LG U400 review: LG U400

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Scroll wheel; stereo Bluetooth (A2DP); expandable memory; easy-to-use keypad; 3G connectivity; speakerphone mode.

The Bad Fingerprint-attracting casing; keys dedicated to 3 network features; no FM radio.

The Bottom Line The easy-to-use LG U400 might lack the finesse of its Chocolate sibling, but it comes into its own with its scroll wheel to navigate through menus and tracks, its 3G connectivity and its expandable memory slot. Unfortunately, some of its simplicity is tarnished by 3's dedicated soft keys, which can't be changed and get in the way

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7.5 Overall

The LG U400 is LG's attempt to crack the MP3-playing phone market and it's not a bad offering. The use of a scroll wheel instead of a navigation rocker makes navigating through the menu and looking for specific tracks very easy. It's not particularly attractive, but it does feel and work like a practical mobile phone and music player.

The U400 is available on the 3 network for free on a monthly contract, from £12.50 to £100 a month, and currently comes with a pair of Bluetooth headphones and a 512MB microSD card included on this deal.

Our review model came from 3, which means this review includes certain menu-based features that will be different on other networks, or if you buy the U400 offline.

The LG U400 has a similar glossy look to the company's Chocolate phone, but overall the phone lacks the finesse of its sweet relative. For starters it's chunkier, measuring 48mm wide by 100mm tall by 20mm thick, and it doesn't have the same seamless appearance as the Chocolate phone or glowing red lights. However, it does share the Chocolate phone's fingerprint-attracting surface, so make sure to carry a cloth with you. That said, this phone is aimed more at the MP3 player market and less at the fashion-conscious one, featuring a more music-centric feature set.

There's a scroll wheel on the front that lets you navigate through the menu and through tracks as you would on an iPod, except it's a mechanical wheel instead of a touch-sensitive one. You can also click it like a normal four-way navigation rocker and you can select options with the OK key in the middle.

Either side of the wheel there are two soft keys that give access to 3's 3Player, an MP3 player that also offers you downloads via the 3Music Store, and Planet 3, which is 3's Internet services homepage. At the bottom of the scroll wheel is the menu button that gives you access to the U400's unique round menu.

To the right side of the scroll wheel are the send and end call keys and the cancel key, which also acts as the lock key. Above the scroll wheel is a colour screen that displays 262k colours and measures 30mm wide by 41mm tall. Further up on the top right side of the front section is a 0.3-megapixel VGA camera for video calls.

On the right side of the phone there's a dedicated music button at the top that gives you direct access to 3's 3Music Store. Further down there's a dedicated shutter button that operates the 2-megapixel camera on the back. On the left side there's a headphone port at the top, a volume rocker in the middle and a microSD slot at the bottom.

The back of the U400 boasts a 2-megapixel camera with an LED photo light and a loudspeaker. At the bottom there's a charging port that doubles up as a USB and headphone port. Unfortunately, there's no 3.5mm port on the phone and you need to use the proprietary remote, which comes with a 3.5mm jack adaptor if you want to use your own headphones.

Once you slide the slider open there's an alphanumeric keypad that's well designed and comfortable to use. The keys are spaced out enough that you don't feel like you might press the wrong one, and they're easy to press.

In a growing market for music phones, LG has made a sensible choice and put a handy scroll wheel on the U400 that lets you navigate through the your favourite songs with ease. It also lets you make a scratching noise over songs in the DJing application, but this is more of a gimmick than a serious tool.

You can listen to music with the proprietary headphones or use your own via the adaptor on the bundled remote control. You can also use the loudspeaker to play your music and use the speakerphone mode. If you want to listen to your music wirelessly you can also use a stereo Bluetooth headset because the U400 supports A2DP.

The MP3 player supports AAC, AAC+, ADPCM, AMR, MP3 and WMA music codecs and you can also play MPEG-4, H.263 and WMV videos using the video player. Aside from playing music and videos, the U400 also features a 2-megapixel camera with an LED photo light that can shoot still photos and video. One niggle we have with the U400 is that, unlike the Chocolate phone, the camera isn't hidden behind the slide and there's no cover so the lens can get scratched.

The U400 has 68MB internal memory for storing your MP3s, photos and videos on, or you can use the microSD slot to expand the memory depending on your needs. You can transfer data on to the phone via the included USB cable that comes with the phone, or you can always buy a USB card reader.

Other features include calendar, alarm clock, calculator, java games, to do list, memo pad, Web browser, voice recorder and melody composer. It also supports 3G connectivity, so you can make video calls and browse the Web faster than on a GPRS connection.

The audio quality on the LG U400's MP3 player is clear and loud and the option to use your own headphones with the adaptor means that you can use a better quality pair than the proprietary ones. The loudspeaker sounds tinny when playing MP3s through it, but it is suitable for the odd hands-free call.

The picture quality from the 2-megapixel camera is relatively good and adequate for MMS messages and viewing photos on the phone. However, due to the lack of auto focus, some pictures come out blurry and we noticed some lag while saving the picture.

Battery life is quoted at 295 hours standby time and 3.9 hours talk time. These figures vary depending on usage, especially if you browse the Web or make video calls over 3G.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide

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