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LG Neon review: LG Neon

LG Neon

Nicole Lee
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.

6 min read


LG Neon

The Good

The LG Neon is stylish and compact, with a spacious keyboard, a music player, a megapixel camera, and good call quality. It's affordable as well.

The Bad

The LG Neon's display is a touch screen, but only for the phone dialer application. It only has tri-band GSM, the photo quality is average, and the EDGE speed is too slow for over-the-air music downloads.

The Bottom Line

Despite a few quirks, the LG Neon is a good simple messaging phone from AT&T.

The LG Xenon was LG's first messaging phone for AT&T, and not only does it have a full QWERTY keyboard, it has a 2.8-inch touch screen and 3G support. If you want something smaller and simpler, LG has another messaging phone for AT&T, dubbed the LG Neon. It has a full QWERTY keyboard like the Xenon, but it's more compact, is only a tri-band phone, and doesn't have 3G. Unusually, the Neon does have a touch screen, but only for the phone dialer, which we found weird. Its quirks aside, the Neon is just fine for those looking for a simple messaging phone. We weren't thrilled with the latter, but for a simple messaging phone, the Neon works just fine. The LG Neon is available for $29.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

The LG Neon is an attractive phone, with smooth rounded corners, clean lines, and a compact form factor. Measuring 4 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.66 inch thick, the Neon is quite lightweight at 3.81 ounces. It's slim enough to fit in the pocket and feels good in the hand. The sliding mechanism is smooth yet sturdy.

On the front of the phone is a glossy black finish featuring a lovely 2.4-inch display with support for 262,000 colors and a 240x320 resolution. Images look great on it and the text is very legible as well. You can adjust the backlight time, the brightness, the font size of the menu text and the dialing digits, the menu styles, and the appearance of the clock on the home screen.

The LG Neon has a touch screen--but only for the number keypad.

The most unusual thing about the Neon's display is that it is a touch screen--but only for the phone dialer application. When you press a phone dialer key on the navigation array, a virtual number keypad will show up on the display. You can then dial a number by tapping the digits on the screen. You can also set it so that the phone vibrates whenever your touch registers, plus you can adjust the intensity of the vibration. As we said, though, the display is only a touch screen for dialing numbers; all other functions need to be done via physical keys. We weren't so pleased with this--we would rather have a full touch-screen interface, or a real physical number keypad, not something in between.

The LG Neon has a camera lens and self-portrait mirror on the back.

Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle with a middle confirmation key, the Send and End/Power keys, the Clear/Back key, and the aforementioned phone dialer key. The toggle can be mapped to four user-defined shortcuts, and the middle confirmation key brings up the Web browser when in standby mode. On the left spine of the phone is the volume rocker and dedicated camera key, while the microSD card slot and headset/charger jack sit on the right spine. On the back is the camera lens and self-portrait mirror.

The LG Neon has a full QWERTY keyboard.

Turn the phone 90 degrees to your right, slide the phone up, and you'll find a full QWERTY keyboard. The screen will automatically change orientation from portrait to landscape mode. The keyboard has two soft keys on the far left and right side, an orange Function key, a Symbol key, plus an OK/Back button on the bottom right. Even though the keys are laid out in only three rows as opposed to the four rows of keys on the LG Xenon, the Neon keyboard still felt spacious with plenty of room between each key. The keys are all raised above the surface and feel easy to type.

The LG Neon has a generous 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for four numbers, an e-mail address, a memo, and an anniversary reminder. You can then assign your contacts to caller groups, a photo for caller ID, or one of eight polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, a unit converter, and a stopwatch. The Neon also has Answer Tones, where your callers will hear a song or a phrase when they call you.

More advanced features include instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger), a wireless Web browser, and stereo Bluetooth. There's also mobile e-mail, but it only supports a few service providers. They include AOL, Yahoo, AIM, Windows Live Hotmail, AT&T Yahoo, Bellsouth, Comcast, Earthlink, Juno, Mindspring, and NetZero. We weren't able to use Gmail because it doesn't support POP or IMAP.

The LG Neon comes with a simple music player that supports AAC, AAC+, MP3, and WMA. Even though the Neon only has EDGE and no 3G, it still supports AT&T Mobile Music, where you can purchase and download music courtesy of Napster. However, because it takes so long to download a song, we would recommend loading music via a microSD instead. There's also Shazam--a song ID service, access to XM Radio Mobile, MobiVJ, and a ringtone maker. The music player interface is a bit boring, but there are still the typical music player controls like repeat and shuffle mode, plus you can create and edit playlists. The Neon has 14MB of internal memory, but it can also support up to 4GB of expandable memory via microSD cards.

The LG Neon has average photo quality.

The Neon has a simple 2-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240), three quality settings, five color effects, and five white balance presets. Other camera settings include 4x zoom, a self-timer, brightness, and the choice of three shutter tones, plus a silent option. Photo quality is average. Images seemed overcast, especially in low-light situations, and they're not as sharp as we would like. There's also a camcorder, which can record in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) with similar options to the still camera. You can record in either short or longer lengths--shorter clips are for MMS, and longer clips are for saving to the microSD card.

You can personalize the LG Neon with a variety of wallpaper, display themes, alert tones, and more. The LG Neon also comes with a Mobile Banking application, and games like Ms. Pac-Man and Bubble Bash. You can always get more options from AT&T's Media Net online store.

We tested the tri-band (GSM 850/1800/1900, EDGE) LG Neon in San Francisco using AT&T's service. We were impressed with the call quality. We experienced no static or interference on our side, and callers said they could hear us loud and clear as well. They said they could still we were on a cell phone due to the slightly robotic quality to our voice, but that's nothing unusual.

Speakerphone quality did not fare as well--their voices sounded tinny over the phone's speakers, and callers said there was a lot more echo effect in this mode. Music played over the phone's speakers weren't good, either--the audio sounded tinny and light on bass. We would recommend using a stereo headset for listening to music instead.

Even though you can download music over the air, we wouldn't recommend it. It took around 12 minutes just to download a 1MB song. Loading Web pages was quite slow as well.

The LG Neon has a rated battery life of three hours talk time and 10.1 days standby time. We were very impressed with the 8 hours and 41 minute talk time in our tests. According to the FCC, the LG Neon has a SAR rating of 0.998 watt per kilogram.


LG Neon

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7
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