LG Octane Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

The LG enV series has been quite popular and successful for Verizon Wireless, as we saw last year with the of the LG enV3 and enV Touch models. But since then the landscape has changed and smartphones are now all the rage, though there are still plenty of consumers looking for a basic QWERTY messaging phone, without having to get a smartphone or data plan. A few months ago Verizon introduced the LG Cosmos, which is a QWERTY slider, similar to the LG Rumor, but it really wasn’t a successor to the enV 3. Now we have it - the LG Octane VN530.

Included in the retail package is the LG Octane phone, 950mAh battery, wall charger with detachable microUSB cable, and user guides.

Design:

Those of you who are familiar with the enV series will easily be able to notice the similarities and differences with LG Octane. The device comes in a dark mocha-brown color with chrome accents around the sides, which gives it a bit more fashionable appearance. On the front is a 1.76” 220x176 pixel TFT display, which is a modest improvement in size from the 1.56” display on the enV3. You can use it with most of the phone’s standard functions, such as dial a number, messaging, viewing or adding a contact, accessing your music, and looking at your saved pictures. The d-pad is now square, which feels a bit larger and easier to use with your thumb than the circular one on the enV3. The layout of the numeric dial-pad hasn’t changed much, but the buttons feel slightly smaller (vertically) when dialing numbers, but still provide good feedback when pressed. Alongthe sides of the phone are the volume rocker, camera key, 2.5mm headset jack, microUSB port, and microSDHC memory card slot with 16GB support.




You can compare the LG Octane VN530 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Both the LG Octane and enV3 open up the same and are equipped with a 2-stop hinge. The similarities don’t end there, as both come with a 2.6” QVGA TFT internal display with stereo speakers on either side. When looking at the displays, there is no noticeable difference between the two, as images and text are sharp and colors are adequately reproduced. But for whatever reason the auto LCD brightness feature was removed from the Octane, which means there are just 7 levels of brightness for you to select manually.



One of the most noticeable changes on the LG Octane is with the QWERTY keyboard. It is still 4 rows, but instead of having individual buttons (like on the enV3 and Cosmos), it is a one-piece membrane design where the buttons are all constructed out of one piece of plastic. Because of this, and the little spacing between them, we often noticed that we pressed a few buttons at the same time by mistake when typing, something that almost never happened when using the enV3. We also noticed that the keyboard on the Octane feels “squashy” when pressed, unlike the nice “click” response we got when using the enV3 or Cosmos. Because of these changes to the keyboard, we wish that LG would have kept the individual key design, as it simply works and feels better for typing.



LG Octane 360-degree view:





Interface and Features:

There are only a few minor changes to the software on the LG Octane. The internal main menu is still categorized by media center, messaging, contacts, recent calls, and settings & tools. Four themes are included for the internal display (white, slick black, jean pocket, and paper peeling) that can be show in a tab, list or grid view, and two themes for the external display (menu card and notebook). There are also a selection of clocks, font types and sizes to choose from.




The phonebook on the LG Octane is also pretty ordinary for a Verizon device, as it allows you to store up to 1000 contacts with their name, 5 phone numbers, 2 email addresses, IM screen name, picture, ringtone, group, and street address. After a contact is saved, you have your choice of adding their phone number to be used as a speed-dial, but you can also add the contact in your favorites list, which allows you to view their information and messages quicker.



Composing a text or picture message can be done by using T9 predictive word entry with the front numeric keypad or by flipping the phone open and using the internal QWERTY keyboard. The LG Octane supports threaded messaging and displays them as quote-bubbles on the screen, similar to the LG Cosmos, but it’s still basic in design. Other messaging options include Mobile Email, which will allow you to send and receive email through your standard POP or IMAP accounts, Skype Mobile for messaging to your Skype friends (Skype-to-Skype calls are supported) , and Mobile IM for connecting to people in your AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! buddy lists. Also included on the Octane is a new program called Social Beat that allows you to connect your accounts for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google Talk, and GMail, as well as RSS. We tried it with Facebook and were able to view our feed, wall, inbox, and friend’s list. You can also post your current status and even upload a mobile photo. The included HTML browser is a bit better than the one on the enV3, as pages load faster and retain their original layout, but graphically intensive sites may not completely load all the images, and of course Flash is not supported. But it is still better than using a standard WAP 2.0 browser, like the one included with the Cosmos.




For taking pictures both the LG Octane and enV3 are equipped with a 3MP fixed-focus camera with a maximum resolution of 2048x1536 and a single LED flash. Even though the Octane remains a mid-level device, images that we took outside were not as good as the ones we took using the enV3, as the pictures didn’t look as sharp and the colors weren’t as accurate with noticeable issues with the white balance and exposure. Indoor images were also worse from the Octane, almost looking blurry, and the flash is useless giving blue tint to the image. It is unfortunate that the Octane could not retain the same level of image quality that is on the enV3. Video recording remains limited to 320x240 resolution at 15fps, making them suitable for only watching on a phone.





The music player on the Octane and enV3 are also pretty similar, as they can display your music by artists, album, genre, and playlist view, and will also show the album cover art. One nice thing that we like is that you can listen to your music while performing other tasks on the phone, such as sending a message. However, we noticed that the music volume on the enV3 was about twice that of the Octane, even though we had the volume on both turned up to the highest level of 16. The music volume on the Octane is adequate, but the enV3 is much louder, and remains clear and undistorted.



Most other software features on the LG Octane remain unchanged from the enV3, such as the appointment calendar where you can save important alerts, VCast Music and Video for downloading music and streaming pre-recorded video clips, VZ Navigator for GPS guided driving directions, and the ability to download other ringtones and games. Additional useful tools on the Octane include Bing web search, voice commands, Bluetooth, world clock, stopwatch, notepad, and a document viewer that can display MS Office and PDF files.



There are two banks of internal memory on the LG Octane. The first is 102 MB and is used for saving programs and other various information. The second is 122MB and is used for VCast music downloads, and user generated picture and videos. Of course, installing a microSD memory card is the easiest way of getting your files to and from the phone.



Performance:

One area where LG phones usually shine is with the call quality, but that is not the case with the Octane. On our end during calls, when we listened to a person talk, the call volume would go up and down. It sounded like the first few seconds of a sentence were lower, and then got louder (we tried with and without the “call clarity” option). Once the person would stop and then start talking again, it was quieter and then got louder after 2-3 seconds. We could also hear some echo on our end when we talked into the Octane. On the other end of the conversation, the person that was using a land-line said they could hear themselves like an echo coming back through the phone. We tried several calls with different people (some on land-lines and some on cell phones), and everyone was getting this echo effect. We also tried another Octane, and got the same results, but when we used an enV3, it didn’t have any of these problems. At this point we can hope that the issue with the call volume and with the voice echo are software related, and urgently suggest that there needs to be firmware update that will correct these problems. On the plus side, the signal reception was actually pretty good (so we know that’s not the issue) as we had 3-4 bar showing and didn’t drop any calls.

The included battery is 950mAh in capacity, which is the same as on the enV3 and Octane. Talk time is rated at 6 hours and standby is 14 days. During our testing we were only able to get up to 5 hours of continuous talk time, which is about 30 minutes less than what we got when using the enV3 and Octane.

Conclusion:

Overall, the LG Octane is not a suitable replacement for the enV3 due to the call volume fluctuation and echo issues that it exhibited with phone calls. Because of this, we really can’t recommend the Octane for people who would use it for a lot of calls, but if you are the type of person who only place or receive calls on occasion, you might be OK with it (we would suggest that you try it out first). But in the other areas, the Octane still isn’t as good as the enV3, such as the one-piece membrane QWERTY keyboard, lower volume music player, and camera images not looking as good. In fact, the only thing we seem to like about the LG Octane is the updated exterior styling and the larger front display. It is unfortunate that LG dropped the ball on the Octane, and we can only hope that a firmware update will fix the call problems.

Software version of the reviewed unit: VN530ZV01

LG Octane Video Review:





Pros

  • Compact and stylish
  • Larger external display than the enV3

Cons

  • Call quality is bad on both ends
  • QWERTY keyboard is all one piece, not individual buttons
  • Camera image quality not as good as the enV3

PhoneArena Rating:

4.5

User Rating:

6.3
7 Reviews

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