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LG EnV3 review: LG EnV3


Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
10 min read



The Good

The LG EnV3 has a slim and sleek appearance, with a spacious QWERTY keyboard, colorful dual displays, easy-to-use controls, plus it has updated features like a HTML Web browser and a 3.0-megapixel camera tricked out with special shot modes. Call quality is excellent as well.

The Bad

The LG EnV3's number keypad is a little flat to the surface, and we would've preferred a faster way to enter URLs in the Web browser. Also, Visual Voice Mail and corporate e-mail support have monthly fees.

The Bottom Line

The LG EnV3 has an impressive design and feature set that make it one of Verizon's top messaging phones.

The LG EnV2 was LG's first attempt at completely redesigning the look of the LG EnV. The previous Verizon LG messaging phones (the LG VX9800 and the LG EnV VX9900 respectively) were rather thick and chunky, while the EnV2 was slim, sleek, and much more compact. However, its feature set was a letdown, as it had almost the same features as the EnV VX9900. Not any longer with the LG EnV3. Though it looks almost identical to the LG EnV2, the EnV3 has a number of feature upgrades over its predecessor, like a 3.0-megapixel camera and a full HTML browser. This, combined with an improved keyboard layout, makes the EnV3 a great messaging phone for Verizon customers. The LG EnV3 will cost just as much as the LG EnV2: $129.99 with a two-year service agreement and a $50 mail-in rebate.

The LG EnV3 looks almost the same as the LG EnV2. It has a skinny and wide rectangular shape, a small external display, and a flat number keypad, all of which makes it look a little like a calculator. Measuring 4.11 inches long by 2.13 inches wide by 0.65 inch thick, the EnV3 is just a tiny bit taller than the EnV2, and it weighs in at 3.77 ounces, which is a little lighter than the EnV2's 4.23 ounces. The EnV3 feels comfortable in the hand, in both open and closed positions.

The LG EnV3 looks like a calculator from the front.

As we said, the external display is a very small 1.56-inch screen, with support for 65,000 colors and 160x96 pixels. It is bigger than the EnV2's 1.45 inch external display, though. Even though the screen is so small, we really liked how it looked--it looks colorful and vibrant, and it shows off the animated icons quite well. You won't get a full-grid menu interface in such a small screen, but the EnV3 does have a scrolling menu, where you can scroll through the more basic phone functions as well as the music player. For the more advanced applications such as the Web browser, e-mail, instant messaging, V Cast video, and VZ Navigator, you'll have to open up the phone for them to work--which is fine by us anyway, since you wouldn't want to see them on the tiny external display.

You can view the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID on the external display, plus you can see the currently playing track if the music player is activated. It also acts as a viewfinder for the camera. Since there's no self-portrait mirror, you can also make the external display your self-portrait viewfinder by turning on the Dual Display option in the camera settings, and then you can take a picture of yourself while holding the phone open, which can be a little awkward. You can adjust the backlight time and wallpaper of the external display.

Underneath the display is the navigation array, which looks a little different from the one on the EnV2. There's now a proper circular toggle in the middle instead of the simple up and down arrows, plus there's also a dedicated Contacts button, a Clear button that also acts as the voice command plus the voice recorder shortcut, and the Send and End/Power keys. In standby mode, the circular toggle also doubles as shortcuts for the My Music menu, the Bluetooth menu, the Messaging menu, and the photo gallery.

Underneath the array is a flat number keypad, which we found quite roomy despite the flat surface. The keys are divided with curved delineations, which adds a little bit of feel to the keypad, but there was still little to no texture difference between each key. We definitely wouldn't recommend dialing by feel because of that. Also note that you can choose to send a text message with the number keypad via T9 or the ABC method by pecking the letters out one by one, in case you don't feel like using the QWERTY keyboard.

On the left side of the EnV3 are the dedicated camera key and volume rocker, while the microSD card slot and 2.5mm headset jack are on the right. The charger jack is on the bottom, and the 3.0-megapixel camera lens is on the back, as is an LED flash.

The LG EnV3 opens up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard.

Like the other EnV phones, the EnV3 flips open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. In fact, the EnV3 can be opened up all the way to 180 degrees, which is incidentally the only way you can access the aforementioned volume rocker and camera key. It also reveals a really nice 2.6-inch internal display, which is a little larger than the EnV2's 2.4-inch internal display. It supports 262,000 colors and 320x240 pixels, and it shows. The screen is bright and vibrant, and the images look colorful and sharp. You can adjust the backlight time, the font size and font type, the charging screen (what shows on the display when the phone is charging), display themes, the menu interface, and the brightness (though you can also set Auto Brightness as well).

Flanking both sides of the display are the stereo speakers, and directly underneath it are two soft keys. Underneath that is the full QWERTY keyboard, which we liked quite a bit. The keyboard is nice and spacious, the keys are raised above the surface, and each key has a nice give when pushed. There's a dedicated Favorites key for accessing your favorite contacts, a dedicated text messaging key, and of course, the typical Shift and Symbol keys. Thankfully, the EnV3 has the Space bar in the middle of the QWERTY keyboard, which is an improvement over the EnV2, which had space-bar buttons on the left and right of the keyboard. The 2, Q, W, 3, and S keys are blue to indicate video game controls.

As for the navigation array on the right, they consist of the Send and End/Power keys, a four-way square toggle, a middle OK key, the Clear key, and a dedicated speakerphone key. The up, left, and down directions on the four-way toggle can be mapped to three user-defined shortcuts, while the right leads to the My Shortcuts menu, which can also be customized with up to four shortcuts.

Another shortcut is a QWERTY keyboard shortcut, which lets you initiate a contacts search, a new text message, or a new note, simply by pressing any key on the QWERTY keyboard.

The LG EnV3 definitely has a number of improvements over the EnV2 in terms of features. Starting with the basics, the EnV3 has a roomy 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a street address. You can then organize your contacts into groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or one of 23 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, mobile instant messenger (AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo), voice commands and dialing, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, a tip calculator, a voice memo recorder, and Bluetooth. Supported Bluetooth profiles include hands-free, dial-up networking, A2DP or stereo, phone-book access, basic printing, basic imaging, object push for vCard and vCalendar, and file transfer.

As a nice bonus, you can also add your social network e-mail address in the "Blogs" section in the Messaging menu. This means you can update your photos or videos in your Facebook or MySpace by just sending them to the appropriate e-mail address.

More advanced users will like the USB mass storage, GPS with VZ Navigator support, e-mail, and visual voice mail. Do note that the Verizon visual voice mail service will cost you $3 a month. There are three e-mail options; mobile e-mail, where you can get POP3 access to e-mail services from Yahoo, Windows Live, AOL, Verizon, and more; mobile corporate e-mail courtesy of RemoSync that lets you access your work e-mail and calendar; and mobile Web e-mail, which gives you shortcut access to a variety of Web e-mail services like Windows Live, AOL Mail, and Yahoo Mail--this latter option opens up the Web browser. Do note that the mobile e-mail application does cost $5, and in order to get corporate e-mail you'll have to sign up for a $9.99 monthly subscription to RemoSync. The corporate e-mail option works with Microsoft ActiveSync, so you need to know your company's mail Exchange server address.

Another upgrade over the EnV2 is that the LG EnV3 has something called Dashboard with Mobile Web, which is essentially a Web portal that leads to various Web channels and information sources such as ESPN, weather, entertainment, news, community (which leads to Facebook and MySpace shortcuts) as well as access to the Verizon store, where you can buy games and ringtones. The Dashboard interface is powered by Adobe Flash Cast, which results in a really graphically rich interface with full-color photos.

The biggest feature of the Dashboard is that it has a shortcut to a full HTML Web browser, which is a big upgrade over the EnV2's WAP browser. The browser is really easy to use, and you can zoom in and out of pages, adjust to a full-screen view, add bookmarks, check out the Internet History, subscribe to RSS feeds, and search through a page. Our one caveat is that there doesn't seem to be a way to access a real URL field on top of the browser--you need to keep going to a Verizon VZWGoto site where you can then enter in the URL in a small search box. This makes surfing the Web much slower than it should be.

Since the LG EnV3 has EV-DO, it also has access to Verizon's array of broadband services like V Cast Music, where you can download songs over the air, and V Cast Video, where you can download or stream video clips from providers like CBS and CNN. The V Cast Music with Rhapsody service works well with the built-in music player because you can purchase and download songs directly to the player. Each song costs $1.99, which also includes a download to your PC as well.

The music player interface is simple, with the album art prominently displayed next to the artist and album name, plus the track title as well. You can mute the player, create and edit playlists, set the songs on repeat or shuffle, or add one of six preset equalizer settings. You can also activate Music Only mode, which shuts off the phone's cellular signal for when you're on an airplane. Aside from downloading a song from V Cast Music, you can also sync up the songs from your computer with a USB cable. If you have the Rhapsody service, you can sync up all your subscribed songs, too. The music player supports MP3, WMA, unprotected AAC, and AAC+ formats. There's a microSD card slot that will support up to 16GB of removable memory for more storage.

The LG EnV3 has a 3.0-megapixel camera with LED flash.

The EnV3 comes with a 3.0-megapixel camera, which is an upgrade over the EnV2's 2.0-megapixel lens. You can take pictures in six different resolutions (2,048x1,536, 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240 pixels), five white balance presets, and five color effects. You can toggle the flash on or off, adjust a self-timer if you want, or select one of three shutter sounds (there's also a silent option). The camera even has four special shot modes: Smile shot, which automatically takes a picture when a person smiles; Panorama, which stitches together three photos shot from left to right; Intelligent shot, which automatically adjusts the white balance and color saturation based on the surrounding EnVironment; and finally Dual Display mode, which turns on the external display so you can take self-portraits. As for photo quality, it is good, but not great. Images are quite sharp, but colors are not as vibrant as we would like and seemed overcast at times.

The LG EnV3 takes good but not great photos.

There's also a built-in camcorder, which can record in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) in two lengths--short 30-second ones for multimedia messages, or an hour or so for saving. Video quality was predictably shaky and blurry, but it's OK for a quick video clip for sharing on Facebook or YouTube.

You have plenty of personalization options with the EnV3. You can adjust the wallpaper, display themes, alert tones, and more. You can download more via the Verizon online store. The EnV3 comes with games like Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris Pop, and you can download more via the Verizon store as well.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) LG EnV3 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was impressive on the whole. Callers said our voices came through loud and clear with no static or interference. Voice quality was good as well--they sounded full and natural, almost like that of a landline phone. Even on the speakerphone, callers couldn't tell a difference in sound quality. Similarly, automated calling systems recognized our commands just fine. On our end, callers sounded very good as well, without any static interference. Even the speakerphone calls sounded good, with plenty of volume.

Audio quality from the LG EnV3's built-in stereo speakers was pretty good. The volume was definitely loud enough, but the bass was lacking and it didn't sound as full as we would like. We would definitely recommend using a wired or stereo Bluetooth headset instead if you want to listen to music.

We were pleased overall with the EV-DO speeds. V Cast videos took around 15 seconds to load with little buffering time, and loading a full and complex Web page like CNET's front page took around 30 seconds. Downloading a 1.5 MB song took around 50 seconds. The V Cast videos didn't have the best video quality, though; they seemed rather choppy and pixelated, especially with action sequences. Still, this is more the fault of the V Cast streaming service than the phone itself.

The LG EnV3 has a rated battery life of 5.45 hours talk time and 19.1 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 19 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the EnV3 has a digital SAR of 1.34 watts per kilogram.

CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.



Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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