Review: LG VX-8100
Indoors, the LG's display is brilliant indoors, however it has some serious trouble once you step into daylight. The 18-bit, 176 x 220-pixel output is crisp, clear, and generally effortless indoors.. Outdoors the main display suffers from the applied reflective coating and mirrored border. We spent a lot of time squinting, and even more time trying to find the best way to shadow the display.
The secondary display is equally bright and legible. It powers down its backlight quickly, but remains active for more than a minute after first engaging it, which minimizes the need to engage the backlight multiple times in a short period. Network strength, coverage, and battery life are all visible, as well as icons for ring type, vibrate, voicemail, bluetooth and missed call icons. The one curious element of the secondary display is that by default the time is displayed twice; once in the center of the display and again along the bottom edge. While this is awkward it can easily be turned off through the tools menu.
Network reception appears ample all over Silicon Valley, except for two areas that are known dead spots. The network strength, 1XrTT, and EV-DO indicators all appear in a row along the top of the display. These were somewhat misleading about what type of coverage we had at any given time.
Voice calls and service took a priority over data. In multiple instances we were able to hold voice calls, but not consistently access VCAST content in the same areas, with the same 1X and EV-DO icons displayed.
We used our friendly neighborhood Apple store, with its stainless steel box construction, to measure holding connectivity in a known weak area. The LG held calls here, but with frequent breaks in sound. This has not been the case with a Motorola e815 also tested in the same store.
The LG's overall sound quality is fantastic, which we expected given the size of the stereo speakers that make up the bulk of the hinge. Ring tones come through loud and clear, even at medium volume. When pushed to its limits the LG does produce some distortion, but such volume is rarely necessary, even in a crowded pub.
Speakerphone quality is equally good, as the same stereo speakers are pulling all the weight during the call. Microphone noise is minimal, and clarity on the receiving end of a call is very good.
The main earpiece suffers from the same issue most clamshells have - the need to press the edge of the shell into your ear. However, barring this, volume is more than acceptable. Once we adapted to placing the speaker against our ears properly, incoming calls were easy to hear at medium volume.
The 8100 was designed with music playback in mind, as it has clearly marked play/pause, next, and previous track buttons below the secondary display. However the phone does not ship with this feature enabled, and it must taken to a Verizon store for the the upgrade. Our test unit did not include the mp3 player.
Starting with a full charge, the 8100 stood up to 2.5 days of aggressive use. That included over 3 hours of calls, 20 text messages, a dozen pictures, and over 30 minutes of video playback courtesy of VCAST. Thanks to CDMA's low idle power draw, we were able to leave the phone on overnight during this period, anticipating the stray emergency call. EV-DO usage also seemed to impact the battery far less than anticipated. This sort of battery life means that misplacing the phone charger doesn't ruin things, but taking off for a long weekend without that charger is unfortunately not an option.