LG GW620 InTouch Max review

The LG GW620 is a side-slider handset, following the relative success of handsets like the KS360 and GW520 from LG. These handsets all have something in common: they aren't the highest spec devices, but they do offer a decent keyboard and a competitive range of features at an affordable price. Formerly known as the Etna, and now known as the InTouch Max, we'll stick to calling it the GW620.

The handset is thicker than the latest crop of touchscreen devices, but understandably so. Measuring 109 x 54.5 x 15.9mm, it features a 3-inch HVGA resistive touchscreen display on the top, with three buttons across the bottom: home, back and menu.

On the top of the GW620 you'll find the power and lock button sitting next to the 3.5mm headphone jack (not something that LG always includes, so think yourself lucky here). Around the sides of the phone you get dedicated camera and media buttons and a volume control. microSD card and Micro-USB slots lie under plastic flaps which looks neat and tidy, but with the frequency of recharging, you'll probably find the Micro-USB flap won't last the life of the device.

The LG GW620 will appeal to those who want more than just a great keyboard for bashing out text messages however. The phone runs on Android 1.5, so brings with it the cool features that Google's mobile phone OS has on offer. That means plenty of customisation and lots of apps from the Android Market. Android 1.5 is getting old, with the latest crop of phones offering 2.1, which brings further refinement and features to the OS. LG may, however, choose to update the GW620 software in the future.

As a QWERTY Android device it is not unique, with Motorola's Milestone (Droid in the US) and DEXT (CLIQ) being notable rivals. Those devices have received a great deal of praise for what they offer, but we can't help liking what LG have come up with.

The slide action is distinct and feels slick, revealing a five-line keyboard. The buttons are of a reasonable size and well spaced so you can bash out messages at a decent speed. It is backlit too, with white and blue showing up the regular and alternative characters respectively.

The layout is regular enough, with number keys lying across the top, just like on a conventional keyboard. This make it easy to throw numbers into messages as you go along, but you're better off using the dialler when it comes to actually making calls. The action of the buttons is slick and it feels good to use. We said it about the KS360 and the GW520, and once again we like the GW620 keyboard from LG.

Cursor keys are present and easy to use to move up and down pages when you don't want to use touch. The keyboard doesn't throw up too many surprises, but does feature a large number of alternative characters in blue, for which you need to press the "alt" button. To get caps you have to press the uppercase arrow and it would have been nice if press and hold did this automatically.

You also get dedicated buttons on the keyboard to access the menu for the page you are on (duplicating the centre button below the screen). This makes it easy to get around Android, as you can then use the cursor arrows and "enter" to navigate the menus if you don't want to touch the screen. Search also gets a keyboard button, so those applications that are search enabled, again, are easy to control without your fingers having to leave the keyboard.

There is predictive text entry, which is great for ironing out mistakes, although if you key the wrong things, you'll have to press the correct suggestion to input that word. The same predictive text system works for both the QWERTY keyboard and the T9 onscreen keyboard and once you get to know how to use it, it can save you plenty of time.

There is an accelerometer so it knows when to flip the screen into landscape. This happens automatically when you open the keyboard, but if you are just reading a webpage then it's nice to switch between landscape and portrait without opening it up. There is no landscape onscreen keyboard however, as it only appears in text entry in portrait mode.

A proximity sensor kills the screen when you put the GW620 to your face and presents calling options when you move it away. We found the call quality was good, and you can navigate the phone and access other applications whilst in a call, for example, to check the details of an email whilst talking to a contact.

In terms of the operating system, LG haven't done much to change it from the raw Android. This is no bad thing because it is a simple and intuitive operating system to use. In this form it doesn't have the gloss of HTC's Sense UI or the wide integration of MotoBlur. You will find SNS Manager on-board, but this only offers Facebook and Twitter assimilation, so if social networking is your thing, you'll have to download the apps you want to widen the scope. At its core, Android brings your Google account into your phone with absolute ease, meaning your Gmail, contacts and calendar can be quickly and easily synced.

There is an option to engage a touch of LG with a bar of icons on the homepage, and a grouped menu, but as you get three customisable homepages to litter with shortcuts and widgets, you probably don't need to go there. The widgets offered give you access to the radio, your music and various others, but don't quite have the gloss of HTC's widgets. Other neat features that LG have added include the ability to tag photos of people, so that face recognition will identify that person in the future. Once tagged, you can then contact that person by touching their picture.

The GW620 is a capable emailer too, with support for push email, and Moxier coming pre-installed. This will enable you to connect with your Exchange email and sync your office with your phone. Of course, setting up regular IMAP or POP3 email services is a breeze too.

In terms of media, the dedicated music button will launch the music player so you get quick access to your tunes (MP3, AMR, AAC, AAC+, WAV, WMA). The music widget will sit on your homepage and let you pause or skip tracks, or provide a shortcut to dive into the track that is playing. The on-board speaker is a little tinny to really play out loud, thankfully.

Video playback (MPEG4, DivX, WMV) looks crisp enough on the screen, but the video capture offered by the 5-megapixel camera on the rear only comes in at a crunchy 320 x 240-pixels, which is only really suitable for posting online - and in these days of YouTube HD, even then you are pushing it.

This is a shame because the camera on the back is reasonably capable, allowing for the usual shutter lag. It comes with an LED flash, which has a tendency to overexpose, but you'll get some decent shots from the camera in good conditions. Sharing options are easily accessed too, if you want to send it off by email or post to Facebook.

In terms of connectivity you'll find the GW620 packing HSDPA, Wi-Fi (b/g) and Bluetooth. You get the A-GPS in there for all your mapping needs and a digital compass, so you can use applications like Layar, or dive into Google Street View to take a sneaky peak at that curry house you've just searched for.

The browser on the GW620 is fairly average Android stuff, loading pages quickly. There is no multi-touch, but you can zoom via onscreen buttons, open multiple pages and move them around with relative ease.

The response from the screen is so-so. At times within applications it responds to touch well. Diving around a webpage clicking links doesn't present it with too many problems and it was accurate enough to get us where we wanted to go. However, compared to the capacitive rivals out there, you'll find the response just isn't quite as slick, so you won't be able to use the on-screen keyboard with the same ease you would on something like the HTC Hero or the iPhone.

We did notice lag in opening applications, returning to the homescreen and navigating the menus. This isn't uncommon with phones that are running a number of applications, but it is something to watch out for here, suggesting that its budget status extends to the processor too. This isn't a phone that offers the highest specs around and the user experience reflects that.

The battery life is pretty good though. We found ourselves charging it most nights after a heavy day on the road, but with gentler use the battery will outlast some of its more expensive rivals. Charging every other day was not uncommon.

 

Verdict

Overall the GW620 is a great handset. There are some limitations that come with the affordability tag – the screen could be a higher resolution and more responsive. Small details, like video capture, could offer more. From a consumer point of view, you don't get the sense of completion that you do from something like the Motorola DEXT, which is probably its closest rival.

But the essentials are here. The QWERTY keyboard works well, the camera produces some nice results and the Android operating system gives you plenty of scope to customise the phone to your liking. LG have been considerate with their first foray into Android. Out of the box it will get you online and "in touch" with very little effort and puts forward a convincing case for budget Android devices.