LG InTouch Max GW620 review
LG's competitively priced Android smartphone, the GW620, makes its debut
Verdict: It offers Android on a budget, with some good features, but shabby screen and processor let it down.
Price: Free with contract or £270 SIM-free
Pros: QWERTY keyboard, social networking integration, 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, GPS
Cons: Unresponsive touchscreen, slow processor
Design: Gloss black plastic with rubberised black back and slide-out QWERTY keyboard
Operating System: Android 1.5
More Info: LG website
LG's first-ever Android handset is different from most in that it's aimed far from the high end, and squarely at the lower middle range of the market with a very competitive price point (T-Mobile's offering it for £20 a month). Even so, it still manages to pack in a full QWERTY keyboard, 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, HSDPA, GPS, and some nifty social networking tricks.
Considering it's packing a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the GW620 feels fairly svelte, its 109mm x 55mm x 16mm and 140g weight offset by bevelled corners and gently sloping edges at the top and bottom. The 3.2in touchscreen sits atop touch-sensitive home and return keys surrounding an active menu button and around the sides are a volume rocker plus dedicated buttons for music player and camera. There's also a slot for a microSD memory card (with a 1GB version already loaded – nice), and a USB power/sync slot, both covered by plastic grommets. At the top there's a power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The 3.2in TFT LCD touchscreen measures 3.2in, a shade smaller than the iPhone or fellow Androids like the soon-come Google Nexus One, but offering ample acreage for viewing websites or movies. It looks pretty good too, sharp, bright and clear. The problem is that it's resistive rather than capacitive, and while that isn't necessarily too much of an issue in all examples of the type, in this case it is.
It just isn't sensitive enough to reliably pick up what your fingers are telling it to do and we often found ourselves having to double press items for them to take effect. Even worse, there were occasions when links activated without us feeling that we'd actually pressed them, which is just unacceptable. After a day or so of use we kind of got used to its little quirks, but since there are plenty of phones out there (mostly with capacitive screens, we grant you) for which this isn't really an issue, it really is time to shape up.
Operating system and processor
Considering that Android 2.0 is already out and about on the Motorola Milestone and others it was a bit of a surprise to see that the GW620 is running the 1.5 version. The differences aren't huge, but it will limit you to the older, drabber version of the Android Market when you go hunting for new apps.
There's the standard Android UI with three home pages which you can populate with the widgets of your choice. But there's also an LG UI similar to the company's S-Class interface which offers a static menu bar across all the home screens and organises the widgets into groups for messaging, multimedia etc. We can't honestly say it's a better option than Android's, but S-Class aficionados will appreciate it.
All too often however, we got the feeling that the processor wasn't quite up to the job, with unacceptably long delays when we were shifting between programmes. It didn't happen all the time, but enough to be worth mentioning, and on several occasions we found ourselves cursing the screen for not recognising our presses, when in fact it turned out to be the phone taking its time.
The GW620's smallish size means it's a surprise when the keyboard slides out to reveal five lines of decently sized keys. There are 48 in all, each of them rounded on top and easy to find under the thumbs. There's room for dedicated number and arrow keys, plus a host of extra symbols via the shift key. In fact, this is one of the best keyboards we've used, way better than the Nokia N97 and really only lagging behind the bulky, but highly efficient HTC Pro.
The standard Android browser is a decent one and fast access is assured via WiFi or HSDPA 3G. You get access to the zoom icons by brushing the screen but LG has also added an additional tab accessed by a transparent arrow on the side. Touch it and you'll get access to forward and back, favourites and new windows as well as a bunch of new settings.
That QWERTY keyboard makes composing messages easy, but thankfully LG has also done a little bit more to make social networking easier. The SNS icon on the menu allows you to set up your Facebook, Twitter and Bebo accounts, notifying you of updates and it can integrate your Facebook info into your contacts.
The 5-megapixel camera is one of the slowest we've come across on a quality phone, taking about six seconds to launch from a cold start, plus another four seconds to autofocus and take a pic. All of which means it's not the ideal candidate for quick snaps. If you've got time though, the picture quality is quite good, with sharp edges, accurate colours and a minimum of purple fringing. Additional features include a macro and panorama modes, geo-tagging, smile detection and a face tagging feature. This last allows you to identify individual faces within a pic and tag them to each of your contacts.
There are easy options to share your snaps via email or your social network and video records at a healthy 30fps.
Movie viewing worked out well overall, though there were occasional processing stumbles leading to the screen freezing briefly in a couple of film clips we tried. There's no option to resize the ratio of films, and when black bars were forced top and bottom in some cases, the screen's smallish dimensions became a handicap. It can handle a decent range of video formats though with DivX, Xvid, MP4, WMV, H.263 and H.264 all catered for.
For audio it will play MP3, AMR, AAC, AAC+, WAV and WMA and the standard Android music player with its big buttons and intuitive interface doesn't really need fixing just yet. Ditto the rather lovely FM radio with its virtual dial, but the supplied headphones definitely need a change, with their muddy and compressed sound – you'd do well to replace them at the earliest opportunity.
Battery life proved to be more than adequate on the GW620, giving us a good two days of fairly heavy use – better than most in other words.
The GW620 is a bit of a mixed bag, with some excellent elements, but a few key usability issues that stop it from being a true bargain. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is one of the best we've seen – full-featured and easy to use – plus it's nice to see some genuine social networking integration going on. The camera's a good one too if you're not in a rush and browser and media player are good, solid Android fare.
What really let it down however was the unresponsive touchscreen, which quickly became irritating, and the shabby processor, which left us hanging too often for comfort. If you can put up with these drawbacks though, it's a good contender for Android on a budget.