LG InTouch Max (GW620) Review

lg-gw620-qwerty-keyboard-slide-out-view-smallThe LG InTouch Max (GW620) is LG’s first attempt at an Android smartphone. Serving the budget end of the market, the GW620 is available from free on a £20 a month contract with T-Mobile in the UK. This is the same headset that Zath got to have a hands-on test with a few months ago when we attended the LG Mobile Event (November 2009), we liked the look of it and wrote up our own LG GW620 (Android) preview about the handset, so be sure to take a look at that first – it would appear our hope for a better name has in fact happened with LG playing up the social networking possibilities of this handset by calling it the LG InTouch Max!

Hardware

The LG InTouch Max (GW620) is the first Android device I’ve used with a hardware keyboard, which naturally makes the device thicker than others available on the market, although it doesn’t feel unnatural when holding it without the keyboard slid out. On the front of the device there are 2 soft touch buttons for home and back, and a physical button in the centre, allowing you to access settings of each app open.

On the right side, there’s a physical camera button which makes for easy point and shoot photos, as well as a button which can take you straight to your music library, alongside the microSD slot. This comes pre-loaded with a 1GB card for you to use with all your media. On the other side you’ll find a micro USB port for charging and data syncing, next to the volume controls. On the top of the device there is a 3.5mm headphone jack protruding from the back of the device, situated next to the lock/power button.

One big advantage of the GW620 is the 5MP camera which offers great picture quality, with performance on par with high end devices such as Google’s Nexus One. This is a rarity in many budget devices and is certainly a welcome addition for anybody using their phones as a camera when they’re out and about.

Similar to other LG models, the keyboard slides out, putting the device in a landscape view and offering a full QWERTY keyboard for the user, which not only feels comfortable to hold but is very easy to type on and has a shallow learning curve. It’s backlit too, so you can use it in any brightness which is also nice. When using the phone, you’ll find the physical keyboard essential for everyday use, as unfortunately, the on-screen keyboard is a traditional mobile keypad which I found frustrating to use mainly due to the GW620’s limited screen size and resistive touch-screen.

Unfortunately, the 3” resistive touch-screen is one area of the phone that leaves a lot to be desired, making general navigation rather difficult. Granted, the phone is at the budget end of the market, however, it does hamper its ability to compete with other Android devices.

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Software

The LG InTouch Max (GW620) runs Android 1.5, which immediately made me ponder upon a potential upgrade path to Android 2 in the future, along with other devices such as HTC’s Hero and other older Android phones. Naturally, being outdated at the time of release isn’t a great selling point, and after using Android 2 devices for the past few months, the difference is visible not only aesthetically but also in the performance of the device.

When using it, some lag is noticeable although the phone is still very usable through everyday use. I often find myself multitasking and running various applications in the background such as the music player running alongside the browser and my e-mail application with little effect on the general performance.

In addition to this, LG have definitely taken advantage of customising the Android OS to their liking, and the unique look of the OS is a credit to LG’s efforts. Of course it still looks like Android, but it comes packed with some killer apps from LG and the ability to switch between two home screens: the default Android homescreen and LG’s own custom design. LG’s home screen interface adds a dock of icons at the bottom of the screen similar to the layout of the iPhone 3GS, but keeps an Android look with widgets and separate home screens for all your icons.

A great feature of LG’s own “Home” environment is the ability to flick through your home screens continuously without being stopped at either end, and the level of customisation is also shown off with nice touches such as the ability to toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on or off through the notifications bar.

Among the pre-installed applications you’ll find on the GW620 is a great addition called Quickoffice which allows you to install documents without any problem on the go. You’ll also find a suite of ‘Moxier’ applications which give you extra choice when it comes to your calendar, contacts and mail clients.

Summary

Despite some drawbacks such as the resistive touch screen, the LG InTouch Max (GW620) performs admirably for a budget device, giving a good experience for most users and those who are new to the Android operating system.

Hopefully, LG will consider an upgrade to Android 2 in the future as I feel this would improve not only the functionality of the device, but the performance too. On a £20 a month contract, you can’t really go wrong with this phone if you’re in the market for a smartphone on a budget, and should consider the LG InTouch Max (GW620) if you’re looking at getting an Android-based mobile phone.

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