So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Well built and compact, Keypad design, Solid list of features, Price
- Controls still need some work, Display could be improved, Average quality camera, Bizarre speakerphone activation
If you are looking for a 3G handset with a good list of features in an attractive and compact package, then the U880 may be for you. A good effort from LG, considering previous models.
Price$ 449.00 (AUD)
LG has been producing 3G handsets for quite a while now, but not many of them have made a significant positive impression on us. Well, this has finally changed with the new U880; a stylish and feature packed handset from LG which has somewhat improved on previous iterations. The question is, is this a worthy challenger to the likes of Nokia's 6280 and Sony Ericsson's W900i?
Design and Form Factor
The biggest improvement in the U880 is its size and form factor. LG phones have previously been quite chunky and not at all directed at those who like a bit of style in their pocket. Noticeably smaller and thinner than some earlier models, the U880 has a distinctive shape which we really like. Its polished, black finish looks sleek and the chrome highlights around the display screen are a nice touch. More importantly however, the U880 feels extremely well built, unlike the flimsy competition such as the Nokia 6280. The U880 weighs just 102 grams and is also the first 3G LG model to have the antenna integrated into the phone. About time!
Flipped open, the U880 reveals an excellent keypad, bright and clear internal display and a rotating 1.3 megapixel camera lens. LG hasn't neglected the outside either and thankfully there is an external display which displays important information including time, date, battery life and reception indicator. Beneath the external screen are three media buttons (Previous, Play/Stop, Next) to control the phones MP3 player when the U880 is flipped close. This is a feature which LG has used in the past and we think it is convenient if you are going to be using the phone as your primary MP3 player.
Despite being on the thin side for a 3G handset, LG has managed to squeeze in quite a bit on the U880's exterior; a proprietary headphone jack (sigh) and volume controls on the left hand side and a dedicated camera button, TransFlash slot and a well hidden charger/USB socket on the right.
User Interface and Controls
We have lamented the excessive amount of buttons on LG handsets in previous models and if the U880 is anything to go by they seem to be listening While there are still a couple more controls than many other handsets on the market, they are laid out in an orderly fashion, meaning you won't have too much trouble navigating through the handset. More importantly all the keys, including the keypad, are brilliantly designed; soft to press and raised slightly above the phone level. We found general use and SMS messaging a breeze and at no time was comfort an issue. Full marks to LG here, especially considering previous efforts, although there is still room for improvement when compared to Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung handsets.
The main menu is fairly simply and utlises a 3 x 4 grid system of menu icons. Performance wasn't an issue and for most part the U880 was responsive and did not lag when quickly scrolling through items. For those of you who are use to shortcuts, you'll be pleased to hear that the U880 makes use of shortcut menu keys and these are activated using the keypad, with the shortcut number shown next to the menu selection.
It's not the best screen on the market, especially for a 3G phone, but it does do the job and we don't have too many complaints. Perhaps it could be a little larger, especially considering the plethora of unused real estate surrounding it, but really, we are nitpicking here. Displaying 262,144 colours, the 176x220 pixel screen is bright and clear and does a relatively good job with video clips and photos, but again, it's nothing outstanding.
The U880 has a 1.3 megapixel camera mounted on a rotating hinge; which means the camera serves a dual purpose (video calling and taking photos). This design sounds fine in theory and is really practical considering the dual use functions, but it isn't perfect. Our main complaint with the camera is that its last position on the rotating hinge does not sit flush with either the front or back of the handset. This is a minor issue, but you really have to take a little care to ensure its sits flush when you aren't using it; otherwise it looks as if it is not sitting properly.
The camera has a solid list of features, even if the image quality it produces isn't the greatest. Settings include sizes ranging from 1280x960 all the way to 96x96 (for the front screen display), 2x digital zoom, a self timer, exposure settings and white balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Illuminate, Indoors). Unfortunately there isn't a flash, instead just night mode, which is barely useable without some sort of light. Overall the camera is pretty standard and the images produced a touch below average - certainly still not good enough to consider as your sole camera.
The U880 is well equipped and comes standard with Bluetooth and USB connectivity (a USB cable is included in the sales package), support for polyphonic ring tones, a handsfree speakerphone, a 500 contact phonebook, support for SMS, MMS and e-mail messaging (with T9 predictive text support in each), WAP 2.0, Java games and a TransFlash (now called microSD slot) for increased memory options.
We originally thought there wasn't a speakerphone as there was no option in the menu to activate or deactivate it, but we soon learnt that this is done by holding down the Clear key. Now, excuse us for being a little slow, but we don't think this is the best way of implementing this feature; in fact, we'd go as far as saying it's bordering on bizarre. Still, at least it's there.
We were also pleased to learn that despite the presence of a TransFlash slot, LG still decided to equip the U880 with 83Mb of internal memory - not everyone is going to have the money, nor want to go out and purchase a card, so these people are still well catered for.
The U880 battery is rated at 175 hours of standby time and 2.7 hours of talk time. If you plan to use video calling frequently, you'll get two hours here. During testing we found ourselves charging the handset every three nights, which isn't too bad considering the multimedia functions that LG has provided.
Overall the U880, which is available exclusively through the Three network, is a much better effort from LG than their previous offerings. They have provided a solid list of features in a stylish and compact package all for an excellent price.
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