Motorola RAZR VE20 Review

Introduction and Design
This is a CDMA phone offered with  Sprint

After being left behind on the original RAZR, Sprint has snapped up exclusivity on the latest incarnation, the VE20.  With a narrower form factor and upgrades to the keypad, display, camera and multimedia functions the VE20 is a noticeable step up from the V3m.  Motorola continues to put a premium on design and materials and it shows; it is sleek and modern in appearance, though its bloodlines are unmistakable.  Scarlet accents give some personality to the phone, though with its two tone silver housing the VE20 is a buckeye leaf away from a special edition.  The RAZR line has placed form over function to a fault though; will the VE20 finally break this mold?

Included in the box you will find: Li-Ion battery, MicroUSB AC adapter, 256MB microSD card


If a K1m and V3m spawned a child that was raised by the V9m it would be the VE20.  It is narrower than the RAZR and shorter than the KRZR, but retains the infamous chin hump.  The KRZR’s hidden music controls are replaced by a touch sensitive strip on the large outer display and the internal screen is QVGA, both features lifted directly from the V9m.

You can compare the Motorola VE20 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

All three of those phones were noticeably dark however, whereas the VE20 can only be described as bright.  Even Verizon’s silver V3c was darker than the VE20, and its materials reinforce the brightness.  The front is mirrored, the back is milled aluminum and there are no dark accents throughout the phone.  It has a few strategically placed scarlet red accents to break up the silver monotony, but they don’t do enough to dampen the brightness of the VE20.  The silver housing is actually two-tone, with the chin hump and rear housing being grayer, and the battery door, flip and inside housing being silver.

The design is minimal and understated, with clean lines and premium materials.  The mirrored front produces flawless reflections, though it greatly hampers visibility of the outer display.  It also collects fingerprints, which is exacerbated by the touch sensitive controls on the display.  The milled aluminum battery door is nearly as light as paper.  The main housing on the front, back and flip, is constructed of high quality plastic that is smooth but not slippery.  Overall the VE20 feels great in the hand and build quality is generally good.  However, there are a few concerns we had.  There is some play in the flip when closed, and the side Smart and Camera keys felt a bit loose.

The outer display is smaller than the V9m, but is still a healthy 1.6” and 120x160 in resolution.  In darkness it is easily readable, but when light is introduced into the equation it becomes cloudy due to the mirrored front.  The internal display is similar to the 2.2” QVGA one found on the V9m, but upgrades to 262K colors.  This makes the LCD much crisper and Motorola’s excellent collection of preloaded screensavers look fantastic.  It is easily readable in even direct sunlight.

The keypad is similar to the KRZR and RAZR2, with raised printing instead of laser etching.   The keys are aligned with a slight curve to the rows, similar in principle to a BlackBerry keypad.  The letters are positioned underneath corresponding keys and separated by a line, which can be a bit disorientating at times as it appears that they belong to the number underneath as opposed to above them.  It’s hard to describe without using it, but the keys don’t feel like they move at all when pressed yet there is a very reassuring tactile click to them.  The keypad has a light sensor and lights up in an attractive white when needed, or in a orange/red when the camera is active.

The side keys- volume rocker and Smart Key to the left, Camera to the right- are too shallow for our tastes, but this is offset on the left side by haptic feedback when they are pressed.  The touch sensitive front display also offers haptic feedback, just like the V9m.

Overall the VE20 is a well built phone, but at the same time we can’t help but feel it is a bit off.  It’s one of those things we can’t place our fingers on, but we get the feeling that six months down the road things won’t be quite so tight.  We do applaud Motorola for including not only a microUSB charging/data port but also a 3.5mm headset jack, but aren’t too happy about the microSD slot being under the battery…again.  They have always done well with pushing standards and continue to help lead the way.

Motorola VE20 Video Review:

User Interface:

The VE20 comes preloaded with the Sprint Ahead theme that debuted on the Muziq last year.  It’s a good looking and functional theme, with access to music, navigation, TV, account info, email and On Demand all from the homescreen.  Some items, like On Demand, offer a quick overview of information before you go into the app.  All that aside, we prefer the cleaner Moto theme with a more traditional layout.  With the Moto theme you can view the main menu in grid, list or tab views; the Sprint Ahead theme does not allow for tab viewing.

The main menu of both themes has the same 12 options, similar to most Sprint Power Vision phones.  Sprint has done some tweaking however.  As we saw on the Qchat devices, Navigation is now a menu option and Settings and Tools have been combined into one option.  Music and TV have also been moved into Entertainment, allowing for the addition of Get Stuff.  My Content has been renamed My Stuff, which is where Stuff goes after you Get it.  Sprint has launched a new store front for downloads, a welcome stream-lining of a once confusing interface.

The menu is very snappy, something we’re not used to saying about Motorola devices.  In our testing we encountered no menu lag which has plagued the RAZR, KRZR and to a lesser extent the RAZR2.  Even with several applications running in the background, including the music player, we were able to quickly move within the menu.  This, along with poor battery performance, was one of the main issues with the RAZR so we applaud Motorola for seemingly fixing it.

Phonebook and PIM:

The phonebook of the VE20 is fairly robust for a dumbphone.  It can handle up to seven phone numbers, three email addresses and one URL per entry.  It can store personal info, such as birthday, job title, employer, address and has a memo section.  Unfortunately it does not offer a sync solution so users cannot back up or synchronize info from Outlook or Calendar.  Voice Dialing is powered by the always great VoiceSignal.

The phone offers standard tools such as an Alarm Clock, Notepad, basic Calendar, World Clock, Voice Memos File Manager and a simple Stop Watch.  Its Calculator has an advanced mode, and it also features a Tip Calculator and Unit Converter.  As we’ve seen with recent Sprint phones the user can not only download new firmware over the air, but also a PRL update.


Like the V9m, users are able to view text messages from the outer display.  They do not have the option to reply with quick text, but can call the user without opening the flip.  SMS and MMS are both supported by the VE20, and it also runs the Sprint Mobile Email client.  iTap is used for predictive text, or the user can switch to Multi-Tap (ABC) mode.  The Mobile Email client allows access to not only personal email, but also works with Microsoft Exchange for corporate email.


Like all other Sprint phones, the VE20 runs Java applications, making it compatible with Opera Mini, Google Maps and Live Search. Other standards are onboard as well, such as Sprint Navigation. Like several other phones, the VE20 can multi-task applications, allowing the user to send applications to the background while going about their business. On Demand helps keep the user up to date on local and national news, weather, sports and more.

Of particular note is Sprint’s newest version of NFL Mobile, NFL Mobile Live. The exclusive program initially launched two years ago but has been completely redesigned with new features. The interface is much cleaner, with your team’s upcoming game featured above news headlines. Across the bottom scrolls a ticker with news pertinent to your favorite team, as well as top headlines from around the league. Users can set up their fantasy team and receive alerts on their players, as well as receive game and news alerts. NFL Network, also available in SprintTV, is integrated in the app with a live feed as well as on demand video. For the first time mobile users will be able to watch the eight lives games the network will broadcast this year. Another wonderful addition is live game audio. Similar to the paid MLB Gameday Audio application, users will be able to listen to both home and away broadcasts of every regular and post-season NFL game this year, in most cases including pre and post-game coverage. The application is free for anyone with a data package.


As an EVDO phone the VE20 features Sprint’s full multimedia suite of SprintTV, Radio and Music Store, the latter of which serves as the phone’s music player. It has received the same makeover we see on smartphones like the Mogul and Touch, but overall functionality remains the same. We’ve covered it extensively in the past, and it’s a capable player that could benefit from a redesign. One glitch we noticed is that when the Music Store is running in the background we were unable to bring up the application using the external controls, which can otherwise launch it.

The single speaker was surprisingly good, though it is placed on the back below the battery door, which muffles sound when it’s set down. The 3.5mm headset jack means users can use standard headphones instead of an often low quality 2.5mm pair, or being forced to use an adapter. Sound was overall good, though lacked some of the dynamic range found on an iPod. The biggest thing we noticed is that the bass wasn’t as deep.

SprintTV and Radio are unchanged as well. The streaming video looks good on the QVGA display and we are impressed at the growing number of local channels for the Radio application. Right now they offer over 100 stations from cities across the country.

The VE20’s 2MP camera is a differentiator from 1.3MP shooters found in competing devices such as the Katana Eclipse and Samsung M520. Unfortunately pictures turned out poorly; color reproduction was poor with blue and yellowing occurring and we noticed graininess under both natural and artificial lighting conditions. Though both are 2MP, the V9m most definitely has a better camera than the VE20. Options are plentiful; the user can adjust the Brightness, White Balance, Resolution, Quality, Color Tone set the Sound and a Self Timer, apply Fun Frames or take Multiple Shots. There are five resolution steps from 120x160 to 1200x1600. Videos can be captured in High (QVGA,) Medium (176x144,) or Low (128x96) and options are similar to the camera. Video quality was so-so, just as we’d expect from a cell phone.

Sprint recently updated their Web Portal, and the new one is much better. The search bar is now powered by Google, not Live Search, and the overall layout is much cleaner and more attractive. Relevant information is displayed at the top, which changes with your usage. Of course we still prefer to browse the web with Opera Mini, but Sprint is moving their portal in the right direction.


Performance on the phone was a mixed bag.  Reception was very good; the VE20 tended to pull a stronger signal and hold onto it better than other Sprint phones.  On our end callers sounded very natural, with good volume and voice reproduction.  Callers said we sounded “hollow” and “muffley” however, and rated sound quality at a 6.5/10.  We were asked if we were using a Bluetooth headset because it sounded as if we were.  The battery is rated at 4 hours of talk time, but in our testing we were amazingly able to achieve just over 5.5 hours.  Oddly enough we found ourselves charging the battery frequently though, with moderate data and no voice usage we were dead within a day.  The talk time is a great improvement, but over this does not bode well as the same problem plagued the V3m.


The MotoRAZR VE20 sets out to replace two phones in Sprint’s lineup, the RAZR V3m and RAZR2 V9m, and for the most part does a good job.  Menu speed and stability, perhaps Motorola’s biggest issue, has seemingly been corrected.  The inclusion of a 3.5mm headset jack is very welcome and the form factor is better due to its narrowness, though we would have liked to see the V9m’s 2” external display.  The camera, a strong point of the RAZR2, was a disappointment and we still have battery concerns however.     With Samsung slated to launch five and six hundred series phones we’re inclined to wait and see right now.  Call us biased, but Moto has earned their lousy reputation on Sprint, and while we like what we see in the VE20 for now we’d have a hard time recommending it until it proves itself over a period of time.


  • Greatly improved menu speed and stability
  • Improved form factor affords a better feel
  • Functional external controls
  • Quality main display
  • 3.5mm headset jack


  • We still have reservations about the battery
  • Mirrored finish makes external display hard to read at times
  • Fingerprints, fingerprints, fingerprints

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