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LG U890 review: LG U890

LG's U890 offers a decent mid-range 3G phone package with a design similar to Motorola's RAZR line.

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
4 min read

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? If so, then Motorola ought to be feeling extremely flattered when looking at LG's U890. Flip open the U890 and show it quickly to someone else, and we'd be willing to bet that they'd pick it as the Motorola RAZR V3i. That's primarily due to the U890's adoption of a very Tron-like keypad interface that closely mimics that of the RAZR line. Like Motorola's well-recieved phones, there's a downside to all this stylish adoption, and that's in keypad responsiveness. It can be very hard indeed to correctly pick when you've pressed down on the correct area of the keypad when it's all essentially just one flat surface. In most other respects the keypad is entirely what you'd expect; the usual array of number and dialling keys sit below a five-way selector and navigation buttons that will also launch set applications, including contact lists and phone ring settings. As the U890 is an exclusive to the 3 network in Australia, there's also a direct link to 3's mobile TV platform built in.


LG U890

The Good

Slim design. Good screen for video. Decent battery life.

The Bad

Camera sits at odd angles. Keypad can be tough to activate. Low internal memory. Delicate battery latch.

The Bottom Line

LG's U890 offers a decent mid-range 3G phone package.

Like many flip phones, the U890 features an external display screen; the U890's is an average 96x96 pixel, 65,000 colour display that shows signal strength, local time and battery capacity, along with a small picture determined either by user preference or theme. External buttons also control music playback via a simple interface. The internal screen is a 262,000 colour, 176 x 220 pixel screen with very good clarity and brightness.

As a consumer-oriented phone, the U890 features an inbuilt 1.3-megapixel camera built into the rotating hinge of the flip, although it sits on its own rotational axis, letting you use it both for video calling and simple photography. One catch here is that while it'll sit straight when facing you for video calls (and presumably any self-portrait photography), the external angle of the camera only extends to around 45 degrees, so there's no way to simply take a straight photograph. With a little handheld patience you can hold the camera accordingly, but any quick snaps tend to resemble badly framed music videos if you do forget.

The U890 is a 3G phone, locked to the 3 network. It supports the usual raft of 3G/GSM technologies, including SMS, MMS, Video calling, WAP 2.0, JAVA 2.0, and downloadable content, ranging from games to video and especially music. Like the U880, the U890 ships with a measly 70MB of onboard memory for music playback. Thankfully there's support for microSD cards, so you can beef this up a touch if you're not fond of listening to the same selection of songs endlessly. On the subject of music, the U890's musical support extends to stereo Bluetooth headphones, although the set provided in the box is of the wired variety.

As a basic phone, beyond our earlier comment on the keypad there was little to fault with the U890's performance. LG rates the U890 as being capable of running on standby for up to 260 hours (that's 10.8 days for those who think in real terms) on standby, and ten minutes north of two hours in either video or phone calling modes. Our testing backed that up, with the phone requiring a recharge on average every four days during our test cycle. One slight catch here is that the side-mounted catch for the power adaptor feels very cheap and flimsy; a careful hand is required not to tear it off its rubberised hinges.

We tested the U890's Bluetooth stereo chops with a pair of Jabra BT 620S headphones, and it worked quite well, with one noticeable catch. We downloaded some test tunes from 3's online music store, and the additional clarity of the headphones really showed off how compressed the music was. Playback through the U890's own speaker seemed clearer, but as soon as it hit the better earphones we could clearly hear compression problems.

The U890's 1.3-megapixel camera works reasonably well once you get around its angular limitations; as with most sub 2-megapixel phone cameras you're hardly likely to capture any truly extraordinary shots with it, and performance in low light is poor, but there's nothing essentially wrong with its performance either.

The U890 is capable of video streaming through 3's Mobile TV application, and a single press upwards on the navigation dial will automatically take you to 3's homepage for this. We put the U890 to the ultimate test in this regard, using its feed of ABC Kids programming to keep an unhappy toddler under control in the backseat of a hot car for around 30 minutes. While it was the content of the programming -- in this case, the gracefully aging Play School -- that kept him happy, the video quality through the U890's screen was of a surprisingly good quality too.

3 offers the U890 on a variety of plans, currently ranging from AU$29/month up to AU$149/month, depending on how many of 3's services you plan to use; there's no current plan that offers the phone itself outright according to 3's current page for the U890. As an entirely plan-based phone it's well worth looking at, but also worth shopping around, as you'll generally be stuck with a plan-based phone for much longer, so it's worth making sure that you're entirely happy.