Motorola ZINE ZN5 Review

Introduction and Design
This review has been updated on 23 October 2008
This is an unlocked GSM phone which can
operate in the US on AT&T and T-Mobile.

Now that we are firmly entrenched in the 8-megapixel era, Motorola has finally managed to release its first 5-megapixel phone, the ZINE ZN5. It comes two years later than the competition but it looks promising due to its Xenon flash, the “KODAK Imaging Technology with optimized settings for low-light environments” and the Kodak Perfect Touch software. Moreover it is touted for the quickness with which it opens and shoots pictures and the presence of the Kodak Gallery application for sharing pictures online.

ZN5 can be used globally because it is a quad-band GSM but it has no 3G support. The built-in Wi-Fi however, partially makes up for the lack of high speed cellular data.

The package includes:

• Motorola MOTOZINE ZN5
• Charger
• USB cable
• TV-out cable
• Stereo earphones ROKR
• Quick start guide
• User’s manual


The ZN5’s design is elegant, modern and with the typical for Motorola oblique bottom. Here, it is rubber-coated to prevent the phone from sliding and along with the rest of the materials it makes for a quality feel. Despite not being slim and light as Sony Ericsson C902 for example, the device still feels comfortable in your pocket.

You can compare the Motorola ZINE ZN5 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The 2.4”QVGA display supports 262K colors, which look quite lively indoors. In direct sunlight they are faded but you won’t have trouble reading the screen.

Similar to the ROKR E8, the keyboard changes according to the function used, but unlike the ROKR the symbols are always visible and their marking depends on the back light. All buttons are on the same flat surface and tiny “crystals”, easily felt by touch, guide you to their location. Only the 5-way round pad has a well expressed relief. Overall, we are happy with all buttons on the front, but they could’ve had a better tactile feedback.

The left side houses the microUSB slot and the 3.5 mm jack, also used as a TV-out. On the opposite side  we find the volume controls, the keyboard locking slider and the camera shutter. The last one is in the extravagant purple color and is very convenient to use.

On the back of the phone we see the 5-megapixel autofocus camera, hidden under a manually operated lid with Kodak branding. This entire part is protruding, which provides better comfort while working with the phone. Below it are the Xenon flash and the bright lamp, intended to assist with focusing in darker environments.

Motorola ZINE ZN5 Video Review:

Motorola ZINE ZN5 360 Degrees View:


The ZINE ZN5 runs on the Linux-Java based OS, which is found in the RAZR2 V8, RIZR Z6, MOTO U9 and ROKR E8. It is superior to the standard software used in other Motorola models including all features, look and user experience. It is neither fast nor slow, the menus are logically structured and the interface looks ok. It lacks a ‘wow’ effect and will not really impress you with anything particular, but it works fine, which is very important.


The phone can save up to 1000 contacts in total, each storing up to three numbers. All available names are shown in a vertical list, which has two optionalviews: Thumbnail (with picture (if added) and phone number) or List, showing only the name. It is nice that one can select to sort by first or last name, but we are disappointed that search can be performed only by the first word in the name. Another nice option is that when inputting characters directly from the standby screen, the phonebook is searched for results in both the first name and the number. It is similar to the latest generation Sony Ericsson’s phones.


You won’t find a stapler, paper clips or tape in the Office Tools menu, but all the organizing functions. The File Manager allows you to browse the memory of both the phone and the card, and copy/move files from one destination to another. The Calendar can be previewed for month/week or day and has a lot of options when adding an entry. There are twelve event types (Meeting, Appointment, Anniversary, Birthday, Party and others), subject, location, period, notes, attendees and more.

If you are not a morning person, there are three alarms to help you wake up. The world clock is also limited to three cities only, but has two visualizations options: a map view, or a larger digital clock. The calculator is not a scientific one but it does the basic addition, subtraction, division and multiplication and has a currency converter as well.


Everything is organized as expected here. When typing a message the text input can be predicted by the iTap system (Motorola’s alternative to the T9) which works just fine. Once multimedia content is inserted, the message turns into MMS. There are preloaded templates for both Text and Multimedia messages, which can be edited; new ones can also be added.

The e-mail client supports IMAP and POP3, and it also has automatic settings for the most popular web mail servers, meaning that in order to setup your e-mail account, you generally only have to enter your login info. In addition, the ZN5 comes with a preloaded Google menu (found in the main menu) with two options for fast access to and Gmail.


As we’ve previously mentioned, the ZN5 is a quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) phone, which makes it usable on all continents. It doesn’t support 3G but it has built-in Wi-Fi. Unfortunately if you are not covered by a wireless broadband network you’ll have to rely on EDGE, which is really slow according to the modern standards.

With high-speed (about 8Мbps) Wi-Fi, large pages such as PhoneArena and YouTube load easily in the HTML browser, but when using an EDGE connection some pictures do not appear and are marked with an “X” instead. Unfortunately, the text is not automatically shrunk and you’ll have to use the Fit to screen option so you can avoid scrolling like crazy. On top of that, the memory seems to be insufficient and after opening a few large pages consecutively a message appears, notifying you that the browser will exit. Overall it is OK for viewing lighter sites but has problems with more complex ones.


The 5MP camera with Xenon flash is really as quick as advertised. Startup, focusing and storing are no more than a second each  and once you start snapping pictures, it’s hard to stop.  As is typical for Motorola, the interface is not beautiful but is user-friendly.  There are several indicators on the view-finder, accompanied by the functions of the 5-way pad: type of focus, Low Light mode (on/off), tagging, flash and white balance.

The quality of the pictures is of course the most important things for a camera. In our tests we got very nice outdoor images when the sun was up; they had really high detail level, real colors, but there still was grain. We would say that the MOTO is as good as the Samsung G600 in such condition, but when there’s no sun, the quality of the photos drops considerably.

The ZN5’s performance indoors is not that impressive. When the pictures are small they look OK, but once viewed on large screen you can see that the noise “kills” the detail. The Xenon flash performs well up to 7 feet but if you try to shoot something at about 14, you’ll get results worse than some LED cameraphones.  The Nokia N82 and Sony Ericsson K850 are much better in this aspect.

For pictures in darker environments you can use the Low Light option, which employs the Kodak Imaging technology with optimized settings for dim  environments.  Unfortunately the results are very disappointing due to the heavy noise. Despite KODAK’s technology, Low Light is nothing more than Night Mode seen in other phones.

The maximum camcorder resolution of the ZN5 is only 144 x 176 pixels, which is quite shameful for a 5 megapixel shooter. You could still use the videos for MMS, but they are not good enough for YouTube or to watch them on a big screen.

The ZN5 is one of the best phones for daylight pictures, but that’s about it. Indoors and at night the results are quite disappointing. Beyond that, in this day and age many phones that are not considered camera-oriented can record videos in QVGA.


All multimedia files available can be found in the Media Finder.

You will be able to filter your tracks by Artists, Albums, Genres, and Composers or by Playlists. The interface shows information on the track and has a tiny album art cover, which we would have preferred to be bigger. When the player is minimized to play in the background, the lower part of the home screen transforms into a shortcut to it.

The sound quality from the loudspeaker is good, but is not loud enough. The included ROKR headphones don’t change anything. You won’t be able to understand what people are saying to you while you are wearing it, but you’ll still hear the passing cars on the street. However, the 3.5 mm jack means you can use a better set..

Do not expect to watch high-quality clips on this phone. Files with a resolution larger than the display’s (QVGA) and high bitrate (such as 512 kbps) do not play, even at 15fps.


The ZINE ZN5 is relatively quick to operate, but it’s not as good as the leaders on the market. There’s a light lag when opening menus and applications, but  most people won’t be bothered by it.

We were very happy with the call quality; and the voices at both ends are loud and clear. Only the monotony and the light sharpness were somewhat annoying. In terms of the loudspeaker, we think that its performance is above the average.

The official battery times are 9.56 hours of talks or 579 in standby mode. WOW!


Motorola enters the cameraphone market late, but better late than never and it did not disappoint us. The ZINE ZN5 has a modern design, it’s suitable for listening to music and has a very fast camera, which takes very good pictures if the sun is shining. Unfortunately, the story changes on cloudy days and indoors and the Xenon is only useful if taking a picture of an object at 7 feet at the most.

It also performs well as a phone, considering the good sound quality and the long battery life, but the lack of 3G support is a serious drawback. Alternative models are the cheaper Samsung G600, with a similar picture quality, but VGA videos. If you really want a good 5-megapixel model, we recommend Nokia’s N82 smartphone, which won our 5-megapixel cameraphone comparison.


  • Elegant, modern and user-friendly
  • Very fast camera
  • Long battery life
  • Good sound quality


  • The back lid is very hard to open
  • No 3G
  • The camcorder shoots videos at very low resolution
  • No high-quality video playback
  • Poor image quality in low lighting conditions

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