LG GD900 Crystal review
We review LG's beautifully designed GD900 Crystal, but has it got the usability to match?
Verdict: The GD900 Crystal is a unique design that deserves a better user interface and camera. It’s so nearly great, but not quite there.
Cost: From free with contract
Pros: Stylish and good looking, with a nice feel to the hardware
Cons: S-Class isn’t for everyone, and the camera is mediocre
Design: Intriguing, good looking, and neat.
Operating System: N/A
More Info: LG website
Think of classics from the Nokia “Banana phone” all the way through to the iPhone and beyond, and you’ll find that all the best phones marry great design with terrific usability. It’s not enough to get one half of the equation right - you need both if you want to be up there with the classics.
The LG GD900 Crystal certainly gets one half of this right. It’s a slick, well-built phone created around the central idea of hav-ing a single piece of glass which functions as the keypad. This slides out from underneath, and is completely see-through, with the “keys” lighting up so you can see them.
Although this sounds like a nightmare of usability, in fact it works really well, lending a really distinctive look to the phone and actually being easy to see and use in all the lighting conditions we tried it in.
What’s more, although most of the phone is made out of plastic, it’s got a very nice “heft” to it and feels very solidly built. I’m a sucker for a phone where the moving bits - in this case the keyboard - work with a resounding “click”. The GD900 Crystal has this clickability in spades.
Sadly, though, the other half of the great phone equation - usability - is a bit lacking. The GD900 sports LG’s S-Class interface, with all the plusses and minuses that entails. For those not familiar with S-Class, it uses multiple home screens that feature different kinds of content. These include useful widgets (like a calculator, alarm clock, and so on), your favourite contacts, applications and media files.
The main problem with S-Class is that this approach takes a little explaining before it makes sense. You can’t mix and match widgets and applications on the same screen, for example.
More importantly, none of this is expandable. Unlike Android, iPhone, or the Palm Pre there’s no method of getting new applications on the phone. If you don’t like the applications on there, you’re stuck.
So it’s a good job that the Crystal's browser does an excellent job of rendering complex pages. Usefully, you can use that big glass number pad as a kind of trackpad, too, scrolling around using your fingers rather than poking at the screen. It also supports multitouch which is also a welcome feature when surfing the web, zooming in and out using pinch movements. However, this isn’t as smoothly- mplemented as the version on the iPhone.
There’s also built-in WiFi and 7.2Mbps HSDPA so most sites will load reasonably quickly. However, the screen is only three inches in size, so viewing bigger web pages can make you squint.
The camera is an eight-megapixel version, which on paper sounds great. However, in practice I found that the im-ages it produced weren’t all that special. In good lighting conditions, the images were a little washed out. Once the LED flash kicked in, images became noisy and had an annoying red cast to them - a standard problem with small cameras on phones, but one which the best models tend to avoid. Even dedicated cameras will produce better image quality in low light conditions, and given that low light conditions - indoors, at parties, down the pub - are likely to be the ones where you only use a phone camera, it’s disappointing that the images from the GD900 aren’t better.
However, LG should certainly win some plaudits for the quality of the editing software on this phone. You can do vir-tually everything that you’d normally have to go to a piece of computer software for, from cropping to adjusting colour. And the software itself is well designed and easy to use.
Overall, the LG900 Crystal is a phone which is well built and designed in terms of hardware, but is let down by slightly disap-pointing user interface and software. It’s got a unique look to it, and if this design matters more than what you’re able to do with the phone itself, it’s well worth considering as an option.
However, we’re left looking forward to the day that LG moves its phones to something like Android, which will allow it to concentrate on producing great hardware with-out leaving us a bit disappointed with the operating system.