Review: Motorola L6

by on July 3, 2006

In general, our reviews are purely Mac- and iPod-related, but sometimes we broaden our scope to other things “tech”. In this case, we took a look at Motorola’s L6, a phone sometimes referred to as the original SLVR, as it shares much of the design of its sibling, but is a bit more low-to-mid-range in the market.

While looking for a new phone, many people just want something basic—they don’t want to make movies, work on documents, or do intense web browseing. If they do want Bluetooth, however, they’re usually stuck with a higher end phone. Another criteria is how well it will play out-of-the-box with Mac OS X. Most phones do not have a problem with this. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, but want Bluetooth and some basic organizer functions, the Motorola L6 is priced around $130 without a contract.


L6 (Back)

L6 (Back Cover & Battery Removed)

L6 Desktop (with custom wallpaper)

L6 Main Menu

The phone itself is small and thin (113 x 49 x 10.9 mm). The L6 takes most of the key features of the RAZR and gives us those components in the thinnest handset from Motorola. The casing of the phone is anodized aluminum over a hybrid glass-filled body to provide durability and stability (moreso than plastic models). It’s a candybar form factor, so there aren’t any moving parts and only one screen—the main one. The back of the phone pops off to allow access to the battery and SIM card slot. The design of the phone is rather nice for its target audience—the average consumer.

The battery is rated for 5.15 hours of talk and 372 hours of standby. Although we didn’t want to test the talk time and run out of minutes, the standby rating is only slightly inflated from average real-world use.

The screen is a bit bland— a 128×160 pixel STN (Super Twisted Nematic) passive matrix model, capable of showing 65,000 colors. It’s not too bad of a display, but it is a bit washed out compared to fancier phones, and harder to see outdoors in direct sunlight. Nonetheless, it’s still rather acceptable and is not too small.

Unlike the SLVR L7 and RAZR, the L6’s keyboard is different. Individual plastic keys take the place of a metal panel and although small, are easy to type on. A silver directional pad is just below the screen, along with softkeys, send, and power/end. A blue backlight makes seeing the keys easy in dim locations. To the left of the left softkey, a sensor detects the lighting and decides if the backlight is necessary—a nice touch. A button on the left side of the phone can be programmed for quick access to a favorite item and a button on the right provides quick access to the camera.

Speaking of the camera, the phone features a VGA camera, capable of photos up to 640×480 pixels. It’s not as nice as some phones, but the photos are on-par with other models in this price range. Photos taken with the camera can be stored on the phone, set as wallpaper, sent to someone via MMS, or sent to your computer through Bluetooth. The camera can also be used to record short (30 seconds or so) video clips. This phone won’t replace your digital camera, but it’s nice to have some sort of camera with you all the time.

Next to the camera button, a mini-USB port is available for charging, connecting to a computer (a cable was not included with ours), headsets, and other accessories. This is nice, as this marks the end of proprietary charger/accessory connectors for Motorola (along with the RAZR and other models).

The phone features 10MB of memory for storing your contacts, appointments, photos, videos, and audio philes. Although it doesn’t include iTunes like its sibling, the L6 can play MIDI, MP3, and AAC audio files. In most cases, this would be good for ringers. They’re loud and clear, thanks to a larger speaker on the back of the phone.

Without going into too much detail, calls sound fine on the phone both through the handset’s speaker, the speaker on the back for speakerphone functions, or a Bluetooth headset. People on the other end didn’t seem to have difficulties talking to me, either (as opposed to some phones that sound like you’re in an echoey windtunnel).

Just like any modern phone the L6 features SMS, EMS, and MMS messaging (text and picture messaging for those who don’t like acronyms). Depending on the carrier, the phone also can support instant messaging. Other functions include a phonebook with 5 voice-dial favorites, an alarm clock, calculator, currency converter, and a date book. iSync works well with the phonebook and date book, although older versions might need free third-party drivers, since the phone is rather new.

The phone can run any third-party Java applications that run on the J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition), allowing you to select from a wide range of Internet apps, games, and other stuff. Items can be downloaded through mobile internet services or Bluetooth from your computer.

The actual user interface of the L6 is similar to most other Motorola phones made in the last few years. The “desktop” displays the carrier, date, and time. Icons across the top of the screen indicate the status. The menu is a GUI with 9 icons to pick various functions. It takes some getting used to if you’re coming from another phone, but is not as bad as some die-hard phone fans will say. A few things are scaled back for the smaller screen when compared to the RAZR, and skins are not available (color schemes are, however).

Finally, it should be noted that this phone is not widely available from any US carrier, but can be had at a few retail locations or from various online vendors. The version that is sold worldwide is tri-band out of the box, meaning that it operates on the 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 1900MHz frequencies. With an unofficial hack, the phone can be made quad-band, adding the 850MHz band. Some American versions already have quad-band capabilties enabled, as Cingular runs on 850MHz and T-Mobile runs on 1900MHz. The point is, if you’re on Cingular, do your homework, or you’ll have to do some hacking.

Depending on where you are and if you can get the L6, it is a very competent little phone that offers a bit more than just basic features, but doesn’t cost too much. It also doesn’t have the “everyone has one” ubiquity of the RAZR and isn’t a flip phone (if you’d rather have a candybar phone). This cousin of the RAZR is good phone for most who want a Bluetooth phone, but don’t want to spend a lot.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

Motorola’s L6 is rather underrated and almost unknown in the US, but fails to disappoint.

Pros: Slick design, small, seems surprisingly durable, plays well with OS X, simple interface, Bluetooth
Cons: Cheap screen, weak camera, only 5 voice-dials, certain models might not work with Cingular

The Facts

4/5Product: L6
Company: Motorola
Price: $130 (street)

This post has been filed in Miscellany, Reviews