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LG knows a thing or two about style as its Shine phone proves, but it's easy to do bling for big bucks -- what's more difficult is to pull off the same trick on a budget phone.
However, LG has largely managed to pull the rabbit out of the bag with the KG290, as it looks very stylish, yet is available as a pay as you go phone for as little as £60.
With its silver finish, smooth sliding action and petite dimensions, the KG290 is certainly one of the tastiest-looking budget handsets we've seen in a long time. The phone is also pretty easy to use as its main menu is laid out as a typical 3x3 grid of icons. It looks and feels very similar to the menus on the latest Sony Ericsson or Nokia handsets, so most people will instantly feel right at home. LG has also added a handy shortcut menu to the standby screen, which assigns functions to the four direction keys of the central D-pad. It gives you almost instant access to things like the text message screen, silent mode or contacts book.
For a budget phone, this handset certainly isn't short of features. Most of the cheaper handsets around at the moment have VGA cameras, but LG has kitted this one out with a 1.3-megapixel shooter. The photos aren't up to the standards of a real digital camera, but they're much better than most of its rivals can produce. As well as the camera, you also get an MP3 player and FM tuner. The supplied stereo headphones actually sound pretty good and they also have an in-line mic and call-answer buttons so they double as a hands-free kit.
The phone's reception was generally excellent and the call quality was also very impressive. The KG290 also supports Bluetooth, so you can hook it up to a wireless headset or car kit.
The phone's MP3 player is basic and certainly not on a par with some of its budget competitors, such as the one you'll find on Nokia's 5200. The main problem is that instead of sorting songs into the normal artist, song title and album name categories, it just presents you with a long list of the music files stored on the memory card you've got sitting in the microSD card slot. With larger memory cards, it means you often have to do a tedious amount of scrolling to get to the tracks you want to play. Another big annoyance is that the phone can't see your tracks unless they're specifically placed in a folder called 'Sounds' on your memory card.
The handset also can't play music tracks in the background, so if you exit the music player applications all music stops. It's a similar story with the FM tuner. As soon as you exit the tuner applications your headphones go silent. It has to be said that the reception on the FM tuner wasn't the best either. Often we had to stretch out the headphone lead to get decent reception on stations that other handsets had no problems tuning into.
The phones biggest failing, however, is its battery life. It's good for just two hours of talk time, which will be a deal killer for many people.
We love the KG290's slick design and it's hard not to be impressed by the range of features it offers for such a low price tag of around £60 on pay as you go. However, the poor battery life stops it from being the out and out bargain it initially seems.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire