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Motorola MOTORAZR2 V8 review

A mobile phone icon gets an overhaul

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Our Verdict

There's plenty to like but ultimately the new MOTORAZR is lacking a cutting edge

For

  • Sleek slimline design

    Touch sensitive music player controls

    Large, rich external display

    Build quality

Against

  • No 3G connectivity

    Limited camera

    No smartphone capability

    Quality materials make it heavy for its size

The original Motorola RAZR was a real mobile phone design icon, and one of the best selling handsets ever. But now, over four years down the line from its first appearance, can the next generation ultra-slim MOTORAZR2 still turn heads in the same way?

After all, its sales success means that the RAZR has long since lost any sense of exclusivity. So what can the latest version of the phone possibly offer to recapture that wow factor?

The MOTORAZR2 V8 claims to push the envelope of the design. It is thinner than ever before, being just 11.9mm thick - although its footprint does not really make it a small package. And it also gets a new all-glossy coating rather than the full-metal jacket of before.

Like its predecessors, the V8 does not set out to be the most technologically up-to-date handset around. It's falls way short of this, in fact. It's not a 3G model, for instance, making do with GSM and GPRS for mobile downloads. Its camera is a rather standard 2-megapixel shooter, and as it's not a smartphone you are pretty much stuck with its limited range of onboard applications.

But despite this unpromising start, the MOTORAZR2 V8 still has more than a spark of originality. It's likely that the MP3 player is going to give this phone its greatest appeal. Having an onboard digital music machine, of course, is nothing to write home about - practially all new phones have one - but Motorola has done two things that make this feature more appealing than on the average mobile.

As usual with a clamshell phone, the main display is hidden away when the phone is folded. But when the primary 2.2in internal LCD is out of view, you get the use of a whopping 2-inch external LCD.

This isn't just there to display pretty wallpapers - this outer screen is touch sensitive, so will not just show you the names of the tracks that you have stored away, it will also allow you to use the finger-sensitive buttons to control the player.

Unlike some other touch-controlled phones we have tried, the system of the V8 really works. There is no difficulty in getting the player to pause or to move on to the next track.

What's more, an ingenious bit of programming means that the touch-sensitive controls actually let you know when you have hit the spot; when you press one of these virtual buttons, a small vibration is provided by the phone to acknowledge your command. That eliminates the infuriating double-pressing mistakes that afflict other touch sensitive models.

The external touchscreen is also put into useful service with SMS, allowing you to read incoming messages without having to flip the handset open.

The other feature that makes this digital music player different is that it does not rely on memory cards to get a suitable library capacity. The lack of a smartcard slot would normally be a really turn-off for such a device, but the V8 provides a full 420MB of onboard storage for the user to fill up with music (and other files).

It's a long way short a full-blown iPod's capacity - but it is undoubtedly more than sufficient for many users. And the fact that you do not have to take the cost of a card into consideration when weighing the phone's value for money, also works in the V8's favour.

Of course, such musical pretensions count for nothing if the performance fails to hit the mark. In this regard, the V8 is surprisingly good. Playback through the supplied headset is resonant and punchy, lacking the distortion and offering a beefy bass response that few bundled earpieces deliver.

This is particularly good thing, as the headset is connected using the mini-USB connector (also used for battery charging), which would narrow down the choice of alternative headphones. The speakerphone is not at all bad either, if you want to share the sounds with others, and if you want to go high-tech, you can use a set of wireless Bluetooth cans.

The problem with the onboard camera is not just that it is limited to a rather average pixel count of 2-megapixels. The really limiting factor is that you have so little control over the picture. There is no flash. There is no close-up facility, and definitely no autofocus for ensuring things that are within a few feet of the camera are captured sharply.

The pictures it provides are not awful - colour rendition is pleasing, and detail is helped by a lack of JPEG artefacts that are typical of cameraphones. However, shots were marred by looking too soft, lacking the critical crispness that you would expect from your images.

Motorola has freshened up and improved its menu structure for this phone, making for a friendlier interface. Delving within the options that this provides, and you find a useful web browser and email engine are offered. Of course, without the benefit of 3G (or Wi-Fi, for that matter) the speed of browsing that you can do is restricted.

The games folder has a reasonable selection of options to choose from. The soccer simulator is fun enough but the size of the display is not big enough to do a game of this sort justice. The sudoku puzzles work much better - and as you have no paper to jot down your workings, they really stretch your mind and memory.

The Rough Guides to major cities around Europe may seem useful but judging by the low quality information given for Bath (where we know the pubs, eateries and sights well), the information is rather rougher than you would hope.

The phone offers a wide range of voice-activated functionality, and will even give voice prompts for menu settings and when dialling numbers.

As a phone that is trying to make the RAZR appeal once again to a more sophisticated audience, the V8 doesn't really do enough. Sure it looks smart enough- but it simply doesn't do enough in the design stakes to make it look stunningly different enough from other less expensive phones.

There are so many thin phones around now that the fact that it's a slimmer RAZR simply doesn't have the impact it might once have had. And the styling can't make up for the lack of core features.

This handset costs around £240 SIM free, and even with a contract you need to be spending a decent monthly amount before you could get it for free. The lack of 3G, in particular, make the handset poor value for money. Especially so, as despite the low profile, this is a rather heavy GSM-only non-smartphone handset.

We like the huge built-in memory but many would prefer the flexibility of swappable cards. And we like the touch-sensitive screen but just wish it was easier to fire up into operation in the first place.

Looks: 8

Ease of use: 8

Features: 7

Call quality: 9

Value: 6

Overall rating: 80%

Available on:

O2, Orange, T-Mobile