Why virtualise your NAS environment?
- Lightweight and durable design, HSDPA connectivity, large keypad, excellent speaker quality, swivelling camera
- Lacking in internal memory, camera is only 1.3Mp
The TU550 does little to distinguish itself from its TU500 predecessor. While most of the old faults remain, it should nevertheless satisfy the majority of users; particularly those in remote locations. With that being said, there are plenty of competing models on the market that offer a superior performance.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
At the beginning of the year, LG released the TU500, a Next-G multimedia mobile phone designed specifically for superior network coverage and fast content downloads. While it wasn't a bad phone by any means, certain design quirks -- such as limited internal memory and a mediocre camera -- made for a less-than-essential purchase.
Fast forward to the present, and LG has quietly unveiled a nominal upgrade, appropriately dubbed the TU550. For all intents and purposes, this is pretty much the same phone we reviewed back in January with a few minor enhancements. If you're after a lightweight mobile phone that can access Telstra's Next G content portal, the TU550 won't disappoint, but at this price, we were expecting a few extra bells and whistles. As it stands, this is an adequate model that performed rather averagely in the multimedia stakes; which is supposed to be its forte. For around $160 more, you could nab a Nokia 6500 Slide, which is superior in almost every area. Nevertheless, the TU550 remains a decent product, particularly for users in regional areas who will benefit from its broad frequency range.
As with most mobile phone upgrades, the TU550 is more or less identical to its predecessor in terms of looks and appearance. Ditching the black metal surface of the TU500, it sports a lighter shade of silver, but otherwise both models are nearly indistinguishable. Once again, the keypad's metal buttons are large, tactile and pleasingly spaced apart. Build quality remains excellent, with a slim yet durable casing that should definitely survive some rough treatment. Indeed, if reports are to be believed, it can even withstand fiery infernos(!). While we'll take these claims with a grain of salt, it cannot be denied that this is a pretty robust device.
We were fairy pleased by the call quality of this mobile. Voice calls remained crystal clear and audibly loud, both on the earpiece and when using the included handsfree speaker phone. Our only reservation had to do with the actual ringtones, which start out imperceptibly quiet and gradually increase in volume. Unfortunately, by the time you realise your phone is ringing, it's altogether possible that the caller will have given up. We tried to change this feature in the settings, but could not discover a relevant option. As it stands, your ears will need to be pricked up on a permanent basis.
The main feature that sets this phone apart from the TU500 is the addition of Telstra's regional blue tick of approval. In other words, it offers a broad frequency range for providing reception in remote areas; making it the ideal choice for rural users. Somewhat incongruously, the other change appears to be a cut to internal memory (a not insubstantial drop from 8MB to five.) This makes the TU550 far from multimedia-friendly. As with the TU500, the TU550 is expandable via microSD, with a 512MB memory card included in the sales package. Unfortunately, the SD slot is once again located beneath the battery, forcing you to deactivate your phone during insertion and removal. Equally annoying is the default setting for Internet and Bluetooth, which automatically sends downloads directly to the phone's inbuilt memory, rather than the SD card. Usually, the whole point of a phone upgrade is to remove little quirks like this, but apparently LG couldn't be bothered.
While the lack of internal memory is lamentable, the TU550 does offer a passable set of multimedia features. Thanks to the high-speed HSDPA connection, streaming bandwidth-intensive multimedia is a breeze, with minimal buffering breaks when streaming video. The external stereo speakers provide excellent sound quality which should satisfy in all but the noisiest of environments, while the 2.4in screen does a fair job at displaying video clips.
Annoyingly, LG has opted for a 2.5mm headphone jack instead of the regular 3.5mm, though the inclusion of A2DP Stereo Bluetooth remains an ever-handy alternative.
The multimedia player supports a range of music formats, including MP3, AAC, WMA and MIDI. We're also huge fans of the cleverly designed inbuilt camera, which can be swivelled 180 degrees; one way for snapshots and video recordings, the other way for video calls and self-portraits. Unfortunately, at 1.3Mp, the results aren't exactly spectacular, but they should suit the needs of most users.
With access to the Next-G network, there is plenty of streaming content available for the TU550, including specially produced channels from FOXTEL by Mobile. CNN, MTV, FOX8, The Comedy Channel and the Disney Channel are all available from this service, though naturally, subscription fees apply. Interestingly, the TU550 doesn't provide any UMTS 3G support, offering only tri-band GSM and 850MHz WCDMA. The latter is Telstra's particular variant of HSDPA, which is incompatible with the HSDPA on the other networks.
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