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Virgin Media VM621i (Alcatel OT-600) review

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Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

With a steady stream of high-end products making its way through our office, it's often difficult to find time for the value products out there. So following on from our recent review of the barn storming, £380, HTC Desire, we're today looking at the VM621i, a small and light candy bar phone available exclusively though Virgin Media for just £10.

It's no surprise at this price that the VM621i's body is entirely constructed from plastic. Nevertheless, the faux brushed metal and black combination works well and the phone's clean lines give it a simplistic aesthetic appeal. With a weight of just 71g and dimensions of 14.5 x 44.5 x 12mm it can fit easily into a pocket and go unnoticed.

As with its plastic construction, the VM621i (which is actually a rebranded Alcatel OT-600) betrays its cost when it comes to physical features. For instance, there are no volume controls, headphone jack, or camera button, with only a mini-USB port on the right side serving three functions: charging, data transfer, and headset connection. A wired headset is included in the box, which at this price is hardly a given, but its uses are limited. There's an inline mic and the earphones provide adequate audio for calls and are passable for music listening. They don't, however, cut out external noise very well so commuter natter or road noise will require damaging levels of volume to be drowned out.

At 1.8in, the screen is small by any standards and with a resolution of just 128 x 160 pixels, we aren't talking Hattori Hanzo levels of sharpness. More worrying though is quite how poor this screen's viewing angles are. Whatever direction you view it from, go beyond about 30 degrees from perpendicular and the picture is almost invisible. This is typical for a cheap handset but still regrettable. Overall, though, you can still make out what you're doing, and at least its colour!

A somewhat more unexpected bonus is that under the battery cover is a microSD slot. This means you can easily add music to or copy photos from the phone. That said, being as the music player can't even put tracks in the right order, it's a mixed blessing – albums are listed in alphabetical track name order rather than track number.

Likewise, the camera leaves a lot to be desired. With a resolution of just 1.3-megapixels and no flash or autofocus, it was never going to set any new image quality records but it is in fact particularly poor. In good light, colours are reasonably accurate and saturated but the lens produces huge amounts of distortion and detail is very lacking. Move indoors or into poorer light and shots become so grainy and dull as to be unusable. Now, we've seen plenty of cameras that perform little or no better in terms of image quality but what really lets the VM621i down is the shutter lag. It can take up to three seconds after you've pressed the shutter button to actually get it to take a photo.

This phone uses a standard keypad arrangement with a numpad sat below two soft keys, a D-pad with central select button, and call answer and end buttons (the latter doubling for power). All the keys are finished in rubber giving them a cheap look and feel. However, they do have a surprisingly good action with a nice obvious break, meaning we were able to type at a decent pace. The fact all the keys are backlit is a nice bonus as well at this price.

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speedyg2012

April 12, 2010, 7:09 pm

Surely such a cheap phone would have a value rating of 10 rather than 9? I've seen any phones for that price point that betters the spec (meagre tho it is.)





Also the price is reviewed as £10 but in the video review £15 is the asking price. Which one is correct? Or is it £10 + £5 Min. Top up?





Such a phone would be expected these days to have a budget screen but it's unusual to see a camera, particularly one at 1.3mp. I suspect dropping a camera for a better screen may have been a better option as it (The camera) looks pretty rudimentary with no flash or anything else of use.





On another note, I'm thinking whether more awards or special mentions could be made over a variety of budgets? E.G. Ultra Budget (10 - 39.99)/ Budget (40 - 79.99)/Lower Mid Range (80 - 129.99)/ Upper Mid Range (130 - 199.99)/ High Range (200 - 299.99) / Ultra High Range (£300+)





Maybe smaller catergories but something that tell a prospective buyer which phone(s) are top of a certain price class.

speedyg2012

April 12, 2010, 7:19 pm

*I've seen = (I haven't seen).

Ed

April 12, 2010, 7:22 pm

I wouldn't strongly argue against it getting a 10/10 for value. Ultimately it's still great value.





When I shot the video the cheapest I could find was £15. By the time I finished the written review I found it for £10.





We'll certainly look into expanding our awards to include best budget/design/etc.

speedyg2012

April 12, 2010, 9:38 pm

I wouldn't strongly argue against it getting a 10/10 for value. Ultimately it's still great value.





When I shot the video the cheapest I could find was £15. By the time I finished the written review I found it for £10.





We'll certainly look into expanding our awards to include best budget/design/etc.


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Cheers for the reply Ed. I'm not sure what the full criteria is for the prices but I'm thinking it would take top marks for been the cheapest I've seen tested. I guess the Price has to reflect airtime added to the price, as the sim-free price would be more I would have thought.





I'm thinking awards like you see in Computershopper/Which? magazines et al mainly.





Hope this helps.

peter-the-hat

August 21, 2010, 2:23 pm

having bought one for £10 at tesco's, mainly to recieve free calls from home, having registered with virgin for the simply 8p per minute call rate it becomes better value than the 20p per min it ships with

fanofstig

January 27, 2011, 12:02 am

Very underrated phone. you don't list the Video camera in the features.


The Mp3 play better on this phone than standard MP3 players, sort by artist album etc, and as for camera, it has night setting for low light conditions, timer to include yourself in the shot, and a host of other function to change whether its taken under 50hz or 60 hz electric light, a white balance, and colour settings, and the phones are good when viewed on a PC, which is very easy to do with a standard micro USB lead

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