Monday September 18, 2006 5:00 pm
LG Chocolate VX8500 Review
The LG Chocolate VX8500 debuted in the United States to much fanfare. Verizon pushed it as the next big thing in mobile entertainment phones, and even went all out with a television commercial campaign. Focusing on a cool music playing experience along with V-Cast entertainment over 3G EVDO, the hype machine seems to have paid off, as quite a few people that we know have ended up with an LG Chocolate phone. We took the VX8500 for a spin, and report back with our full review which you can check out after the break.
The LG VX8500 is a small, curvy, rectangular mobile phone that sports a slick black casing - yes, similar to that of a dark chocolate candy bar. It is a slider phone which weighs 3.5-ounces, and when closed the phone measures 3.8-inches by 1.58-inches by 0.69-inches. It’s totally portable, even fitting in that little mini-pocket we all have on our jeans, yet never use. The slider is smooth and satisfying, and when closed, the phone invokes a protection mechanism that prevents you from accidentally hitting the touch-sensitive interface when the phone is in your pocket.
The Chocolate features a 320x240 pixel, 262k color screen, providing up to eleven lines of text at a time. If you want to keep this thing looking pristine, you will need to carry around some sort of wipe cloth, as the face of the phone is definitely a fingerprint magnet. Beneath the display are the touch-sensitive controls, which remind us of the 3G iPod interface. The buttons glow a deep red, and look great. Unfortunately, they take a bit of getting used to, as they aren’t labeled with any sort of text. Definitely a phone where reading the instruction booklet is probably a requirement, even for basic functionality.
The directional pad can be set to different shortcuts, and it too is touch sensitive. Here is a quick tip - the left and right buttons serve and a back and forward mechanism when going through menus. As for the rest of the buttons, they are all real, pressable input keys. Two soft keys that you can set to whatever, a power button, voice dialing, and volume control.
Rounding out the phone is a camera which appears when the slider is opened, a headphone port, and a microSD slot for upgrading the memory in the phone.
USING THE LG CHOCOLATE VX8500
This is where, at first, the touch-sensitive buttons can get you into some trouble. You have no idea what the hell you are doing at first, and often, you can get stuck in a certain menu not knowing how to get out of it. One thing LG did to kind of ward off some of this frustration is to lock the navigation buttons when the phone is closed and when you are on a call. This way, you don’t accidentally hang up on someone when the touch surface grazes against your beard while you are talking. The negative here? You have to hold down the voice dial button for a few seconds to get that functionality back.
The numeric keypad itself is great, providing soft, backlit buttons. They give an audible click when pressed, and feel slick. You don’t need to cramp up your thumb to get to the top row of numbers either, since the keypad is far enough below the bottom of the slider to not interfere with dialing.
With the interface, you are able to theme it to fit your personality and style, something we enjoy doing. By default, the phone uses the “Rock n Roll” theme, which places all your menu items in a circle. It almost seems to invite you to use the touch wheel in a similar fashion to an iPod, but really you just need to click to the right or left to spin the onscreen wheel navigation. Once you make your first choice, the submenu is a simple list layout which you tap up and down on the wheel to navigate through. This is the point where we started to get the hang of this thing. As we said before though, you can change wallpapers and themes to your liking. The phone is Get It Now compatible, so there is how you access additional ringtones, games, and other applications as well.
The big draw here, though, is music. Unfortunately, this phone doesn’t have a speakerphone. Every music phone lately has incorporated this simple feature, and we aren’t sure why LG didn’t follow suit on the Chocolate. Aside from that, the phone is V Cast compatible, and works with Verizon’s music service. You can download tracks to a PC for $0.99, or download to both PC and phone for $1.99. Any music you transfer from your PC to the Chocolate phone will be converted to WMA format. While playing music on the VX8500, controls are pretty much spot on and what you would expect. Seriously, the more you use the phone, the more intuitive it becomes. It even has an airplane mode so that you can turn off phone functionality but continue to use it for music purposes during a flight. Stereo Bluetooth is also here, which is a nice touch.
Unfortunately, to take full advantage of the music functionality, you need to spend another $30 on the Essential Music Kit, which provides a USB sync cable, and proprietary stereo headset for listening to music and making phone calls, and software. What’s more, the Chocolate only provides 62MB of internal memory for music, so adding in a microSD card would be a good thing to do.
Naturally, you would expect a few phone-type features, as this is a phone after all else is said and done. On that front, we have a 1.3 megapixel camera which includes a self-timer, brightness control, night mode, color effect, shutter sounds (along with silent mode.) Bad part? There is no flash, so you had better be well lit if you want decent images. The camera can also record 176x144 video. The phone book can hold up to 500 contact names, each with up to five phone numbers and two email addresses. Callers can be associated with unique images and ringtones. Text and multimedia messaging are also standard fare, as are calendar, alarm clock, notepad, voice dialing, and Bluetooth.
The LG Chocolate VX8500 is a fun phone when all is said and done. You definitely get a rich media experience out of it, and having a solid digital audio player built in to your phone is nice. The touch panel and navigation system require a bit of learning and playing around with to get used to, and that brings the score down just a bit. These days most people don’t have the time to figure out how to operate a cell phone, and usually it isn’t an issue because of the standard text-labeled buttons. Still, once you get over that hump, the phone works well. We wish battery talk time was more than three hours (which is what we got in our tests,) but overall I think LG has provided a solid offering for the demographic they are trying to reach with this device. It’s available now from Verizon at $149.99 after rebate with a two-year contract.
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