The LG Chocolate BL40 Black Label Series is LG’s newest multimedia phone. This extra-tall candy bar touchscreen phone makes a great first impression but is it all skin-deep? Check out our full review after the jump.
The most prominent feature of the LG BL40 is its slim and tall form-factor, a character that easily gets a lot of attention in public.
The phone is pretty sexy — slim and tall with a glossy black finish all around. With a dimension of 128mm x 51mm x 10.9mm, it’s got an odd form-factor usually gets a mixed first impression. It’s a little on the heavy side but that’s because they used glass and metal in the body, except for the back cover which is plastic. See complete specs here.
The lock screen can be unlock via swiping the wallpaper upwards or clicking the power button once. However, I find it easier to go from sleep mode to active mode by clicking on the music button (wake up) and swiping the wallpaper up (unlock).
The front side does not even have any physical buttons at all (and confuses a lot of people when you hand it to them for the first time). On top is the power button and 3.5mm jack and at the mic is at the bottom end. The left side has the latch-type slot for the micro-USB port and a dedicated music button while the right side has the volume control and dedicated camera button.
Inside the LG Chocolate BL40 is the familiar S-Class UI which we’ve seen and tried in the LG Arena and LG Crystal. Most of the time, it responds quite well and runs smoothly except on some occasions when you feel a bit of lag. Aside from the rotating 3D cube that serves up 4 desktop panels, you can pull down a quick menu by tapping the top edge of the screen. The quick menu gives you access to most common functions such as WiFi, Bluetooth and Alarm controls as well a Profiles, Calendar and Events.
The strength of the LG Chocolate is really with multimedia. The 21:9 widescreen aspect ratio and 800×345 pixel resolution produces some form of cinematic viewing experience on a smaller scale. You’ll especially notice this when watching widescreen movies (not much with photos though, unless they’re panoramic shots).
Coupled with the FM Transmitter function (LG Arena has this too), you can also broadcast the audio of your movies to your FM stereo or car stereo to get that enhanced viewing/listening experience. The earpiece doubles as a speaker in front and puts up good sound quality with enough volume for open playback.
The display is bright, crisp and renders videos and photos very nicely. Last time I’ve seen this nice a display was with the Zune HD sporting an OLED display. The multi-touch works well with flipping and stretching/zooming around photos although the accelerometer doesn’t quite often catch up the handset orientation. Did I mention that since it’s shiny all over, expect a lot of smudges and fingerprints on the device too?
The built-in camera has a 5MP resolution and takes decent photos. However, video recording quality isn’t even close to decent which is a little odd since the LG Arena and LG Crystal takes decent to nice videos. Okay, so the two others take HQ videos while this one is only SD quality @ 640×480 pixels. The iPod Nano takes a much better videos, IMO.
The built-in browser is decent and simple but with support for multiple windows (tabs) and runs Flash natively. Rendering pages on the screen at the vertical position is cramped but you get the full screen view at the horizontal position, thanks to that 800 pixel resolution. Access via WiFi and 3G is fast but not that very impressive. The battery is only rated at 1000mAh but lasts a full two days on normal use.
LG tried to emulate some sort of multi-tasking function so you can run various applications all at once on top of the running widgets but one can easily hit that limit (which tops at around 4 or 5 running apps). Not enough RAM perhaps — which is probably why they added a huge “End All” button in the task menu (fair enough).
There are a number of features on the handset that LG could have improved on:
Processing Power. While most of the tasks and functions are quite responsive, there’s a noticeable delay or lag when running multiple tasks. This is pretty common to most phones (and even on Android handsets) but the unit sometimes feels a little underpowered.
Apps and Games. While there are a dozen or so Java games pre-installed in the handset (mostly developed by LG Electronics), the rest are just demo games. These are pretty nice games similar to what you’d find in the Wii or iPhone but the selection isn’t that expansive. The apps are also sparse — only had GMail, Google Maps and WisePilot for LG. LG should do their own app store soon. (Update: They got some sort of Application Store here.)
Usability Issues. While I really liked the form factor, there were some minor usability features that I sometimes find uncomfortable. This usually happens when the confirmation button (OK, Send, etc.) is placed on the top of the UI which forces you to navigate using both hands instead of one. The virtual alpha-numeric keys are cramped but that’s compensated with the nice and widely-spaced full qwerty keyboard on the horizontal orientation.
The LG BL40 is one feature-packed and capable handset. It’s a nice addition or upgrade to LG’s previous touchscreen handsets like the Arena and Crystal. With a piano-black, glossy finish and red accents at the top and bottom end, I’d say the LG Chocolate Black Label Series 40 (LG BL40) was specifically created for the ladies. Owning one of these is more of a fashion statement than anything else. As for the price tag, it costs as much as the LG Crystal at Php27,900.