Motorola RIZR Z8 review: Slide and bend

Martin Herodek, 10 January 2008.

The basics

The main menu displays as a nine icon grid or a list, with all items freely rearrangeable. Filling the contact list is quite straightforward upon a PC connection. The way contacts display can be set by first and last name, or company. When adding a new entry you don't have to go through all the available fields (more than 50 of them). You can use the few basic ones and add more according to your needs.

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The unusual home screen. Main menu and contact entry

When composing messages, a number of editing options are available (copy, remove, insert). The iTap editor is at hand of course, which can also be turned off. We do like it better than T9, for its superior user-friendliness and handling of new vocabulary entries. Keypress response is great when typing, once you master the alphanumeric keypad.

In the email department support for POP3, IMAP and SMTP is available. Downloading headers only or entire messages is user-configurable.

Along with the usual threefold combination of calendar views and several events to set (Appointment, Reminder, All day event and Anniversary), the calendar offers a setting for the home-screen indication, item size, snooze and advanced notification.

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The calendar

All these settings are available when saving a new calendar entry, along with the default fields the manufacturer deemed most frequently used. There are 5 ringing profiles, new ones can be added too and a Kill Filter can be applied to block calls and text from user defined numbers.

The Time application displays local and world time, and offers three alarm slots. Tasks, notes and a calculator are available in Z8 too, along with a File Manager and a voice recorder.

In case you're used to working with Office documents, PDF or ZIP files on the go, you'll need to install additional software on your Z8. We tested adding the "Documents To Go" application and it worked, though far from flawlessly.

Bored? No, thanks

The Z8 has a main 2 megapixel camera and a secondary VGA unit for video calls, which can also be used for taking pictures. The maximum image resolution available is 1600x1200 pixels. To take pictures with the primary camera, the slider has to be closed. Sliding the handset open activates the secondary VGA unit.

The process of operating the camera is quite straightforward, but it would've been way better to have the main unit operable with the slider open and the keypad available for quick access to the settings.

When taking pictures with the main camera, the interface is in landscape mode, with the soft keys used for choosing the desired settings. The left soft key is used for entering the settings menu, which will disappear upon confirmation leaving a number of status indicators at the bottom of the viewfinder (showing storage, picture size and quality, camera mode).

The dedicated camera key or the center of the navigation key serves as the capture button. The four ways of the navigation key are also assigned specific functions: Up will save the shot and open the Gallery, Down saves and launches the MMS editor to send the picture, Left saves and returns to viewfinder, while Right will discard the image.

The Z8 camera offers the usual set of features: four color effects, self timer, several white balance presets, adjustable shutter sound, picture size and picture quality settings. Video is recorded in 3GP format at a maximum QVGA resolution. There are three video size options.

There's more to be desired of the pictures taken with Z8. Color saturation is generally low, and the pictures are somewhat dark. The edge-to-edge sharpness is also uneven but that is normal for a mid-tier phone camera. Of course, since there is no auto focus, shooting close-ups is impossible.

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Motorola RIZR Z8
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Sample pictures outdoors and indoors

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Close ups

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Flash on

Staying on multimedia, the music player supports the AMR NB, XMF, MP3, AAC, AAC+, AAC Enhanced and MIDI formats. MP3 are played with variable bitrate, though handling files of higher than 320 kbps is problematic. The music content is automatically arranged in the library, tracks are sorted by artist, album and composer. The player can be minimized to run in the background and controlled with the volume rocker, the D-pad and the dedicated player key, which functions as play/pause. The now running track is displayed on the home screen, including running time indication.

"...The Z8 is based on some great novelties, but the implementation of the concepts is far from perfect. The choice of platform is most questionable when it comes to compatibility with third-party applications. Two things are unique about the Z8 - the kick-slide form factor and the non-touch UIQ platform..." <#AdRectangle#>

Music can be enjoyed on the loudspeaker, the standard wired headset or on Bluetooth headphones. The supplied wired headset is connected through the miniUSB port and works without problem. Only the microphone could've been a bit smaller.

Storing multimedia content follows a logical and easy to observe file structure. Audio files, videos and images are easy to access and comfortably at hand in the media gallery.

With watching videos it is a totally different story. You'll have to install a bunch of codecs, or even a brand new third party player, to enjoy your favorite clips.

The preinstalled MobiClip is there mostly for the Bourne Identity movie, which comes on the supplied 512 MB memory card. Once you've watched that one, the video player is pretty much doomed to oblivion.

Java support makes sure additional applications can further expand the functionality of your Z8. Having installed the downloaded application in Control Panel, it is available in the menu along with all the rest of the applications or games.

The RIZR Z8 comes with the Asphalt 2 game preinstalled. The system expandability is unlimited, provided you're lucky to get some of the titles you like running on the non-touch UIQ 3.1.

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How about some pocket Need4Speed?

Conclusion

The Z8 is based on some great novelties, but the implementation of the concepts is far from perfect. The choice of platform is most questionable when it comes to compatibility with third-party applications. Maybe the good old Windows Mobile or even Symbian S60 could've been the more straightforward choice. Though on a second thought, Motorola are deliberately evading positioning the Z8 as a smartphone.

It is more than obvious that the RIZR Z8 is fit enough to cater to the taste of the style minded, but on the other hand it could get easily buried in the multimedia niche.

On a different note, the Z8 deserves credit in quite a number of aspects. The splendid display is the most obvious starting point, the high-end data capability follows suit. The high-capacity memory card support and the stereo Bluetooth give it enviable music player abilities. Let's not forget the brand new interface, which healthily departs from the old Motorola looks and questionable user-friendliness.

Two things are unique about the Z8 - the kick-slide form factor and the non-touch UIQ platform. A smartphone of the least conservative looks, the RIZR Z8 is easily a class-in-its-own niche product. And then, pressure on it is coming from all ends - non-smart feature-packed handsets and smartphones alike.

We expect to see even more UIQ smartphone products by Motorola in the near future having in mind the recent acquisition of half of UIQ from Sony Ericsson. So the MotoRIZR Z8 might as well turn out a proof-of-concept platform that is yet to see development.