono Bluetooth headsets, the Motorola also works with stereo Bluetooth headsets via A2DP and can control track playback and phone calls via the AVRCP Bluetooth profile. We tested the MOTORIZR Z6tv with the Plantronics Pulsar 590A, the Motorola S9 and the Cardo S2 stereo headsets. The sound quality was excellent through the Pulsar 590A: all voices and instruments in music tracks sounded crisp and the channels had clear separation. The volume was good but not super loud on the Plantronics and the playback controls worked like a charm. The voice quality was also very good on the Cardo S-2 stereo headset but not as full as on the Pulsar. Still the sound was clear with good stereo separation, all voices/instruments in the test music pieces had good clarity. Same as with the Pulsar, the volume on the S-2 wasn’t super high either. The Motorola S9 stereo Bluetooth headset had the thinnest sound among the three stereo headsets we tested with the Z6tv. The sound was still quite clear with good stereo separation; it was just not as full as the other two headsets (likely due to the small earbud drivers). The volume issue is more apparent with the Motorola S9 and you really need to turn up the volume to get loud enough sound. The range between the Motorola MOTRIZR Z6tv and the stereo Bluetooth headsets reached 10-15 feet.
The Z6tv comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that’s 940 mAh in capacity. The battery is user replaceable and you can charge the phone using the included world travel charger (100-240V). The battery life is good when you make phone calls, play music, send message and access PIM applications. You can get at least 3.5 hours of talk time and a week standby. Making ½ hour phone calls, pairing the headset with 5-6 Bluetooth headsets and playing music for 30 minutes over the course of 24 hours used up a quarter of a full charge. Playing V CAST content over EV-DO, especially watching V CAST video clips drains the battery most. If you’re in a spotty coverage area (which unfortunately is the case for us), a full charge will disappear very fast when the phone is trying hard to get good signal for video streaming. Mobile TV, which doesn’t use EV-DO network, uses less power, but still more than other tasks. If you plan on watching on-demand videos and live TV throughout a day, you should prepare to charge the phone daily or every day and a half.
Pro:Slick looking, accessible storage card slot, excellent stereo speakers and plenty of internal memory. Great mobile TV quality in strong coverage areas and good V CAST content and experience in strong EV-DO area. Strong stereo Bluetooth headset support is a big plus.
Con:Voice quality could stand some improvement. No headset included with the phone and the 2.5mm jack isn’t very standard.
Price: $179.99 with 2-year contract after $50 online discount.
Display:65K color TFT. Screen size diag: 2”. Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels.
Battery:Motorola BT51 Lithium Ion battery (3.7V). 940 mAh capacity. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time is 4.5 hours and claimed standby time is 390 hours. Claimed music playback time is 15 hours.
Performance:Over 50MB internal memory. Phone book can hold up to 1000 contacts. Undisclosed CPU.
Size 4.15 x 1.79 x 0.63 inches. Weight: 3.7 ounces.:
Camera:2 megapixel camera with 8x zoom. Still image resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and Picture ID. Camcorder can record video with audio at 320 x 240 or 176 x 144 resolutions.
GPS: Supports VZ Navigator.
Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, mic and Motorola 2.5mm headset jack. Voice Recorder and MP3 player included. Supports vibrate alerts.
Software:Bundled PIM applications include contacts, calendar, alarm clock, world clock, notepad and calculator. Camera application and MP3 player included. Messaging supports SMS, MMS and web based email, IM and chat.
Expansion:1 microSD expansion slot.
In the Box: The MOTORIZR Z6tv phone with standard Lithium Ion battery, a travel charger, an elbow adapter for the charging port and printed User Guide and Quick Reference Guide.