LG Chocolate BL40 review
We review the LG Chocolate BL40, a beautiful piece of industrial design
Verdict: The new Chocolate is a stylish, unique-looking phone which won’t be for every-one, but which will certainly mark you out from the crowd.
Cost: From free with contract, £399 off-contract
Pros: Stylish design, design browser and lovely screen
Cons: Can’t install applications, only an average camera
Design: A genuinely lovely and unique design
Operating System: N/A
More Info: LG website
The last version of the LG Chocolate was a hit with the design-conscious consumer, and the follow- up is, if anything, even more focused on style. In fact, the Chocolate is like no other phone on the market in terms of its looks.
Phone manufacturers have tried out many different forms of design, but few have been as striking as the new Chocolate. Eschewing the “shorter is better” approach that most phone makers have adopted in recent years, the Chocolate is long and thin, with a simplicity that reminds me of the designs of Philippe Starck.
The black and red colour scheme gives it a classy feel, and this is reinforced by the overall weight of the phone in the hand. It looks and feels like a high-quality object, and the elongated shape means that it has instant stand out appeal.
This design isn’t just for show, though. The length of the phone means that LG can fit a true 21:9 aspect ration screen on it, which means that you get true cinematic widescreen video - something that I haven’t seen on any other phone. That gives you 800 x 345 pixels to play with, which from a video perspective is both good and bad.
The good point is that you really can watch cinematic widescreen videos in all their glory, with no compromise. And this is a very, very good-quality screen. You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and an OLED display - it’s that good looking. Not so good though is the fact that you probably haven’t got many videos encoded to take advantage of this aspect ratio.
The screen also has an impact on the interface, which is the non-standard “S-Class” that we’ve seen on previous phones from LG. we have mixed feelings about S-Class. On one hand, the multiple-screens with some dedicated to applications and others to widgets and media is inventive and nicely put together. On the other hand, we’ve tended to find that the responsiveness of the interface isn’t always as fast as it should be.
The Chocolate perfectly encapsulates these good and bad points. Its version of S-Class is bright and colourful, with well-designed clear icons. But it’s also not as snappy as I’d like to see on a phone: there’s a small but perceptible delay between swiping your finger across the screen and something actually happening.
No phone these days is complete without a decent browser, and the Chocolate is no exception. If you are coming to this phone from an old-fashioned browser on something like an older Nokia or BlackBerry, you will be very happy with what you see with the Chocolate. Its browser properly renders full HTML quickly and accurately. It works equally well over WiFi or 3G.
Like the iPhone, the Chocolate’s browser supports zooming using pinch gestures. This isn’t quite up to the responsiveness of the iPhone 3GS, but it’s still pretty good. Browsing from one site to another is reasonably fast, but rendering can be sluggish on complex pages.
The BL40 also includes a decent five-megapixel camera, with options for image and video capture. This supports auto-focus and optional face, smile, and blink detection which can make it a very easy camera to get good pictures from.
There’s an LED flash, for low-level lighting conditions which functions well in most conditions, but the camera struggles in some lighting conditions to get the right balance. The Schneider Kreuznach lens delivers decent picture quality, and there’s a built-in GPS that tags images with location information. Video recording is at up to VGA resolution with 30fps - good enough for web use.
Overall, the new Chocolate is an interesting attempt to create something that’s visually appealing, powerful and easy to use. It certainly hits the mark with the hardware design, which is excellent. The camera, voice quality and connectivity are good enough without being truly outstanding. You won’t be disappointed by the quality of the camera, for example, but you’re also unlikely to be truly bowled over it.
However, the S-Class interface remains something that you will either love or hate, and it isn’t as responsive as a phone with this kind of design deserves. And the lack of additional applications beyond those pre-installed on the phone is a weak point.
As Apple, Google, and RIM have proved, additional applications are a key part of any high-end phone and it’s a shame that this lovely piece of industrial design can’t take advantage of them.