Editors' note: In this review, we'll focus more on the LG Quantum's design, performance, and differentiating features. For more on its operating system and core functions, please read our full review of Windows Phone 7.
The LG Quantum is AT&T's third Windows Phone 7 behind the Samsung Focus and the HTC Surround, but it's the first one to offer a full QWERTY keyboard. To be honest, we had our doubts about the Quantum when we first saw it during the official launch event, as it felt more like a quick messaging phone than a high-quality smartphone. However, after spending some time with the device, we've changed our tune. The Quantum delivers solid performance, an excellent keyboard, and sturdy hardware, though the design is not without its flaws (heavy, smaller display, limited landscape support). We still think the Samsung Focus is the best Windows Phone 7 device overall, but that said, those who want a physical keyboard will be well served by the Quantum. The LG Quantum is available now for $199.99 with a two-year contract.
The LG Quantum is a solid piece of hardware, though its drab, quick-messaging-phone-like appearance doesn't make the best first impression. However, once in hand, the smartphone has quite a premium feel to it, partly because of the soft-touch finish and stainless-steel battery door and partly because of the phone's weight. At 6.2 ounces, it's one of the heftier smartphones we've seen to date, which is a minor put-off, but fortunately, the slide phone is compact overall at 4.7 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, so it's more manageable. Plus, the curved edges and rounded corners make it comfortable to hold, and the slider mechanism is strong, so the screen doesn't move or feel loose when you're simply holding the phone.
On front, you get a 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen that supports 16 million colors and a 480x800-pixel resolution. It's sufficiently bright and sharp, so we had no problems reading text or viewing photos and videos. Admittedly, the Quantum's screen isn't as sharp or vibrant as the Samsung Focus' and the smaller size takes a bit away from the Web browsing and multimedia experience, but the touch screen is responsive, as it registered all our taps, quickly scrolled through lists, and offered smooth pinch-to-zoom support.
One area where we did have an issue was the limited landscape support. As we noted in our review of Windows Phone 7, the OS doesn't fully work in landscape mode. Currently, it's limited to the photos, video, Web pages, messages, and games, so when you slide the phone open to use the keyboard, the Start screen remains in portrait mode. Granted, you'll most likely be using the keyboard to respond to messages, but still, full landscape integration would make for a more polished OS and better use of other features, such as navigation.
Moving on to the keyboard itself, it's spacious and easy to use. The rectangular buttons are a good size, even for larger thumbs, and there's a decent amount of spacing between the keys to limit mispresses. Numbers share space with the top row of letter keys. Interestingly, the Function and Shift keys are separate from the rest of the keyboard, as the two buttons sit alone on the outer left side. We have no problems with this, except the buttons were so small and set slightly below the phone's surface so they're a little difficult to press. In additional to the physical keyboard, you can use the onscreen keyboard.
LG uses a mix of touch-sensitive and physical keys for the required Windows Phone 7 controls. The back and search buttons are of the former variety and sit right beneath the display; the Start shortcut is a physical button and is located on the bottom lip of the phone. On the left side, you get a Micro-USB port, and on the right side, there's a volume rocker and camera button. The top of the device features a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button, and the camera and flash reside on back.
AT&T packages the LG Quantum with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
The LG Quantum is a quad-band world phone with a speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, voice dialing, simultaneous voice and data, and text and multimedia messaging. The Quantum is 3G-capable and has Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1, and GPS. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 7 doesn't currently support tethering.
Like the Focus and Surround, the Quantum comes preloaded with a number of AT&T services, including AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, and AT&T U-verse Mobile, which allows you to download TV shows via Wi-Fi onto the phone. For a limited time, AT&T is offering customers who purchase a Windows Phone 7 device a free Entertainment Pack, which includes a 30-day trial to U-Verse Mobile (normally $9.99 per month), a 30-day Zune Pass, and the Ilomilo Xbox Live Arcade game.
LG also throws in 10 free apps, including Look n Type, Workout Tracker, Panorama Shot, a Scan Search augmented reality app, and Tool Box (features a unit converter and flashlight), through its dedicated channel within the Windows Phone Marketplace. With apps costing anywhere from $1.99 up to $6.99, the free titles are certainly appreciated. LG said that it will continue to release free apps on a regular basis exclusively to its customers for a limited time.
As you're downloading apps--as well as song, videos, and games--keep in mind that the LG Quantum has 16GB of internal memory with no option for expandable memory. One tip for freeing up storage while still being able to enjoy tunes is to stream music from services, such as Zune Pass, Slacker, and I Heart Radio, or use the Zune's built-in radio. Also, unlike other platforms, you can actually uninstall the preloaded AT&T apps if you're not going to use them. The services will only reinstall the programs if you happen to perform a hard reset on the device.
Finally, the LG Quantum offers a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, 5x zoom, and 720p HD video capture. There are multiple editing options, including various shooting modes (or Intelligent Shot as LG calls them), brightness and white-balance settings, color effects, and antishake.
The picture quality on indoor shots was a bit subpar. Colors looked dull, and there was also some graininess to the images. However, photos taken outdoors were more vibrant. Video quality was quite good. The picture was clear without any sign of the haziness or halo effect that often plagues other camera phones. Though Windows Phone 7 doesn't offer an easy way to upload videos to YouTube or your social networks, the LG Quantum supports DLNA technology so you can wirelessly stream content from your phone to a compatible device using the Play To feature on the handset.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) LG Quantum in New York and Washington, D.C., and call quality was good. On our side, the audio was mostly clear with some slight background noise. There was no voice distortion, though sound quality could have been slightly richer. Minor quibbles aside, we were quite satisfied with the voice performance, and friends also reported good results on their end.
LG Quantum call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality was also decent. Volume was just a touch soft, even at its highest level, for holding conversations in noisier environments, but the audio was clear and not too hollow. Meanwhile, friends said they couldn't even tell we were on speakerphone. We had no problems pairing the Quantum with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
AT&T's network provided reliable 3G coverage in Manhattan and the metropolitan D.C. area, with decent speeds. CNET"s full site loaded in 30 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 10 seconds and 11 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos took several seconds to load, but it played back without interruption and with synchronized audio and picture.
Powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the Quantum performed smoothly throughout our review period. Apps launched almost immediately, and if there were delays, they were minimal. We were able to play games and watch video without any problems.
The LG Quantum ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time 6 hours and up to 14.6 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Quantum provided 6.25 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Quantum has a digital SAR rating of 0.35 W/kg.