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LG TU500 review: LG TU500

The TU500 isn't going to win any fashion awards, but underneath its pedestrian skin lurks a highly capable Next G phone.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read
LG's TU500 is a rugged looking little beast of a mobile phone, and an interesting counterpoint to the LG Chocolate U830. Where the U830 is all sleek style and shiny piano black casings, the TU500 is solid lines, physical buttons and a stark (some might say ugly, but that's highly subjective) shiny steel-like inlaid keypad.  Measuring in at 96.5 by 49.6 by 19.3mm and with a carrying weight of 104 grams, the TU500 isn't the lightest or slimmest of phones -- but on the other hand, it's not a brick, either. A single rotating 1.3 megapixel camera sits above the TFT screen. The keypad is essentially unremarkable, save for the external music controls on the face of this flip-top phone; like the U830, the TU500 has simple playback controls, but they're actual buttons as opposed to touch panels in the TU500's case.
The TU500 is an HSDPA phone designed for use on Telstra's Next G network -- the inlaid Telstra symbol on our test sample was rather a dead giveaway of this. The internal display is a 176x220, 262,000 colour TFT, while the external 96x96 pixel display is a 65K colour TFT.
For a phone with supposed multimedia functionality as a key selling point, the TU500 comes with a surprisingly low store of internal memory; only 14MB on board, and only 7.8MB of that is actually available for user storage. The TU500 supports microSD memory, and realistically you've got to include the price of a decent sized microSD card into the TU500's asking price to make it a useful phone in any way -- or hector your phone vendor into bundling one in with the phone.
The camera on the TU500 is a functional but unexciting 1.3-megapixel model. Rather like the plain styling of the phone body, this is entirely suitable for simple shots and video messaging, but not that good for precise photography, and arguably a bit behind the times for a high-end mobile phone.
While the comparison with the LG U830 seems the most apt -- they're both out of the same design factories and share some very marked similarities -- we were surprised to note that while the TU500 is definitely the ugly duckling of this particular phone family, in actual physical use it fairly shines compared to the often-fiddly U830. The front-mounted multimedia playback buttons are a good example of this. Both phones require multiple presses to activate playback, but the physical buttons on the TU500 are far more responsive and easier to use than the U830.
LG also makes some note of the TU500's speakers and their virtual surround sound feature. Like most virtual surround sound, the actual effect can sound a bit on the hollow side, but it's certainly loud. Thankfully, the TU500 supports A2DP Bluetooth stereo headphones, so you don't need to annoy your fellow passengers. Remember -- a little courtesy goes a long way.
LG rates the TU500 as being capable of up to three hours talk time and 250 hours standby time. In our tests, we found that it fell short of the 250 hours standby -0- we had to recharge after around five days of virtually no use, roughly half the stated battery life. Talk time figures fared more evenly, with the phone requiring a recharge roughly every 2.5 days under moderate usage patterns.