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Review: Rizr Z3 slim and well-performing

Story Highlights

• Striking design with a great display and navigation controls
• Rizr Z3 marks Motorola's first attempt at slider design
• Shaky speakerphone quality, camera takes so-so pictures
By Kent German
CNET.com
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(CNET.comexternal link) -- Ever since it introduced its popular Razr phone, Motorola has done everything it can to capitalize on two trends: thin phones, and a vowel-dropping naming convention.

After the Razr and the bizarrely named Krzr, Motorola now gives us the Rizr Z3 (it's a slider phone, so it rises up, get it?). While we thought the pretty Krzr put the Razr's design to shame, we now realize that we spoke too soon.

In fact, it's the Rizr that should compete in a cell phone beauty contest. Yes, we're focusing on design here, but even Motorola admits that all of its thin handsets are design-first models. Fortunately the Rizr also offers decent call quality, and while its feature set offers nothing new, it's still pretty respectable.

The GSM Rizr isn't offered by a U.S. carrier at the time of this writing, but you can get it unlocked for around $300 or so. Hopefully, we'll see a price break soon as that's a bit much for what the phone offers.

Slider phones have been popular for a few months now, and the Rizr marks Motorola's first attempt at the slider design trend. One the whole, it's a solid achievement on Moto's part, and the Rizr manages to be not only lovely but also user-friendly as well.

We particularly like the blue color scheme and the solid slider mechanism. We could open and close the phone easily with one hand, but the spring-assisted movement was stiff enough for us to exert some effort. Also, there's a small thumb grip just below the display that makes opening and closing the phone a breeze.

The Rizr is slightly taller and wider (4.15x1.79x0.62 inches) than the Krzr (4.05x1.73x0.67 inches) but it also manages to be the tiniest bit thinner.

And while the slider design adds more weight (4.05 ounces as opposed to the Krzr's 3.3 ounces) the extra heft gives the Rizr a more solid feel in the hand. Just be aware that like all slider phones, the Rizr won't cradle the curve of your head like the flip phone Krzr (Read reviewexternal link).

We're very pleased that Motorola chose a 262,000-color display for the Krzr. The improvement over the 65,000-color display on the Krzr is obvious, as text is readable and colors pop. Even Moto's dull Menu interface looks rich and vibrant. You can change the backlighting time and the brightness but no other options are customizable.

Motorola also did wonders with the navigation array. Since the five-way toggle doesn't have to cram it behind a front flap (like on the Razr and Krzr), Moto was able to give it some texture by raising it slightly above the surface of the phone.

As a result, it's much easier to use than on its sibling models and our finger didn't slide around nearly as much. And as expected, the toggle can be set as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. Unfortunately, the other navigation buttons -- two soft keys, a Web browser shortcut, a Clear key, and the Talk and End/Power buttons -- are rather small with no clear separation between them.

The keypad buttons are on par with the Krzr. Though they are flat with the surface of the phone due to the slider design, raised ridges between the individual keys give them more definition than on the original Razr (Read review).

We also like the large numbers and bright backlighting. Our only real complaint is that the top row of buttons is rather close to the bottom end of the slider. Our finger misfired on a couple of occasions.

A voice-dialing button, a camera shutter, and a mini-USB/charger port/headset jack sit on the right spine, while a volume rocker and the Motorola Smart key sit on the left spine. Unfortunately, the buttons are rather slick.

The camera and flash sit on the top rear face, but sadly, there's no self-portrait mirror. The rear of the sliding face has an attractive swirled design that adds a nice touch.

As we said earlier, the Rizr doesn't offer any feature surprises, but it remains a satisfying choice for a midrange phone.

First, however, we'll present the basics. Each contact in the Krzr's Phone Book holds six phone numbers, three e-mails, a Web site URL, three street addresses, a nickname, and a birthday (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can organize contacts into groups, or pair them with a photo or one of 34 (24-chord) polyphonic ring tones for caller ID.

Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a voice recorder, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, and a calculator. On the higher end, there is a speakerphone, voice dialing and commands, USB 1.1 connectivity, an integrated Google Mobile application, POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail, full Bluetooth, and PC syncing.

Bluetooth is onboard as well, but its options are limited. At 23MB, the onboard usable memory is a bit skimpy, but a microSD card slot gives you more room for cards up to a 1GB. On the downside, the card slot is located behind the battery cover, which is tricky to pry off.

Like the GSM Krzr K1 (but not the CDMA Krzr K1m), the Rizr has a 2-megapixel camera. You can take MPEG4 pictures in four sizes (2 megapixel, 1.3 megapixel, 640x80 pixels, and 320x240 pixels), and another innovation offers you a selection of three quality settings.

Other features include a multishot option, an adjustable exposure setting, a self-timer, six color effects, five lighting choices, an 8x zoom, and five shutter sounds (plus a silent option). The camcorder shoots MPEG4 clips in two resolutions (176x144 pixels and 128x96 pixels) with sound; editing options are similar to the still camera.

Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at six seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. Image quality was poor for a 2-megapixel camera. Images were bit blurry, and colors weren't always sharp. Also, shots were too dark.

You can personalize the Rizr with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, menu styles, and color skins. If you want more options or more ring tones, you always can download them via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Gamers get two Java (J2ME) titles: BlockBreaker Deluxe and Platinum Sudoku. The Rizr also offers a digital music player that plays AAC, AAC+, and MP3 files.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) world phone in San Francisco using Cingular's service. Call quality was on par with the GSM Krzr K1, voices sounded natural, and there was no background hiss or static. Even better, the volume level was much better than on the Razr.

Callers said we sounded fine, and they couldn't always tell we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone calls weren't as satisfactory; voice quality was somewhat muffled with a slight echoed effect. On the other hand, Bluetooth calls sounded better.

The Motorola Rizr has a rated battery life of 6.6 hours talk time and 14.6 days standby time. In our tests, we got a very respectable 6.5 hours of talk time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rizr has a digital SAR rating of 1.02 watts per kilogram.


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