Motorola certainly seems keen to move away from the slim elegance of its RAZR series these days.
The Z10 is a chunky, manly sort of phone that weighs in at a testosterone-affirming 119g. If a sallow-cheeked hoodie fancies his chances and makes a grab for it, you should be able to lay him flat with a swift swing with this.
The follow-up to last year’s video-centred Z8 adds a few additional features and a classier, more business-like design, though it retains the earlier phone’s wacky-looking broken backed case.
The idea behind this is that it brings the microphone ever so slightly closer to the mouth, thus allowing it to work more efficiently and cut out extraneous background noise. In practise of course, no-one really notices this, but everyone notices the look-at-me design.
It feels sturdy enough, despite the slight give at the hinge, so you don’t get the feeling it’s likely to fall apart on you, but despite the obvious engineering effort that’s gone into it, you have to wonder if it’s really worth it.
The screen isn’t huge, but then the iPhone has pretty much redefined the parameters of mobile phone screens.
But at 34x46mm it’s a goodly size, very clear with 16m colours, and at a pinch you could even watch those full-length movies Motorola is offering through the pricey new download service they’ve forged with Paramount pictures.
However, both the numeric keypad and ‘soft’ keys beneath the screen are some of the worst we’ve used for a while. Insensitive and unresponsive, the buttons are awkward to press, require a lot of pressure and the feedback is so minimal you’re not always sure if you’ve actually pressed them.
While there’s an argument that insensitive buttons might be useful on a candybar design, there’s no obvious advantage to having them on a slider and they seriously hamper the use of what could have been a seriously fun phone.
The Z10 uses the Symbian 9 OS and, like most Symbian models, it never seems to be in a hurry to show you around the menus.
The interface opens with a menu of the most popular apps (messaging, contacts, calendar, profiles, media and the internet via soft key) though there’s a dedicated menu key next to the D-pad which offers a full icon-based menu.
Pride of place on the menu is the camera, which curiously is designed to be used in phone closed position. It’s reasonably quick to get to via the shutter button on the side, but pressing this with the phone open will default to the VGA camera mounted on the front for 3G video calling.
While it’s not clear why Motorola might have chosen this option, the pictures taken with the 3.2 megapixel camera were generally pretty good; sharp and clear with rich colours and a decent sense of perspective.
The fact that you can switch the camera on in a couple of seconds is also a plus for quick snaps. The LED photolight is bright, but subject to the usual limitations – if you ain’t close to your subject, you ain’t getting a well-lit picture.
Like most camphones, video recording isn’t of quite the same quality as stills, but it’s better than some others at this level and playback is fairly smooth at 30 frames per second.
Decent music player
There’s a host of photo and video editing options. Unusually, you can extract individual pics from video footage, add subtitles and a soundtrack to make your own mini movies and upload them to the internet direct from the phone via the ShoZu upload service.
It comes with a 1GB SD Micro card preloaded with the Bourne movie trilogy, and will be able to handle SD cards of up to 32GB capacity (when they start making them that is). That’s enough room for up to 200 hours of films on the go.
The music player is decent enough, if not as well specced as, say, Sony Ericsson’s Walkman devices. You can search for tracks by name, artist, album or playlist but there’s no graphic equaliser option to tailor the sound to your preferences and no FM radio either.
You can add tracks either by drag and drop on your PC or by using Motorola’s PCSync software. Mac users are out of luck however since there’s no support for them.
The bundled headphones are a bit better than most pre-supplied models with a reasonable level of bass and a generally even tone.
Unfortunately, you can’t add your own headphones to the mini-USB port without an adaptor, though you could use stereo Bluetooth ’phones for wireless listening. There’s a large speaker on the front however, which is louder and fuller than most, though this being a mobile phone, you won’t be shaking any rooms with it.
It’s a 3G phone, and packs 3.6Mbps of HSDPA – not the very fastest available perhaps, but good enough to be up there with the big boys for reasonably speedy downloads. The inclusion of Wi-Fi would have improved things however, especially for up or downloading video.
Synch with Sky +
Browsing however is a breeze via the Opera 8.65 browser which includes zooming.
The bundled Sky TV app allows you to plan your viewing and even programme your Sky + box from the handset and there’s also extra video support with vTap, which allows you to browse and view online video content from various sources. As a Symbian phone of course, there’s also a whole world of additional apps available for download.
The Z10’s video options and distinctive design make it stand out but while we can forgive its chunky proportions and occasionally eccentric useability issues, it’s let down badly by that unresponsive keypad.
Call quality: 9
Value for money: 7