Motorola RAZR V3i - A Superb Addtion To The Line-Up
As the company that gave the world the slim cell phone, Motorola has been milking its Razr line for all it's worth. Besides coming in a multitude of colors, the Razr now has two CDMA versions: the Razr V3m and the Razr V3c; as well as a 3G GSM handset in the Razr V3x, and now a series of new models based on the Razr form factor. Yet even with such success, we're slightly perplexed by the Razr V3i. After the short life of the ill-received Rokr E1, we were wondering if Motorola would continue the Apple relationship. But Moto charged ahead with the Slvr L7 and now the V3i. While the iTunes Razr offers a huge improvement over the Rokr's boring design, it doesn't come without drawbacks. Besides patchy call caliber, dragging music player performance, and a sky-high 9 price tag with a two-year service plan, the V3i still has the annoying iTunes restrictions that turned us off to its predecessors. What's more, the form factor is getting to look somewhat old. In spite of these complaints, on the other hand, the combination of the world's most popular cell phone design with the world's most popular music downloading service will be music to many ears.
While it's descended directly from the original Razr, Cingular's Razr V3, the Razr V3i is more alike in appearance to the Razr V3m for Verizon. Acomparative the V3m, the V3i is somewhat bigger than the V3 at 2.1 by 3.9 by 0.54 inches, and it weighs a tad more at 3.5 ounces. It also shares the V3m's dark gray coloring, which is more elegant than the V3's normal silver hue (the V3i also comes in dark blue, maroon, and violet). Features on the front flap are standard for much of the Razr line. There's a one-inch (96x80 pixels) outside screen supporting 65,000 colors, and a small camera lens at the top of the hinge. There's still no camera flash, but the external display acts as a self-portrait viewfinder. The outside controls are the same also, with the voice commands button on the right spine and the volume rocker and smart key/camera shutter on the left spine. Acomparative with the V3m, Motorola was able to cram a Micro SD card slot into the V3i. We appreciate such an addition on a slim phone even if it means you'll have to remove the battery cover (but not the battery) to access it.
Fortunately, the V3i shows 262,000 colors on its 2.25-inch (176x220 pixels) main screen. Although the V3 supported the same number of hues, both the V3c and V3m reverted to 65,000 colors, a change we still don't make out. The color enhacement is welcome and graphics appear fairly sharp. We're not the biggest fans of the Motorola interface, but it is better looking here than on many of the company's phones. In standard Razr fashion, the navigation controls and backlit keypad buttons are completely level with the face of the handset, but raised ridges between the individual rows make them more tactile than on the original V3. A five-way navigation toggle doubles as a shortcut to user-defined functions. There are also two soft keys, a dedicated menu button, shortcut controls for the camera and iTunes player, and the talk and end/power keys. And as is the case with other slim phones, the flat controls take some getting used to.
The 1,000-name phone book holds six phone numbers and an e-mail address in each entry; an additional 250 fit on the SIM card. You also get photo caller ID and a alternative choice of 12 polyphonic ring tones (we were hoping for more). Basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a datebook, voice commands and dialing, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, and instant messaging. Higher-end offerings run the gamut from POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail support to full Bluetooth.
The iTunes experience on the V3i is unchanged from the Rokr and Slvr and will be familiar to iPod devotees. The interface isn't particularly flashy but it's functional and user-friendly. Opening the player takes you straight to the music library, where you can categorize songs by playlist, artist, album, and name. When playing music, the phone goes into standby mode although displaying onscreen soft controls and album art. Settings include shuffling of songs or albums, but it's poor the V3i doesn't offer an equalizer. Importing between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music stops automatically when you receive a call. Hang up and push the dedicated iTunes key, and your song picks up again from the point you left off. There's also an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone powered off.
As previously mentioned, the V3i retains the irritating iTunes restrictions found on its predecessors. You are able to download songs only through the included USB cable, and the V3i connects with only one computer at a time. There's no way to export iTunes music wirelessly, you can't listen to music through a Bluetooth headset, and you can't use iTunes tracks as ring tones. The strict 100-song storage limit hasn't changed either, and all songs must be saved on a Micro SD slot. The phone accepts cards up to 1GB in size, which is a okay thing since the V3i comes with only 5MB of integrated memory.
The 1.2-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions (1,224x768, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120), but other options are limited to an 8X zoom, six color effects, five exposure settings, and a self-timer. We were hoping for somewhat more from a megapixel camera, especially since you get five shutter sound choices besides a silent mode. The camcorder shoots MPEG-4 clips in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with sound and a 4X zoom. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at a few seconds; otherwise you can shoot as long as the on hand memory permits. Photo quality was about what we anticipated for a megapixel shooter. Colors and objects were distinct, but brighter hues were a bit washed out.
You can personalize the Razr V3i with a variety of wallpapers, screensavers, and color themes, together with the alternate choice to download more via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You can get more ring tones, too, as the V3i has a separate, generic Motorola-designed MP3 player that supports MP3 files. You can use stored tracks as ring tones, but since this second player isn't connected to the iTunes player in any way, you can't export files back and forth. You are able to store tracks on the Micro SD card or on the phone itself. As for games, demo versions of BlockBreaker Deluxe, Asphalt Urban GT, and Tetris are included, and but you must buy the full versions. And as always, other Java (J2ME) titles are on hand for purchase.
We tested the quad-band GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS) Razr V3i world phone in San Francisco using Cingular's service. Call caliber was pretty good but we noticed voices sounded slightly fuzzy sometimes. Also, while we had no interference from other electronic devices, some static crept in on a few times. And as with previous Razrs, the volume was a bit low. On their end, callers said we sounded fine and they didn't report significant problems. What's more, they said they could hear us clearly, and we had no problems being understood by a voice response system when calling on a busy street. Speakerphone calls were somewhat muffled but nothing too bothersome. We were able to connect to the Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset, and although volume was just a bit low, voices were clear. And although GPRS support is terrific, a phone like this terribly deserves EDGE compatibility.
As a music player, the Razr V3i is imperfect, although its use of iTunes at least makes the experience user-friendly. When we connected the phone to our computer, iTunes promptly recognized it and displayed a display that lets you adjust the settings and add content; an Autofill button gives you the alternative of letting iTunes randomly fill up the phone. We added about 400MB of music, and it took at least 20 minutes to import it all; that's extremely slow for USB 2.0. Once we had tracks on the V3i, navigating around the onboard iTunes interface was Also slow going, and songs sometimes took numerous seconds to start up when we manually skipped or selected tracks. Also, though you are able to adjust the volume and pause music although the phone is closed, there's no way to skip tracks unless it's open. On the plus side, tunes sounded rich and clear through the included headphones (and Motorola even supplies an adapter for normal headphones), and the built-in speaker offers a simple way to share music on the go. All round, the V3i's music-playing capability is a nice extra, but it's no replacement for a stand-alone MP3 player.
The Motorola Razr V3i has a rated talk time of six hours and a predicted standby time of 12 days. The Razr V3i went above 8 hours of talk time in our tests, for a surprising result of 8 hours and 20 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests the V3i has a digital SAR rating of watts per kilogram.
About the Author: Shi Stevens