Reviewed Feb. 27, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor
(If you're looking for a much more affordable version minus iTunes and the metal keypad, check out our review of the Motorola SLVR L6.)
Members of the candybar phone set who envied the Motorola RAZR's "thin is in" good looks are in luck. The Motorola SLVR L7, offered by Cingular in the US, takes the RAZR's techno-chic design and signature polished metal keypad and flattens it into the thinnest candybar phone on the US market. The 11.5mm thin SLVR lives up to its name, being incredibly slim though not notably small in height or breadth.
The SLVR is about more than good looks, and falls into the feature phone category thanks to its VGA camera, Bluetooth and Micro SD (aka TransFlash) card slot which comes filled with a 512 meg card. Why such a high capacity card? Because the SLVR is yet another iTunes phone from Motorola and it can handle up to 100 songs. Unlike the 100 song ROKR, whose only claim to fame was its iTunes capability, the SLVR L7 more subtlely adds the feature as one of several reasons to want this phone. Much better marketing: getting a SLVR means getting a cool looking phone with decent features that also happens to replace an iPod Shuffle.
Design and Ergonomics
The SLVR L7 is clearly about stunning looks and extreme portability. The polished metal keyboard (just like the RAZR's) is one of the best pieces of industrial design we've seen, offset by the phone's matte black finish and topped by a vibrant, glossy display. The phone is thin enough to slip into the tightest of pockets, but at 4.5" tall x 1.9" wide, it's at best a medium sized phone that's nearly the same height at the Cingular 2125 smartphone and wider (smartphones tend to be bigger than feature phones). But yes, the SLVR is only .43" thick while the Cingular 2125 is .69", and even the RAZR V3 is .54" thick (and a bit wider). If you're shopping for a thin and attractive phone and are a candybar fan, this is it. If you want a tiny clamshell, look elsewhere. And be prepared to wipe down your pretty phone; the SLVR's keypad and display show fingerprints and facial oil like crazy.
The SLVR has a clean design, with the usual Moto menu navigation buttons above the keypad and a very flat d-pad. In fact the entire keyboard is flat since it's cut out of a sliver of metal. Don't expect a lot of tactile feedback when dialing in the dark, but the Moto's bright blue backlighting will help in the visual department. On the left side you'll find buttons that control ringer volume, call volume and iTunes volume when playing music, and a camera button. The mini USB sync / charge port, voice dialing button and TransFlash card slot are located on the right side and the large speaker phone is on the back as is the VGA camera lens (no self-portrait mirror).
Phone Features and Data
The SLVR is a GSM quad band world phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) that will work anywhere in the world GSM service is available. The L7 is sold locked to Cingular, which means you'll need to use a Cingular SIM rather than popping in an overseas SIM when traveling abroad. That said, after 3 months of service, Cingular will generally unlock the phone for you, should you wish to travel overseas and not pay Cingular's overseas roaming rates. Unlocked versions are available too, if you look around. We're surprised that the phone has GPRS class 10 but no EDGE for data, which means you'll generally get about 35k download speeds. Then again, the phone's browser supports only WAP 2.0, and GPRS is adequate for browsing WAP sites. Should you wish to use the phone as a modem for a notebook or PDA, GPRS may be slower than you'd like.
Reception is good but not quite as good as the RAZR, Nokia 6682 and the Cingular 8125. Voice quality through the handset and included stereo earbud headset is acceptable though not as full and rich as the Cingular 8125 and Nokia 6682. The headset sounds a tad tinny, in fact. Call volume through the handset is average by GSM standards, which means not terribly loud, while the wired headset is louder and speakerphone is quite loud and clear. The SLVR L7 played well with Bluetooth headsets and paired easily, though call recipients noted white noise and we noted low incoming call volume, even when using Moto's new flagship headset the H700. You can voice dial by pressing the phone's dedicated button or via Bluetooth headset by pressing the call send button. The phone uses voice tags rather than true speech recognition, so you'll need to record voice tags for call recipients in your address book.
The Cingular 2125 and the SLVR
For music on the go, or anywhere you take your phone, the SLVR can hold up to 100 songs. The limitation is imposed by the phone's software and not the card capacity, so a larger card won't get you more tunes. But if you're a jogger with cell phone in tow and want some music to make the miles easier, the SLVR isn't a bad choice. You need not burden yourself with several pieces of gear, and those 100 songs should last for 6.5 hours of continuous playback. Since the phone syncs to iTunes on the desktop (both Windows and Mac work), you can change out your music at any time, and need not live with the same 100 tunes forever. If you don't already own an iPod or have iTunes installed, you'll get a copy on the included CD. The SLVR's USB 1.1 port makes for slow syncing speeds: it takes about 25 minutes to fill the phone with 100 tunes using iTunes and the included USB cable.
The phone comes with a good quality stereo earbud headset with mic. Plug in the headset and the SLVR will automatically switch from the phone's speaker and vice versa. The headset has a mini USB connector and it plugs into the phone's multifunction mini USB port. Should you wish to use your own set of headphones with the Moto, plug them into the included 3.5mm to mini USB adapter. Sound quality is OK, but not as good as the ROKR, a good PDA or the Sony Ericsson W600i "Walkman" phone. Bass is muffled below 100Hz and trebles can be harsh when using a good set of headphones such as Sennheiser's PX100 or super.fi 5 Pro earbuds. iTunes will not play through a Bluetooth headset. If that's important to you, wait for the ROKR E2 which will support stereo Bluetooth headphones as well as headset playback.
The SLVR can play music in the background, which means you can use the phone's other features while playing music. The display sleeps when using the phone as an iPod, and upon waking it you'll see the scrolling track title and small album cover in the upper left hand corner (if album art is available). The iTunes interface is almost exactly like that on Apple's iPod, which means it's intuitive and efficient. A few iPod features such as play by genre and multiple smart playlists are missing. You'll use the d-pad to control music playback, even when the phone is in the standby screen with the player running in the background (large on-screen symbols show you which direction to press to gain a desired effect). Should you wish to listen to music on the plane, turn on flight mode under Settings.
VGA cameras aren't anything to get excited about these days, and we're not sure why Motorola didn't include the 1 megapixel camera in the Verizon version of the RAZR which is also due in the upcoming updated RAZR V3i. So 640 x 480 JPEG is as good as it gets and shots need decent lighting (there's no flash). The camera has 4x digital zoom, EV (brightness) control and several ambiance settings. As you'd expect from a VGA camera, photos lack sharpness and clarity but it's better than nothing when you need to capture a precious moment and don't have a dedicated digital camera handy. You can set photos and videos to save directly to the included TransFlash storage card and transfer them to your PC using a card reader (you'll need the TransFlash to SD adapter included with cards sold separately but for some reason not included with the Moto). Or you can send them to a Bluetooth-enabled computer using Bluetooth and send them via MMS as well. 3GP video is very choppy but the audio track is fairly good.
Sample photos taken at 640 x 480 and resized to fit this page with no other modifications
You can use Bluetooth headsets and car kits, transfer files over Bluetooth, use the phone as a modem for a notebook or PDA with the included DUN (dial up networking) profile and sync over Bluetooth if you've got a Mac and iSync. We tested the phone with Motorola's H700 and the Plantronics Discovery 640 both of which paired easily, though incoming call volume wasn't terribly loud and call recipients noted white noise on the H700. The SLVR can sync over Bluetooth via Motorola's Mobile Phone Tools (available as a separate purchase) and iSync on the Mac.
The Moto comes with basic software to manage your contacts, calendar and a few games for amusement. The address book can hold up to 1,000 entries and has enough fields to satisfy a business user: street address, city, state, zip, country, birthday, picture caller ID, category, work phone, home phone, mobile phone, fax, pager and email address. The device also has a calendar, calculator and alarm clock hidden in the settings menu. The calendar supports repeating events and alarms and has day, week and month views. As mentioned, the SLVR can sync calendar and contacts to a Mac using iSync and to PCs using Motorola's Mobile Phone Tools. For downtime management, the SLVR comes with three Java games: BlockBreaker Deluxe, Jewel Quest and Tetris and you can of course buy and download additional games.
This slim phone manages to squeeze in an 820 mAh rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. The phone manages average battery life and Motorola claims it will last for 400 minutes of talk time and 350 hours of standby. That may be a bit optimistic, but you should get 5 hours of talk time on the phone, if not 6. Music playback is more battery-friendly than on the Sony Ericsson W600i, and background playback through headphones will last for many, many hours with the screen dimmed. Even playing back through the phone's speaker didn't trash battery life and we listened to 30 minutes worth of tunes (about as much as you'll want to do given the mono speaker) without putting a dent in the battery.
A phone for those who feel that looks count most. The SLVR still manages a good feature set given its pretty-face appeal, and the price is right. The SLVR L7 shares the ROKR E1's 100 iTunes song limit, but for those who don't need more than 6 to 7 hours worth of fresh music at a time, the capacity is adequate and you can refresh the phone with new songs using iTunes on the desktop. Music sound quality, even with high end headphones, is just average with muddy low bass and sibilant trebles. Voice quality, something we expect to be top notch from a Motorola phone, along with RF is just average as well. For the price, the SLVR is a decent phone, but not exceptional except in the looks department where it shines, shines, shines.
Pro: Extremely attractive and ungodly slim. So slim and light you won't feel it in your pocket. iTunes integration is solid and the phone is as easy as an iPod to use when it comes to syncing music. Excellent display that's glossy, vivid and bright. Bluetooth is solid with a good selection of profiles. Reasonably responsive UI that's faster than some older Moto phones. The included TransFlash card makes it easy to get photos and videos off of the phone.
Con: 100 song limit for iTunes playback. Music and voice quality could be better. USB 1.1 means syncing tunes isn't fast. Incoming Bluetooth headset volume isn't terribly loud.
x 1.9 x .45 inches. Weight: 3.38 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band world phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) with GPRS class 10 for data. Cingular version is sold locked to Cingular.
Camera: VGA CMOS camera with 4x digital zoom capable of shooting still JPEG photos at 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. Can take videos with sound at 176x144 and 128x96 resolutions in .3GP format.
in speaker, mic and Mini USB stereo headphone
jack. Stereo earbud headphones with inline mic included and an adapter which allows you to use standard 3.5m stereo headphones for music playback. iTunes included, can hold up to 100 songs. Has speakerphone and voice dialing.
Networking: Bluetooth 1.2.
TransFlash (Micro SD) card slot. 512 meg card included.