The brilliant huge display is not the only characteristic the new Panasonic VS3 is going to attract customers' attention with. It also offers a remarkable design, a clamshell auto-open construction, a megapixel camera and a solid functional construction.
It was not that long ago, when the color display on a mobile phone was considered unneeded and due to its poor imaging abilities people preferred to stick to the still more practical at that time monochrome display. Today the color display is a standard and its quality is being constantly improved. Modern displays are getting finer and more colorful every day. Today's mobiles are expected to be able to display the obligatory 65K colors. Provided they would like to stand out, they should manage then 262K. Now compare: the new VS3 clamshell from Panasonic is able to display the stunning 16 millions of colors. What's more, it does so on a huge surface with an extremely fine resolution.
This year's new releases from Panasonic in the area of the mobile phones could seem quite dull at first sight. All clamshells that were presented at the 3GSM congress in Cannes in February this year feature similar design and the same constructional principal. Yet, the offer is pretty rich.
The central model is the perfectly equipped Panasonic VS7. It is a clamshell with an excellent big inner display, which is accompanied by a small outer display. The body of the phone is extremely thin. Its equipment, however, is rich including a megapixel camera. A little bit lower in the hierarchy is the VS3 model, which we are going to present in detail in this review. Unlike Panasonic's top model, VS3 has no outer display; it is equipped with an info diode, instead. The body of the phone remains unchanged as well as the inner display and the camera. Certain lighter differences could be expected in the functional menu. Unfortunately, we are not able to specify them here for we have not been given the exact characteristics of the VS7 model yet.
Two other phones - the tough SA6 and SA7 models - derive from the models mentioned above. Understandably, they feature different and more rugged covers with gum edges. In terms of functionality, however, they are identical to VS3 and respectively VS7. An interesting conception has been launched with the MX6 and MX7 models. They also stem from the two basic phone types, but are thicker by a millimeter. Moreover, they feature special accumulators of doubled capacity, which are expected to considerably prolong the stand-by time of the device after a single recharge.
Panasonic VS3 got over me almost immediately. This thin cuboid with sharp edges and utterly even covers may look a bit much too conservative, but in no case will you mistake it for some other mobile phone on the market. Its design could only be described as modern and descent, with certain provocative elements. The new Panasonic mobile simply brings a pleasant dose of diversity in the sea of round-edged clam shells.
The phone's size in numbers is 96 × 46 × 20 mm. The 2 cm thickness can be measured in the area of the camera lens only. The width between the front and the back cover's sides opposite to the lens is just about 18 mm, which makes the phone look really thin. Although one feels comfortable when holding the phone, when opened, it tends to overweight forwards due to the length of its body. The device weighs 99 g.
The skeleton of Panasonic VS3 is made of silver-like plastics, but its front cover is basically a colorful plate, which can be replaced to user's will. To do so, simply unscrew the screws mounted in the four corners of the cover. The phone we obtained for the testing process had a white front cover with small gray dots and the manufacturer's logo in its bottom part. Unfortunately, we were not given any additional covers, nor did we get the necessary tools to make the replacement possible. Yet, it is quite probable that the final delivery package will include several colored covers as well as a tiny screwdriver, for these were a part of the phone's complete accessory package, as it was presented at this year's CeBIT. There was where we ourselves had the chance to practice a cover replacement.
Another constructional finesse of the phone is its flick mechanism. By pressing the button placed on the left side of the joint the device gets opened in a flashy way within a split second. The high speed is provided by the energy that accumulates in the spring of the joint, and is therefore conditioned by closing the phone in the classic way. Of course, the manual opening is not a problem either. We have already come across an identical mechanism in the X400 model.
When the phone gets closed, the arrestment of its front cover is accompanied by a loud click sound. What should not be heard, however, is the unpleasant creaking. The rest of the plastic parts of the device - incl. the keypad - are very solid and thus do not suffer from any undesired sound effects. As a matter of fact, we still have not seen the final version of the phone, so we'd better wait until the real evaluations are published.
The removable front cover is partly overlapped by an uplifted silver-like plastic platform, in which the camera lens, a tiny mirror for self-portraits and the info diode are imbedded. The info diode has been created to compensate the lack of an outer display and is able to light up in various colors. The light of the diode is relatively strong. The way it covers the entire surface of the front cover is impressive indeed. The spectacle is especially flashy at twilight.
Mounted on the left side of the device is the opening button as well as the gum cover of the system connector. As a result, the bottom part is basically plain - there is nothing else to be found here but a tiny system diode, which alerts you that the battery is being recharged. The right side, on the other hand, is pretty full. Here you will find the camera shutter key, the infrared port as well as the volume buttons, mounted a bit lower.
The back cover is perfectly even. In its top part you will find two gum juts, which prevent the phone from slipping and save it this way plenty of visible scratches. Mounted in the upper left corner of the back cover is the eyelet for interlacing a strip. A little bit lower to the right is the grid of the loud speaker and the cover of the external antenna connector.
The rest of the phone's back side is basically its removable cover. Under it you will find a lithium-ion accumulator, which is said to guarantee the device an average durability of up to 240 hours in a stand-by mode or 300 minutes of calls. Our testing model went on working for two days without having been switched off during the night, which I consider a top-class performance, having in mind the fact that it was constantly being tested. If used in the usual way, I dare say the phone will probably perform twice as well. In this respect, testing the MX6 and MX7 models could be an even more interesting activity to catch on.