Review of the Motorola V400


The V400 is yet another variation on a theme. Iíve reviewed the V300 and the V220, which are all members of a long line of similar GSM clamshell phones from Motorola. Not surprisingly, many of the comments made here will echo those Iíve made previously for the other two phones.

 

The V400 is available on Fido.

Last Updated: 18-Jan-2005

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

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: I was only able to test the V400 on Fido, as I only had a pre-paid SIM to test it with. That meant I was unable to roam on Rogers to get onto 850 MHz. What I found pretty much reflected my experience with the other two V-series phones, and that was rather disappointing performance at 1900 MHz.

For Fido users who can roam on Rogers, this may not be a problem, as the other V-series phones had excellent 850 MHz performance (and likely so would the V400). For CityFido and CountryFido users however, who are stuck with purely 1900 MHz coverage, the V400 just doesnít cut it when it comes to RF sensitivity.

Over-the-road Performance: Like the other two V-series phone the V400 possesses what it likely the best over-the-road performance youíll find in any GSM phone. Handoffs are muted slightly, and so even if there is just as many as with other phones, youíll find it much less annoying. Overall the V400 was able to sustain pretty stable audio even in the face of constant handoffs and other network maladies while on-the-move.

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

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: This aspect of the phone is simply gorgeous, just like the other V-series phones Iíve tested. Many Motorola phones that Iíve tried in the past have been so endowed. There are very few other GSM phones that balance the audio as well as the V400.

Sound Reproduction: Iíd expected to be blown away by this aspect of the phoneís performance, as the other V-series phones were excellent in this regard. However, I ended up finding the sound a bit raspy compared to what Iíd remembered from before. This might have been because my copy of the phone was a lemon, but Iíd heard other people complain of similar things with their V400s.

Earpiece Volume: Earpiece volume is very disappointing. This aspect wasnít consistent on the V220 and V300, so it seems that some V-series phones are loud, and others are pathetically soft. Sadly my V400 was one of those pathetically soft phones, even on Fido, which has somewhat louder audio than Rogers.

The speakerphone feature was at least loud enough to be useable in a quiet environment, but it really exists only for limited use indoors. The speaker simply isnít loud enough to have a reasonable conversation if the room noise gets much above a slight din.

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

Support Features

Ringer Volume: Like the other V-series phones the V400 has a nice selection of musical ringtones that sound so good you could listen to them for entertainment. Unfortunately there isnít a super-loud ringer in bunch, and like the other V-series phones Iíve tested it really falls short in this regard. This isnít to say that the ringer on the V400 is unusable. The ringer is loud enough for many situations, but it will fail you in extremely noisy environments such a roadside, or in a crowded mall or nightclub.

Keypad Design: The keypad design of the V400 uses a reasonably traditional layout that is fairly easy to use, even without looking directly at it. Button feel is also reasonably good, and my overall impression of the keypad was very positive. I fall short of giving it an excellent rating simply because the keys were just a little mushy-feeling compared to better keypads Iíve tested in the past.

Headset: Headset output sounded great on my Samsung earbud, but the volume wasnít that high. When Iíd tested the V300, Iíd commented on it having poor earpiece volume (like the V400), but loud headset volume. The same does not appear to be true with the V400, meaning that you canít get away from the faintness of this phone, even by using a headset.

Display: Indoors the display was simply excellent. Colors were brilliant, and the pixels were sharp. However, like the other V-series phones the display wasnít easy to see outdoors in direct or indirect sunlight. It wasnít as bad as some of the early Ericsson phones, which presented little more than a big black hole where the display should have been when used outdoors. The V400 CAN be seen outdoors, but it isnít particularly easy.

Phonebook: Like virtually every Motorola phone sold, regardless of technology, the V400 is saddled with what amounts to an old design that needed updating years ago. It will store up to 5 numbers per name, but beyond that it will only store an email address. No street addresses, web pages, or text notes. Search capability is quite primitive, and it is limited to the simple sorts of things that virtually all cell phones can do.

Conclusions

I really thought that I would like the V400, based on my experience with the V300 and V220. However, perhaps due to the poor 1900 MHz performance, the slightly raspy sound quality, and the really low earpiece, speaker, and headset volumes, I found the phone far less useable than Iíd expected. Itís still a good solid phone with terrific tonal balance and over-the-road performance, but it falls short on too many other areas for me to recommend it to Fido-only users. Even for Rogers users the phone may prove to be too faint to hear well enough.

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