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LG Exalt (Verizon Wireless) review: Stylish, and gets the basics right

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MSRP: $199.99

The Good The stylish LG Exalt is a flip phone with a large screen, expandable memory, and a free price tag under contract.

The Bad The handset's slick coating may prove slippery for some, and its camera lacks a flash.

The Bottom Line With its generously sized screen and smooth performance, the LG Exalt is a top contender in Verizon's line of basic phones.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

In the world of clamshell phones, it's rare to see anything remotely refreshing come through the pipeline. All too often, devices sport the same familiar design and slow performance.

But in a space that offers such little variation, Verizon's LG Exalt stands out in two ways. First, its design is notable: it's equipped with a relatively large 3-inch screen, and it has foregone the monochrome external display for chic LED lights (similar to the LG dLite) that serve the same purpose. Second, for a basic handset, it performs quite swiftly.

True, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a modern smartphone, but for those who just need the basics, the Exalt will satisfy. Especially since the device is currently free, after you sign a two-year contract.

Design Even though it's just a flip phone, the LG Exalt doesn't skimp on style. In this day and age, it's one of the most chic-looking clamshells I've seen in a while, and it's nice to see that a conscious effort was made for this device's look, despite its old-school form factor. Its smooth and glossy design can make it slick to handle at times, but it's comfortable to hold and will easily slide into your jean pockets.

When opened, the handset measures 4.37-inches tall, 2.06-inches wide, 0.62-inches thick, and weighs 3.88 ounces. Compared to other flip phones, the Exalt is a bit bigger in terms of length and width, so if you want to open it up with one hand, you'll need to give it hard flick.

LG Exalt (external display)
Flashing and moving LED lights display the time on the handset's exterior. James Martin/CNET

On the outside, there is no obvious external display. However, once you press any of the side buttons, moving LED lights will shine from underneath the device's black surface and the time will appear. We've seen this before, with the LG dLite, but it's still a stylish addition. The lights can also show you when you have a missed call or get a text message. If you receive an incoming call from an unblocked number, the lights will also scroll the number though, similar to a news ticker.

On the handset's left edge are a volume rocker and 3.5mm headphone jack. The right houses a shortcut key -- you can push it once to launch the camera, or long-press it to go directly to video recording. On the very bottom edge is a Micro-USB port for charging.

Located on the back are a 2-megapixel camera (without a flash) and two slits at the bottom for the audio speaker. You can pry off the battery door using a small via a small indent near the Micro-USB port. Once it's removed, you can gain access to the removable 900 mAh battery and microSD card that's expandable up to 32GB.

LG Exalt (numberpad)
The Exalt's keypad includes shortcut keys to launch the speaker and alarm clock. James Martin/CNET

The phone has a 3-inch WQVGA display with a 240x400-pixel resolution. For a clamshell device, that's quite a big screen, and I like that it's colorful and bright. However, with that resolution level, it's not the sharpest screen. Photos do look pixelated, there is some aliasing on texts and icons, and images appear grainy. For what it is though, the display suffices, and you won't have a problem using it with day-to-day use.

Below the display is an alphanumeric keypad that is generously sized and spaced, and comfortable to press. The buttons are stylish too: they're flush with the rest of the handset's surface, which looks modern, and their shiny tile-like design is chic.

The keypad includes two soft keys up top, four navigational arrows with a center select button, and two shortcut keys to launch the speaker and alarm clock. Along with the number keys, there are also three keys for sending a call, ending a call (which doubles as the power button when you long press it), and a "clear" button to navigate backward. This key also launches voice command when you're at the home page.

Software features The Exalt can hold up to 1,000 contacts. You can save up to five numbers, two e-mail addresses, and one street address under each person. You can also assign a photo, a ringtone (there are 38 already included), and add a personal note to each contact.

Contacts can be organized into groups (you get to make 10), such as favorites, friends, and family. Three people can be added to a emergency contact list specifically, where you can also store any pertinent medical information.

When you're at the homepage, press the center OK button to launch the menu. There you'll see nine icons for contacts, messaging, recent calls, the Opera Mini mobile Web browser, a media center, a native e-mail client, apps, the photo gallery, and finally the settings and tools icon.

LG Exalt (menu screen)
You can customize the look of the menu with three themes. The artistic theme is pictured here. James Martin/CNET

You can change the look of these icons under three themes (there's classic, modern, and a neat sketchy style called artistic), and change how these icons are displayed (for example, if you prefer, as a list instead).

Under settings and tools, useful features include two calculators (a regular one and another that specifically figures out restaurant tips), a calendar, and an alarm clock. You'll get a world clock, a notepad, and a stopwatch as well.

There are preloaded apps such as a Verizon-branded ringtone app, navigator, and backup assistant. Daily Scoop is also included, which notifies you of local deals and special offers. Additional features include Bluetooth 3.0, GPS support, and 260MB of internal memory.

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