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LG BL40 review

LG BL40 review
Vlad Savov
Vlad Savov|October 19, 2009 11:44 AM

Where the iPhone might be considered a little too wide to comfortably hold up for traditional calls, the slimline BL40 feels entirely natural and its 128mm height only helps this by bringing the microphone closer to the speaker's mouth. Think of it as a throwback to the days of the Nokia 8110 or the like and you'll have a pretty good idea of what a conversation on this phone might feel like. The same applies for the rarely covered, but rather important, issue of pocketability: the BL40 was friendly to both shirt and jeans pockets, and its height was again a boon in that it kept the phone in a vertical orientation whereas many modern handsets tend to fall into a less convenient horizontal position. We wouldn't say it's quite as practical as any of the great mass of compact featurephones out there today, but the major thing to take away is that the size of the BL40 is no impediment to its regular day-to-day use. In fact, when compared to other smartphone wannabes, we'd say LG's New Chocolate comes out slightly ahead as it manages to retain most of the usability of smaller phones while extending to its non-standard 345 x 800 resolution.

A few notes are merited on the BL40's connectivity options and overall web experience. You get a choice of WiFi or HSDPA for hooking up, and then a pretty agile browser does a fine job of taking you where you want to go, with automatic page resizing and multitouch zooming actions making things relatively easy. You'll still want to steer clear of any Flash content, but on the whole we might say the web browser is the biggest beneficiary of the extra lateral space in landscape mode, as it made text-heavy pages easier to digest. Notably, both connectivity options take a predictably harsh toll on battery life, which we might rank somewhere ahead of the iPhone, but not by much.
The camera on the BL40 is a perfect example of why megapixels are fast becoming an utterly irrelevant part of the spec sheet. Boasting a five megapixel resolution and a Schneider KREUZNACH lens is all well and good, but reference to the gallery of sample images above shows a detectable graininess to the results, which was all the more apparent, and ruinous, in the full-size pictures. We wouldn't recommend this camera for anything larger than the 800 x 600 resolution of the sample shots, which places its utility at about the level of a bargain bin 0.3 megapixel webcam. Sad, but true. Things get no better when we switch over to video mode, where instead of stabilizing the image, the BL40 seemed to amplify slight vibrations into full-blown earthquake tremors. The resultant distortions and general inability to deal with movement within shot are to be seen in the recording below. Importantly, both pictures and videos looked entirely acceptable on the BL40's own screen and, should you have no intent to export the content elsewhere, the camera will serve your humble needs well.

The phone's image and video gallery offers a browsing interface akin to Apple's Cover Flow, but it got bogged down by lag once we added more than about twenty media items, forcing us to retreat to a more familiar grid-based browsing setup. Pinching and zooming, on the other hand, was pretty much spot on, both here and in the web browser. It's a shame, really, that such a well implemented feature has been allied to a laggy media browser, but then that tended to be the rule with the BL40: a lot of good, married to just as much bad, with a tiny sprinkling of ugly (watch the video above, if you haven't already).

For example, multitasking — something a certain other phone iDoesn't do — can be as smooth as butter. We were able to browse around the web, minimize the browser, check out some photos on the phone, then jump straight back into our browsing session. But then, that's offset by recognizable lag popping up here and there, which becomes particularly noticeable when you load up a few widgets and slap wallpapers on the UI cube's sides. Furthermore, while Bluetooth pairing with another device was painless, transfers were less so, and although MicroSD expansion is good to have, we experienced a number of failed transfers when trying to get images off the phone and onto a memory card. This is a truly unfortunate theme, and our conclusion about the phone's interface coalesces around one word: mediocrity.

Gallery: BBEdit 10.0 Preference Panels | 7 Photos