LG KG920 Review

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Introduction
Samsung and LG are wonderful evidence of the fact that the Koreans are able to face difficulties and are really competitive on the high-tech market, including that of the mobile phones. The electronic giants have strong positions on the market and are among the innovators both with respect to design and technology. Although LG have established for themselves the reputation of a manufacturer of beautiful phones, first with their shiny chocolates and later with their glamorous Shine phones and are known for their fashion jewelry, developed jointly with PRADA, the ambitious Asians aspire for the leadership in the technology field as well. Nowadays, one of the main accents in the phones’ multimedia features, is the built-in camera. All manufacturers are competing to launch ‘the best’ cameraphone and LG are also part of this competition. LG KG920 is the result of the manufacturer’s attempt to fit a pocket consumer camera in a phone. With a look, reminiscent of a pocket camera and the enviable 5-megapixels, the phone is ahead of the competition...

The actual box content depends on the region. Our unit came with the charger, USB cable, stereo headphones, CD with software and manuals.



Looking at KG920 it is obvious that it was its designer’s idea to give it the look of a digital camera, on a par with a phone. At its back the lens with the flashes are visible, as well as the sensor, informing that this is a 5-megapixel CCD camera (more about this – in the part, dedicated to the camera). The battery lid, which is actually a part of the battery, is jutting out a little and bears more information about the camera. An interesting feature is that the phone’s lower part, on which the camera module is fitted at the back and the phone’s keyboard at the front, is rotating. This is useful for making a self-portrait, but we didn’t find any other special application of this feature, since it is not possible to turn it so that you can take pictures with a camera, which is high up and the display is pointing at you.

There are additional keys, enabling you to use the phone conveniently as a camera. Apart from those on the front, to the left of the display there are two pairs of shortcuts, while to the left there are three more buttons: the two separate buttons for sound control, which are not active while the camera is being used, and the camera’s shortcut, which is also used as a trigger. The four shortcuts next to the display are used for setting the flash and the self-timer, and for the digital zoom, which is not worth using. It would have been more convenient if the sound control buttons did this job. When the camera is not working, the first pair is shortcuts to the MP3 player and Calendar respectively.



The main keyboard is located on the rotating module and it surprises with the rather strange disposition of the buttons, obviously intended to make it fit in the module. Unusually, the D-pad is in the right-hand side, rather than over the numbers keys, which, in this case, are rather small. The soft buttons are also very small, but all buttons are fun to press and give a tactile feedback. The buttons stand out clearly, which is also due to the space between them, while the orange light ensures that they are seen well also in the dark.





On the reverse side is the camera with the flash, the LED lights and the lid release. It is not active and the software is not activated when it is opened, but anyway the camera detects it and, if you let it go without having removed the lid, the phone will tell you how to do it. The inconvenience is that, after it shows this message, the software will stop and you’ll have to stat it again.

Combining a camera and a phone in one, there’s no way KG920 can avoid the comparatively large size and weight. Although it is pocket-sized, you’ll feel it there and will not forget its presence. It is easily handled and it is easy to work with both vertically, as a phone, and horizontally, as a camera. The main material is plastic, but there are also metal ornaments, which are well-combined and, as a whole, the phone looks good in this respect and is also nice to feel. The structure is extremely stable and even the rotating mechanism does not give you a reason to worry, even after the phone has been used for a few weeks.



The display is just 2 inches, but its resolutions is 240х320 pixels, which is typical for this class and results in a comparatively high DPI ratio and, consequently, a small pixel size, which helps provide smooth images. The screen is bright enough and it is seen well, but it gets fingerprints easily, which can disturb you considerably in bright light. Its colors are authentic, but not too saturated and therefore the pictures look as ‘vivid’ as on some Samsung screens, for example. According to its specification it can visualize 262,000 colors, which is absolutely normal and sufficient.

While there’s nothing on the upper and lower part, to the right there are three plastic lids, covering different couplings. Far down is the miniSD memory slot, which is hot-swappable and its cards can be replaced without switching off the phone. In the middle is the undisguised charger coupling and far up is the headphones coupling. It is LG proprietary, but just like in the case of Chocolate, there is a wire remote control in the set, which is plugged to the phone and the headphones are connected to it by a 3.5 mm stereo jack. This is the solution also applied in Sony Ericsson Walkman phones and maybe this is the best option, apart from having an in-built 3.5 mm/2.5 mm stereo jack.


Interface:

The software used in the phone is similar to that of other LG phones and it is definitely not our favorite; however, it grows on you after time. The standard system information is visualized on the Home screen and it’s up to you to decide whether the operator’s name shall appear on it and to type in an additional text on the additionally provided line. The two soft buttons open the Menu and Contacts respectively and the D-pad’s four directions are shortcuts to other menus. The Wallpaper takes up the whole screen and the text and the icons are visualized on it, framed and in contrasting colors, so that they are easily read. The phone comes preloaded with 6 color wallpapers for personalization, but there are no options for color schemes or themes.

The main menu is made up of 12 (3x4) animated icons, which can be zoomed up and moved when pointed at. Each of them has its own shortcut on the digital keyboard and it says so next to its picture. Although we do not like the icons animations, we do not find the silvery-grey and pink color scheme appropriate, because the latter color does not go well with the phone. Orange would have been much more logical. The sub-menus are listed, again with shortcuts from the keyboard. On the upper part the name of the menu you’re currently in is visualized and under it is the tab-index, allowing you to go to the other sub-menus without going back to the main one.

An interesting, though not so enjoyable feature is the automatic lock of the keyboard, which happens just a few seconds after the display light goes off, provided that the phone is in the home screen. If you are in some of the menus, the light goes off, but the keyboard does not lock. The keyboard is unlocked by pressing any key or double-pressing the Volume down button. What is most annoying, actually, is that this function is not optional, so that you cannot switch it off.

Phonebook:

The phonebook would not offer you a host of opportunities, but it would nevertheless provide you with the main things. Its capacity is 1000 contacts, each with 3 phones, email and fax, but you cannot enter a few mobile phones or a few emails, for example. For each number the phones asks about a group and there is a character, which you can fill in. However, the issue is if you want to add a picture. You are not allowed to use pictures from your phone’s memory as caller id images. You can only use pictures that you have taken at the moment of entering the information by an improvised interface, not availing even of autofocus! You are also not allowed to assign a specific ring tone to a contact, you can only do that for a group of contacts.

The procedure of adding contacts is rather clumsy and far from enjoyable. After you have entered the name and the phone number and you want to finish entering the contact and press Save, the phone will nevertheless refer you to the Group and Character fields, which you will have to skip manually each time. This is the procedure also for editing contacts.


When viewing the names, you can choose whether only the names will be visualized, whether the contact details or even the photos or pictures will be shown. The latter opportunity appealed to us most of all, because the otherwise empty screen was able to show all this information without being overcrowded. Looking up contacts in the list is done by direct typing of characters, but it concerns only the contact’s first name, which is hugely inconvenient.

Unlike LG’s fashion phones, there is only one dialing interface and you cannot personalize the fonts. In the Call Register you can trace the history of calls. For us, the most convenient option was "all calls", which is also accessible through the green headphone on the home screen.



Organizer:

Like other models of this manufacturer, the organizer is divided into two menus: Organizer and Tools, which we believe should have been one. Some simple Memos, limited to 80 symbols and the calendar, which you can view only for one day or for one month, are in the Organizer. It is easy to add notes, but the comments are restricted to the ridiculous 20 symbols, which would hardly be enough to describe a certain Event.

In the Tools menu you will find 5 alarms, which can be set for different times with different melodies. For repeated alarms you can choose from the following options: "Once", "Mon ~ Fri", "Mon ~ Sat", "Everyday", which would do the job in most cases. There are no preloaded tones which we find appropriate for the alarm.

Here you will find also the calculator, featuring also "scientific options", World Clock with an inconvenient interface of the world map (not allowing you to search by cities’ names, only to shift around) and the units converter. The latter is very convenient, with rare options like Shoes and Clothes (size) tables.

The Voice Recorder is in the multimedia menu and only allows the recording of 20-seconds clips, which is useless.

LG KG920 is equipped only with 8MB inbuilt memory, which is fairly absurd, provided that the phone has a 5-megapixels camera, taking pictures with an average size of 1.8MB. As a comparison, Nokia N95 has about 20 times more inbuilt memory! Furtunately, there is the miniSD cards slot, by which you can add more than 2 gigabites memory.


Messaging:

You will find almost everything necessary in the messages menu. When you start writing a new message, the phone will ask you whether this is going to be a text or multimedia message or an email, but if you start a text message and decide to add multimedia content, the mode would automatically be changed to multimedia. The T9 system helps when typing in texts and you can choose from 3 font sizes, the standatd Bold/Italic/Underlined/Strikethrough, formatting /right, left, justified/ and the colors for the font and the background.

You also have an email, which you can restrict to 50/100/200/300КB for attached files.

Connectivity:

If you decide to connect KG920 to the surrounding world, you will find out that this is maybe its weakest side. It is just a three-band GSM (900/1800/1900MHz), which limits its use in the USA only to places with coverage at 1900MHz. It is equipped with the slow GPRS connection for the Internet and it does not avail of the quicker EDGE or 3G, which would have been more logical for a contemporary phone of this class. Locally, the connection is through Bluetooth v1.2, but the multimedia profile for stereo music is not maintained. The standard phone set contains a computer connection cable.

Internet:

This is another big misunderstanding in the case of KG920. The Internet browser is a regular WAP browser can only open simple WAP versions and not standard web pages.

Camera:

In order for a camera phone to be really good, it takes a good hardware – software combination. KG920’s camera hardware is at a particularly high level, but this is not the case with its software. A CCD sensor has been used, which, in theory, ensures better results than CMOS, when used in compact down-market cameras. CMOS is used in almost all ultra budget cameras and in almost all cameraphones. This type of sensor should not be confused with Canon’s upmarket CMOS, available in Canon’s DSLR devices. Thanks to the CCD sensor the pictures are different than those of most other cameraphones, with more detail and less noise.

The camera’s interface starts in 3-4 seconds and provides almost the whole screen as viewfinder. The uppermost line shows the current settings through numerous icons. By pressing the right soft button you can change the settings, including different modes, color filters, flash and quality settings (6 resolutions and 3 compressions). If you select "АЕ" from the mode menu, in the second settings menu (which you can reach be re-pressing the right soft button) you’ll be able to select the value of the white balance and the ISO. Unfortunately, taking pictures takes a lot of time, which is unjustifiable for an up-market camera phone. Focussing is done in no less than 3 seconds and then, 4-5 secs after you have pressed the trigger, the phone asks you whether you want to save the picture, which takes further 10 seconds! Therefore, the time you need to take and save a picture is about 18 seconds. Consequently, you’ll be able to take a little more than 3 pictures per minute. This is a very poor performance and we believe the phone should have been equipped with a much more powerful hardware, capable of saving the large pictures (1.8-2MB) quicker.



LG KG920’s main problem is the unrealistic colors it produces when you use the Auto White balance option. Almost all images are yellowish, which dominates over all other colors and replaces them. The images look as if you have applied a yellow filter over them. What is good is the excellent detail it produces, which beats every other phone camera we have seen. It is way better than N95 and K800 in the resolution comparison.

When it comes to macro (close-up photos), this is of great importance, because in macro photos the detail is almost everything. We should thank the 5-megapixel CCD sensor for this detail.

The KG920 isn’t very good when it shoots in low light. Although its flash is supposed to compare with the Xenon of SonyEricsson, its performance is worse, which you can see in our comparison. As it is not a LED, we hoped it would be very good, but it is not. It is fine at small distance though. Shooting night photos (without flash) gives mediocre results, despite the good camera sensor.

We are sure that the KG920’s camera problem is in the software! And in order to show you how good it could be, we edited one of its images. You can see the original (as it came straight out of the camera) above, but here is how we edited it – we put it in PhotoShop (computer application for image manipulation), applied AutoColor function (to edit the yellowish colors, due to the wrong white balance) and Unsharpening Mask, as the KG920 produces soft images. We got an excellent photo, which no other cameraphone can beat, in our opinion.



KG920 is equipped also with a camcorder for recording video clips. On the battery it says: „Full Motion Digital Camcorder phone”, but the potentialities are not amazing. Unlike N95, the resolution is 320х240, which is 4 times smaller than 640х480. The frames are also 30 and you can choose between two types of files: MP4 and 3GP.

MP3 Player:

The music player is nothing special and does not have anything extraordinary to offer, apart from some inconvenience. To start with, we have to point out that you’ll be able to play only the files, which are saved in a particular folder on the card and not directly on the card or in other folders. You’ll not be able to create new sub-folders in the designated one, because you’ll not be able to read the files from such folders. The player offers pretty visualizations and a few different equalizers, but the sound through the loudspeaker is mediocre and the volume is medium-high. We were surprised that the quality was very poor even when we plugged in high-quality headphones by wire distance control. Obviously, the respective chip (DAP) is not of the highest quality.

Software:

Preloaded are two games: ZooZoo and Othello. The first is a variation of the game "Diamond Mine", where you are supposed to arrange three identical pictures one next to the other by simple shifting, and the other is an old "table" strategy. You can add new applications by JAVA.


Performance:

We were dissappointed by the phone’s slow reaction when working with its menus. It often takes too long to open a sub-menu and it is really annoying if you have to wait for 1-2 secs to save a setting, etc. The camera’s slowness is unforgivable.

KG920’s performance as a phone is also far from excellent. In our test, carried out underground with gradual decrease of the coverage, the phone performed poorly  and we have evaluated it at 3.5 out of 10 in comparison to the other phones. The sound during conversation is its stronger side: it is loud in both directions, the voices are heard clearly, but the poor reproduction of the high frequencies makes them slightly monotonous. The Speakerphone is not good and since the loudspeaker is at the back, if you place it so that it is heard well, the mike will be on the other side. It is only usable for very small distances, e.g. half a meter.

Conclusion:

We are not quite sure what exactly the idea was behind this model. Obviously, it is intended as a substitute for your pocket camera, but is that all? Provided that the competition has launched a terrific all-in-one device like Nokia N95, it is not serious on LG’s part to hope to take a good market share with a phone that is characterized by an outdated functionality and just a good (really good) camera. Unfortunately, the camera is not free of faults, either, e.g. its slowness and the frequently inadequate automatic white balance. We hope that with some software help KG920’s pictures would beat those of the competition. For the moment, this phone remains just an alternative of N95, which, however, cannot challenge in anyway the latter’s domination on the high-end camera phone market.

Pros

  • 5-megapixel camera with a CCD sensor
  • Good sound during conversation

Cons

  • Slow camera
  • Unenjoyable software
  • Poor functionality
  • Weak signal

PhoneArena Rating:

5.6

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