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Review: Motorola ROKR E8

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Music is the raison d'̻tre of the E8. The big news is the E8 has 2 GB of built in memory, which can be supplemented by up to 4 GB via a microSD card Рor at least that's the limit Motorola lists on its specs. But since the E8 has a high capacity SD slot, it should be able to accommodate any microSD card up to 32 GB. I put in a new 8 GB card from Kingston and the E8 read it fine.

Once you get the microSD card inserted, the phone sees only the total aggregate memory, whether loading the phone with tunes using Windows Media Player 11 or Motorola's included Motorola Phone Tools v5 software, or playing back tracks. Neither of these pieces of software is iTunes, of course, so expect the usual fits-and-starts as you attempt to load songs into the phone, especially if you're new to non-iTunes music management.

E8 will accept and play back all popular formats including AAC and AAC+. We loaded WMA tracks from a Windows Vista PC and AAC tracks from a Mac, and the E8 didn't care one way or the other.

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You can locate tracks by song name, artist, playlist or recently played, you can shuffle play, play all and repeat all. An equalizer provides settings for classical, country, dance, techno, latin, pop, reggae, rock, treble boost, vocal booster and bhangra, as well as a simple bass boost if none of the genre settings are to your liking, and something called 3D stereo with seven settings. I wasn't curious enough to find out.

Music continues to play while you traverse the E8's other functions. But when you move to the main splash screen or another application, you lose all music controls. You can only stop the music from the Shortcuts menu from the main screen.

Once music starts playing, switch the phone into "lock." This turns off the battery-sucking LCD screen and, after around 30 seconds, the now useless touch controls.

The earphones are the E8's biggest problem. While not exactly Shures or Ultimate Ears, they fit and sound better than most bundled free earphones. But the switch hook does not double as a music pause control. Instead, pressing the switch hook slips the E8 into its useless Voice Command mode. We understand Motorola's motivation for enabling basic phone operations via voice; if only they worked.

The consequence of this poor design means that when you're bopping about grooving on your tunes with the phone in your pocket and you need the interact with the real world, you have to fish the phone out of your pocket, manipulate the near-microscopic spine slide out of its lock position and press the center action button to pause. Yikes. And, no, "pause" or "stop" aren't available voice commands.


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