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LG Shine review: LG Shine

LG Shine

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.
Nicole Lee
7 min read

One of LG's star handsets this year was definitely the LG Shine, which debuted earlier in the year to quite a bit of fanfare. Back then, the only unit available was the LG Shine KE970, made primarily for the European and Asian market. You could get an unlocked version for the U.S., but it would cost you a pretty penny. Also, it didn't have 3G, and its features were rather underwhelming. Fast-forward several months later, and we finally have its American counterpart, the LG Shine CU720 from AT&T. Not only is it quad-band (and not tri-band like the KE970), the Shine CU720 also comes equipped with 3G support thanks to AT&T's HSDPA network, plus access to AT&T's array of broadband services like Cellular Video and Video Share. Aside from that, not much is improved--you still get many of the same features, the same flat keypad, and we didn't like the CU720's navigation joystick. But if you really must have the shiniest slider phone on the block, the LG Shine certainly fits the bill. It's available for $149.99 with a two-year service agreement.


LG Shine

The Good

The LG Shine CU720 is a very attractive slider handset with 3G support, a nice array of multimedia features, and good call quality.

The Bad

The LG Shine CU720 has a tiny and very sensitive navigation joystick, plus a flat and crowded keypad.

The Bottom Line

Though we had a few quibbles with the phone's design, overall we were pleased with the LG Shine CU720's impressive style and feature set.

The LG Shine personifies its name perfectly. Not only does it shine, it positively gleams. It has a lovely polished-metal exterior and a downright sparkling mirror-finish display that exudes luxury and sophistication. In fact, you can use the display as a small compact mirror when the phone is in standby mode. Measuring 3.93 inches tall by 1.99 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick and weighing about 4.23 ounces, the Shine has a solid stainless steel body that makes it feel very sturdy in the hand. The Shine's slider mechanism feels solid as well, requiring a firm push so it can slide smoothly. Similarly to the KE970, however, we do wish there was some kind of thumb grip near the phone's chin to make it easier to slide open--as it is, our fingers often slipped on the phone's glossy surface instead.

The LG Shine CU720 has a very flat keypad.

If you press any button on the phone, a beautiful 2.25-inch screen will appear underneath the mirrored finish of the display. With 262,000 color support, the screen is simply gorgeous, and images are rich with detail and color. Another nice thing with the display is that it has "multi-angle vision technology" that lets you view the display from almost any angle. You can adjust the dialing font style, the brightness, and the backlight time. The menu interface is pretty simple, plus you have a choice of either icon or list menu styles.

The Shine CU720's navigation array is where the design drastically departs from the original KE970. Instead of a horizontal scroll bar, the Shine CU720 uses a navigation joystick nub, which is a tiny little spun metal circle that can rotate 360 degrees. While we weren't thrilled with the original scroll bar on the KE970, it's still better than the CU720's joystick. Not only is the joystick pretty small, it was simply way too sensitive to any slight movement we made, sometimes triggering an action we didn't want. From the standby screen, nudging the joystick to the north triggers a new text message, moving it to the east triggers the instant-messaging application, to the south it's the contacts list, and to the west it's the MyStuff folder. To the left and right of the joystick are two soft keys marked by two horizontal LEDs. We weren't fans of these keys, either, as they required quite a bit of pressure to be pressed and are flat to the phone's surface.

The LG Shine CU720 has a 2.0-megapixel camera lens on the back.

Once you slide the phone open, you'll reveal the Shine's Razr-like keypad, which looks the same as the one on the KE970. The Talk, Clear/Back, and End/Power keys are crammed on the top of the keypad, meaning you'll have to bump your fingers on the bottom of the slider so you can make or end calls. Also, though there are some minor texture differences between the keys, the keypad is still very flat, and feels much too crowded--we often pressed certain keys by mistake. Though the keys do have a nice give when pressed, we still wouldn't dial by feel. Those with large fingers might have an especially tough time trying to dial or text.

The Shine CU720 moved some keys around from the KE970. On the CU720, the volume rocker is on the right spine, as well as a multitasking key, and a camera shortcut key. The microSD card slot and charger/headset jack is on the left. The camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror sits on the back.

Unlike the original Shine, the Shine CU720 packs quite a bit punch when it comes to features. For the basics, the Shine CU720 has a nice 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for two numbers, an e-mail address, and a memo. You can also assign a contact to any caller group, a photo for caller ID, or one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a memo pad, a calendar, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a tasks list, a stopwatch, a unit converter, a date finder, and a d-day counter. More advanced features include voice-command support, a wireless Web browser, a voice recorder, e-mail, instant messaging (supports AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo messaging services), a speakerphone, and stereo Bluetooth.

The quad-band and 3G support on the LG Shine CU720 is really what makes this so much better than the original KE970. It works worldwide and is compatible with AT&T's high-speed HSDPA network, allowing it access to AT&T's broadband services. They include AT&T's Cellular Video, which lets you watch streaming video clips from sources like CNN and ESPN, as well as AT&T's Mobile Music service that lets you download or stream songs from either Napster or Emusic, provided you have an existing account. The LG Shine is also compatible with AT&T's Video Share service that lets you stream live one-way video during a mobile-to-mobile call (provided the other phone is also compatible with AT&T's Video Share). Other Internet applications include MobiTV, which lets you stream live TV, and MySpace Mobile, which provides instant access to the popular social-networking site.

Going along with the aforementioned AT&T Mobile Music service is a built-in music player. The music player has a fairly generic interface, with the typical player controls, a repeat and shuffle mode, and the ability to organize music with playlists and categories like albums and artists. The music player supports MP3, WAV, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ files, and you can transfer them to the phone via a simple USB cable without any software. The LG Shine comes with a microSD card slot, so adding more storage for music shouldn't be a problem. Alternately, you can use AT&T's Mobile Music to download songs. Included with the music bundle is Music ID (a song identification service), XM Radio Mobile (which streams satellite radio from XM if you have an account), the ability to stream music videos, a newsletter about the music industry from Billboard, and access to a music fan community.

The LG Shine CU720 has very good photo quality.

The LG Shine CU720 comes armed with the same Schneider Kreuznach lens and autofocus 2.0-megapixel camera as the KE970, which we loved. It is definitely a fabulous camera, with great photo quality. Camera options include a range of resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 to 320x240 pixels. Other camera settings include a self-timer, three quality modes, four color effects, white balance settings, shutter sounds, and a multishot mode. There's also an included camcorder that shoots videos in two resolutions (128x96 and 176x144). The camcorder's editing options are similar to the still camera; plus you can use the zoom. Multimedia message video clips are limited to eight seconds, but otherwise you can shoot as much as available memory permits. Video quality wasn't great, but photo quality was fantastic, with sharp images, crisp detail, and rich colors.

You can personalize the Shine in a number of ways. It comes with an array of wallpaper, color schemes, clock and calendar formats, and alert tones. You can download more graphics and ringtones if you wish. The LG Shine CU720 comes with a few applications like Mobile Banking and My-Cast 5 Weather, as well as a few games like Diner Dash, Midnight Bowling, Pac-Man, and Tetris. Similarly, you can download and purchase more applications or games via the Shine's browser.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) LG Shine CU720 in San Francisco using AT&T's service. Call quality was very good, with little to no static, and a good amount of volume. Callers heard us loud and clear as well, though quality did suffer a little bit in a windier area. Speakerphone calls didn't do as well, due to a slightly muffled and tinny sound emitting from the phone's speakers. Callers said that they couldn't hear us as well, either. We managed to pair the LG Shine CU720 with the Cardo S-2 Bluetooth headset with great results--both calls and music sounded just fine.

Speaking of audio quality, we were satisfied with the MP3s we heard from the Shine's music player. Though the tinny speakers on the LG Shine didn't do the songs justice, the aforementioned headset delivered good, crisp sound. The streaming video quality from AT&T's Cellular Video didn't do so well, though. The videos look horribly compressed with a lot of pixelation and jerky movements--we could hardly read the text on the screen half the time. That said, streaming video had little to no rebuffering time, and downloads were quite fast. We managed to download a game in just a few seconds.

The LG Shine CU720 has a rated talk time of three hours and a promised standby time of 10 days. Our tests revealed a talk time of 3 hours and 41 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Shine CU720 has a digital SAR rating of 1.14 watts per kilogram.


LG Shine

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8