Review of the LG 8100


The LG 8100 is multi-media phone that supports a 1.3 megapixel camera, an MP3 player, streaming audio and video, and it has a price tag to match. However, as you'll read in this review, it fails in far too many core aspects to worth what they're charging for it.

The LG 8100 is available on Telus PCS.

Last Updated: 06-Sep-2006

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

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: For some strange reason the LG 8100 seemed to perform differently under different conditions. Over at Rockwood Mall, where Telus PCS signals are generally rather weak, the LG 8100 was easily out-performed by the Nokia 6265i. It barely performed better than my old Startac. However, down at Ikea on The Queensway (where none of the providers worked well) the LG 8100 could hold its own against the Nokia 6265i, and could sometimes hang onto a call where the Nokia could not.

I donít know quite what to make of that, but itís possible that under certain conditions the phone suffers from a type of interference that the Nokia is immune to. That being the case, I have to rate the LG 8100 has having slightly inferior RF performance to other Telus PCS phones (such as the Nokia 6265i). Nonetheless, the phone does perform very well in certain circumstances, so it isnít as bad as some CDMA phones Iíve tested over the last year or two.

Over-the-road Performance: When on the move the 8100 seems to produce a lot more audio disturbances than Iíve come accustomed to hearing on a phone with a Qualcomm chipset, and much more than on a typical Nokia phone. The disturbances can vary from mildly annoying to very weird.

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: The incoming audio is a bit peaky for my liking. This means that different parts of speech sound unnaturally louder than others, producing a piercing effect that makes you want to yank the phone away from your ear at times. The sound is anything but smooth and while you wonít have a hard time understanding your callers, you may find yourself wishing you werenít talking to them.

Sound Reproduction: This aspect of the phone also sub-par. Some voices sound okay under some circumstances, but most of the time the nuances of speech (and various other sundry sounds like beeps you hear before leaving a voicemail recording) sound oddly unnatural. Certainly the phone isnít quite as bad as some of the horrific CDMA models Iíve tested in the past, but given the overall quality of the vast majority of current CDMA models, this one just doesnít cut it.

The worst aspect of the sound is that it seems to go up and down in volume (quite noticeably) for no particular reason. I thought the phone Iíd tested was a lemon, but I checked around on the Internet and I found message after message from people complaining of exactly the same thing. Typically the volume can drop so low that youíll barely be able to heard your caller. It might spring back to normal on its own, but you typically have to end the call and start another one.

On the other hand, outgoing sound quality is actually quite good. In fact, this is one of the better CDMA phones for outgoing audio. It copes exceptionally well with loud background noises, such as an opened window while driving down the highway. Oddly it seems that each time I find a CDMA phone on which the outgoing audio is great, the incoming is horrible. I guess the LG 8100 didnít want to buck the trend.

Speakerphone: The speakers on the LG 8100 are quite good. Theyíre mounted at either end of the hinge and they produce relatively good reasonably good sound reproduction. Unfortunately they arenít very loud in speakerphone mode, and so the feature is really only useable in a very quiet environment.

A weird aspect of the speakerphone feature is that in order to switch between normal mode and speakerphone mode you must press AND HOLD the speaker button for about a second. This is annoying and not very intuitive. Another weird thing is that the phone doesnít switch back to normal mode after a call, and so if you were using speakerphone on your last call, youíll be using on your next call, whether you expect it or not. This is also annoying.

Voice Recorder: This is perhaps the worst voice recorder Iíve tried on a phone in the last year or two. The sound quality isnít that great and you can only record the incoming side of a conversation. You do not get the option of playing back voice notes through the standard earpiece, meaning that you must listen through the speakers. If you have a Bluetooth headset attached, the voice recordings are NOT sent to it, but rather they go through the speakers. If you have the phone set to vibrate only, the phone wonít even let you play a voice note (it just warns you that you are in vibrate mode). Once again, this is annoying.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: Ringtones are delivered through the excellent speakers and so they can be quite loud if you pick the right ones.

Keypad Design: The keys were easily accessible, they all pushed with a nice amount of tactile feel, and they did what they were supposed to do. I found the location of many of the keys, especially the BACK key, a little off-putting, but Iím sure youíd get used to the layout after using the phone for a while.

Display: The display was also quite nice, providing excellent images at 176 x 220 pixels. The outside display is also color, providing 128 x 128 pixels. The outside display can even show you what your camera is looking at, making it pretty easy to take self-portrait shots of oneself.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: The quality of this 1.3 megapixel camera is definitely sub-par. Shots are generally dark and there is a lot of noise in those dark areas (even in well-lit shots). Attempting to correct the darkness of a shot using software such as Photoshop simply brings up the noise and the pictures look awful. Compared to the Nokia E50 and Motorola i580 that I had along with me for comparison, the pictures from the LG 8100 were rather disappointing.

MP3 Player and Streaming Music: Luckily I got to try out an LG 8100 that was hooked up with a Spark plan that included the XM satellite radio feature. It works exceptionally well on the 8100 and the audio quality is at least as good as you get from a dedicated XM receiver. The MP3 player software was fine, though certainly not among the best out there, and well behind a typical iPod.

Conclusions

What can I say? I really donít like this phone. It has poor incoming sound quality, poor over-the-road performance, annoyances galore, a lack-luster camera, and a terrible voice recorder. Yes it does some things well, such as excellent outgoing sound quality, a nice screen, and great multimedia features like streaming audio and streaming video. However, the things it doesnít do well are core functions that a phone should do well first and foremost.

I must therefore recommend that, unless you are a card-carrying masochist, you avoid the LG 8100 like the plague. Itís rare that I come down so hard on a phone, and I donít take this lightly. The 8100 is just a bad piece of engineering, and given the price, there are plenty of other FAR BETTER choices for your money at Telus PCS.

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