LG Renoir KC910 mobile phone

The first thing you have to decide with the LG KC910 is whether you are going to view it as the successor to the Viewty or an iPhone killer. The latter it ain’t – the interface isn’t as sleek or intuitive as the Apple device, but it does have some serious advantages – especially if you are a keen snapper, or have a library of DivX files you would like to be able to watch on your phone whilst sweltering on the train.

But it is the touchscreen that has led to comparisons between the two models – so let’s start with this. The Renoir has a 3-inch full touchscreen, which we found to be very responsive even in the pre-production model LG supplied. The touchscreen is a little tougher to use when typing texts and emails however.

The QWERTY keyboard that appears is much quicker to type on than the touchscreen phone pad – and all you have to do is turn the phone horizontally to access it. But, in the absence of a stylus, it can be a little fiddly to type at any kind of speed. Despite having small hands we still hit the wrong letter fairly often. But for accessing the variety of tools on the phone, the touchscreen was fine (although smudgy finger marks all over it are a pain).

Beneath the touchscreen are three buttons – the green one for picking up calls, the red for dropping them and a nifty multi-tasking key which opens a screen showing all of the applications that you have open so you can access them quicker. But it is in conjunction with the camera that the touchscreen really comes into play.

There is a button on the right-hand side of the phone dedicated to shutter release, and you can also use the up and down scroll buttons on the same side to zoom (incidentally this phone has up to 16x digital zoom but no optical zoom). But you can also use the touchscreen to access not only a whole host of editing and capture tools (gallery, flash settings, and brightness/exposure adjustment), but there is a slider on screen for the zoom and if you press the screen, the camera will focus where your finger is and then take the shot. There is a degree of shutter lag when pressing either the button or using the touchscreen method, but perhaps this will be faster in the final phone.

There are scene and creative modes that are accessed through touchscreen icons – you’ve got the usual portrait, landscape and night modes but also beach and sport, sepia and black-and-white colour effects, and you can also fiddle with the white balance and ISO (up to 1600). There’s also the usual inner camera option – which turns the camera back on you (although you do look slightly odd because your eyes will be looking at the screen and not the lens).

If you’re feeling a bit creative the screen also has an icon for accessing the Creative Modes which include a smile detection tool (which did work despite the delay), beauty shot, (which got rid of all of my freckles), and art shot – for warm, cold and again black-and-white images. There’s also an option to frame your pics with hideously kitsch frames (a Noddy car and teddy bear ears) that one hopes you would only use after several hours in the pub. Also worth a mention is the fact that the camera won’t work until you manually open the lens – which means you won't be taking pics of the inside of your pocket.

Onto the video, which is recorded at a perfectly reasonable 120fps (QVGA). There’s a whole host of video editing tools in the Muvee Studio, which is accessed through the entertainment interface. But it is with movie viewing that the team-up with DivX comes into play. Video content (and still images, documents, flash content and games) are all accessed through the entertainment UI, under My Stuff, which is nice and simple.

I played the DivX movies that LG had preloaded and the quality was impressive although the shiny screen does affect viewing if you are under bright lights. When you turn the screen horizontally, the picture quality is even better.

As is the sound which brings us to Dolby. This is the first global phone launch to feature specially designed Dolby tech and it is noticeable. Sure – the sound is still a little tinny through the phone’s speaker, and it does distort on home shot vids at full volume – but through the headphones (even the poor ones that LG has bundled with the phone) it was great. I tried listening to tracks I had loaded up from my lappie on the tube, and didn’t have to blast up the volume. I would recommend getting decent headphones though, and there is an adaptor included as the phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack.

While we’re on music – it is worth mentioning at this point that there is an option for picking tunes you have loaded onto the phone as your ringtones, and you also have an 8GB microSD card bundled with the phone so there’s plenty of room for storing content. There is also going to be a DivX software package for converting files into the DivX format, but we were not given this to test.

This phone also has AGPS and a tool called the Jogging Buddy, which uses GPS to tell you how far you’ve run and how long you’ve been out. This is hidden away under Utilities and then tools, along with the stopwatch, converter and calculator.

And finally, this phone is HSDPA (7.2Mbps), and has, of course, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. The connection was a little slow and sometimes temperamental but, again, this could be down to the fact that this is a pre-production model. Once connected, however, there were no problems navigating between pages, nor getting content to load. And the option of adding online widgets was handy, though the screen quickly looks cluttered.

LG say the battery life is "comparable" to other models at 220 minutes for talk time and 350 hours 3G standby, and we’d say these values were fairly typical, but obviously depend on your usage.

Verdict

Ok so the interface is not that sophisticated but this really is a great phone. The pictures from the camera were comparable to those I have shot on 5MP plus digital cameras, and the editing tools worked. But it was with the video and music playback that I was most impressed. Size wise – the phone is actually 3mm thinner than its closest competitor, and it feels relatively light at 110g.

To be honest – pre-production or no – we would quite happily keep the Renoir for a lot longer than we were given for the review and no doubt the KC910 will be cheaper than the iPhone, as such, it could be an alternative for all of those sick of Apple.