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Hands-on with the LG KU990 Viewty

Chris Ziegler

One 5 megapixel cameraphone not good enough for you? How about two? Three? Still not satisfied? Good, because if there's one thing in this crazy world that we can say for certain, it's that there's no such thing as "too many 5 megapixel phones." Today we take a look at LG's KU990 Viewty, a phone that builds in several ways on the KE850 Prada's lovely formula. Read on.

Thanks to the good folks at Wireless Imports for the hookup!

Gallery: Hands-on with the LG KU990 Viewty | 44 Photos

Manufacturers in a variety of consumer-facing industries are trending toward minimal packaging in an effort to become ever so slightly more environmentally conscious. The KU990's packaging manages to be both minimal and fancy -- arguably like the phone itself -- with a pop-up representation of the goodness within when you lift the outer lid.

But never mind the packaging; we know that's not why you're here. The phone itself is beautiful in its simplicity, perhaps even more so than the Prada because it lacks some (but not all) of its predecessor's chrome accents. In the hand, it's comfortable but takes a little getting used to -- the send, end, and clear buttons are pushed so far to the phone's bottom edge that you need to perform some minor thumb acrobatics to make it happen. Since the rest of the interface is touchscreen, couldn't these three have gone up on there, too?

The interface is generally very good, and we think anyone who's used any of LG's recent touch devices like the Voyager would feel right at home. The default black theme may not suit everyone; we found it a little difficult to read in certain situations, but happily, LG's theme manager does an excellent job of thoroughly making over every aspect of the phone. After changing themes, we could barely tell we were dealing with the same device.

As good as the UI is, it's marred a bit by a testy touchscreen. What's worse, it's testy in multiple ways. First, the surface of the display is not conducive to sliding of the finger -- in fact, it was downright sticky in every environment we tried. That wouldn't be a big deal were it not for the fact that all lists on the phone rely on sliding to scroll, and frankly, we came to dread the activity after a while. Second, it's not sensitive enough. Getting the screen to register with the press of a fingertip requires far more pressure than we'd have liked. We promised ourselves we wouldn't mention the iPhone in this article, but frankly, this is one thing the iPhone really got right; its screen is usually slick enough for easy sliding and is plenty sensitive. LG, take note.

Browsing the web on the KU990 is a decent experience. It's not on the same level as S60's integrated browser or Safari, but it gets the job done, bearing in mind that the size of the screen is still the biggest limitation to browsing sites designed for full-size monitors in a meaningful way. Again, we think we would've had an easier go of it if the Viewty's touchscreen were a little more conducive to... you know, touching. As you can see here, landscape mode is supported and the toolbar can be hidden to give yourself a few extra precious pixels. We also figure we would've had more fun with the phone's internet capabilities if we'd been able to take advantage of that 3.6Mbps HSDPA radio.

The camera, of course, is one of the Viewty's headlining features on account of its 5 megapixel sensor, xenon flash, and autofocus with an assist lamp. We had a tougher time getting decent shots with it than with any of the other 5 megapixel phones we've tested, but that's not to say it's bad -- you've just got to be a little bit more mindful of your lighting. For what it's worth, the viewfinder is simply tremendous; it appeared to refresh at 20fps or better and made us feel as though we were shooting with an actual camera, not a cameraphone.

Perhaps the camera's most unusual feature is its zoom ring, a spring-loaded thingamajig situated around the lens itself. We found it to be little more than a gimmick -- it's not in the most user-friendly position when you're looking through the other side of the phone. We would've preferred a more traditional set of controls for this.

So there you have it, another 5 megapixel shootin' wonder in the mix. It's probably the most beautiful we've tested so far with a stunning UI to match -- but the lack of WCDMA 850 / 1900 is once again an issue. Fix the infernal touch screen and add a few more bands and we're sold, okay, LG?

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