LG Chocolate VX8550
At a Glance
LG Electronics Chocolate (LG 8550)
This mild revision to the popular LG Chocolate phone has plenty of multimedia options.
The VX8550--available from Verizon for $250 with a two-year contract--eschews a button-oriented navigational ring for a navigational wheel. I found the wheel a mixed blessing: It simplified navigation in some menus, but made it more onerous in others. Sometimes, I preferred to press the wheel like a four-way button in order to navigate up/down and left/right.
The top half of the VX8550 slides upward to reveal the phone's keypad. LG has added an extra row of buttons at the top of the keypad, for send, camera, and end/power. To use the phone for functions such as playing music, though, you have to push up the slider first so you can power the phone up.
The standard 3.5mm headphone jack is a welcome feature; and a new microSD card slot, protected by a sturdy cover, can handle 4GB high-capacity cards.
Otherwise, much remains the same: A 240-by-320-pixel, 11-line display with 262,000 colors; a 1.9-GHz CDMA PCS, 800-MHz CDMA (Digital Dual-Band) radio; high-speed EvDO support; a surprisingly capable 1.3-megapixel camera/camcorder with serious shutter lag; and stereo Bluetooth. The phone supports Web-based e-mail and instant messaging.
The phone sounded clear in my informal tests, even under windy conditions on a local street corner.
The four capacitive touch buttons include a dedicated speakerphone, which the first Chocolate lacked.
Audio sounded clear in my informal tests. In our formal talk-time battery tests, the VX8550 lasted 5 hours, 12 minutes--nearly twice as long as the first Chocolate.
On the back of the Chocolate, you'll find its speakers. Sliding the phone upward reveals its 1.3-megapixel camera and camcorder.
The included V Cast Music service charges $1.99 and up for music downloads from Verizon. You'll also get charged for airtime minutes for the download, unless you step up to the VPak music and video service, at $15 per month.
This Chocolate may not be the best platform for handling multimedia or messaging: The lack of a keyboard makes texting difficult at best, and the interface for music playback lacks the finesse of those on competing phones such as the Nokia N95.
Melissa J. Perenson