July 16, 2006

Vertu Ascent Racetrack Legends phones

Even among the sleekest cell-phones on the market, Vertu stands out. Nokia's ultra-premium brand features artful design, high-tech construction and premium materials.

Vertu handsets are made from a special alloy called "liquidmetal" (purportedly developed for NASA), surgical-grade steel, silicon-padded top-stitched leather, sapphire crystal displays, and a scratch-resistant keypad supported by ruby bearings.

As it is – although I've personally never seen one up close – the Vertu Ascent (one of two lines offered, along with the slender Signature model) strikes me as one of the slickest gizmos money can buy. And in this case, it’s a lot of money, retailing in the neighborhood of $5000. (That's not a typo.)

Now imagine boosting the octane. The limited-production Racetrack Legends series is a gear-head's dreamphone. The special edition Ascent features rubber trim with a tire-tread pattern (instead of leather), a number plate and a laser-etched racetrack layout on the battery cover.

Six models are to be built in the series, each limited-production run of 1000 paying homage to a different race track. Only the first two are currently available: Monza (in red) and Silverstone (green), matching the track to its country's historical national racing color. (I'd speculate Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps in yellow, the Nurburgring in silver, and either Magny-Cours or Le Mans in French racing blue might be next in the series.)

The entire Ascent line hosts the usual barrage of features including GSM tri-band connection, Bluetooth, PC synchronization and all the rest. While you might expect that a $5000 phone would also include a camera and an MP3 player, there's something to be said for purity of purpose and design. (Especially when compared to my Motorola MPx220 that does everything, but nothing well.)

Visit Vertu.com for a closer look.