LG Renoir Review

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Introduction and Design
This review has been updated on 24 October 2008

Introduction:


Have you ever thought about how the touch phones came in style? Many consider the iPhone as the revolutionary model of this new movement, but LG rightly reminds us that their PRADA came along before the iPhone was introduced Today, we’ll take a look at the Renoir KC910, which is the latest entry in LG’s touchscreen lineup. Successor to the Viewty, the Renoir is a powerful multimedia device with a top-notch camera, hence named after the famous French artist. In addition to the high-quality video DivX codec, we now have XviD support. The features now include Wi-Fi and GPS as well.

Design:

This particular design attracts peoples’ attention; the consumer is still fascinated with the very idea of a keyless device which is relatively new and reminds us of a futuristic movie. Design wise, the Renoir will not have as many followers as the PRADA and Giorgio Armani, but it will be an appetizing bite nevertheless. The “glass” face, the shiny sides and the jagged back which is made of miniature circles make it a much more attractive device than Samsung’s Pixon. You can feel those circles by running a finger across the surface and that pattern adds an interesting light reflecting effect to the phone. The only thing we are not happy with is its weight. The Renoir doesn’t feel too solid in a hand, making it appear cheap. On the other hand, this is very nice when you carry it in your pocket.



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

Everything has a price. The compact size of the Renoir results in a smaller display in contrast to the competition. Although it is large compared to most phones, the 3” screen of the device is still a step behind the Pixon (3.2”) and the iPhone (3.5”) and that will affect the video watching and the Internet surfing experience. It has a standard widescreen resolution (240x400 pixels) and it supports 262k colors. Nowadays, almost all displays produce a nice image indoors but some of them cannot be used in bright daylight. The Renoir is usable if you look at it directly, but at an angle it becomes a mirror.

All touch displays have to be sensitive enough and user-friendly. Like the Viewty, the Renoir uses resistive touchscreen technology which makes the screen responsive to any type of object. It is definitely better than PRADA’s but is still a step behind the leaders in this aspect. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll most likely be disappointed that the display responds better to pressure as opposed to touch only. In case you haven’t played with the “Cuppretino wonder”, you’ll still notice that something is not right. In contrast to the PRADA and Armani however, you will not have any troubles operating the phone despite pressing hard.

The buttons below the screen couldn’t be any better. They are easy to press and feel by touch and look very good. We don’t like their shape, but that’s a matter of personal preference. All other buttons are located on the right side and are very easy to use, except the lock key. It is almost level with the surface and has a very short drive, which makes it hard to operate. Its design is intended to prevent accidental activation, but we would have preferred a sliding switch.


Just like the rival Pixon the lens protrudes from the back, and when placed on a table the phone is thicker than the advertised 13.8mm. The ring surrounding the lens is also used as a closing/opening mechanism for the lid. This is a very good solution, but we still prefer the automatic ones like in the Pixon and INNOV8.







LG Renoir VideoReview:


LG Renoir 360 Degrees View:


Interface:

When introducing the Renoir, LG showcased a few images with only the homescreen visible. We noticed the new Widgets and thought that we were looking at a next generation interface. It actually came out to be a “warmed up” version of the one we’d seen in the PRADA, Viewty, KF700 and Glimmer. The idea of having Widgets was introduced in the KF700,  however, we weren’t very impressed because we could use only one with limited functionality. It could be that LG has seen what we wrote and has made some changes present here, which now allow the use of multiple widgets like in the Samsung phones. Their placement on the screen can only be modified when you are in the mode to chose which ones to appear and are static otherwise. This lets you add more than those that can fit on the screen and scroll up and down. We think that having 2idgets is not very appropriate because of the small size of the screens. Nevertheless, despite the limited number of applications that can be added, the execution is much better than in past LG units.

The look of the rest of the interface remains almost as in the previous models. We have four categories of options: phone, multimedia, organizer and settings. We like that and it’s easy to get where you want. On the other hand, the sluggish transition creates the impression that the phone is slow. There are two themes; a color one with a white background and monochrome icons on a black screen. It’s not much of a choice but it’s better than the Pixon’s lack of options.


The multitasking idea has been covered in our KF700 review, but in the Renoir it has been taken to the next level. Pressing the middle hardware button will take the application you are working on to the background and will show you all active ones. They could be preloaded or additionally installed JAVA programs. On a different tab in this menu you have 9 shortcuts to your favorite applications. Just like in the KF700, when you tap on the service line (housing the signal strength, the battery remaining and the time) more detailed information will appear, accompanied by shortcuts for the profiles, music player, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Phonebook:

Everything looks good when you open the phonebook – the names appear alphabetically, and there’s a search field in the upper part, which we prefer instead of the Pixon’s filtering by the first letter. The fiasco begins when trying to add a new contact: the monochrome interface is not only ugly but is not user-friendly either. Since all elements are large, only a few fields appear on the screen and this leads to heavy scrolling. We realized how much easier this could have been after using the Pixon.

Similar to other platforms, such as Windows Mobile and BlackBerry, when you begin to dial it matches from your contact list.  It is not as smart on the Renoir, however, as it will only match numbers and not names.  . We are disappointed of the small size of the pictures even on an incoming call.



Organizer:

As we’ve mentioned, the third tab of the main menu houses the organizing functions. Here you’ll get access to the alarms, notes and the Dictaphone, and since the display is too small to show everything the rest can be found in two additional folders: Organizer and Tools. Each of the five alarms is easy to set up, with a repetition option for specific days of the week. The calendar has a pleasant interface and the typical fields when adding an event. In addition you have the To Do and Search date options. The last one is an LG functionality, which tells you what date is it going to be in a given number of days. The options to send all calendar events or all items from the To Do list to another phone  is here as well.



The Tools folder houses the calculator, the unit converter, the world clock and a jogging assistant. We liked the color interface of the first one. It also has scientific functions but if you frequently use a regular calculator you’ll notice that the numbers on the keyboard are arranged as on a phone. The jogging assistant employs the GPS to calculate the distance you have passed. We’ve seen such applications before, but they used a sensor instead, making it possible to keep track of the distance indoors (impossible with the GPS).



Messaging:

Text messaging is arguably the most popular cell phone function and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon. The Renoir takes advantage of the touchscreen by offering a virtual QWERTY. It is well made but the small size is an obstacle, and ven users with tiny hands will find themselves pressing the wrong button. The Pixon’s on-screen QWERTY is definitely better.


Naturally, there’s an email client supporting POP3 and IMAP and we were glad to see that there are automatic settings for the most popular web servers. Even if you have to setup an account manually you’ll find it relatively easy. However, we were in for a surprise: the email client repeatedly downloaded only the oldest messages as opposed to the new ones. We got the same results from our Gmail POP3 account and a private IMAP4 mail server. We did ask LG to explain and will let you know once we get a response.



Connectivity:

Like many high-end devices we’ve seen theRenoir is a quad-band GSM without global 3G. Our review unit is the European version sporting UMTS at 2100 MHz. The manufacturer’s site mentions a UMTS (850/1900 MHz) version, which could work with AT&T, but there’s no release information. The good news is that the phone has Wi-Fi for wireless Internet access.

The browser here was disappointing as well. The manufacturer has to understand that proper rendering of web sites is not enough for a good experience; if the navigation is not user-friendly then everything is lost. In Safari for example, this is done by the multi-touch display recognition and in Opera Mobile 9.5 by double tapping. In both cases, navigation is simple and intuitive. In contrast to them, the Renoir did manage to load PhoneArena.com correctly, but a slider is used for zooming in/out. Once you choose the level, it will take a few seconds for the changes to take effect. Surprisingly, the view-finder will take you to another part of the page and you’ll have to manually find the area of interest. The zoom level is also influenced if you hold a finger on the screen. We say “influenced”, because we couldn’t figure out how exactly does it work.






Camera:

We found the Pixon’s camera interface to be ugly though  extremely easy and we said it should be an example for the rest. The Renoir thankfully sticks to that philosophy. The “artist” also offers many options but they are much harder to activate. This is mainly because of the monochrome display and the multiple fields, which result in heavy scrolling. The camera will not impress you with great speeds; it took over 4 seconds to store an image as opposed to 1 second in the Pixon.


As it can be seen in our 8-megapixel cameraphone comparison, the Renoir is behind in terms of picture quality. Both the colors and the detail level are worse than what the competition offers. Even the Xenon flash didn’t meet our expectations and follows the steps of the predecessor Viewty, being worse than the LEDs of its rivals.



For more pictures, please take a look at our 8-megapixel cameraphone comparison.

You can still record DivX videos in VGA resolution, and if you choose to shoot in the smaller QVGA, you’ll have the slow/fast motion option. An innovation here is the noise-free microphone, which supposedly will enhance the video sound. The image quality is definitely good (better than hi-res YouTube), but the sound is disappointing. Despite the enhanced mic you will not be able to record a conversation. The gallery is quite nice, visualizing all multimedia files as miniatures. You can easily zoom in the pictures you’re viewing or jump to the next/previous. The time it required to load (several seconds) was a bit of a setback, and then there’s the choppy page transition.

LG Renoir sample video at 640x480 pixels resolution
*Due to codecs support, you may not be able to play the files.

Multimedia:

The camera is the Renoir’s show feature, but its important to remember that this is not simply a cameraphone, but an all-in-one device, claiming to be a powerful multimedia player. It’s obvious that we have the hardware needed, but as we’ve mentioned in our guide for buying a music phone there are other important factors. One of the key elements is the software and the options it offers. Here, it lets you sort your music by different criteria but there are no sound effects (equalizers), besides Dolby Mobile. The interface is simple and it visualizes small album art covers and is not impressive in any way. Moreover, it strangely did not recognize the ID3 tags of some of the songs we had uploaded and instead of displaying the track info it was saying “Unknown”. This doesn’t help organize the media library in any way. We’ve never had such a problem with another phone and guess that’ll be fixed by a future software update.

The phone is also equipped with a FM radio with RDS and the ability to store up to 50 stations. The thing we didn’t like was that the user is not able to enter names for the stations.

Unfortunately, the test unit didn’t come with a set of earpieces, but it has a 3.5mm adapter. When you plug in quality headphones the sound is generally good but somewhat weak. Dolby really changes the sound and although some will like it we prefer not to use it because the music sounds unreal.  Unlike  the Pixon, the Renoir’s speaker is quite weak.

The DivX support was one of the key elements in the Viewty. The Renoir adds XviD support, which lets the user play a wider selection of quality videos and they look very good. A cool extra is the option to remove the black frame in case the clip is not proportionate to the screen. The video will be unbalanced but at least you have an alternative.

Quality videos look good on the screen and it’s great not having to convert them. Most of the videos played without any troubles, but strangely, an error notice appeared for some XviD clips stating that they were not supported.



Software:

Though a jack of many trades, the Renoir is not a smartphone and the choice of programs is limited to JAVA applications. There are a few preloaded demo versions and LG’s M-Toy menu, which includes two games controlled through the accelerometer. They have nice graphics but are nothing special and choppy. The Renoir is equipped with Picsel File Viewer and can open Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents. However, it doesn’t handle large documents very well.




Performance:
The Renoir has rich multimedia functionality but it is a phone after all, and we were happy with its above average performance as such. The sound at both ends of the line is loud enough, and despite being slightly muffled, the voices are realistic and clear. The speakerphone, however, is totally useless even in a quiet room.

We weren’t very impressed with the operating speed of the device. As we mentioned before, the menu transitions should have been faster and there were a few “choppy” moments as well. We even had the same experience with the original LG games, which means that the Renoir hasn’t been fully optimized. Additional lag can be noticed when opening the gallery or sorting tracks in the music player. Overall, not the best we’ve seen.

Conclusion:

LG’s Renoir KC910 is a good model, but it worth it? We would have to say it is not. The 8-megapixel camera and the rich functionality would be really attractive to the consumer if there was no competition in the class. However, in the world we are living in the mobile industry is characterized by dynamic development in all aspects and we all know that only the best live to see another day.

We think that the rival Pixon is better because of the better software as a whole. The Renoir is not bad, but we get the feeling that its production was rushed so LG would be able to compete with its South Korean rival. Samsung’s Pixon is slightly better at everything, including the camera, the video playback, the music player, texting and the sensitivity of the display. However, if you don't like the geek look of the Pixon, the Renoir is a good alternative.



Pros

  • Shiny appearance
  • Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Sloppy software
  • Troubles with some songs and videos
  • The camera is not as good as the competition
  • You have to press the display instead of touch it
  • We never really managed to check our mail

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

8.0
15 Reviews

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