LG is good at making stylish phones and the Mini is another classic example. While the Mini doesn't run a smartphone operating system (which limits its options for third-party applications), as a feature phone it can hold its own. However, what makes the Mini standout is its design.
Despite its name, the LG Mini isn't that tiny compared with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini. It does, however, ooze a very smart and sophisticated look. Hardware buttons are kept to a minimum with the volume controls planted on the left edge, camera shutter on the right and the power key on top. The Mini has, without a doubt, one of the cleanest facades in the market and that is very appealing. Its "sharp" edges may dig into your pocket, but we suspect that won't be a big issue.
The combination of metallic accents, matte soft-rubber plastic and a black glossy front make this LG a beautiful and well-built package. The handset feels very solid and the build quality is top-notch. The buttons are slightly raised from the surface, but they are designed to blend into the long, thin grooves on the sides. The top edge and sliding door for the microSD card slot are made from different materials, which make them look marginally out of place, but otherwise it's not a big deal. The choice of colours is also great and, from a design perspective, this LG is a stunner and would easily qualify as a classy fashion accessory.
The centrepiece of the LG Mini is the 3.2-inch WVGA touchscreen with scratch-resistant properties. It supports multi-touch so you can zoom in or out of images and web pages simply by pinching two fingers together or apart on the panel. The display is also very sharp and crisp, which is a treat to the eyes. We noticed this when we were browsing images and videos, and when closed in on text on web pages.
Like many of the recent LG devices, the Mini runs on the S-Class user interface, which gives the phone-maker full control over the look and feel of the experience. The cube interface is now gone (which we hardly miss) and the multiple home screens are now simply one continuous panel. It takes three swipes to see all three panes where you can place widgets, bookmarks, shortcuts, etc. For phone features, smart dialling and video calls are supported. When you rotate the handset to landscape mode, you get an on-screen QWERTY keyboard instead of the alphanumeric pad in portrait orientation.
The most noticeable additions to the S-Class software are native Facebook and Twitter clients and LG Air Sync. You can post and view updates as well as browse direct messages, but the Twitter widget is incomplete. Conspicuously missing is the option to retweet posts, one of the key sharing features of social networking. The Facebook app is also pretty basic. It lets you update your status, see your wall feeds, profile, messages and search for friends. Unlike what HTC has done with its Sense UI, the Twitter and Facebook clients on the Mini are stand-alone programs and not fully integrated with the phone's software. You also can't post pictures to these two sites directly in the image gallery. Instead, there are options to share your snaps only via email, Bluetooth, MMS or by uploading to Blogger.
LG Air Sync is a nifty feature, but setting it up was a less than spiffy experience due to the lag when signing up for a user account. This service synchronises data such as contacts, calendar appointments and photos on the phone and PC using the PC Suite with the web (limit of 200MB). The Air Sync is currently supported only on the Mini. If you have a picture on the PC, for example, you can right-click on the image to send it as a wallpaper over the air to the handset. Do note that you'll need a data connection for this, so make sure you sign up for a suitable data plan with your service provider if you intend to use this frequently. The On Screen Phone program lets you remotely control the Mini directly from the PC. Aside from directly accessing the phone's content from the PC, you can also make calls, send text messages, as well as drag-and-drop files onto the device from the desktop.
Tapping the status bar at the top will drop down a semi-transparent list that lets you toggle Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, set alarms, browse events, go to the music player and switch phone profiles. A Task manager on-screen button on the bottom left corner lets you jump between different open applications. You can terminate all active programs or close them individually by tapping on the mini red cross at the corner of each app.
The WebKit browser supports Flash, HTML5 and multi-touch. The browser seems devoid of controls aside from the address bar and refresh button, but when tapping on the down arrow the additional controls will be revealed. Panning and pinch-zooming on the CNET Asia website was unfortunately a jerky experience. It wasn't as fluid as we'd have liked, but at least the resolution of the screen made browsing text on the page clearly legible and sharp. Tapping and holding the screen brought up a magnifying glass, making it easier to place the on-screen cursor in a text field box. Flash support on the browser was disappointingly limited as we couldn't get our CNET Asia TV videos to play directly on the browser. The built-in accelerometer switches the display to landscape mode automatically when you rotate the phone 90 degrees anti-clockwise.
For connectivity, this LG has a well-rounded set of features including 7.2Mbps HSDPA, 2Mbps HSUPA, Bluetooth A2DP, Wi-Fi, Assisted-GPS for navigation and support for DLNA. It also has a micro-USB port for synchronising with the PC or trickle charging via the latter as well. A 3.5mm audio jack at the top of the handset lets you plug in your favourite pair of earphones.
Google apps including Maps, Search, Mail, YouTube and Blogger are pre-installed. The Mini also handled our Microsoft Exchange account synchronisation with ease. As for games, there are demo versions of Tetris and Sims 3. Real Motion Fishing makes use of the on-board accelerometer to simulate the angling experience, while Bubble Breeze is about making and combining soap bubbles to score stars by blowing into the phone's microphone. Both are simple to play, but pointless.
The 5-megapixel autofocus camera on the Mini produced decent images with an acceptable amount of detail and colour. However, the absence of a built-in flash was a real pity. Otherwise, this LG also records VGA-resolution videos at 15 frames per second. The latter setting made our clips look choppy.
Overall, the interface of the Mini performed admirably during our review period. It slowed down noticeably when we were scrolling through our images while holding the phone in landscape orientation. Otherwise, it's all good. Audio quality was middling and the built-in speakers could do with more power. On average, the phone lasted about two days before we had to plug it in to an AC outlet. During this time, we had push-email from our Exchange server with occasional checks on our Twitter and Facebook accounts. The 900mAh Lithium-ion battery is rated for up to seven hours of talk time and slightly less than 14 days on standby.
The LG Mini is without a doubt a design masterpiece. Its edges that drop vertically are unique for a full-touchscreen feature phone. The build quality is excellent and the new S-Class interface is more user-friendly now. The Mini is a neat, compact and feature-packed touchscreen handset as long as you don't mind your peers going on about the number of apps they can download on their smartphones.
Via CNET Asia