Reviewed August 25, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
After the Motorola RAZR, the RAZR V3, the RAZR maxx, and the RAZR2 V9m, Motorola isn’t ready to give up its most popular cell phone franchise yet. Sprint has just released the newest Motorola RAZR model, the RAZR VE20, a feature phone packed with a multimedia punch. You can buy music over-the-air from Sprint’s Music Store, watch TV programs and even full-length movies, listen to streaming radio and play current 3D games. The phone has great reception and fast data speeds by EVDO Rev. 0 standards. Throw in a built-in GPS, a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth A2DP stereo and a microSD card slot, you’ve got a very competitive feature phone to extend the Moto RAZR family tree.
The MOTORAZR VE20 is a digital dual band CDMA phone that’s currently offered by Sprint (it’s great to see that Sprint jumped on the new RAZR wagon much earlier than they did with the first gen RAZR). The MOTORAZR VE20 currently comes in silver.
Design and Ergonomics
The Motorola RAZR went on Jenny Craig and came back the RAZR VE20. Much of the design (the curves, the flat keypad and the antenna hump) looks similar between the RAZR VE20 and the previous RAZR models. The only thing that’s noticeably different is the RAZR VE20 is narrower, measuring 2.0 x 3.9 x 0.6 inches. The 2.2” display is super sharp and color saturated and the VE20 has an external display with touch controls to control music playback, check messages, start voice dialing and turn Bluetooth on/off. The mirror-like front cover looks nice against the phone’s silver body and the flip phone has just enough weight to feel good in hand. The RAZR VE20 has very few buttons on the sides: volume up/down rocker, a Smart key (key guard and multifunction menu key in one) and the camera quick launch key. The 2 megapixel camera lives on the front of the flip and the rear firing speakerphone lives under the battery door on the back. Can’t find the microSD card slot? Look under the battery.
Phone Features and Tools
The MOTORAZR VE20 is a CDMA digital dual band phone with EVDO Rev. 0 for fast data. The Moto has great reception and voice quality is very good. It managed full bars most the time throughout the Dallas area and data transfer speed feels fast. The flip phone supports call waiting, three way calling, speed dialing (99 speed dials) and voice dialing. It also comes with a phone book that can store up to 600 entries, each with 6 phone numbers, an email address, web address and memo. The Motorola has VoiceSignal’s VSuite 3.1 software for voice dialing and voice command (for checking phone status, initiating messages and a lot more). Voice dialing worked well on the phone and via Bluetooth headsets. We tested the Samsung WEP200 with RAZR VE20 and it sounded really good on both incoming and outgoing ends. The DSP worked well also and the range was about 10 feet.
Entertainment In Full Swing
When it comes to entertainment, the RAZR VE20 has it all: music, TV, movies and radio. The flip phone supports the Sprint Music Store, which has good number of music tracks for sale for $.99 (that's comparable to the iTunes price and cheaper than Verizon’s $1.99/track price). You can buy music over the air directly from your phone and music download is blazing fast (we had to double check to make sure this phone didn’t have EVDO Rev. A support since it felt faster than Rev.0). You must have a microSD card in the slot to buy, download and play music. The good news is that Motorola and Sprint include a 256MB microSD with adapter in the box to get you started. The bad news is the card slot is under the battery. The RAZR VE20 has a music player onboard that supports playlists, genres, album art and more. The phone’s built-in speakerphone sounds very good for music playback with loud and full sound. You can improve the sound quality for music by using standard 3.5mm stereo headphones or a Bluetooth stereo headset. You can run other applications while music is playing in the background and the phone has external music touch controls that allow you to play music without opening the flip.
If playing music isn’t enough for you, the RAZR VE20 can dish up some TV and movie content to keep you entertained. Sprint TV runs great on the VE20 with smooth playback and good audio. We noticed occasional frame drops and some blocky-ness once in a while, especially in full screen mode, but the performance of Sprint TV on the MOTORAZR VE20 is quite good. There are a good number of free (with a Vision data plan)TV channels, and for an additional $9.99/month, you can get the premium channels like ESPN, NCB, Fox, Discovery and many more channels. Not a TV fan, how about renting movies and watching them on your phone? The RAZR VE20 supports Sprint Movies which rents out movies for $5.99 each for 24 hours. So if you’ve got a couple of hours at the airport, you can catch up on your movie watching right on your phone. The movie titles are mixed—there are movies that are still running in theaters and older ones that came out last year. Interestingly, the movie actually plays more smoothly than the on-demand TV programs. The phone’s screen looks sharp and color saturated when playing back movies, but it’s a little dark for dark scenes.
While we enjoyed the TV and movie watching immensely, there are a couple of minor issues with Sprint TV. One issue is related to the media player: it doesn’t show phone status (like battery life, reception level, etc.) nor does it give you a lot of control over playback. Another issue is related to phone’s RAM: it runs out of memory very quickly. If you have Sprint TV running, you won’t have enough memory to run the music player, for example. This is probably why the MOTO comes with an application manager which helps you exit applications in a jiffy.
Gaming is fun on the MOTORAZR VE20. You can buy or subscribe games over the air and run them after you’ve downloaded the games. We tested quite a few games and all games ran smoothly. The phone’s d-pad and the number keys were easy to use as game controls and the speakerphone was good for gaming sound.
2 megapixels seems to be the magic number for mid-tier feature phones nowadays, and the RAZR VE20 has just the right camera. The 2 megapixel camera phone has 8x zoom and can take still images in five resolutions: 1200 x 1600, 1024 x 1280, 480 x 640, 240 x 320 and 120 x 160. The image quality is decent by 2 megapixel camera standards. The photos have good color balance and decent detail, but look a bit washed out in terms of color saturation. There is also some artificial sharpening in these photos and in many cases that helps better the photo quality. There are white balance and color effect settings, and you can shoot photos in multi-shot mode. The MOTORAZR VE20 can shoot video with audio for MMS (20 seconds) or longer clips that you can store on the phone or a storage card (length is limited by available storage). The video quality is decent and the video is in sync with audio.
You can use the microSD card with a card reader or Bluetooth to transfer files. Bluetooth transfer times were quick in our tests. Sprint offers its own online mail services for photo sharing, called Sprint Picture Mail. You can upload these photos and mail them to your friends and family using this service.
GPS and Sprint Navigation
The Motorola has a built-in GPS that works with Sprint Navigation services powered by TeleNav. Sprint Navigation is not a free service ($9.99/month; or $2.99/day), but it provides excellent navigation, turn-by-turn directions, maps and voice guidance services. The GPS on the MOTORAZR VE20 gets 3D fixes very fast and route navigation is also very expedient. The navigation also comes with real time traffic report that warns you of roadblocks and accidents. We did several road tests with the MOTORAZR VE20, and the GPS fixes were fast, positions were very accurate and maps updated very quickly. The only slight problem was the Moto’s CPU seemed a little underpowered and it slowed down the navigation at times, which resulted in delayed GPS tracking, and the directions and voice guidance needed a few seconds to catch up. The Moto’s screen is brilliant for viewing maps and directions, and the phone’s speakers were loud and clear.
With every multimedia item on the menu, a built-in GPS and EV-DO fast data support, the Motorola has a lot to power. The phone comes with a standard Motorola battery (model number: BT50) that’s 910 mAh in capacity that we found inadequate to support the rich multimedia features and the GPS. The claimed talk time is 4 hours which seemed to be on target and the claimed standby is 9.75 days which seemed to be an over estimation in our battery tests. If you use the phone for more than just making calls, like a few hours combined of watching Sprint TV or movies, downloading music and navigating, you will run out of juice fairly fast. So keep a spare battery and be prepared to charge your phone every day if you use these multimedia features via EV-DO connection and navigation.
The RAZR VE20 does renew the excitement for the RAZR series, if you are a multimedia fan and need GPS on your phone. The Moto has every trick in the bag when it comes to entertaining you and the hardware gives good support for the features and services (good speaker, 3.5mm stereo audio jack, microSD card, etc.). Thankfully this time around, you won’t need to pay the high price tag that came with the first RAZR even though you get much more on the VE20. All in all, this is a good package for the price.
Pro: Slim phone that has good reception and voice quality. Sprint Music downloads fast and sounds good through the phone and headsets. Sprint TV has good performance and the movie rental is a great bonus if you don’t mind watching movies on a 2.2” sharp screen. Has built-in GPS and Bluetooth with support of a large number of profiles. Good price.
Con: The processor is a bit slow for GPS navigation at times. The microSD card slot is under the battery. Battery is underpowered.
Price: $99.99 with 2-year contract after mail-in rebate and discount. $329.99 without contract.
Display:Internal: 2.2” QVGA 262K color TFT screen. Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels. External: 1.6” 65K color CSTN screen. Resolution: 120 x 60 pixels.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, 910 mAh, user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 4 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 9.75 days.
Performance: Phone book can store 600 entries.
Size:2.0 x 3.9 x 0.6 inches. Weight: 3.5 ounces.
Phone:CDMA digital dual band, 800/1900MHz. EV-DO Rev. 0 for data.
Camera:2 megapixel camera with 8x digital zoom. Supports multi-shot and self-timer. Still image resolutions: 1200 x 1600, 1024 x 1280, 480 x 640, 240 x 320 and 120 x 160. Can take video with audio at Video Mail (20 seconds) and Long (storage capacity) lengths.
Audio:Supports MIDI and MP3 ringertones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MIDI, MP3, AAC, AAC+, Enhanced AAC+, WMA, WAV, AMR-NB, Real Audio (RA) v10 formats. FM Radio. 3.5 mm stereo audio jack onboard. Can record voice memo. Supports vibration alert.
Networking:Bluetooth v2.0. Supported profiles: A2DP (Stereo), GAVDP, HFP, HFP 1.5, PBAP, HSP, FTP, BPP, BIP, GOEP, SDAP/SDP, DUN, OPP, vCard 2.1, vCard 3.0 (partial; structured presentation of name, formatted name and number), Multiple Entry (no limit), Business Card (Push only), SPP, Stereo Streaming via BT, AVDTP, OBEX, and USB. USB 2.0.
GPS:Yes, has aGPS. Supports Sprint Navigation.
Software:Contacts, calendar, calculator, file manager, notepad, world clock, alarm, tip calculator, unit converter and voice memo. MP3 player and On Demand. Messaging and web browser. Supports 3D games.