Motorola ROKR E8 in-depth review -

Look and feel

The ROKR E8 is a striking-looking device and feels comfortable in the hand. The fascia draws you to the phone, because it is blank. It is also the latest phone to sport a touch-screen keypad.

Ease of use

The FastScroll navigation function makes the ROKR E8 fun to use. It works a little like the click-wheel on the second-generation iPod. Although FastScroll is something of a gimmick, it's surprisingly responsive and works very well.

 

Features

The device has good music features including a 3.5mm headset port, 2GB of internal memory plus a microSD card slot. However, there is no 3G and the camera is only two megapixels.

Performance

The camera is only two megapixels and as there is no Wi-Fi or 3G, the phone's download speeds are slow.

Battery life

The Motorola ROKR E8 offers 300 minutes of Talktime and 300 hours of standby time.

 Motorola ROKR E8 Review -
3

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:53:50 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

6

out of 5

Ease of use

6

out of 5

Features

6

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Good music features and a fun user interface.

Cons:

There?s no 3G and the camera is only two megapixels.

It has been a tumultuous year for Motorola, with high-profile boardroom wrangles more common than its high-profile phone launches. However, the manufacturer is hoping to draw attention back to the technology with its two major summer launches; the MOTO Z10 and the ROKR E8.

While the MOTO Z10 is a phone with video at its heart, the ROKR E8 is the most ambitious music device that Motorola has ever attempted.

Worryingly for Motorola, its first ever ROKR phone made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Before the appearance of the iPhone, the ROKR E1 was the first mobile phone to feature Apple’s iTunes software, so its launch was met with a fanfare of publicity.

Unfortunately, the phone fell short of the mark. Its design was plain, it took an age to download songs and it could only store a maximum of 100 tracks. A genuine iPod alternative it wasn’t.

So rather than trading on its music-brand heritage, the Motorola ROKR E8 has the formidable task of creating its own niche in a market full of cracking mobile music devices.


Motorola ROKR E8 - Look and feel

The ROKR E8 is certainly a striking-looking device, even if it is larger than it looks in the press photos. The phone’s footprint is actually a little larger than a BlackBerry Pearl. However, it is slimmer and feels fairly comfortable in the hand. It is a slick, solid, well put together device, with an attractive matt black aluminium rear casing and a glossy black fascia.

The fascia is the first thing that draws you to the phone, because it is blank. It’s like staring at a smoked glass coffee table. The only sign that there may be anything going on underneath that mysterious black façade are the regularly-spaced dimples that sit in the centre of each virtual key.

The ROKR E8 is the latest phone to sport a touch-screen keypad. There are no raised keys, but it’s a haptic keypad, so it vibrates when you touch a virtual key.

The beauty of touch-screen handsets is, in a word, their beauty, because there are no protruding keys to ruin the smooth aesthetic of the phone. As such, the ROKR E8 is striking in a minimalist way. In fact, with the phone in idle mode, the fascia is completely featureless apart from the striking silver FastScroll navigation pad.

 

Motorola ROKR E8 - ModeShift and FastScroll technology

By pressing any of the virtual keys on the ROKR E8, the phone springs to life, lighting up the letters and digits of the keypad and each of the special function keys.

It’s a nice visual trick, but the really clever bit is ModeShift, a variation on a technology which is appearing on a growing number of handsets this year.

With ModeShift, if you choose to access the ROKR E8’s music player – via the dedicated music key or the main menu – the phone’s keypad transforms into a music player control pad and the music menu appears on the display.

Hitherto unseen music control keys like fast forward, rewind and play, plus shuffle and continuous loop, the keys are magically illuminated.

Similarly, when you activate the ROKR E8’s camera, the keypad transforms to reveal two zoom keys, plus direct access to your photos and videos, and also a dedicated camcorder access button. It’s all clever stuff and prevents you faffing about trying to locate the keys you need; a genuine problem with today’s lavishly endowed phones.

Another neat addition is the FastScroll navigation, which serves to make the ROKR E8 a fun phone to use.

With FastScroll, you use the phone’s crescent-shaped virtual navigation wheel to navigate between menu options. It works a little like the click-wheel on the second-generation iPod.

Roll your phone clockwise and you’ll move right to left through the menu options, and roll your thumb anti-clockwise to reverse your way through the menu options. Keep your thumb pressed down and you can speed up the menu scroll process, and you simply lift your thumb off when you have landed on the menu option you require. Although FastScroll is something of a gimmick, it’s surprisingly responsive and works very well.

Motorola ROKR E8 - Music capabilities

The ROKR E8’s music player has some real strengths and some obvious weaknesses.

As you’d expect, it’s a marked improvement on the original ROKR. Essential music features include a 3.5mm headset port, 2GB of internal memory (plus the means to expand with a microSD slot), a user-friendly music-management system and the ability to play tracks in either MP3 or AAC format. As for music quality, it’s as good as any other handset we’ve tested.

The obvious drawback is the phone’s music download speed. There’s no Wi-Fi or 3G, so you have to make do with EDGE speeds for downloading tracks, which is a lot slower. Considering that the flagship music phones from the opposition all arrive with HSDPA data speeds and, often, Wi-Fi as standard, this does seem a strange omission.

Of course, there is a USB connection, so if you simply intend to transfer your PC-stored tracks to the device, then this happens speedily enough.

 

Motorola ROKR E8 - The verdict

Although the user interface is undeniably clever, the success of the ROKR E8 will almost certainly come down to two factors; its design appeal and its music player.

While the E8 is well put together, the design appeal will ultimately be dependent on how consumers feel about the phone’s dimensions.

As for the music player, there are a lot of positives, but the slow data speeds are a let down.

As such, the ROKR E8 deserves to be a hit, but lacks the punch to be a classic.