About a week we gave you a quick preview of the LG GW520, and now after a few days of testing we’re back with a full review of the phone that promised to offer both the ease of use of the touchscreen, and the functionality of a QWERTY keyboard in a neat looking affordable phone. Well did it succeed? Let’s find out!
Firstly let me take something that I implied in the preview, and that was that this phone could either be a big success or a complete failure as LG either mastered or messed up the integration of both QWERTY and touchscreen. The first thing to know is that the LG GW520 is very much a phone of two halves – sometimes you’ll wonder if this will challenge the big players and others you’ll despair at LG’s failures in this phone. But anyway, on with the review…
As I said before the LG GW520 is a generally nice looking phone, yes it doesn’t quite have the sleek minimalist design that maybe Apple users crave, and nor is the slimmest (not unsurprising considering the fact that it’s packing a keyboard in it) but other than that LG have definitely done a good job with it.
The external buttons are functional and sturdy, and both they and the other inputs (in the form of the easy to access micro SD memory card slot and the headphone/charger/USB connector port) sit flush to the rest of the case to give a very smooth finish. And to be honest unless you’re being really picky you’re not going to worry about the slightly bigger size, and in fact the solid feel could well be seen as a distinct advantage.
Moving onto the input methods I thought we’d start with the more positive one, and I have to say I was surprised by how good the keyboard was. For a start unlike some other slide-out QWERTY keyboards we’ve seen (most notably the T-Mobile G1) both the keyboard and the screen felt solid when fully slid out, and there is very little ‘give’ when typing which is a credit to the design of the phone.
With regards to the ergonomics, the keyboard also grew on me, as although it was relatively difficult to use to start with once you go the hang of the layout and got used to where the additional symbols were you could get your typing speed up to an agreeable level. This is helped by the ‘predictive text’ feature, which works by suggesting words at the bottom of the screen which you can then quickly select – which again once you’ve got used to using is a brilliant little feature.
In fact, somewhat ironically, the worst part of the keyboard is the number input as the little numbers are pretty small, and you have to press the little ‘secondary function’ button to use them – however although you can hold this down normally for number input, you can’t on passwords which was pretty frustrating!
Unfortunately this is where the LG GW520 starts to slide downhill. As I said in the preview it is important not to forget about the touchscreen when you have a keyboard as well and although I can’t decide whether or not LG have fallen into that trap the shortcomings are exactly the same: the screen really isn’t that great.
I can’t decide on what I think the exact problem is (although I have a sneaky suspicion it might be a combination of a few) but the symptoms are a lot clearer: the screen is very sluggish, the accuracy is at times really poor (and I had to re-configure the screen several times in just the few days of testing) and it’s also very insensitive – you really have to press down hard, and it really leaves you dreaming of the iPhone’s graceful nature!
In fairness it is adequate for browsing through the menu’s which is really all you use it for – I attempted to text using it once and not only was it slow and incredibly frustrating but the method for selecting predictive text options was very poorly designed. When used in combination with the keyboard they provide an ‘easy to use and effective’ duo, but taken by itself the touchscreen is disappointing.
The times you really feel the effect of the poor screen are when the keyboard is useless and you are doing something that requires precision, and although these situations are few there is one that really lets the phone down – internet browsing. The painfully slow phone, coupled with the inability to accurately select things and the horribly designed zoom system makes for an incredibly painful experience, and something you would only ever use if you really have to.
This is something else that has become increasing important in modern phones, and much like the rest of the phone it is a tale of two halves.
One the one side you have a good quality 3 megapixel camera which is quick and easy to use (especially with the dedicated camera button), which creates nice pictures (as seen here from Hampton Court Palace) and is generally nice to use. Not great, but just what you want from a phone.
On the other hand you have the absence of so many things we’ve come to expect on modern phones, most notably the flash which makes it less than useless in the dark. Also despite the fact that you have zoom on the video function (which by the way has a disappointing resolution rendering all the little video editing apps on the phone pointless as they make the video unwatchable) they seem to have ignored that on the normal camera which is really a shame.
There are a few other features besides the normal collection that also deserve a mention, most notably the LiveSquare page and the apps. LiveSquare is basically an alternative homepage (which you can get to from the main one by scrolling sideways) in which your contacts are displayed as avatars which can be moved around into groups and easily selected to quickly send messages or call them. Although it took me a while to figure out why this was useful (and even longer to find a situation where it was) I think in the long run you could end up using this quite a lot, although I imagine it could get very crowded on the little screen if you have more than 10 or so contacts.
Secondly there’s the apps which can dragged, dropped and arranged on your homepage – these range from things like clocks and calendars to shortcuts to other ‘sections’ of the phone. These are hardly revolutionary, but are kind of nice to have, and in fact the only one that really deviates from what is already available elsewhere on the phone is a Facebook app, but as of yet this has refused to work so I can’t really say whether this is worth the space!
The LG GW520 really is a mobile phone of two halves. One the one side you have the nice design, solid keyboard, good daytime camera, relatively cheap price and multitasking capabilities, and on the other hand you have the poor touchscreen, lack of camera features and an accelerometer that is horribly underused. Overall you can’t really deny that this is a good phone, and LG have done a reasonable job on it, but there are quite a few flaws that you have to be able to overlook if you want to live with it. That’s not to say they are that bad (I mean you could live with a camera that takes poor night photos) but it isn’t really ideal!