LG Viewty Smart GC900 review: LG Viewty Smart GC900

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The Good Good colour reproduction; slow- and fast-motion video options; attractive camera user interface; easy to upload to YouTube; wealth of camera and editing options; sharp screen.

The Bad Unresponsive on-screen keypad makes typing difficult; video looks overly compressed; 2-second shutter lag; very noisy dark areas in photos; sluggish multitouch zoom; confusing, inflexible syncing software.

The Bottom Line The LG Viewty Smart GC900 takes fairly good photos for a camera phone, but don't be duped by its heavyweight megapixel count -- it doesn't come close to even a budget compact camera, due to its slow shutter speed and noisy shots. And, unfortunately, a generally decent user interface is let down by the on-screen keyboard, which makes typing emails and texts a time-consuming chore

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6.5 Overall

The LG Viewty Smart GC900 packs an 8-megapixel camera into a slim package, but, like most camera phones, it can't overcome its tiny lens and CCD, so its photos are a mixed bag. Its interface is equally two-sided, offering a quick phone dialling pad but a nightmarishly slow soft keyboard that requires a steady hand and nerves of steel to type a coherent message.

You can pick up the Viewty Smart from free on a £35-per-month contract or for £320 on pay as you go, both with O2.

Noisy as a herd of elephants
The Viewty Smart rocks an 8-megapixel camera, but it's plasticky proof that megapixels aren't everything. Like all camera phones, you shouldn't expect to see the same quality pics that you would get from even a cheap compact camera with the same number of megapixels -- the tiny lens and small CCD just can't produce a great image, especially in low light.

Despite the camera's 8-megapixel resolution, its photos aren't a match for a dedicated compact snapper

We took a range of photos in bright and dim light to test the Viewty Smart's photographic chops, and the results were a mixed bag. We appreciated the fairly accurate colour reproduction, good contrast and exposure levels, and true skin tones, but darker areas of the image were streaked with bands of coloured noise. The camera's LED photo light does a good job of illuminating large areas, but is very harsh against closer objects.

We tested both of the Viewty Smart's automatic modes -- 'auto' and 'intelligent shot' (IS) -- but we didn't find an appreciable difference in the quality of the photos. One feature of IS that we particularly like is the ability to choose what to focus on by touching the screen. But it takes more than a tap -- you have to hold the screen until the focus box goes green, then the photo fires off when you remove your finger. It's more fun that using the shutter button, although our finger blocked the part of the image that we were most interested in, which could be an issue when waiting for someone to smile, for example.

There is, however, smile-detection capability, and the Viewty Smart had no trouble detecting our gleaming gnashers. Irritatingly, though, whatever setting we chose, everything got reset to default once we exited the camera. The camera's user interface is clean-looking and pleasant to use, but that doesn't mean we want to tap through the same options every time we turn it on.

The camera interface is attractive and pleasant to use

A camera phone is perfect for capturing unexpected events and spontaneous pub shenanigans, when shutter lag can be a real pain. But, with the Viewty Smart, the 2-second lag using the auto mode in bright light, and 3-second lag in low light, will definitely put a damper on your paparazzi dreams.

Editing in the slow lane
Once you've taken your snaps, there are heaps of image-editing options. One of the quirkiest is 'fog drawing', which lets you create a grey haze over your image by blowing into the microphone, and then wiping away areas with your fingertip to reveal parts of the image underneath. It's like a cheesy iPhone app, without being nearly as fun or elegant. Like many of the editing options we tried, it's sluggish to use. Long delays between our eager taps, and the phone's languid response, left us frustrated.

Syncing killed the video star
The Viewty Smart also shoots video, and includes slow-motion and fast-motion options. The video quality didn't impress us, though. It looks blocky and compressed even though the Viewty Smart's screen is bright and clear.

We had no trouble transferring video to our YouTube account using the built-in uploader, but syncing to our PC over USB was a different story -- and one with an unhappy ending. LG's PC Suite III is confusing to use, due to poorly-translated messages, and it's inflexible, too -- it wouldn't let us define where we wanted videos to be put on our PC, for example.

We could only sync our media in one direction at a time, and we had to change our settings to go the other way. Our test videos made it onto the phone with no trouble, but the files didn't get converted automatically, so we ended up with an MP4 file on the phone that we couldn't watch. But we were happy to see that the Viewty Smart supports the DivX and Xvid file formats, which are popular among downloaders.

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