Panasonic Eluga hands-on (video)

Well, Panasonic wasn't lying. Turns out, the company's Eluga smartphone is, as promised, quite elegantly designed. The stunning handset, which made its debut at this year's Mobile World Congress, isn't racing towards the finish line with Google's latest OS or even top shelf internals. Rather, this Android device places a heavy emphasis on style, durability and display tech much to the delight of our overloaded mobile-senses. We spent some quality time with device at the company's booth, so click on past the break to get the rundown on our initial impressions.

There's no denying it: the Eluga is built to impress. From the deep blacks on its 4.3-inch qHD 960 x 540 OLED display to the sophisticated curve of the unit's smooth, matte back, this is one phone you'll want to brandish in public. Weighing only 3.6 ounces (or 103 grams), its 7.8mm thickness registers lightly in the hand and would make for an almost perfect grip were it not for the front's sharp edges. And keeping in step with the latest mobile trends, Panasonic's also imbued its beauty with a combo of water- and dust-proofing, in addition to NFC.

The front face is a suitably subdued affair, with an inobtrusive Panasonic logo sitting just above the capacitive buttons for menu, home and back at the base. As an added bit of visual drama, three tiny LEDs light up beneath these keys in accordance with the ambient light sensor. The placement of the earpiece is a curious choice, located just off to the upper left of the screen, as opposed to its typical central position. Due to the water-resistant nature of the build, ports for micro-USB and microSIM slot access lie covered up top and surround the 3.5mm headphone jack. While, smallish hard keys for power and volume are nestled on the unit's right side and stick out just enough out the from the tapered casing to be easily depressed.

Unsurprisingly, viewing angles are remarkably excellent and the colors pop with just the right amount of contrast and brightness. As we mentioned earlier, Panasonic's solidly succeeded in regard to the phone's aesthetic appeal, but where its performance -- well, it's borders on disappointing. Powered by a 1GHz dual-core OMAP 4430, and running a heavily skinned version of Android 2.3.5, navigation across the five homescreens chugs when you'd expect it to zip. Things were much improved when loading applications and even the app drawer, itself, but we'd have liked to see that performance boost evident throughout. In terms of customization, we noted that the four dock icons can be swapped out using a long press.

Without access to the phone's innards, users are left to make the most of an integrated and underwhelming 1,150mAh battery, as well as 8GB of internal storage. So, if you intend to make heavy use of the device or that 8 megapixel AF rear shooter, you'll need to keep a close eye on your consumption habits. And speaking of the camera function, we didn't have much time to fully test it out, but from what we gleaned, it appears photos taken with the module appear pleasantly crisp and clear.

Panasonic may already have a bigger, ICS-equipped handset in the making -- the Eluga Power -- but that's no reason to overlook this gem of a handset. And with Android 4.0 set to hit the phone sometime this summer, users who opt-in for this purchase won't have to worry about feeling left out. Crafted with an acute focus on industrial design, this is one smartphone that should have Sony's NXT series staying up at night. Look for it to land in Germany this April, with a global Euro roll out to follow shortly thereafter.

Mat Smith contributed to this report.