The Motorola MOTORIZR Z8 is one of the most striking phones released this year. Built to impress, it presents a state-of-the-art feature set in a design that no other manufacturer has tried before.
Essentially this is a slider phone with a twist. As you open the Z8 up, the phone bends in the middle - cradling that much closer to the lines of your face as you make calls. The mechanism is ingenious and attention grabbing, and it also seems eminently robust.
The so-called "banana-phone" approach is not entirely new, as some may remember with the curved Nokia 8110, which caused a similar design stir back in 1996. However, Motorola has introduced something far more sophisticated.
Rather than using the etched-metal detailing of the RAZR, Motorola has instead gone for a brash combination of black plastic in the casing. A range of different plastic finishes are used, but the finishing touch is the yellow detailing that is used for the phone's accents.
A lemon-coloured stripe is positioned between the two halves of the slider, and the same bright colour is used for the rear hinge, keypad numerals, and joypad.
There is no debating this is an impressive top-of-the-range phone. It's built on the Symbian 9.2 UIQ 3.1 operating system, although it doesn't use the full touchscreen version of the OS adopted by Sony Ericsson's UIQ handsets.
The Z8 is a turbocharged 3G handset that can harness the extra download and surfing speed provided by HSDPA technology. There's a 2-megapixel camera with flash, and the Z8 has a sumptuous16-million colour 2.2-inch screen. But the real talent of this phone is multimedia....
The MOTORIZR Z8 hasn't just been designed to help you enjoy music, movies and downloaded video clips - lots of phones already do this. Thanks to clever marketing by Motorola this phone has been set up to show you the phone's talents from out of the box.
The Z8 has been launched in a special Movie Edition pack (with O2 and Vodafone contract tariffs). This throws in a sharp-looking Bluetooth stereo headset, plus a 512MB memory card that provides a full version of the action blockbuster The Bourne Identity.
The Matt Damon movie is a great bit of marketing. Being able to get "DVD quality" movies on memory cards is nothing new; they have been available for several years for certain compatible smartphones. But at £15-£25 a pop they have never become popular.
This phone provides the necessary software to show the technology, as well as a popular movie. It is a great foil for the superb processing and screen characteristics of the Z8.
The really clever stroke, however, is the headset. We have been banging on about stereo Bluetooth headsets for a long while now as being the perfect add-on for your multimedia phone, allowing you to listen to MP3 tracks and video downloads in full stereo, without the need for wires.
With the Z8, Motorola's S9 Bluetooth headset comes as standard. It looks smart, and gives great performance, and has its own rechargeable battery (which like the phone itself can be topped up by connecting to a USB port of your computer, if you don't have the mains charger to hand).
Although this is billed as an entertainment phone, what Motorola deliberately fail to big up is that the Z8 is actually a fully-fledged smartphone, and a rather interesting one at that. The R&D team beind the phone includes a number of key ex-Sendo staff, that were snapped up by Moto along with Sendo's patents when Sendo went under in 2005.
But this phone doesn't use the Series 60 platform that was used on the ill-fated Sendo X. Instead they have used the alternative Symbian UIQ platform. This is usually reserved for phones with stylus-controlled touchscreens - but here it used to on a phone that uses a conventional keypad, joystick and softkey interface.
It is speculated that the unusual choice of operating system has been used to provide a powerful enough engine to provide high-quality playback that this handset so ably provides.
But the bonus to the user, is that a range of additional applications could be added to this phone - circumnavigating, for instance, the fact that this handset, unlike some similarly priced handsets, does not provide SatNav software or a full suite of Office spreadsheet and word-processing utilities.
Another unusual aspect of the design is that the battery and the SIM are hidden under different covers. This means that you can change SIM without having to power down completely - although you still have to perform a soft reboot to change the network and number of the phone.
Although being about as good as LCD screens get, the display is still small, so you might think that it would be not a particularly good replacement for a cinema or TV. However, we were pleasantly surprised with the whole experience - particularly when using the Bourne Identity as the testing medium.
The motion is slick, and you have enough detail to follow the action, and the sound surrounds you even if you don't have surround sound. The round-the-neck black headset is also relatively discreet as you use it.
What do you do when you have had enough of the supplied movie? Well in addition to the video downloads that your network offer and streamed TV services, this phone also allows you to access satellite television.
Those with a suitable Sky agreement can use the phone to hook into the Sky Anytime service - providing you with access to Sky Mobile TV's 25-channels, and the ability to program your Sky+ service from wherever you happen to be.
Anyone can get a 30-day free trial of the basic service. In addition, Z8 users can tune into their own particular network's mobile TV offerings, several of which include Sky Mobile TV packages streamed over 3G.
MP3 playback also benefits from the all-inclusive wirefree experience. The memory card supplied uses half of the available memory (primarily for the movie), but you can swap it with other MicroSD card to give you more room for you favourite tracks.
Extra memory may also be useful for recording movies and stills with the built-in camera. There are two cameras in fact, but the one facing you as you look at the screen is designed for video conferencing. This unfortunately means that you have to close up the slider mechanism in order to take high quality stills.
The camera, with only two million pixels to play with, is rather short of on-paper resolution when compared to other luxury rivals. What's more there is no focus control or close-up capability - which limits the types of picture that can be taken with the camera. There is however a very useful flash.
Despite the limitations, the camera actually turns in some very decent looking pictures - proving once again that pixel count is not everything. Exposure is particularly well handled, providing landscape images that do not burn out in bright light, and portraits that show a good range of skintones.
Digital sharpness is not excessively applied, but close inspection of the images does show that there is not quite the detail that you would get from a top-of-the-range cameraphone.
The high quality screen and processing capabilities of this phone mean that it should be an excellent choice for those who love their games. Our Vodafone-badged review model came preloaded with Asphalt2, a motorbike racing game whose polished 3-D graphics give a good indication of what the Z8 is capable of, even if the gameplay itself is rather predictable.
There are nice handling touches on this phone, such as the fast-access icons on the standby screen which can be used to fire up applications and utilities without having to trawl through the main menu options. However, it is not a particularly user-friendly phone. Options are not clearly labeled, and it can be hard to sniff out the files that you want.
There's no two ways about it - the Z8 is a real head-turner. With the absence of features like autofocus on the camera, Wi-Fi connectivity and a video output connector, it is not a completely perfect all-round multimedia performer.
But it makes up with its individuality and has stacks of multimedia functionality for you to enjoy. It also comes in an extremely enticing package.