LG has improved the 1.3-megapixel CMOS camera functionality in the VX8100. You get a variety of editing functions, including an 8X zoom; five resolutions (1,280x960, 800x600, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120); a self-timer; a night mode; two shutter sounds, plus a silent option; and adjustments for brightness, white balance, and color effects. There's also a light, but when you're taking pictures with the flap open, you can't use the aforementioned key on the left spine to activate it. Instead, you must drill down into the menus to turn it on and off. Rather than automatically saving each shot, the VX8100 lets you either erase or save your snap, which is convenient because, like with many camera phones, you have to hold the VX8100 stock-still after you click Capture until the image appears on the screen--or else you risk a blurry mess. Images are acceptable, although they're obviously no substitute for those of a real digital camera when capturing important moments.
Despite the initial promises when the VX8100 was first shipped, it didn't come with an MP3 player. Of course, we were sufficiently miffed at the time, but that changed with the launch of Verizon's V Cast Music store. Now, the VX8100 is one of the Verizon handsets that supports the service, and an upgrade is available through the carrier. With access to Verizon's V Cast service, you can download and play a variety of streaming video and audio, but keep in mind that you will have to pay for it. Inside the VX8100, there is 4MB of built-in memory, enough to store up to 100 (15-second) 176x144-pixel video clips shot in the 3g2 format, viewable using QuickTime, or up to 100 still photos. We would have liked to see more integrated memory, and although the Mini SD card definitely helps, we are disappointed that the phone didn't ship with a memory card. Happily, you can transfer most kinds of files between the card and the phone, including pictures and video clips. Ring tones are an exception, since only the tones you buy from Verizon can be saved to the phone.
The LG VX8100 includes a variety of wallpaper, themes, and alert sounds, and you can use 16-character personalization banners. The VX8100 ships with a measly five monophonic and six 72-chord polyphonic ring tones. You can download and play polyphonic and MP3 ring tones available from Verizon's Get It Now download store, along with the usual assortment of screensavers, wallpaper, games, and so forth. There are no games included, not even demo versions of titles that are available through Get It Now.LG not only added a number of feature and function improvements to the VX8100, but the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) phone performed noticeably faster on Verizon's broadband EV-DO network than the VX8000 did in CNET Labs' tests in Manhattan. Pictures transmitted much more quickly, and best of all, lag time on loading and buffering V Cast video was faster. We had watched 30 seconds of a CNN news report on the VX8100 by the time the same clip on the LG VX8000 loaded and started to play. And thanks to LG's browser switch--to Verizon's Mobile Web 2.0 from OpenWave--Web pages loaded significantly faster as well. ESPN's MLB home page filled a full 20 seconds faster on the VX8100, for instance. V Cast still isn't nationwide, so make sure you get it in your area before you buy the phone.
We discerned little difference in earpiece quality between the two phones; most delivered loud and crisp conversations. The VX8100's side-mounted stereo speakers, however, were far louder than the speakers on the VX8000. On the other hand, the widely separate, side-firing VX8100 speakers produced a bit of an echo that was exacerbated when we cupped the handset in our palm or down on a desktop in an attempt at redirecting the sound. We tried pairing the phone to the Logitech Mobile Bluetooth headset and had no problems doing so. Ringer volume also was much louder on the VX8100, thanks to the side-mounted speakers.
LG dropped the ball a bit on battery life, however, stepping down to a 1,000mAh lithium from the 1,100mAh on the VX8000. As a result, the LG VX8100's talk time is rated at a still-robust 3.75 hours, but that's 40 minutes less than on the VX8000. Standby time is similarly shrunken by almost a day, 6.8 days instead of 7.6 days. In actual usage, we eked out 3.5 hours of talk time and 5.75 days of standby time. According to the FCC, the VX8100 has a digital SAR rating of 1.16 watts per kilogram.
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