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LG Neon II review: LG Neon II

LG Neon II

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Nicole Lee
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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.

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7 min read

With the exception of the LG Vu Plus, LG hasn't released a new messaging phone for AT&T in almost a year. Enter the LG Neon II, which debuted around the start of CTIA Fall 2010. A sequel to the LG Neon of last year, the Neon II has a slightly different keypad design, a four-row QWERTY keyboard instead of three, and it now supports 3G. However, it still has that quirky touch screen that only works with the phone dialer, the 2-megapixel camera remains the same, and we're not huge fans of the touch-sensitive soft keys. The LG Neon II is available for $29.99 after a two-year agreement and a $50 rebate.

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7.0

LG Neon II

The Good

The LG Neon II has a simple and compact slider form factor, with a full four-row QWERTY keyboard, a music player, GPS, quad-band GSM, and 3G support. It's affordable as well.

The Bad

The LG Neon II's touch-screen ability is unique only to the phone dialer application. The 2-megapixel camera isn't much better than its predecessor's, and we dislike the touch-sensitive soft keys.

The Bottom Line

We applaud some of the feature updates of the LG Neon II, but its various quirks prevent us from recommending it as there are better quick messaging devices in AT&T's lineup.

Design
The LG Neon II resembles its predecessor with its overall shape and size. Measuring 4.06 inches long by 1.96 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the Neon II has a simple rectangular silhouette, with rounded corners and straight sides. It's not quite as glossy as the original Neon, though; the Neon II is wrapped in a smooth matte plastic all the way around. The Neon II weighs in at around 3.7 ounces and feels good in the hand.

The 2.4-inch display on the Neon II has a 320x240-pixel resolution and 262,000-color support, which is identical to that of the first Neon. The screen looks crisp and colorful, with bright images and sharp text. You can adjust the size and color of the dialing font, the menu font size, the backlight timer, the brightness, the menu style, and the appearance of the clock and calendar on the home screen.

As we mentioned, the Neon II's display does act as a touch screen, but only for the phone dialer application. To activate it, you press the phone dialer key, and a virtual number keypad will appear. You can then dial a number by tapping the digits on the screen. There's also a vibration setting for the virtual keypad--you can turn it on or off, and you can adjust the vibration level. It was quite intuitive and easy to use thanks to the large digits. However, we have to echo our sentiments from the first LG Neon and wish the touch-screen functionality were available for the entire phone and not just the dialer.


The LG Neon II has a thumb key toggle instead of the usual navigation array.

Underneath the display is where the Neon II really diverges from its predecessor. Instead of separate physical keys for the navigation array, the Neon II has touch-sensitive soft keys and a unique thumb key toggle. The touch-sensitive soft keys are flat to the surface, and unlike the virtual keypad, you can't adjust the vibration level. You also can't adjust their sensitivity level. This was a bit of a problem for us, as we had to press the keys quite hard to get them to respond.

The aforementioned thumb key reminds us of the pointing stick mouse found on a lot of ThinkPad laptops. It resembles a tiny hockey puck, and you use it by sliding it around like a joystick. To select something, simply press down on it. We found it easy enough to use, and didn't miss the traditional up-and-down toggle that much. The toggle can be mapped to four user-defined shortcuts; pressing it down triggers the Web browser when in standby mode.

Surrounding the thumb key are the usual Send and End/Power keys, the Clear/Back key, as well as the aforementioned phone dialer key. On the left spine are the volume rocker and 3.5mm headset jack, the charger jack is on the top, and on the right are the microSD card slot, the camera key, and the multitasking key. The camera lens and self-portrait mirror are on the back.


The LG Neon II has a full four-row QWERTY keyboard

The display slides to the right to reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard on the left. This is an improvement over the original Neon, which only had three rows of keys. The keyboard has the usual QWERTY keys plus two soft keys, a dedicated messaging key, four arrow keys, and a Web browser key. It also has LED indicators for when the Shift or Function key is activated, which proved useful when we were typing. The keyboard feels quite roomy and we like that the keys are circular and raised above the surface. Our one minor complaint is that the space bar is a smidge too far to the left.

Features
The LG Neon II has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, three e-mail addresses, four messenger ID names, a Web address, three street addresses, a memo, a birthdate, an anniversary reminder, plus you can add the contact to a caller group. You can also assign a photo for caller ID or one of 20 polyphonic ringtones. Of course you get the usual basic features like a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, a tasks list, a stopwatch, a tip calculator, and a unit converter.

As the Neon II is billed as a quick messaging phone, it only makes sense that it has text and multimedia messaging. It also offers instant messaging with support for AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo messenger services. There's also mobile e-mail, where you can send and receive e-mail from Yahoo, AOL Mail, AIM Mail, Windows Live Hotmail, AT&T Mail, Gmail, your own POP/IMAP account.

Other features of the Neon II include stereo Bluetooth, GPS with AT&T Navigator, voice command, and an Opera-based att.net HTML browser. The browser lets you view HTML pages, but it's quite rudimentary and there's a lot of scrolling around due to the small screen. You can read more about the browser in our review of the Pantech Reveal. The Neon II also supports AT&T cloud services like AT&T Address Book that lets you store messages and contacts in the cloud, and AT&T Online Locker, where you can store photos and videos in the cloud as well. For the social networking set, the Neon II comes with AT&T Social Net, an application that acts as a hub for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other news feeds.

The Neon II has 3G support where its predecessor had none. This lets it have access to 3G services like Mobile Video, AT&T's streaming video service, and Mobile Music, AT&T's music portal to apps like XM Radio Mobile, a ringtone creator, a music video store, and more. It also houses the music store, where you can purchase and download music over the air. The music player on the Neon II is quite generic - it's similar to the music player app on many of AT&T's feature phones. You do get the usual features like repeat, shuffle, and playlist creation. You can store the music on a microSD card - the phone supports up to 16GB cards.


The LG Neon II has a 2-megapixel camera and self-portrait mirror on the back.

We were a little disappointed that the Neon II had the same 2-megapixel camera like its predecessor. It can take pictures in three resolutions and three quality settings, and there are a slew of settings. They include a self-timer, color effects, white balance, brightness, night mode, and shutter tones. Photo quality was quite poor. Images looked bright enough, but the color seemed a little washed out and there was too much pixilation for our taste. There's a video camera on here as well, which can record in either 176x144 or 320x240 pixel resolution. You can also choose to stream live one-way video via AT&T's Video Share service.


The LG Neon II doesn't take very good pictures.

The LG Neon II comes with a few apps and games. They include FunScreenz, MobiTV, Mobile Banking, PicDial, Bubble Bash 2, I-play Bowling, Ms. Pac-Man, The Sims 3, and World Series of Poker. If you want more, you can purchase and download them from AT&T's AppCenter.

Performance
We tested the LG Neon II in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. We experienced intermittent coverage, and even a few dropped calls. 3G coverage was rather spotty as well. However, once we did get coverage, call quality was very good. Callers sounded smooth and natural, with above-average clarity.

On the other end of the line, callers said audio quality was great as well. There was very little static, and they said our voice sounded very natural. Speakerphone quality was not so good; they said our voice sounded harsher and tinnier when on speakerphone mode. That's quite common with most speakerphones, however. This is the same reason we would recommend using a headset for listening to music--the speaker output is quite tinny and dismal. Luckily, the Neon II has both a 3.5mm headset jack and stereo Bluetooth capabilities.

3G speeds were quite good when we had the coverage. We downloaded a 2.01 MB song in 50 seconds and loaded the CNET mobile page in around 30 seconds.

The LG Neon II has a rated talk time of 4 hours and a standby time of 11 days. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 3 hours and 44 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.08 watts per kilogram.

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7.0

LG Neon II

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 8
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