Review of the Motorola 120x


The V120x is the 1X replacement for the V120c. Both phones share the same basic design and feature set, but are a little different in appearance. Unlike the V120c, the new V120x uses a Qualcomm chipset instead of a Motorola chipset.

Last Updated: 13-Dec-2002

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

General

Because the V120x is virtually identical to the V120c in terms of features and functionality, the bulk of this review is a word-for-word copy of the original review for the V120c. There are some differences, but if you've already read the review of the V120c, you can skip to the section entitled RF Performance and Audio Quality, as that section is brand new, and specific to the V120x.

The V120x is a fairly small phone, sporting the peanut shape that weíve seen on other Motorola models over the last couple of years. The menu structure carries on the style that now appears in virtually all Motorola products. This menu structure is light years better than what weíve seen from them in the past, and while it still has a way to go to rival Nokia, itís a worthwhile step in the right direction.

Perhaps the greatest attribute of the new menu scheme is a high degree of use customization. You can select any of the top-level menu commands for the two softkeys during idle. If you want the left key to access the Datebook, and the right key to access the Phonebook, then itís no problem. Itís completely up to you.

You can also change the order of the items appearing the main menu, and thus you can move the most commonly used features to the top or bottom, and move the lesser-used features to the middle. Perhaps the most powerful feature is the ability to assign just about any menu or sub-menu item to a 1- or 2-key numeric shortcut of your choice.

What I believe hampers the V120x the most however is its pitifully small screen. I don't particularly like the screen on the V120x, because itís too small, and it has tiny little pixels. However, compared to the V120c, it's much easier to read. The contrast is excellent, and the screen has a reflective backing that allows the display to be easily seen without the backlight in very dim conditions.

Although Motorola has endowed the phone with two font sizes, the larger font leaves you with just 2 lines of text, and the smaller font isnít that well designed. You only get 3 lines of text from that anyway.

The phonebook isnít all that great either. Itís identical to the one appearing most of the other new Motorola phones except the iDEN models. The iDEN group apparently had the right idea, and they did a much better job of implementing the phonebook concept. The concept implemented by the CDMA and GSM groups is really not much better than the primitive ďname and numberĒ scheme weíve had on phones for well over a decade.

The only modern addition to the Phonebook is Voice Dialing. This feature allows you to record a voice tag for a phone book entry, and then dial that entry by speaking the voice tag at a later time. It works fairly well, but this is true of virtually all phones that include a voice-dialing feature. The phone also supports voice commands, but in light of the user-definable numeric shortcuts, I find this feature of dubious value.

The phone supports Motorolaís proprietary iTAP technology for text entry. While it is very similar to T9 in many ways, I donít believe itís nearly as well implemented. It doesnít support a user dictionary, which means any words that arenít in the primary dictionary must be manually entered each and every time you use them. To its credit though, the V120x makes iTAP available at virtually all text input prompts, including the browser.

Keypad feel is quite good, though I wouldnít have minded having the keys a little softer. They provide good feedback, but some of the keys didn't work each time I pressed them, even though they felt like they worked.

I didnít try running the battery down to see how long it would last, but my overall impression was that battery life is rather short. Based on that limited experience, I would expect battery life of about 2 to 3 days of pure standby. That's not very long given the enormous size of the battery.

Like many other new Motorola phones, the V120x includes a voice recorder. You can use it to record your own voice, but it will not record the other end of a phone conversation. Since Motorola doesnít have this restriction in other phones, I can only assume that it is a feature that can be disabled at the request of the service provider. Fortunately, you can record your own voice while in a call, and so you can repeat the important information your caller is telling you. Still, it's a stupid compromise.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

RF Performance of the V120x is very good. It's slightly below that of the Ericsson T206, but since the performance of that phone is so good, it's hard to find fault with the ability of the V120x to pull in a signal. However, I went through two V120x phones trying to get rid of an apparent reception problem that had me thinking the phone was broken.

I noticed a lot of audio disturbances (hiccups if you like) that permeated virtually all the calls I made. They weren't serious interruptions, but they were annoying nonetheless. Disturbances such as these are most often caused by frame errors, and so I made simultaneous calls with my ST-7868W to see if the Field Test Screen registered any errors. Not only did it show 0% errors, I heard no such disturbances on that phone. Clearly there is something amiss with the V120x, but since it uses the same Qualcomm chipset as other recent CDMA phones, the cause of the problem is difficult to discern.

Regardless of the cause, the hiccups were annoying enough that I found the phone less than a pleasure to use, though I'll admit that many users probably won't give it much thought. How you respond to these hiccups is something you'll have to determine on your own I'm afraid.

Incoming audio quality was actually quite good (except for those hiccups). Tonal balance was excellent (as is usually the case on Motorola phones), and maximum earpiece volume was more than adequate. However, the V120x did not include the auto-leveling capabilities I liked so much on the Ericsson T206, and it didn't have enough headroom to turn up faint callers. For that reason, I often found myself at volume level 7 wishing that it went up a couple of more notches.

The phone doesn't feel quite as natural against my ear as other Motorola designs such as the P280. It is also difficult to find the sweet spot sometimes, though that sweet spot is definitely larger than on the V60c.

Outgoing audio quality is a little tinny, but overall it sounds quite decent. Like the T206 however, the V120x suffers from a problem that appears to be related to the noise suppression built into the CODEC. It isn't quite as bad at the T206, but that's probably because the microphone sits closer to your mouth on the V120x than on the Ericsson.

The type of background noise, and the type of voice, made a big difference. Female voices were better handled than male voices, as a rule. My voice in particular was adversely damaged by the background noise, even though the phone did a credible jog of suppressing that background noise.

Like the V120c before it, the V120x left me feeling a bit cold. While there seemed to be much to like, there was also much to dislike (such as the tiny screen, and poor outgoing audio quality). However, all that aside, I would rate the V120x as the second-best phone presently offered by Telus (just behind the T206, and slightly ahead of the V60c).

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