LG GC900 Viewty Smart review

LG's Viewty returns, this time updated with an 8-megapixel sensor and a host of technologies to vie for the title of camera-phone king. But can LG fend off the likes of Samsung and Nokia and more critically, does the boost in pixels give you a better package?

The Viewty Smart boasts a 3-inch 800 x 480 display, which is bright and sharp, and does feature something of an anti-reflective coating so it just about stands up in direct sunlight, but it isn't the best for clarity.

The screen gives you enough space to navigate the S-Class interface that we liked in the Arena. It is a simple and intuitive interface to use, but sometimes is a little slow when compared with the likes of the iPhone 3G S. Turning off the haptics certainly helps speed things up and makes things a little more slick.

Having said all that, it is a UI that we like – it is simple to use and clean in its layout. But being an LG proprietary system, it does raise questions as to whether there will be the freedom in the future to add applications you want, such as a Twitter or Facebook app. If this is on your list of priorities, then you might want to look elsewhere.

The design isn't as cool as the Arena, but the layout is convenient enough with controls scattered around the edges. You get a dedicated shutter button, essential on a device that wants to be a camera above all else. You get a slot for a microSD card too, which means swapping out your media is simple enough without prising off the back.

It measures a relatively svelte 108.9 x 56.1 x 12.4, so it slips easily into a pocket or bag, although there is no form of lens cover, so you'll have to watch out for scratches.

Music fans will be disappointed that there is no 3.5mm jack, instead you have to make do with the existing dongle, but you could then plug your own headphones into that. The supplied headphones are the usual hard plastic in-ear type and do leave a lot to be desired.

Around the back of the phone you'll find the lens for the 8-megapixel camera. It's a Schneider Kreuznach f2.8 autofocus lens supported by an LED "flash". This plays into the imaging heritage that Viewty is trying to establish, and the camera is actually rather good in optimal conditions.

Our test shots did quickly show up that noise is a problem, even in bright conditions where the sky is noisy when it shouldn't necessarily be. Noise is also quick to jump out in lower light conditions, although the images are still usable. Colour is actually pretty reasonable, picking out those blue skies which some rivals will lose.

The "flash" tends to blow out detail and doesn't really contribute too much. The high ISO 1600 mode will allow you capture some low light images, but they are terribly noisy and only really good for candid shots to embarrass your friends online.

Camera control is easy, with a selection of scene modes and so on and an effective macro mode that does capture plenty of detail. Overall images are a little soft, which is to be expected, but given that this is a phone, and not a camera, the performance is good.

Video can be captured at a maximum resolution of 720 x 480, 30fps, and is also pretty good, capturing colour and being relatively swift to adapt to changing conditions. Low light video is very noisy again, but will be fine for putting on YouTube, with a built-in uploader in the menu.

There are a range of fun editing options too, including a "Movie maker" where you can combine images with a soundtrack into MP4 format, or the fog or morphing options – plenty to play around with. There are some more serious image correction options, but given the size of the screen, you never really know what you are going to get as the end result. Video editing can't be applied to the highest resolution of video, suggesting there might be a slight lack of power here.

Outside of the camera functions, the Viewty Smart is a fully-specced device, featuring HSDPA for your fast data on the move, GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Dolby have collaborated on the handset to boost the sound performance, which is really good once you bring in your own headphones.

DivX support is boasted on the back, although we did have a few problems getting our regular DivX test files to play. If all else fails, there is an FM radio too.

Google apps come preinstalled, so you can simply access your email through there if you have a Gmail account, although setting up Gmail accounts in the regular email area is simple enough too.

The browser works well enough and supports multiple windows, as well as multitasking (accessed through a button on the left-hand side of the phone), so you can switch around with relative ease. Pinch zooming is present, although it does feel a little laggy and gets slowed down when faced with a complicated page.

The battery life was also pretty good and we found we got well over a day from it, which some rivals can't boast, although this depends on usage obviously. It partly preserves battery life by being quick to go to sleep, dimming the screen to save power, which can be a tad irritating.

Verdict

Overall the LG GC900 Viewty Smart is a great camera phone that packs in a range of features for mobile snappers. The performance falls short of a regular compact camera, but you can get some respectable images from it, and in terms of imaging, it's certainly worthy of consideration.

The S-Class interface is responsive enough and performs better than some touch devices out there. The potential lack of customisation does cause us some concerns at this stage, especially if you are a social media darling.

But overall, things are all in the right places here, with the 1.5GB internal memory upgradable through the addition of a microSD card, up to 32GB.

If you are in the market for a camera phone, be sure to check this one out.