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Review: Motorola Z9

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Whoa. That was our first impression of the Z9's screen. It is brilliant and looks phenomenal in almost all lighting conditions. All the images, icons and text just popped off of the screen. It has one of the whitest whites I've ever seen from a cell phone display. Web pages are crisp and finely rendered. Colors are very accurate, and using the screen as a camera viewfinder is better than I've seen on stand-alone cameras. Sufficeto say, aside from the high smudge factor, the Z9s screen does not disappoint in the least.


Here's where we ran into some issues. The Z9 is a quad-band GSM/EDGE phone as well as dual-band WCDMA (850/1900). Even when we were in very well blanketed 3G signal areas, the Z9 had trouble holding onto a 3G signal. It would constantly waffle between EDGE and WCDMA, and any time we went indoors, the 3G signal would be lost entirely. Signal strength was all over the map. No bars, 5 bars, and everything in between. The Z9 performed okay in the NJ vault test. The signal issues we experienced did not seem to impact voice or data calls, though. We didn't drop or lose any calls, nor were any data sessions noticeable delayed. Motorola contends that we may have had a bum review unit. (If/when we receive a second review unit, we'll revise this portion of our review.)


The Z9's alert tones are ear-drum shatteringly loud. We're talking piss-off-the-neighbors-three-doors-down loud. It amazed me that it could be so loud, yet not distort or become fuzzy in any way. With the volume all the way up, there is no breakup in that tiny little speaker. The same goes for music played through the external speaker. I don't know what kind of wattage is running in the Z9, but it sounds like Motorola stuffed a Marshall stack in there. The earpiece volume is equally loud, but it's not as clear as we'd expect from Motorola. Many of the calls we made sounded like they were being filtered through a sock on our end. This is uncharacteristic for Motorola phones, which usually have crystal clear voice quality. The Z9 does not.

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The Z9 showed average battery life during our tests. With general usage, including some calls, some texts, some web browsing, some music playing, we were able to eke out 3 days of battery life. Using stereo Bluetooth headphones killed of the battery quickly, though, as did a lot of web browsing. You can get away for a weekend without the Z9's charger, but you should plan to keep usage to a minimum.


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