NEC L1 review: NEC L1

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The Good The NEC L1 has a slim design, Bluetooth, world phone support, and a megapixel camera.

The Bad The NEC L1 has poorly designed buttons and controls, inconsistent call quality, and a tiny external display. Also, it lacks a speakerphone.

The Bottom Line The NEC L1 has a slim profile and some nice features, but it ultimately can't compare to better-equipped thin phones.

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6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6

If you're hoping like we are that the thin phone craze is nearing its end, we have some bad news for you. The skinny cell trend that was born out of the Motorola Razr shows no signs of abating. Samsung and

The L1 is rather boring when viewed from the front.

Like the Razr before it, the L1 is all about being thin. At just 4.0 by 1.9 by 0.5 inches and 3.2 ounces, it slips into just about any pocket, and its profile will not go unnoticed on the street. Yet as with other thin phones, it can be uncomfortable to balance the handset between your head and your shoulder and difficult to feel the vibrate mode when worn in a pocket. When viewed straight on, the L1 is rather dull. Rectangular with sharp corners, the phone sports a simple silver color scheme with few exterior touches. The rectangular external display is tiny for the phone's size, but it still crams in the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. Since it's monochrome, however, it doesn't show photo caller ID and only the clock style is changeable. At the front face's top is a small camera lens, while a looped antenna sits just above. The only other outside features are a small speaker on the front flap and a volume rocker on the right spine.

The internal TFT display is rather attractive, with support for 65,000 colors. Graphics and animation are sharp, and at two inches diagonal the display has a decent size. Personalization options are limited, with no settings for font size, backlight time, or brightness but we like the intuitive design of the user-friendly menus. On the downside, the navigation keys caused us a bit of concern. Like most thin phones, internal controls on the L1 are flush with the surface of the phone, which takes some practice for first-time users. A five-way toggle doubles as a shortcut to the missed and received calls lists, the ringer modes menu, a downloads menu, and the camera. Though the toggle itself is rather tactile, the four shortcut buttons surrounding it are a bit small and hard to press. These keys give access to the messaging menu, the Web browser, the phone book, and the main menu.

The keypad buttons are somewhat disappointing as well. Since they're small and lie flat on the surface of the phone, it's difficult to dial by feel. What's more, the backlighting is rather dim. The talk and end/power keys and a clear button sit on the top row of the keypad.

The internal phone book holds 500 contacts with room in each entry for seven phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 150 names). You can save contacts to caller groups or pair them with one of 22 polyphonic ring tones. You can assign contacts a photo as well, but they won't show up on the external display. Basic features consist of a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, an alarm clock, a scheduler, a to-do list, a notepad, and a currency converter. Unfortunately, you don't get a speakerphone, but the L1 does offer full Bluetooth, voice commands, and a voice memo recorder for clips up to one minute long.

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