LG Exalt (Verizon Wireless) review:

Stylish, and gets the basics right

Camera and video Given that this is a 2-megapixel camera, photo quality was adequate, but still not very sharp. Though objects were distinct and easy to make out, they still lacked crisp focus and featured blurred edges. With photos taken indoors, whites appeared more amber or yellow, and colors altogether looked muted.

One confusing thing about the camera is that if you hold the device vertically, and the viewfinder looks as if it is framed vertically, the photo actually ends up horizontal. To take a vertical photo, you will have to tilt your handset to the side. Again, the screen will make it look like you're taking a horizontal picture, but the composition will actually be switched.

Once you figure out this switch, it's easy to adjust. You can also change this setting in the options menu and have it framed in "actual view." But this "full screen" preview is the default setting, and it's confusing and unintuitive. I suggest you switch to "actual view," since the default makes it very difficult to compose your pictures, and you have no idea what will be included in the frame.

LG Exalt (outdoor)
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In this outdoor photo, the leaves in the trees blend together and the white building in the background is blown out. Lynn La/CNET
LG Exalt (indoor 2)
Though the center blue ornament is relatively in focus, the other ornaments are fuzzy and the tree is muted. Lynn La/CNET
LG Exalt (indoor)
In this amply lit indoor photo, the lamps are adequately sharp, but the dark hues in the bottom background are difficult to distinguish. Lynn La/CNET
LG Exalt (SSI)
In our standard studio shot, images are grainy, and you can see a notable amount of digital noise in the background. James Martin/CNET

Video quality was also expectantly poor. Images looked grainy and pixelated, though they were easy to make out. The camera was slow to adjust for lighting, and you can see a notable amount of color banding. White, bright colors were often blown out and dark hues were hard to distinguish from one another.

Some basic photo options include an exposure meter, four photo sizes (from 320x240 to 1,600x1,200-pixel resolution), a timer, five white balances, four color effects, and a night mode. Video recording also has the same white balance and color effect options, and your recordings can be shot in either 176x144 or 320x240-pixel resolution. In addition, if you want to send a video, the camera allots 15 seconds of recording time. For a saved video, you get up to an hour (depending on how much stored capacity you have).

Performance I tested the single-band (800MHz) phone at our San Francisco offices and call quality was good. Voices were easily comprehensible, came in clear, and volume range was at adequate levels. None of my calls dropped, audio was consistent, and I didn't hear any extraneous buzzing or noises. I did notice, however, that voices sounded a bit pinched and hollow. Audio speaker yielded similar, tinny, results. When I turned the feature on, my calling partner's voice remained sharp, especially at a high volume level. As for my end, I was told that I could be heard clearly as well, though there were hints of static here and there with my voice.

LG Exalt (Verizon Wireless) call quality sample

Listen now:

Compared to devices like the LG Envoy II and the Revere 2, the Exalt performs rather quickly. Opening up the web browser (which takes an inordinate amount of time on the other devices), only takes about three seconds, and sending a photo (of about 270K in size) took a little over a minute. Though opening up menu items or returning to the home page isn't exactly instantaneous, I didn't get the sense of lag that I would normally expect. On average, it takes about 1.93 seconds to launch the camera and around 26 seconds to start up the handset.

The phone has a 900 mAh battery that has a reported talk time of 5.5 hours and a standby time of nearly 18 days. Anecdotally, it has solid battery life, lasting several days (under minimal usage) without a charge. During our battery drain test for continuous talk time, the device lasted 6.62 hours. According to FCC radiation standards, the handset has a digital SAR measurement of 0.43 W/kg.

Conclusion Verizon has several basic handsets in its lineup, and some have additional features that the Exalt does not have. The Casio G'zOne Ravine 2, for example, is waterproof and built ultra-tough (but costs $199.99 with contract), and the $0.99 LG Cosmos 3 sports a physical QWERTY keyboard.

However, if you're not in the market for a rugged phone, and you're keen on the clamshell form factor, the Exalt is seriously worth considering. Compared to the the carrier's other flip phones, which are the $49.99 Samsung Gusto 2 and the $0.99 LG Revere 2, it has a larger screen, higher resolution, and a bigger battery. With features like that, on top of a free on-contract price, it's easy to see why the Exalt is the better choice.

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