LG Viewty Smart GC900 Review


As we mentioned, the original Viewty was the first touch sensitive screen phone with serious ambitions in high quality videos and snapshots. Its successor, the LG Viewty Smart GC900 gets ahead on the idea, housing 8-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. The hardware specs are less impressive than all functions the manufacturer has equipped it with.

The phone features almost the same interface like the LG ARENA KM900, but there are several additional extras to make it stand out. First, starting it takes about 3 seconds, while focusing only 1. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn off the picture preview, popping up right after you take a  snapshot, meaning interface needs another 3 seconds to load again. A single photo is taken for about 7-8 seconds on the whole, so there is no such thing as getting quick snapshots here.

Other than that, we are pretty pleased with the variety of options available. You can switch between shooting modes from the screen and they are automatic, portrait, landscape, fast motion, night mode and Intelligent Shot. It´s the first time we have seen something like the latter on a cell phone. The function sets your camera depending on environment (sunny, at night) and objects the device is directed towards (group of people, portrait or landscape). When you activate it, several charts appear in the bottom right corner that show the objects the phone is turned to, but the device needs several seconds to accurately recognize them. The whole point to this particular mode is to deliver the best image quality attainable – say, a picture of people who are in focus with the light coming from behind them fittingly compensated and background properly exposed. If turned on along with face detection, the mode allows proper focusing of up to 5 faces, although way too slowly, which in reality renders using both functions at the same time virtually pointless, especially at parties and the like, unless you promise people some big cash to get them waiting this long. We are going to pass our final judgment on the Intelligent Shot function further below.

The other manual options are exposure, flash mode (automatic, red eye removal, on and off), automatic and macro mode. Additional functions are available through the wheel-shaped digital camera menu. You can switch between video call and main camera, change the resolution (from 120x180 to 3263x2448), add effects (sepia, negative, single color), set white balance and self-picture timer (limited to no more than 10 sec delay). The additional modes are plenty as well – fast capture (up to 6 snapshots with resolution of 640x480 pixels), smile detection, one called “Beauty shot” that removes flaws and another to take pictures with artistic value (image resolution in the latter three is pegged to 1280x960 pixels) or panoramic ones (at lower resolution). Does anything strike you here? What are all these limitations for, not to mention on the LG top camera phone for 2009? This really ruined our mood and even seeing ISO can be set to 1600 couldn’t make us feel any better. Anyway, such a high setting is virtually unusable with mobile phones, because it creates way too much noise and the same goes for image stabilization. Focusing can be standard, on faces or manual and the latter is rare to find on cell phones. The other functions are the usual – screen rulers, geographical tagging, image quality and preferred content location.

Now, that is enough with the extras. Let´s see what the quality is. After finishing several photo shooting sessions, the one for Playboy we cannot share, we have come to the conclusion that you must know perfectly well when to use the Intelligent Shot. In most cases it really ruins the overall image quality, which is far from impressive to begin with. Colors are not saturated enough, don’t look realistic and pictures lack enough details quite often. Macro mode pictures were the only that managed to impress us, thanks to the very good focusing on objects. Intelligent Shot adds noise and its only use is to even off light coming from behind the object (with the object itself in contre-jour). We recommend you to keep away from the mode with indoor snaphots, because they will be excessively noisy. Camera flash is a weakling that doesn’t help things at all. As a whole, the LG Viewty Smart GC900 is a mediocre performer and most options fail to deliver better quality than the LG Renoir KC910.

You switch to video capture with the slider on the right hand side of the phone. Its interface is poorer in terms of available options and aside from setting the resolution (up to 720x480), you can add effects, change white balance, capture quality, size and whether or not to record sound. Modes known from previous models of the manufacturer, such as fast and slow motion shooting are also here. Unfortunately, despite the fact the device is a top ranging cameraphone, videos are captured at QVGA resolution only. All told, overall quality is not impressive, even if videos are smooth, thanks to the 30 frames per second capability of the phone. Still, people who were more than half a meter away are really hard to hear in the clips and everything is way too dark if shot indoors.

LG Viewty Smart GC900 sample video at 720x480 pixel resolution.

You can navigate fast from the camera interface to the phone Gallery that is really comfy to use. It unifies all your pictures and videos and content can be easily sorted by date, file type, name or depending on what you would like to see – only pictures or videos, your favorites, ones saved on the memory card etc. Things get truly beautiful when screen is in landscape mode – gallery turns into something quite similar to the iPhone Cover Flow with images pouring down spectacularly. You better take a look at our video review to relish the effect in all its beauty. Aside from this, zooming is implemented through image spanning thanks to the multi-touch technology.

Multimedia and Software:

The music player is an odd bird, but you´ll eventually get used to it in time. It´s not trail-blazing, but it´s not a clone of the iPhone either. This is good, since we are all fed up with seeing clones. In portrait mode the player appears in between tracks and scrolling means you lose the relevant album art and effects from sight, because they get in the background. You can, however, start or stop playback with the control keys below. In horizontal mode audio player takes up about a third of the screen and somehow doesn´t go with the rest of the interface, plus here you don’t have access to neither the Dolby Mobile function, nor the one that allows you to define a song as one of your favorite. We must say that we do like the particular way of browsing albums – they appear as a list, divided by artists with the masterpieces visualized as separate CDs. We do love such small, beautiful things.

What we also love is good sound… in other words we enjoy listening to music on the LG Viewty Smart GC900. Loudspeaker is a bit weak, but the crackling noises, typical of many cell phones, are missing even when volume is pumped up to its maximum setting. Audio quality through earphones is very good, despite sound tends to be somewhat sharp. All told, audio at full blast may definitely cause hearing problems. Turn it down a bit (say to 80-90%) and you will get awesome playback that is pleasing listen to even for prolonged periods of time.

The original Viewty was one of the first feature phones, able to play DivX content. Its follow-up copes with Xvid. There is bad news we were served with when we first saw the LG ARENA – movies can be only played if they have been coded at resolution not exceeding CIF (352x288 pixels), at less than 30 frames per second and bitrate lower than 1 Mbps. This is as disappointing as it gets, especially given the original device was able to play 640x480 pixel resolution videos without a hitch. This really degrades the video capabilities of the device, since you just won't be able to download movies from the Internet and watch them right away. Like it or lump it, you will need to convert videos – and while you are at it, you might as well go for MPEG4 to make sure they are playable on all modern devices. MPEG4/H.263 and H.264 videos can have resolution of up to 720x480 pixels, bitrate under 3Mbps and be coded at no more than 30 frames per second. Image quality using the above mentioned settings is passable, although artifacts are still visible. They are very small in Xvid videos and don’t ruin the experience, but way too obvious and irritating in DivX content. Still, if watching videos on your cell phone is your cup of tea, you better go for the Samsung OMNIA HD i8910 or the iPhone – you will still need to convert content for the latter, but its 3.5-inch screen delivers awesome image quality.

If you are still up to creating a piece of art after taking the severe blow with the video playback, you can make a short video using snapshots. The functionality is nothing to write home about – add pictures, pick a melody, choose underlying effect, set the other in which pictures will appear (random or sequential) and you are game. Unfortunately, subtitles cannot be added as, say, on the Samsung OMNIA HD and the total video length is limited to the one of the melody. You will need quite a few pictures to come up with a proper video clip using a song with standard length though (3-4 minutes). Still, you can achieve some really entertaining results, despite your creation will be saved at QVGA resolution.

Come to navigation, what you have is JAVA version of Google Maps, which is actually up to the task. The built-in GPS managed to surprise us with its speed – pinpointing our exact location took just 5 seconds even after hardware restart.

The LG Viewty Smart GC900 comes with several preloaded games and fun applications. The former have not been specifically designed for the high resolution screen it´s equipped with and pixels are clearly visible. We were pleased to find out some applications make use of not only the accelerometer, but the device microphone as well – for an instance, in Bubble Blower the small balloons that you need to collect and then burst will only appear when you have blown at the mike. You also have the option to install more JAVA apps to your own liking.

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