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LG KF390 review: LG KF390

Take out the Next G reception and you end up with a low quality handset at a mid-range price point. Still, it's great to see another blue tick phone for our friends in the bush to consider.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
4 min read

From a distance the LG KF390 holds itself with a quiet pride. Its glossy black finish and the almost complete absence of mechanical face keys gives it the appearance of a miniature obsidian monolith, like the one the monkeys discover at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. As with many phones from LG (and Samsung for that matter) the illusion is broken when viewed up close, revealing the KF390 as a fairly unremarkable plastic handset, with one exception.


LG KF390

The Good

Sleek, glossy design. Next G capable with Blue Tick. Good Web browsing. Touch sensitive keys add flare.

The Bad

...but are too easy to press by mistake. Low quality display. Bad for mobile TV. Too expensive for what you get.

The Bottom Line

Take out the Next G reception and you end up with a low quality handset at a mid-range price point. Still, it's great to see another Blue Tick phone for our friends in the bush to consider.

As with other recent low-end LG handsets, the KF390 offers a few cheap thrills to distract from the otherwise pedestrian design. These come in the form of touch-sensitive menu selection keys located around the centre navigation button and activated when the slider is pushed open. On our test unit (as it will be for all Next G handsets) the left and right selection keys are dedicated to Telstra services, with the buttons below these activating the music player and the task manager. These touch-sensitive keys are a nice touch but were consistently getting in the way as we found ourselves constantly miss-striking them, particularly when using the navigation button.

Above these keys the KF390 features a 2-inch screen with a 220x176-pixel resolution. This is a lower res display than we normally see on mobiles — most recent release phones included QVGA displays (240x320) — and it is obvious when you navigate the menus, with its jagged edged graphics, or when you watch streaming video like mobile Foxtel TV. On top of this we found the viewing angle for this display to be terrible. If you turn the phone on its side to view video in landscape mode the picture fades to a negative image on very slight angles off-centre, making it hard to concentrate on the image.

The big drawcard for the LG KF390 is Telstra's blue tick seal of approval. This indicates that Telstra has tested the handset in remote areas covered by its Next G network and has determined that it provides superior reception to the majority of Next G capable handsets in its range. The KF390 becomes the eighth handset to have been given the blue tick, so it joins quite an exclusive club.

Aside from this improved reception, the KF390 is decidedly light-on in the features department, especially for a phone at this price point. The KF390 will take photos and video with its 2-megapixel camera and browse the Web at a theoretical maximum of 7.2Mbps on the Next G network, plus fulfil its basic roles as phone and messaging device, but it is important to consider that the KF390 is not a smartphone, unlike Nokia's E66 which can be picked up for about AU$100 more (but not available on the Next G network).

The KF390 also features a front-facing VGA resolution camera for video calling and expandable memory up to 8GB via its microSD memory card reader conveniently located on the left-hand side of the phone, which is handy if you plan to have the KF390 pull double duty as your MP3 music player.

We wish we could take the KF390 deep into the outback to test Telstra's claims of superior reception. As it stands we'll wait patiently for feedback from our readers in this regions as to whether they experience clear call quality. From deep within the concrete jungle we had no major complaints with making calls with the KF390. We would prefer the speaker to be a bit louder and slightly less muffled, but overall, it does a good job.

Data speeds to the handset have been excellent, and combined with the basic but well-performing pre-installed Web browser, we enjoyed a pleasant online experience. Testing Telstra's Next G services has also been good, although the problems with the low quality display mentioned above have ruined our experience of watching streaming media on the KF390.

While it probably won't be the selling point for those interested in the KF390, the 2-megapixel camera is a decent performer for a camera without a flash or auto-focus. We took to the Sydney streets on a sunny afternoon and took some colourful photos of the colourful characters about town and were impressed with the results, even if the brighter elements of the images tended to blow out and if it was very difficult to take photos with sharp focus.

If you disregard the 7.2Mbps HSDPA, the LG KF390 strikes us as a prepaid model phone with its otherwise basic features set. The excellent Web browsing does lift the KF390 out of this category a bit, but its poor display kills this particular feature in equal measure, ruining the mobile TV experience and lumping it back in with the likes of cheaper phones. For the asking price of AU$559 we think LG, and Telstra, are asking too much.