Mini Review of the Audiovox CDM-8600


The Audiovox CDM-8600 is a small clamshell design that I was given a chance to test for an hour or so over at Square One. Because this is a mini-review, I canít go into great detail about the phoneís user interface or feature set. My primary purpose was to evaluate the performance of the phone, and to examine some of its more obvious features.

Last Updated: 25-Apr-2004

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

General

The 8600 is a color screen phone, and the quality of the image is actually quite good, though according to specs, it only supports 16 colors. It seems to be visible in ambient light without the backlight on, but according to its owner the screen is nearly impossible to see in direct sunlight. The bringer the sunlight, the harder it is to see.

The external screen is quite narrow, but it sports multiple display lines. Unlike the ridiculous external display on the Sony-Ericsson Z200 (GSM) phone (which uses sideways scrolling) you can always see the full name or phone number of your caller on the 8600ís display.

The keypad is surprisingly good for a clamshell phone. While the keys seem at first flush (as it common in this type of design) they actually have a slight convex surface that makes them easy to feel with your fingertips. The keys have a very positive click to them, and key accuracy is excellent. Even the 4-way cursor ring feels better than similar arrangements on other phones Iíve recently tested.

The 8600 includes a speakerphone feature, but like many small phones these days it just isnít loud enough for anything other than use in quiet environments. The microphone sensitivity is not boosted when speakerphone mode is activated, and so the apparent purpose of this feature is to allow you to wait on hold without having to keep the phone pressed against your ear.

The phone provides a number of polyphonic ringtones, and some are surprisingly audible under noisy conditions. I tested the phone by putting it in its leather pouch on a belt, but even in a somewhat noisy Square One the ringer could be heard quite well. This assumes that you pick a loud ringer however, as the phone also includes quite a few musical ringtones that are only good for quiet environments at best.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

Incoming sound quality through the standard earpiece is loud, but like the Audiovox CDM-8300 that I tested last year it sounds very hollow and tinny. Despite having poor tonal balance however, the 8600 has excellent sound reproduction. Also like the 8300, the 8600 sounds quite acceptable when used with a good-quality earbud or headset. Outgoing sound quality is surprisingly good, and the phone seems to mute background noises well without mangling your voice.

RF performance seems to be one of the phoneís best attributes. It it easily blew my old Motorola ST-7868W out of the water. While I couldnít say for certain, I would expect the 8600 to perform almost as well as the Kyocera Blade, which so far has the best RF performance of any CDMA phone Iíve tested.

Based on this short test I find myself in a bit of quandary over the suitability of this phone. If incoming sound quality (in this case tonal balance) isnít a big deal for you, then the excellent RF performance, good outgoing sound quality, loud earpiece, and excellent keypad should make it a good choice. However, if the horrible tonal balance really grates on your nerves then none of the other positive attributes of the 8600 are going to make it seem any better. There are certainly better-sounding choices available from Bell Mobility (such as the Kyocera Slider).

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