LG Arena review:

LG Arena

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Typical Price: $799.00
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Gorgeous 3-inch display. First-rate media file recognition. 8GB internal memory. HSDPA, Wi-Fi and GPS.

The Bad Interface is confusing and can be laggy. On-screen keyboard takes practice. Buggy software and a few crashes.

The Bottom Line LG's touchscreen features class-leading multimedia support, but we're not convinced it makes an excellent phone. Its flashy new interface looks great but tends to make things slower and more difficult.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall

Design

Is it possible we've reached our threshold of touchscreen appreciation? LG's Arena looks so familiar to us, like the Renoir without its mechanical face keys and what we've seen of the Viewty II so far. Not even its brushed-steel trim and tempered glass screen can help the Arena look more than mediocre, especially with a few fingerprints smeared on the screen. Perhaps it's the steel-coloured plastic backplate that cheapens the overall aesthetic, or maybe it's just that we've seen too many phones like this recently — the Samsung Omnia springs immediately to mind.

Luckily, LG's new S-Class user interface looks anything but mediocre. It features four home screens that rotate on-screen like a virtual cube, showing media and contact shortcuts, as well as programs and widgets. Each home screen has its own colour scheme, lime green, sky blue, burnt orange, and purple. Together these screens make the Arena feel colourful and alive. Navigating the list of your favourite contacts or your saved images and videos is easy with a Rolodex-style rotating menu, which is responsive to finger gestures, but can get laggy when you fill your phone with music and photos for the menu to render.

The home screens keep your info segmented and easy to find, but the phone's main menu is a cluttered mess of icons — 32 shortcuts in all. Holding the phone vertically shows 16 of these, urging you to drag the lists to display the absent shortcuts, but holding the phone horizontally reveals them all, minus their titles. At first this menu appears confusing, but only until you figure out what the other icons are for, the big question is why are they all on show? Tools like "voice recorder", "Stopwatch" and "Message Settings" are all best left in a sub-category folder, accessible only when they are needed.

Whether you find this system attractive or not, it looks fantastic on the 3-inch WVGA (480x800) display. LG is pitching the Arena as its all-in-one multimedia phone, and the screen specs are a great start. Add to it a top-mounted 3.5mm headphone jack (a rarity on an LG handset) and match it with good media playback and you've got a media powerhouse.

Multimedia

Whether you're an audiophile or a movie buff, the Arena has you covered in regards to media. On the box we read it supports DivX video and features Dolby Mobile enhanced audio — some pretty impressive claims. During our tests it successfully read MPEG4 videos and DivX files encoded after version 5. This means you may have trouble with some of your existing DivX video files if they were encoded with older versions, but converting these files is simple with the media manager in LG's new, excellent PC Suite.

The back of the phone houses a 5-megapixel camera with Schneider-Kreuznach optics (the same as the Viewty and Renoir), auto-focus and an LED flash. It features good software too, and takes excellent photos. It's also capable of shooting video at 720x480-pixel resolution at 30 frames per second. One feature of the camera we loved was the on-screen shutter key. Rather than pressing and holding the shutter until the camera focuses, you simply press the on-screen button and then concentrate on holding the phone still while the software takes care of the rest.

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