LG KU970 Shine Review

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Introduction
LG are one of the big players on the CDMA market in North America and Asia but not yet well established in Europe.  We have seen a lot of pressure by the Koreans in the recent years and furious attempts at conquering all continents thanks to their innovative design and solutions – very similar to Motorola with their RAZR and the fashionable series that followed.

The first to come were the lustrous Chocolates which set the pattern for a number of models of similar appearance using the features typical of the Black Label series in any form factors.  After they used all kinds of warm colors such as white, pink, lemon green and champagne, apart from black, it was time for LG to proceed to a new series of phones with specific features other than those of the Chocolates.

The Shine phones came into being. Of course, they started in Asia but soon the European models were promoted among which the original slider, its 3G version (discussed here), the candybar and clamshell versions.  The Shine series is featured by silver metal appearance and using of brushed aluminum, which not only looks good but also feels good to touch. Becoming a hit, this appearance will spread over in North America, too, thanks to VX8700, which was announced in late March at CTIA 2007.

The color of this phone series is entirely and only silver without the slightest trace of the black chocolates. Unlike them, brushed aluminum is used here for the front and back panel here instead the shiny and smooth plastic and the display frame is like a mirror, which the ladies certainly like. Unfortunately it is hard to keep it clean; fingerprints are easily noticed and you will have to clean it often. As a whole it has a solid structure, but its size and weight are not the smallest possible as you can see from the comparison below.


Model

Dimension (Inches)

Dimension (MM)

Weight (OZ)

Weight (Gramms)

LG KU970 Shine

3.9" x 2.0" x 0.5"

100 x 50,6 x 13,7

4.2

120

LG KG800 Chocolate

3.7" x 1.9" x 0.6"

95 x 48 x 15.2

2.9

83

Motorola KRZR K1

4.0" x 1.6" x 0.6"

103 x 42 x 16

3.6

102

Sony Ericsson W880

4.0" x 1.8" x 0.4"

103 x 46.5 x 9.4

2.5

71


Aluminum adds weight and makes it one of the heaviest stylish phones although it’s comparatively thin.

The battery lid stays in place and is easily opened when necessary, but the 800 mAh battery is hard to remove to change the SIM card.



Shine is convenient to hold and opening of the slider is a real pleasure. It is opened without effort and is supplied with one of the best spring mechanisms we have ever used. In the reverse direction (closing) the feeling is that pleasant, too.

The LG have succeeded in fitting a display of no compromise: it is with physical size of 2.2 inches and high-class standard resolution of QVGA (240x320 pixels). The display is not very bright but is rich in contrast and with saturated colors and fair size/resolution ratio.

Since this is a slider, the keyboard is separated in two parts. The soft buttons and the navigation scroll are on the upper slider immediately under the display. This scroll is an interesting solution since it differs from most phones using 5(4) direction buttons or joysticks. The scroll is three-directional only (up, down and press to confirm), but is accompanied by two buttons on both sides which sometimes are used as left and right directions. This happens when you need these directions, e.g., with the grid-menu or when looking at a picture with zoom. These buttons and the soft buttons are small, hard and difficult to press. Their motion can be felt since they are real buttons and not touch-sensitive as with the Chocolate.

The lower slider contains 15 buttons which are the digital keys, the two earpieces and a combined Clear/Back button. The last three are on the upper row close to the upper slider and that is why they are pressed somewhat difficult since your finger may touch the slider. There is almost no embossment between the keys and since they are of small size, they are not quite convenient. Adding the fact that they are flat and with almost no run, it is hard to feel where which button is. The whole keyboard is lit in dark blue underlight. They are seen quite well in the dark, but the right part of each key is less brightly lit. In the daylight when lighting is on, the letters on the keys are more difficult to see than when lighting is off.



Shine has four side buttons but the strange thing is that all four are on the right side with none on the left. The charging device/earpieces connection port is on this side, too, and the distance between the various details is very small. Only the camera button is protruding and can be felt (it is at the lowest part) while you have to look at the others to ‘hit’ them.


The lens of a 2-megapixel auto-focusing camera are located at the upper left part of the back panel. There is a small mirror and LED lightning next to it and the Schneider-Kreuznach branding is proudly placed below.

Since this is the 3G version of the phone supporting UMTS/HSDPA 2100 MHz, the 3G networks video chat camera is in the upper right part of the front panel. Another difference to the EDGE version is there is no memory extension slot.

Interface:

Since the phone we are using is branded with the Vodafone logo, its software is personalized.

The main menu may be visualized in two ways: as a vertical list or a grid of 3x4 (12) icons. The first method is better, using the scroll, but what we don’t like is that it is quite insensitive. During our short-time use of Shine KE970 we noticed just the opposite: it was very fast and we often even missed the option we wanted. Another drawback is that although each option has a key shortcut (from 1 to 0 and *, #), it cannot be seen unless you have selected that option. You wonder which option to which button is or you have to learn them by heart. With the 2G version which is not personalized for Vodafone, each field contains an indication of its button.

When you scroll in grid mode you will not encounter the above problem since each button corresponds to the relevant grid field but navigation will be more difficult because the use of ‘left’ and ‘right’ is clumsy and inconvenient.

Regardless of which option you choose for the main menu, the submenus will always be visualized as a vertical list. Here each option has a digital indication of its keyboard shortcut. Using ‘left’ or ‘right’ you can pass onto the neighboring submenu without returning to the main one. This is indicated in very small and almost invisible tabs in the upper part.

There are no themes or color schemes, but there is an interesting personalization – a possibility for changing the system Font. Unfortunately, there are only 2 options: the standard one and Fun Style.

Phonebook:

The names in the phone book are visualized as a list and there is an option of showing a picture, if any, by holding on a name. You can search by directly inputting symbols, and we are happy that the phone can find by the second word of the name, too, and not by the first one only.

You can add up to 5 numbers to each contact (choosing separately the type of each one) and 2 e-mail addresses. Apart from the possibility of adding a personal picture or a melody, you have up to 3 groups, home, business and Internet address and a Memo filed. An interesting option for the personal picture is Avatar whereby you can compose a small animated manikin.

Dialing a number is with a very ugly interface. A white screen with digits on it is visualized. You can select the size and color of the digits from the Settings menu, but they cannot be animated.

Organizer:

The organizer contains a number of options. We like it that it has 5 alarms each of which can be personalized with a ringing melody and repeating options. Apart from the standard calendar with appointments options you have Tasks and Memo menus, too. The calculator (whose interface is unfortunately not very convenient), the Converter of various units and the World Clock helping you check the time in remote laces, are convenient tools.



By the Voice Recorder you can make short recordings with maximum duration of 1 minute only. You have 3 compression/sound quality options.
Unlike KE970 Shine, KU970 does not have a memory extension slot and you are limited by the available inbuilt one only. It is 512MB or half a gigabyte, which is not little at all, and can store up to approx. 120 songs.

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Messaging:


Apart from the client’s messages you will find his e-mail, too, in the messaging field. You have text and multimedia messages templates and you can add new ones to the preloaded ones. For faster imputing of text in a message you can use the T9 system.

Connectivity:

One of the greatest drawbacks of Shine is that it is a tri-band GSM phone only (900/1800/1900 MHz) which means that it is not fully functional in America. It will work only in areas with available 1900 Mhz signal and not in areas with 850 Mhz signal. This model is KU970 and supports UMTS (and HSDPA) which makes it a 3G phone with very high download speeds. The ‘normal’ KE970 does not have UMTS but supports EDGE which is an upgrade of the GPRS technology and is a link between it and UMTS.
Bluetooth v1.2 is supported and not the latest v2 which is the technology for connection to other devices at close distances. Using it you can transfer files or connect to a wireless earpiece. A2DP is supported.

Camera:

The Landscape camera interface will start up in 4 seconds after holding the button placed on its right side. In standby regime you have somewhat incomprehensible icons indicating the settings status, which you can change by the options menu. You have 7 different resolutions among which some optimized for HomeScreen and Contact (caller ID), with the greatest possible being 1600х1200 pixels (almost 2 megapixels) and 3 possible compression options. Among the other settings are White Balance and color effects. There are 2 options for the camera sound while shooting but it cannot be switched off.


Since this is an auto-focusing camera, it takes it 2-3 seconds prior shooting to focus the object in the middle of the visor. After shooting it takes 4 to 5 seconds for recording a photo with the highest possible quality and then you can shoot again.

The noise brought in the photos by the sensor is a great problem of the Shine camera. Even in bright sunshine the photos are noisy and this spoils the detail. Most of them are a little underexposured and with strong contrast. Shooting indoors under faint light gives very poor results and we advise you not to use the camera in such conditions. A problem with the white balance appears under artificial light, too.

Music:

The music player is not like the one of the latest Walkman phone but still it works well. You can use play-lists to arrange the music saved in the phone memory. The music is played through the inbuilt speaker providing a very pleasant sound but not loud enough, so you may miss a call in a noisy environment. You can use the earpieces to listen to your music independently. The A2DP support provides a possibility for you to connect to wireless stereo earpieces using Bluetooth and listen through them.

Software:

LG KU970 supports Java MIDP 2.0 and some Java applications, that is, 6 DEMO games, came reloaded with our phone. Unfortunately none of the versions is full.

Performance:

As a result of our tests on how the device functioned as a telephone, LG KU970 was graded high.  Although its range is downright small, the sound quality and volume compensate it and the overall rating is good.  During conversation the sound is very loud and clear in both directions and the only remark is that you hear a little mutedly.  Unfortunately the speakerphone is not quite usable and if you leave the phone on a table you will not hear and be heard well because the speakerphone is turned upwards.

 
Conclusion:

Shine phone is a worthy successor of the Chocolates but unfortunately there are some drawbacks here, too.  Although the appearance is brilliant and the functions are exactly as necessary for a fashion phone, the convenience of use is spoiled by the inconvenient navigation.  With the Chocolates it was the strange touch-sensitive buttons and here it is the 3-directions scroll instead of a 5-directions button.  
The good sound is an important feature of any phone, and Shine does have it.  Functional enough and good-looking, it is a part of a series, which is certainly a hit to become more and more popular on all continents just as it happened with the Chocolates.

Pros

  • 3G in the size of the 2G Shine
  • 512 MB Internal Memory
  • Very robust spring assistance for the slider

Cons

  • Lack of memory card slot
  • Uncomfortable navigation (scroll) key

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

User Rating:

6.2
3 Reviews

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