Virgin Media VM800 in-depth review -

Look and feel

It’s extraordinarily pink. You need to see it in the flesh to decide if it’s really for you. The phone feels solid and enjoyable to hold, though the screen is a little on the small side and low resolution. Great build quality that belies its low price.

Ease of use

QWERTY phones need great keyboards and this one doesn’t quite reach greatness. It’s not bad, but you need to type carefully, at least at first. The menus are a little confusing to begin with (setting the date is not in Settings but Clock!) but not impossible

Features

Given the price, it’s no surprise there’s no 3G, Wi-Fi or GPS. At least there’s Bluetooth. And the camera, music and video player are pretty basic, too

Performance

Apart from the data connection, which is naturally pretty slow, the phone performs reasonably well. Features are well executed, like the word prediction setting in text programs

Battery life

Although it has quite a few features, this isn’t a smartphone and the screen isn’t huge, so the battery life is strong – you shouldn’t need to recharge every day

 Virgin Media VM800 Review -
3

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:58:52 PM

6

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

6

out of 5

Ease of use

4

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Good looks and build quality. Great price

Cons:

No 3G, Wi-Fi or GPS

So you like texting, you send social networking updates and want something very cost-effective, even for surfing the internet. Ooh, and above all, it must be eye-poppingly pink. Well, have I got a phone for you?

Virgin Media’s own brand phone sports a QWERTY keyboard, competitive web tariff and the pinkest casing and keyboard you could imagine. The phone is available on pay-as-you-go (keenly priced at £49.99 including £10 of talktime) and providing you top up at a rate of £15 a month, it includes “unlimited” data. Of course, it’s not unlimited at all, but works out at 25MB a day, or up to 1GB a month, which is the same monthly cap as many data plans, and more than some others.

If you don’t top up with £15 a month, you pay just 30p a day for your 25MB, and only on the days you use the net. I’m calling attention to these prices because they’re a key part of the phone’s value.

Browse the web

Another thing to bear in mind is that, unsurprisingly in a phone this keenly priced, there’s no 3G, let alone WI-FI or GPS. So there are no fast data speeds, which is a shame but at least it means you’ll have to work at it or be very patient to use up your 25MB daily allowance. The phone includes the excellent Opera browser, which is great at making the most of a slow signal. Even so, you may find the speeds too limited to be enjoyable.

More surprisingly, at this price point, the phone does include Bluetooth, so you can chat to friends hands-free on a Bluetooth headset. The 2.2-inch screen is smaller than some rivals and isn’t particularly high-resolution.

 

The QWERTY keyboards on mobile phones vary hugely. BlackBerry is still unbeatable, though Nokia provides comfy and usable decks. This is far from terrible, but the slanted keys, though conveniently raised and well spaced, take some getting used to. It’s efficient for the most part, though it’s easy to go too fast to be accurate, which is frustrating and may leave you wishing you’d spent more on the phone to make it easier to input text, especially if you’re big on SMS and email. It also lacks the sophistications of, say, BlackBerry so it doesn’t automatically capitalise letters after a full stop.

Keep updated

The phone’s operating system is laid out as a grid of 28 menu shortcuts including the usual (messaging, internet, calendar etc) interspersed with less common ones like News, Weather and My Friends. News is a headline service that directs you online for the full stories while Weather grabs data from Accuweather. My Friends is a gateway to Bebo, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and more. All of these shortcuts lead to the internet, so maybe it won’t take that long to use the 25MB allowance, after all. There’s also Instant Messaging, in the form of Palringo.

 

All these shortcuts add up to a phone that, while never feeling like a smartphone, has at least a handful of apps. There’s an accelerometer in the handset, too, so the games respond to movement. These include a basic but oddly addictive labyrinth type game and another called Motorboat. This is very fast and unforgiving and features some of the most primitive graphics imaginable. You won’t fool yourself that you snagged a bargain iPhone when you play these games.

The camera is basic – two megapixels, no flash – and the results for still and video are of limited quality. No surprise there, then. But if you’re snapping in bright conditions and only want the pictures for Facebook, you might be okay.

The VM800 looks and feels good, and it’s a great price. But the limitations on hardware and features may take their toll on your patience.

The verdict

This is a budget phone with a cunning data tariff attached. If you update your status on Facebook and so on you’ll find it highly usable and fun. But you may feel the savings are soon outweighed by the limitations of the hardware and slow non-3G data speeds. Still, it’s a cute looking handset with a measure of fun built into it.

David Phelan