LG CU500 (AT&T) review: LG CU500 (AT&T)

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The Good The LG CU500 is the first carrier-offered HSDPA phone in North America. It's a quad-band world phone with a great slim design, external music buttons, and a camera with a rotating lens. Features include a 1.3-megapixel camera, an audio player, a Micro SD memory card slot, a speakerphone, and access to exclusive content, courtesy of Cingular Video and Cingular Music.

The Bad The LG CU500 has two superskinny function buttons on the side that are difficult to press; we also didn't like that you have to remove the battery in order to get to the Micro SD card slot..

The Bottom Line The LG CU500 is one of the fastest phones we've ever tried, with swift downloads and impressive video streaming speeds. The feature set is impressive; the picture and audio quality are great; and the slim, attractive design is a bonus.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

It's tempting to call the LG CU500 yet another Razr clone. After all, the Samsung MM-A900 and the Sanyo Katana have both made attempts at the Razr form factor, and the LG CU500 looks dangerously similar. But the clone moniker would be a disservice, as the LG CU500 is so much more than that. It's the first HSDPA phone offered by a North American carrier, which means it is the first handset that can reach connection speeds up to 1.8Mbps. Cingularhas capitalized on the high speeds by packing in Cingular Video, its video streaming service, and Cingular Music, a music service portal. Together with a 1.3-megapixel camera, an audio player, a speakerphone, and more, we think the LG CU500 is definitely one of Cingular's flagship phones. The LG CU500 retails for $179.99, but you can get it for $79.99 after discounts and with a two-year service agreement. The LG CU500 is the latest in a line of phones inspired by the Razr's design. Much like the Samsung MM-A900 and the Sanyo Katana, the flip phone has that same wide body and slim silhouette, though the inclusion of a rotating camera lens and external music controls actually makes it look more like the MM-A900. The CU500 is a little thicker and heavier at 3.8 by 1.95 by 0.76 inches and 3.7 ounces, but it still maintains a sleek and attractive form factor. It comes in black with some silver and chrome accents inside and out. The handset feels nice in the hand and pretty comfortable when cradled against the ear.

The LG CU500 looks a lot like the Razr.

At the top of the device is a rotating camera lens that swivels up to 180 degrees. You can switch easily from taking pictures away from you to shooting self-portraits. Located underneath is a bright and colorful external screen, though it is a little small at 1.2 inches diagonally. The display has support for 65,000 colors, and we like that you can customize its background. As expected, it shows the date, time, battery and signal strength, and caller ID (and photo caller ID if you have it). You can also use it as a self-portrait viewfinder, plus it'll display the currently playing song if you've activated the music player.

The LG CU500 has a swivel-lens camera.

Right underneath the display are the music controls, which consist of the rewind, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. We found the controls to be extremely convenient, since you can access your music without having to open the phone. On the left spine are a headset jack, the volume rocker, and a unique task manager button that allows you to multitask between different applications. When the handset is closed, you can use the button to access the music player and the camera/camcorder. While we love the functionality of the task button, its superskinny shape makes it difficult to press, and the same goes for the volume rocker above it.

The LG CU500 has convenient external music controls.

Flip open the phone, and you'll see a beautiful internal display. The screen is of average size at 2 inches diagonally and supports 65,000 colors, which isn't as good as the 262,000 colors of the MM-A900 but still appears vivid and bright. You can't change the contrast or brightness, but you can set the backlight time and the font size for dialing. You can also choose to change the menu style to icon or list view.

The navigational controls consist of the usual two soft keys and a five-way toggle in the middle that doubles as shortcuts to text messaging, instant messaging, the address book, and the My Stuff folder. Also in the navigation array are dedicated keys to the music player and the camera. The talk, cancel/back, and end/power buttons are located right above the number keypad. Unlike the keys on the Razr, the buttons here are not flush to the surface. They're tactile and raised slightly, making them easy to press and dial by feel. While the LG CU500 has an attractive design, its real beauty lies in its features. The address book stores up to 500 contacts, and each entry can accommodate up to five numbers, two e-mail addresses, a picture ID, a memo, and one of 10 72-chord polyphonic ring tones and can be assigned to a caller group. Other basic features include a vibrate or silent mode, a speakerphone, support for stereo Bluetooth, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, instant messaging (AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ), a wireless Web browser, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, and a to-do list. It also comes with Micro SD card slot, but you'll have to remove the battery in the back to get to it. The CU500 is a quad-band GSM phone, which means you can use it almost anywhere in the world.