Up close and personal with the LG VX8550

Now that the successor to LG's Chocolate line has been available to Verizon Wireless customers, we thought it would only be fitting to put the latest addition through the paces and see if the VX8550 is a worthy successor. From a quick glimpse, both the LG VX8500 and the VX8550 both share the slide up form factor both sporting a hidden keypad. LG has kept the camera on the back of the slide on the VX8550. This allows for safe storage of the camera when not being used while also decreasing the amount of fingerprints, smudges, and scratches on the lens.

There have also been improvements in the keypad including dedicated Send / End keys and a camera button. Like its predecessor, the keys are still mashed together making text messaging somewhat difficult for those with moderately sized fingers. Our sausage-shaped pointers often misspelled words with the cramped styling.

Next, the center navigation button has been replaced with an iPod-like click wheel that rotates both forward and reverse along with doubling as a 5-way navigation. We noticed very few accidental key presses while the phone was up to our face. This could be the single greatest improvement on the VX8550 which makes navigation and phone use a breeze. The slide mechanism seems as strong as the previous model with solid open and close motions. LG seems to have one of the best slide mechanisms on a mobile phone (Samsung, you're a close second).

LG has changed the speaker placement from the VX8500 which was located on the bottom to being located near the bottom to the very top of the VX8550. The speaker itself seems to have been changed with a better quality one allowing less distortion while at higher volumes.

Along with an updated navigation button, LG added multi-colored lighting around the clickwheel that changes color based on the phones operation.

Call quality was on par for newer LG phones with great sound for both incoming and outgoing calls. None of the people we talked with could tell that we were on a mobile phone even with moderate signal strength. We even managed to stay connected in low signal areas where the VX8500 dropped the call. The VX8550 supports Bluetooth for voice calls and also for stereo music listening. We paired both the Motorola H9 and a Jabra JX10 with this phone. Both headsets performed as expected in close range, however at distances greater than 15 ft. there was both audio dropouts and fading.

All in all, there are several enhancements that gives the VX8550 clear advantage over its predecessor including the center navigation, updates to the keypad, and overall styling of the phone. But with a cramped keypad and smaller form factor - it might be passed up by those power users looking for a roomier layout.