Review: Motorola i870
The external screen has excellent contrast for a color screen and is easily viewable in all lighting conditions, especially with its backlight activated. However it has a low resolution and low color bit depth that is reminiscent of the Palm IIIc or an 8-bit game system. Despite its "chunky" graphics, the external display is admirable compared to many that are impossible to use in direct sunlight.
The main display is bright, has nice color and excellent resolution. It has a bright backlight and anti-glare coating that makes it one of the best displays we've reviewed for use in bright sunlight and other outdoor conditions. In addition it is very responsive, yielding a smooth transition when panning with the camera or other animated tasks.
Not only does the i870 have a large external fin-style antenna, but that fin hides an extendable whip antenna as well. Despite the size of the fin antenna, the i870 has less than superior reception. There are ways to improve reception - pulling out the extendable antenna helps a bit. In addition, obeying the warning sticker previously mentioned and holding your hand away from the antenna also improve reception, but not significantly. Calls and even network signal are dropped farther from common dead zones than most other phones. Even in good conditions, call quality is not as clear as one would expect. The phone was able to hold a call in our bank-vault torture test, but not clearly.
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While call quality was disappointing, it was still usable most the time. The signal strength indicator was a fairly accurate predictor of reception and call quality.
Whether held to the ear or used as a speakerphone, the i870 proved clear and loud. The ear-piece is large and therefore easy to place over the ear for clear sound without any fiddling. There are no protrusions near the speaker and the top lid of the clamshell is well designed, allowing the phone to be held against the ear comfortably.
The speakerphone has a separate volume adjustment, and its default is rather soft. Boosting the volume to just half the maximum was loud enough for most situations, although it added a bit of "clipping" common to almost all speakerphones. Clipping is when a playback starts cutting out higher and lower frequencies at louder volume, this makes the audio sound choppy. This effect became worse as the speakerphone volume was set closer to maximum.
The i870 lasts at least 3 days on single charge, when used normal to heavy amounts for common functions such as calling, texting and taking pictures. Playing back mp3s or using a Bluetooth headset impacts battery life pretty seriously; expect less than 3 days if you use those two features often.
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