LG Saber GT-950 (U.S. Cellular)
LG hasn't made too many slate messaging phones. It usually opts for slider or flip models like the LG Rumor Touch and the LG Lotus Elite. However, it chose the straightforward candy bar design for the LG Saber, which is available for U.S. Cellular. It's not exactly a high-powered handset, with its VGA camera and lack of media player, but it does offer a good keyboard for simple messaging needs.
The LG Saber does not exactly bring to mind the cavalry sword that inspired its name. It's not sleek or shiny, and with its blunt curved corners, it's not liable to put a scratch on anything either. Still, the Saber has an understated appeal with its slate-gray coloring and compact size. Measuring 4.51 inches long by 2.35 inches wide by 0.52 inch thick, the Saber fits comfortably in the hand, and at 3.56 ounces, it won't leave a dent in your pocket either.
We give props to LG for providing a decent 2.2-inch screen for a simple messaging phone like this. It even supports 262,000 colors and a decent172x220-pixel resolution. Graphics are not as sharp as we would like, but colors look good and text is legible enough. You can adjust the font type, the style and size of the dial fonts, the clock and calendar, the menu style, and the display timer.
The navigation array on the Saber is quite slim and narrow. The two soft keys, for example, are rather skinny and feel flush to the surface. Still, they can be pressed easily and we had no problems navigating the menus. There's also a square toggle with a middle OK key, a dedicated camera key, a Clear key, and the usual Send and End/Power keys. In standby mode, the toggle also provides shortcuts to a list of Favorite contacts, a My Menu list of up to 12 user-defined applications, U.S. Cellular's Easyedge online shop, and the calendar.
Beneath the array is a compact QWERTY keyboard. The numbers are marked in orange, and there are also dedicated punctuation keys, a voice command key, and a speakerphone key. The keys feel a little slippery, but luckily they're raised above the surface in domed bumps so it was still easy to send off a quick text message. We found we needed to use our fingernails most of the time due to the small keys, but we did appreciate the larger space bar in the middle.
On the left spine is the Micro-USB charging jack, while the 2.5mm headset jack is on the top. Both openings have plastic toppers. We normally prefer 3.5mm jacks so we can use our own headphones, but as the Saber doesn't have a music player, we're okay with the 2.5mm jack. The volume rocker is on the right spine and the camera lens is on the back. There's also an external speaker on the back, but no LED flash or self-portrait mirror.
The LG Saber holds up to 1,000 contacts in its phonebook, and each entry can store up to seven numbers, two e-mail addresses, a Web address, and a memo. You can customize each entry with a picture ID for easy identification. You can also organize your contacts into caller groups, and customize them with ringtones and message tones. The Saber provides up to 33 tones for you to choose from.
The Saber's main claim to fame is text and multimedia messaging due to the handset's physical keyboard. The interface is simple enough, and we like that it has threaded messaging so you can view the back-and-forth texts in the form of a chat conversation. Unfortunately you won't find instant messaging or e-mail support on here, which is a bit of a disappointment.
Other features of the phone include a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, a calendar, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a unit converter. You also get voice command support, Bluetooth, a voice recorder, and a mobile Web browser. The VGA camera is the only real multimedia feature. You can take photos in four different resolutions, with settings for color effects, white balance, night mode, frames, multishot, brightness, image quality, and four shutter sounds plus a silent option. As you might expect, it doesn't take very good photos. Images were blurry and overcast, and colors looked muted at best.
The LG Saber comes with the game Pac-Man, City ID, and access to Tone Room Deluxe, U.S. Cellular's ringtone store. You can get more of these and more applications from the EasyEdge shop.
We tested the LG Saber in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming service. Call quality was average for the most part. On our end, we heard callers fine, but we did find the volume a little softer than we like. Their voices also sounded a touch machinelike.
On their end, callers said they heard us fine too, but they could definitely tell we were on a cell phone, mentioning a fuzzy quality to voices and the occasional static buzz in the background. Speakerphone calls were similar, except that they heard more echo on their end.
The LG Saber has a rated battery life of 3 hours of talk time and 8 days and 8 hours of standby time. It has a tested talk time of around 3 hours and 55 minutes. According to the FCC, the LG Saber has a digital SAR of 1.22 watts per kilogram.
The LG Saber is a very basic messaging phone--you won't find many multimedia features or even e-mail and instant messaging on here. But if all you want is a straightforward entry-level handset, the Saber does at least deliver when it comes to text and multimedia messaging. And at only $9.99 with a two-year contract, you do get your money's worth.