Motorola RIZR Z8 review: Slide and bend
Handling the phone
The solid feel and nice resistance of the sliding mechanism are worth commending. The slider is firm and secure in both open and closed position, no irritating wobbles. The bend hinge is a different story: even with the slider closed it will still fold over, causing a visible rift between the display and the keypad. Other than that, the hinge seems sturdy enough, not too loose or shaky. The question is how it will put up with a few months of intensive usage.
Though frankly driven by looks for the most part, the slide and bend action does have some purpose - it addresses the typical slider disproportion and makes the handset more ergonomic in calls.
At the top of the slider we have the VGA video-call camera, the earpiece and the handsfree microphone. Beneath them is one of the Z8 true goodies: the 2.2" TFT display of 16 million colors and QVGA resolution. Brightness can be adjusted in seven steps and a screensaver is activated upon a set interval.
You can change the interface appearance by varying the color themes. The RIZR Z8 has two of them, though few are likely to ever prefer the white one over the default black and green combo that goes perfectly well with the phone's exterior.
Readability is excellent in sunlight and, overall, the display is quite successful.
Beneath the display is the round navigation key. There's a threesome of buttons on both of its sides: two soft keys, Home (menu) and Clear key, as well as the Call and End keys. The keys on this flatbed control pad are separated by tiny rubber ridges for better touch orientation. Another rubber strip is placed right above the D-pad serving as a thumb-rest for opening the slider.
Sliding the Z8 open reveals the alphanumeric keypad shouldered by the omnipresent Motorola chin, well-known ever since the very first RAZR came to life. Within it a loudspeaker and a small status LED - indicating battery charge - are incorporated.
The alphanumeric keypad is typical flatbed, though little curved given the kick-slider form factor. It's all a glossy membrane with individual keys separated by rubber ridges, which do provide some touch orientation. The good backlighting does help usability, but overall the keypad does require quite some time getting used to.
The upper row of keys are not so easy to reach due to the insufficient headroom, the chin stands in the way to the bottom row. The stroke is minimal, which some may like, but tactile feedback could've been better. Both the control and alphanumeric keys are quite rigid and require rather firm presses.
Typing on the Z8 does require some practice and you're likely to eventually get the hang of the alphanumeric keypad. The D-pad however was a nightmare. Wrong presses just didn't seem to end; the directions should've been more distinct and less prone to mixing up. On a different note, response to keypresses is commendably fast.
RIZR Z8 is undoubtedly a style-driven handset and the shiny metal knobs at the bottom corners of the keypad do raise brows. They are the tiny terminals that help the handset determine slider position and placing them out of the user's sight shouldn't have been a great engineering challenge. The tiny hole in the right one, visible upon a closer inspection, is the mouthpiece.
All the handset's got to offer comes in the fairly good dimensions of 50.7 x 109.7 x 15.3 mm, and 112 g weight. For a classic slider these are on the bulkier side, but the Z8 is a Symbian smartphone, which is a good enough excuse.
|"...The Z8 doesn't have touchscreen support and the control pad is your only option for working with the application interface. It's kinda irritating to look at icons on the screen and not being able to use them, plus some functions..."|
Connecting with the world
The Z8 is an above average performer in terms of connectivity - GPRS, EDGE and HSDPA - it has it all. The only prominent absence is Wi-Fi. We can't help the feeling that the ignoring of Wi-Fi is an ill turn for Motorola.
Short range connectivity is courtesy of Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP and AVRCP (remote control) support. PC connectivity is available through the supplied miniUSB cable, the connection modes available are modem, phone management and Mass Storage with the memory card inserted. In this mode speed varies from 750 KB/s for writing to 830 KB/s for reading. A card reader seems the better option for putting stuff on your memory card as the read/write speeds are way faster. The battery can be charged off the USB cable.
USB charging is hassle free however bear in mind that the Motorola Z8 is incompatible with some miniUSB chargers. A closer inspection of the supplied charger revealed that its output is lower - 850 mA instead of 1 A. In case you have a charger of the second type at hand, be warned that it's not to be used with your Z8.
Houston, we have a problem
The RIZR Z8 is powered by a 330 MHz processor and makes use of 50 MB RAM. The user available storage memory is 80 MB, expandable via the microSD slot. System speed is relatively good and users are up against a stable, problem-free operation.
Most of the shortcomings of Z8 are not much of a burden and we can even live with the lack of WLAN support. The worst news is still to come though. Motorola RIZR Z8 is based on Symbian 9.2 UIQ 3.1, for which there are not as many applications available in the first place, as for - say - Symbian S60.
That wouldn't have been such a drawback, had it been possible to get most of the existing applications running off UIQ. Quite a few attempts at installing third-party UIQ software went up in smoke.
When we eventually made it - and even got the thingy going - it was another disaster. The Z8 doesn't have touchscreen support and the control pad is your only option for working with the application interface. It's kinda irritating to look at icons on the screen and not being able to use them, plus some functions - even essential and irreplaceable ones - are not accessible by way of the control and navigation keys.
We don't wish to make it appear worse than it actually is and in day-to-day use things may not be that hopelessly dismal. But what we have is proclaimed simplicity, which all of a sudden faces potential users with a handful of challenges.
Mobile forums on the Internet will sure be a vital resource for Z8 owners but some challenges won't be properly addressed unless a firmware update is available to alleviate the situation.