Mini Review of the Motorola MPX200


The Motorola MPX200 looks like a fairly normal flip phone, except that itís a big thicker than most. However, lurking under that non-descript exterior is a fairly powerful PDA-phone with plenty of great features and a Microsoft operation system.

Last Updated: 02-Feb-2004

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

General

I didnít get very long to play with this phone, and so I wasnít able to concentrate very much time on the operating system. I didnít find it particularly intuitive, but that doesnít mean it wouldnít prove to be an excellent O/S once I got the hang of it. I therefore concentrated most of my efforts on testing what I call the core functionality of the phone. This includes RF performance, audio quality, etc, which is anything that affects how well this product works as a phone.

My first impression of the phone came from its appearance, which as far as flip phones go is very handsome. Some people may not appreciate the thickness of the phone when the clamshell is closed, but given the power this phone has it is certainly smaller than say an Ericsson P800 or P900.

The screen is fairly large, and seems to have pretty good resolution (176 x 220, 16-bit TFT). The backlight wasnít particularly bright, but the colors seemed vibrant and well-defined. The screen is easily visible in direct sunlight, but it isnít translucent enough to be easily seen in slightly dimmer conditions without the backlight. Moving from direct sunlight into shade for example made it extremely difficult to see the display without turning the backlight on.

The phone includes a fairly big speaker that is quite capable of playing MP3s and other audio sources at surprisingly high volumes. Because of that I thought that the speakerphone feature would also be quite impressive, but alas it is not. Like most phones with this feature, the speaker was only loud enough for use in a quiet environment, and only for such things and sitting on hold. I had no idea why the phone could play MP3s so much louder than what came in over the phone. Perhaps that is something Motorola can look into for future firmware releases.

Ringtones are provided via the aforementioned speaker. They are fairly loud for a phone that doesnít use a conventional piezoelectric sounder, but they just arenít quite loud enough to hear when the phone is in a pant pocket in a loud environment, such a busy shopping mall. It strikes me that someone interested in this type of phone would be much less inclined to be impressed by MP3- and WAV-based ringers, and more inclined to want something that works.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

Incoming sound quality is rather disappointing for a Motorola unit. While not all Motorola phones sound great, theyíve released enough great-sounding models to raise my expectations. The MPX200 has a somewhat hollow sound, and it becomes decided harsh when the volume is turned up. The good news is that you can turn it up quite a bit. Unlike many other Motorola models the MPX200 has exceptionally loud earpiece volume, and it was a match for my Nokia 6310i, even with its volume-boost feature in effect.

Outgoing sound quality is very smooth and free from peakiness or muddiness, but it lacks volume. You might find your callers telling you that you sound a little faint. It also picks up an inordinately large amount of background noise for a clamshell phone. This is very surprisingly considering the almost superhuman ability of the Motorola i730 (iDEN) phone to block out background noise. It never ceases to amaze me how something done so well by one Motorola division can be done so poorly by other. I have been told that the MPX200 isnít actually manufactured by Motorola, but I havenít been able to confirm that.

I have left RF performance to last, because it was singularly the most disappointing aspect of the phone. In fact, it has been quite some time since Iíve experienced such poor RF sensitivity. Only the Motorola V66 produced such horrendous results. To be absolutely sure we tested the phone against my Nokia 6310i multiple times, using both Fido and Rogers SIMs. It is POSSIBLE that the phone I tested was a lemon, but as Iíve noted many times before, I can only comment on the performance of the phone I get to test. Perhaps Iíll be able to test another MPX200 in the future to verify whether this poor RF is a trait of the model, or a problem with the specific phone I tried.

Because of the incredibly poor RF performance, and only lackluster audio quality, I canít really recommend this phone to anyone. As you must know by now, I strongly believe that a phone must perform well as a phone first and foremost. It matters little to me what else the phone is capable of if it canít be a half-descent phone. You may have different priorities than me, and if a poor performing phone doesnít bother you, then the MPX200 certainly looks like a phone you might be happy with.

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