Monday, May 28, 2007

My exclusive LG PRADA review

With the LG Prada AVAILABLE in stores for just a couple of days now, I'm so excited to be able to get my hands on a test unit for review! Thank you official LG distributor! Behold, the LG Prada!

It has been truly been an experience using such a revolutionary device for the first time. Totally no keypads or stylus to function with, just... the touch of your finger. For the purpose of this review, I will use mainly photos to do the talking, and walk you through each feature on this sexy Prada.

First Impressions
The FIRST thing that hit me when I held it in my hands for the first time was the size. It does NOT look as big as the pre-launch photos put it out to be. Its significantly smaller. And so light too. You'd be amazed. Switching it on, the word PRADA appears accompanied by a sound so similar to an F1 car racing by. A very nice (albeit shocking initially) "touch" from LG (pun intended). Then, the new touch screen interface to behold. Absolutely amazing. There's a (customizeable) sound when pressing every function / "key" on the screen. Another very nice touch. LG has to do this I suppose, being a touchscreen, otherwise you'd never know for sure whether you pressed the application / key. Also for your interest, when switching off the Prada, there's a strange sound like a car honking 3 times. (Note: these start up / shut down sounds can be disabled). Overall, I have good 1st impressions indeed with the Prada.

Physical aspects / build quality

  • As you can see, compared to my Treo, the LG Prada's noticeably smaller and slimmer. I can guarantee you its also lighter.
  • The LG Prada has a candy bar / PDA form factor, with only one colour variant; Black. Both the front and back are covered in black plastic material, with the sides made of chrome silver finishings. In my opinion, this just adds to the simplicity and sexyness of the Prada brand. One look at this device and you know it screams Prada. Very classy.
  • The front screen is a very big 3" display with only 3 buttons visible. The Call, Menu and Call-End buttons. Very simple.
  • On the left hand side, you will see a metal flap covering for charging / earphones, the volume increase / decrease keys (also functioning as the T9 word change when in SMS/MMS/Memo modes) and an "OK" key (which I'm still uncertain what it actually does)
  • On the right hand side, you will see a dedicated camera / mp3 player key (hold for a second or two, the Camera application activates)(press lightly once, the mp3 player activates) and the device lock / unlock key (Very important).
  • At the back of the LG Prada, you will see the 2 mega pixel camera (branded with Schneider - KREUZNACH. A partnership like Carl Zeiss with Nokia), a mirror for self portraits and a tiny LED flash. The LG brand is imprinted clearly at the bottom.
  • With the main feature being touchscreen, you may need to adjust to moving around with either your finger tip or your thumb. The thumb is most comfortable it seems, but you will need to find your way around to see what suits you the most.
Display / User Interface
  • The LG Prada supports 256k colours, which looks quite sufficient on the 3" display screen.
  • There are 4 main TABS within which contain different applications. (Note: For the photos, I used "Butterfly Theme" rather than the very cool default Black theme otherwise the photos would look rather dull being just black and white)
Phone TAB (Contains: Dialing, Contacts, Call History, Message and Browser)


Multimedia TAB (Contains: My Stuff, Camera, Camcorder, Voice recorder, Mp3 player, FM Radio and Games & Apps)

Organizer TAB (Contains: Alarm Clock, Calculator, World Clock, Unit converter, Calendar and Memo)
Alarm clockCalendar

Settings TAB (Contains: Display, Profile, Settings, Bluetooth and SIM Service)

ProfileDisplayThemeBlack Theme (Super cool!)Blue ThemeButterfly Theme
Fish Theme
SettingsClock & Calendar

Call quality / Messaging
  • The LG Prada's call quality is clear and I have no complaints here.
  • Messaging wise, it supports SMS, MMS and Email. Pretty standard so far. But how does it feel to text you ask?

  • It definitely will take some adjustments to. But you may like to know, like the Chocolate series before, LG texting interfaces are actually quite similar to Nokia's layout, especially with the "0" key being the "spacebar". To change the word in T9 however, on the Prada, you will need to use the volume side keys on the left. Not quite the most ideal location, but after a while, you should have no problems. Do note though, for the fast texters out there, you'd need to slow down a bit on the Prada. It needs a little time to register your finger feedback.
Multimedia / Camera performance
  • The LG Prada has pretty decent music capabilities. Quite standard you could say. Music and ringtone volumes are quite loud, so you won't have any problems here. My review unit did not come with any external memory microSD cards so I could not test the song playlist features.
  • Camera wise, I would say that although its a 2mp camera, the result is still a tad bit blurry for my liking. You do get a whole array of features though; zoom, multi shots, custom photo selections, flash, self timer etc. Here's a sample of what I took.

Other features
  • On the front screen, you will notice a small arrow close to the bottom; pressing it will bring out a menu similar to a profile quick launch (e.g when you want to select silent before a meeting etc). Quite a good inclusion by the LG designers I thought.

  • Once you select the clock type of your choice, under Display/Clock & Calendar i.e. Analogue, Dual Clock, Calendar or Digital, you will notice that you can move it across the display screen to any position that you like. Perhaps nothing worth mentioning you might say, but if it was a wallpaper of your loved one (for e.g) you wouldn't want a clock to block the any part of the wallpaper would you?

  • Battery life on the review unit I had was about 3 bars (out of 4) a couple of days ago, and after 2 days of use with constant experimenting and playing with the touchscreen, its only gone down to 2 bars. I'm not sure if this is indicative of the actual performance, but if it is, then it is very impressive.
What I liked about the LG Prada
  • Its easy to learn this new interface. After a while, you shouldn't have any problems navigating your way around.
  • Its so light and pocketable! Included in the inbox (which I did not have at time of review) will be an exclusive Prada phone pouch and cloth cleaner to wipe those fingerprints which WILL be noticeable on the screen.
  • Ring tones were loud enough.
  • Its PRADA. Most definitely one of the most attractive top rated fashion mobiles around today. No doubt about it.
What I did not like about the LG Prada
  • The glossy black material which attracts fingerprints and smudges. (Good thing they included a cloth though)
  • Texting could be challenging to master at first, being a touchscreen device. Furthermore, the screen is quite sensitive to accidental brushes. (Good thing there's auto keylock to counter this problem though). But of course, a regular keypad would be better in terms of responsiveness when texting / entering phone numbers.
  • Camera quality is mediocre.

d3xlabs recommendations
Previously having been put off by the LG Chocolate, I was initially sceptical about the LG Prada at first. But after going through each function and familiarizing myself with the glorious touchscreen, I have to admit, I grew to really like the Prada. It was a joy to just want to "touch" the Prada and hear the sounds after each press. On the other hand, sure there will be alot of smudges and prints, but you have to remember, it IS a touchscreen device. Its quite a revolutionary device by LG and you can't help but wonder what the iPhone will be like next year. Well, the LG Prada IS available now, so why wait for the iPhone?

My LG Prada rating - 4.5 stars
Selling price - BND1,288-00
(Use your DST Privilege card for better discounts)

AVAILABLE NOW, in limited quantities at Incomm Gadong.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Nokia N76 review

Back in my recent review of two slim phones, the Nokia 6300 vs SE W880i here, I focused on how mobiles now seem to follow the "slim is in" trend, like everything else. I'm still convinced this is the way to go from what I've seen so far. I'm also glad the manufacturers are listening to what the people want. Look at all the models being churned out lately, gone are the days of the big and chunky.

Back in the end of 2005, if you remember, Nokia released an onslaught of their new Nseries models, and amongst them, the Nokia N71. Truly revolutionary in those days (as if 2005 was that long ago). A symbian OS smartphone in a flip phone. It definitely created interest in a few customers out there. Sad to say though, in terms of sales, it wasn't the most popular model out there, especially here in Brunei. No one I knew owned one! It became a memory that faded in most...
.... until now.... a couple of months back, Nokia officially announced the Nokia N76, a truly worthy upgrade of the N71. I first saw the N76 launch photo on a magazine, and it was bright red (Cherry Red, as Nokia calls it). It has a better camera than N71, it has the updated S60 3rd edition Symbian OS, it sported different redesigned keypads and most of all, it was SLIM! I had a feeling this would be a seller, not quite like the previous N71. And now, I have it in hand, and I've spent a few days with it already. So is it worth the title as a N71 successor? Is it as hyped out as Nokia makes it seem? Read on....

Nokia N76 inbox
1 x Nokia N76 unit
1 x Battery
1 x travel charger
1 x stereo headset
1 x 512MB microSD (with adapter)
1 x User Guide & other reading material
1 x PC Suite software CD

First Impressions
When I first received the N76, the box reminded me of the N95's packaging, with a "clean and simple look". Opening it up, it again reminded me of the N95's packaging. The N76 is encased in a center window, with all the other contents underneath. Taking it out, (Note: attempting to open the back cover was a real effort. More on this later), then putting in my SIM card (again more on this later) and the battery, I quickly powered it on. So far so good. The outer display on the front also seemed to complement the N76 well. But the real surprise came when I opened up the phone. The keypad! What a change. Feeling my way around, it took some getting used to initially.

My two main first impressions that hit me was (1) how slim the N76 really is in person, and (2) this redesigned keypad. That magazine article I read was right!

Physical aspects / Build quality

  • The N76 comes in two colour variants; Cherry Red and Black (as my unit here is). The N76 has a flip phone form factor, with the most obvious size factor being its slimness. Both the red and black are made from a shiny / glossy plastic material, with the front external screen 1.36" in size supporting 128x160 pixels. I have to say that this glossy material used is perhaps not the most ideal, as it really becomes a fingerprint magnet within the first few minutes of use. So, owners should get into the habit of regularly wiping it down. This is an issue.
  • Under the external screen, you will notice the media buttons, which basically allow you to play your playlists right from the front, without opening Music player or Gallery. What's also cool about these buttons is that it also allows you to read your sms's without opening the flip. Quite handy, especially if you're on the go.
  • On the top of the N76, you will find the power button, a 3.5mm audio jack (great inclusion by Nokia) and a rubber flap which houses the mini USB slot.
  • On the left side of the N76, you will see the charging slot and also, a mini plastic flap which, once opened, reveals the microSD slot. Some reviews I've read mentioned that it doesn't close properly. On my unit, I had no problems.
  • On the right side, you will find the increase / decrease volume keys (which doubles up as the camera zoom function as well), a dedicated Gallery key (another common feature found on newer Nokias now) and a dedicated Camera button.
  • On the back, you will see the camera as well as the back cover for the battery. When I tried opening it up initially, it was really difficult! Although just being made out of plastic, this was surely one tough cover to open but eventually I managed to slide it out carefully. I suppose this is preferable over a cover that slides out too easily.
  • I wish I had a Motorola V3 to compare the N76 side by side with, because its also almost uncanny that both models look somewhat identical with the N76 being slightly longer and wider. But one major similarity that the N76 shares with a V3 is the keypad. Take a look. Isn't it so V3-ish? And I can tell you, the feel is also the same.

  • Another physical aspect, is the SIM card holder. As you can see from the photo, Nokia must be trying something new here with the new design. It does its job, don't get me wrong, but I just can't help feeling what would happen if this little removable holder gets lost? Then what?

  • Holding the N76 in hand, it was quite nice to hold and easy for big hands like mine to navigate around single handedly. However, with most flip phones, you would usually be able to flip it open with just the flick of a thumb or finger right? The N76 doesn't do that! Maybe its due to the design or structure but there's just no way to open the N76 without using your other hand. This was really an issue for me. You will understand what I mean by looking at these snap shots. It just doesn't spring open at all. This could be a let-down for some.

Display / User interface
  • The N76 sports a 2.4" QVGA screen supporting 16 million colours, with the S60 3rd edition Symbian OS, as mentioned before. The screen resolution looks very good, as with the N95. I won't dwell too much on this as it is identical to most other newer Nseries models; customizable themes / wallpapers, grid / list menu possibility etc. If you're an existing Nokia user, it will be very familiar. But if you're V3 owner thinking of moving across to Nokia, this could be the deal clincher for you, a Moto feel on a Nokia smartphone.
Calls / Messaging
  • Call quality and loud speaker features are typical Nokia; excellent. So no point expanding on this.
  • The N76 supports the usual email, MMS and SMS capabilities. What I will mention about it is with regards to the new redesigned keypad. It will get some adjusting to (unless you're an existing Moto user) Maybe I'm more used to some sort of feedback when I press keys, so the N76 was a refreshing experience for me. But after a while of using it, I managed to get up to speed and was sms-ing away like before.
Multimedia / Camera performance
  • The N76, music wise, has a pretty decent music player and Radio. Accessible from the external flip, or from going through the menu within, it is quite loud on maximum volume. (You will definitely have no problems hearing your ringtones) Also, with the possibility of using your own personal ear phones on the N76's 3.5mm jack, the performance is quite good I have to say, for Nokia's standard. But I do have a gripe though; with the ear phones plugged in, its unusual that the N76 will not be able to be fully opened i.e. the jack would stop it. Maybe this is a design flaw, but I suppose you could live with it.
  • Camera wise, the N76 has a 2 mega pixel on board, with LED flash. You can use the camera with the flip closed or open, accessible through the dedicated camera button. Performance wise though, it is average. Unless there are great lighting conditions, the results will be noisy or slightly blurry. The LED doesn't contribute in any major way either.

  • Overall, as I mentioned, the N76's camera is average. And I wouldn't print the photos either. Its just ideal for those who just want to capture the moment. As for the video capabilities, again, quite mediocre and just sufficient to keep the average user happy.
What I liked about the N76
  • Its so pocketable and slim. I often kept it in my shirt pocket at work, and you wouldn't realise that there was actually a mobile in there. Very reminiscent of the V3.
  • Battery life on the N76 is noticably good. I sent my sms's, made calls, took some photos, captured some videos, played some music, messed about with other applications, and the battery meter did not move significantly. So lasting a few days will not be a problem.
  • The mirror surface on the external screen will no doubt be a useful feature, especially for the ladies. No mirrors around for the last minute make-up touch up? No problems, the N76 is right there for you.
What I didn't like about the N76
  • The glossy materials used. After a few minutes of use, my prints were all over the N76. Without any included pouches, this meant that I often had to use find some source to clean the mobile (my t-shirts were usually this "source")
  • The non-existent flip action. I would at least expect a flip phone to "flip" open with one hand. Its not to look cool or anything, but more on the functionality. Most people would find it a hassle to use both hands.
  • The camera is of mediocre quality.
  • The "C" (clear) button might be a little inconvenient during texting.
d3xlabs recommendations
Throughout the few days of use, the N76 proved to be quite nice to use. Its definitely as slim as it looks. This alone would attract many a buyer. Function wise, I had no problems navigating around the N76, but of course, the main gripes I had were the fingerprints galore and the two-handed flip usage. But that's me. I do believe the N76 is targeted towards, not the business users (although being called a "smartphone?") but the style conscious or the fashionistas out there, who will probably be willing to overlook some of the flaws anyway. Besides, some people buy phones just to make a statement right?

My N76 rating - 4 stars (Only just though)
Selling price - BND798-00
(Use your DST privilege card for better discounts)