LG U880 review:

LG U880

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Small and light for a 3G handset; good on-device controls; easy music playback using the front screen; numberpad and keys are tactile.

The Bad Camera is below par and has no flash; short on internal memory; feels a bit plasticy in the hand.

The Bottom Line The U880 has been called LG's answer to Motorola's RAZR, but the U880's plasticy feel means that, despite its thin and light nature, the comparison doesn't really stand up. Standing alone, the U880 is nicely featured, small and light, and, we have to admit, fairly funky. If the pink were any other colour, we'd be happier

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6.5 Overall

Pink, it seems, is the theme of the moment -- LG is the next in line to do the pretty thing with its most recent 3G handset, the U880.

You don't have to opt for pink. The clamshell U880 is also available in silver and black. You do have to go to 3 to get this handset though, as, at the time of writing, the network has an exclusive deal. You can get it as a pay as you go handset, or for free on various tariffs.

Pink and pearl is not a colour combination we'd usually choose, but if that is your taste then the LG U880 wants you -- this handset is pink and pearl throughout, except for a narrow strip of baby blue, which for some reason sits near the hinged area inside the clamshell.

For 3G video calling a handset needs a camera. This one sits on the clamshell hinge and can be rotated for both shooting stills and video, and putting yourself in the picture during video calls. Annoyingly you can't rotate the lens so it's completely hidden away -- and thereby protected -- inside the hinged section.

Left and right edges house a range of buttons and connectors. On the right edge is a button that activates the camera, the mains power slot and a slot for a tiny TransFlash memory cards -- also known as microSD. Both these slots are protected by permanently attached covers, and the memory card cover in particular seriously got in the way as we inserted and extracted the card. The same can be said for the headset slot protector on the left edge. There's a volume rocker on this left edge too.

The front of the casing contains a reasonably large 65k colour display, and internally there is a much better 262k colour one, which is bright enough, but at just 176x220 pixels is low on definition.

Opening the clamshell reveals more pink. There's a dedicated key for starting video calls, the 3 triangle key and another that calls up the handset's menu -- a grid of three icons wide by four icons deep that provides access to everything on board.

The navigation button has four icons on its North, South, East and West points. North takes you to the handset's Quick Menu (10 shortcuts to your favourite stuff), South to your contacts. East and West have long and short press functions -- East combines access to the messaging software and the create new message screen while West can drop you into the profile selector or send the handset straight to vibrate mode. Coupled with two soft menu keys, a back button and delete key, there's plenty to learn in terms of getting around, but all the keys are large and comfortable to use.

There are some interesting features hidden away in the depths of the U880. There's a standard memo tool in the Organiser which you can use to make notes, but then you can designate notes as 'secret', making them accessible only if you tap in the handset password.

And when you check on the free memory, as well as the numbers, you get a pie chart showing used and free resources -- themed pink and blue, of course.

Memory is something you may want to watch because, keeping up with other handsets, the U880 plays music. Pause/play, forward and back buttons sit below the front screen so you can control playback without opening the flip. You can initiate playback by pressing the pause/play button. The forward and back buttons step through tunes without telling you whether they are on the internal memory or a memory card, which will be useful if you don't have many tunes on board, but painful if you have a lot and want to find one in particular.

If that's your aim, then opening the flip, where things are not quite so straightforward, might be your best bet. Now you need to navigate to the My Stuff folder (where you access everything you've saved to both the internal memory and memory cards), then choose what you want to play.

The handset's speaker isn't the best for listening to music. The provided headset delivers better quality and loud volume, which is just as well as its connector to the handset is proprietary so you can't use your own headset. Music playback stops whenever you do something with the handset, such as look for another application.

What really mitigates against the U880 warranting the music phone label though, is the relatively small amount of built-in memory. Our review handset had just over 70MB free. That won't store many songs, and looks paltry in comparison to other handsets. You can boost it with microSD cards, but you'll need to buy them.

That memory also stores shots from the camera -- again there are good and bad points to this. You can use the front screen as a viewfinder, initiating the camera by holding down the side button. You don't have access to making settings but opening the flip provides this via the main screen, and camera controls are easy to use. There's a range of white balance settings that includes indoor, daylight and cloudy conditions, a night shooting mode, self timer and black and white, negative and sepia effects.

There is no flash though, and images taken with the camera left a lot to be desired. Try as we might we couldn't avoid them being blurred, and colours were not as sharp as we'd like.

Voice and 3G video calls were acceptable with this handset, both in terms of quality and volume. We weren't troubled by the battery falling over, though as usual with 3G handsets, it was drained most fiercely during 3G usage.

There are plenty of controls for accessing all the handset's features, and once you get used to them getting around is fast and easy. The main problems with the LG U880 are that it is a mediocre music and camera phone. With so many models offering better on both fronts, you might want to shop around.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield

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