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LG KM900 Arena (3G) Review

With the LG KM900 Arena (3G) we have a smartphone offering great depth in terms of features, but though its new user interface looks great, sluggish reaction time in a few areas may affect overall enjoyment.
11/02/2010

With the LG KM900 Arena (3G) we have a smartphone offering great depth in terms of features, but though its new user interface looks great, sluggish reaction time in a few areas may affect overall enjoyment. This is LG's main touch-screen mobile phone. It is HSDPA capable, has a plethora of multimedia functions, Wi-Fi and built-in GPS, but it's the new 3D ‘S-Class’ user interface which has made its mark on the wider mobile community. LG says this interface is the culmination of over two years of elaborate consumer research.

When you first see the LG Arena (KM900) it looks suspiciously like a body double for an Apple iPhone 3G. Imitating the iPhone, the front side of the Arena is a full touch screen, whilst the phone’s body also has rounded chrome edges, and both the standard headphone jack and camera on the rear are in almost identical positions. However, a few major differences with the iPhone are the LG Arena has a removable rear cover and battery, a proprietary USB port and no ‘silent’ switch.

The Arena is not as bulky as the iPhone, so it can be held comfortably in your hand, and with the brushed aluminium finish on the front side and silver casing on the rear, there’s a real feeling of a well-built mobile phone. The standard headphone jack is a great feature and the power button doubles as a screen lock, but there’s only a proprietary port instead of a standard USB one.

LG's S-Class 3D user interface system is a 3D cube providing four customisable home screens for easy access to shortcuts, widgets, contacts and multimedia. Its graphics are vibrant and colourful. The shortcut menu is very useful, as it quickly allows you to access multiple menu items. However, menus for widgets, contacts and multimedia aren't as intuitive. You can’t customise widgets and except for the clock and calendar, they aren't very interesting anyway. Contacts and multimedia menus are reminiscent of an old-fashioned Rolodex. Your contacts are displayed in a 180-degree revolving format, or you can change them into a more traditional ‘row’ style.

Music, images and videos are all reached via the multimedia menu. Tapping on a song from the list automatically plays it, and having album art is an added bonus. On the other hand, scrolling through items can be a slow process at times; it’s easier to go through the gallery via the regular phonebook to get to your contacts. You may want to put your five favourite people in the shortcut menu to get out of having to sluggishly scroll through them all. For the rest of your acquaintances, the phonebook has single-touch access to all of their details, with the added ability of being able to text message and e-mail from the one capacitive touch screen. This interface is very responsive and its display is absolutely clear; one can see what’s on the screen from numerous alternate viewing angles. Like many phones though, direct sunlight makes viewing tough.

The other menus all function well and LG does deserve kudos for this interface, specifically the main menu. Icons are grouped into four categories and when the phone is tilted in a landscape position, the accelerometer tilts to allow all 32 menu icons to be accessible on the one screen. Text messaging on the KM900 can be truly irritating for some people. The touch screen is still responsive enough when typing, but there’s lag time between the time the keys are pressed and when letters appear on the screen. This means if you’re a fast typist, you may miss a few letters here and there.

Multimedia capabilities of the KM900 are extensive and impressive. You can play DivX and Xvid video files, plus there’s a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The Arena is also the first mobile phone in the world to have Dolby Mobile, the new sound-enhancing technology from the eponymous Dolby Laboratories. Videos and music sound awesome, and surprisingly, the included headphones are of good quality. There’s a TV-out feature too, but you have to buy the cable on its own to enable it. For a phone of this price you think LG might have included it? You do however get a lot of storage. There’s 8GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot of which can hold cards of up to 32GB. Like many other smartphones, the Arena also beats out the iPhone for features by having Wi-Fi, built-in GPS, an FM transmitter, FM radio, a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and HSDPA 7.2Mbps connectivity.

For Internet on the go, the LG Arena’s browser is much like that of the iPhone, but isn’t quite as usability-friendly. You’ve got multi-touch zoom capabilities to increase the size of text and links, and you can use your fingers to pinch and pull the screen to zoom-in as with the iPhone. A contentious issue is it doesn’t always recognise your finger presses, especially when clicking on links. You can copy and paste, which is incredibly useful, but the accuracy of the cursor is also imperfect; when trying to copy a block of text it’s difficult to position the cursor exactly. Strangely, unlike the iPhone with its App Store, Google’s Android Market or BlackBerry's App World, LG do not provide access to an application store.

The LG Arena (KM900) is a great phone, but like most on the market, it has its idiosyncrasies. Weigh up its pros and cons; either way it’s still an excellent smartphone option.

Pros:
•    Built well with a compact design and a terrific display
•    Graphical user interface
•    Touch screen is very responsive
•    3.5mm headphone jack
•    Excellent list of features

Cons:
•    Sluggish in some areas
•    Messaging has keystroke lag
•    3D cube could be more intuitive and free-flowing
•    No Application Store
•    TV-out cable isn’t included

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