LG GD900 Crystal isn't the most compact of sliders we have seen but at 105 x 52.5 x 13.5 mm,it can still slip effortlessly in your pocket. The weight of 127 g might be a bit hard for some to swallow but it actually makes for a nice solid feel in your hand - a nice contrast with the plastic body.
Undoubtedly the see-through keypad is what gives the LG GD900 Crystal its main appeal. Unique and different enough to put the device in a class of its own, its white glow looks really fascinating, especially in the dark.
Interestingly enough, almost the entire LG GD900 body is covered with a thin layer of transparent plastic, which we aren't really great fans of. Now don't get us wrong - the handset still looks pretty cool overall, it's just that it would have been even better with some metal accents here and there.
The front panel the GD900 Crystal is mostly about the 3" 16M color touchscreen display of WVGA (480 x 800 pixels) resolution. Even if colorwise it may be a notch below the stunning AMOLED screen of the Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH, the LG Crystal display still delivers decent image quality.
The Crystal touchscreen uses the capacitive technology, which requires only a touch rather than a push to register a click. Even the lightest of touches does the trick which is probably a large part of the reason why people buy touchscreen phones in the first place. One downside of capacitive touchscreens though is that they can't be used with either stylus or gloves.
In common with the LG Arena, the LG Crystal has multi-touch support, which means you can use the two-finger pinch-to-zoom gesture made popular by the iPhone.
Unfortunately the LG GD900 Crystal display performs quite poor when exposed to direct sunlight. It's almost impossible to find a decent angle to operate the phone comfortably in such conditions, which does detract from the overall user experience.
There is a gray frame around the display of the LG GD900 Crystal with the loudspeaker grill, the video-call camera and the proximity sensor piercing its top end. There is also a proximity sensor that makes sure the display is automatically locked when you place it next to your ear during a conversation.
On the opposite end there are three touch-sensitive buttons below the display that are covered by a thick transparent plastic. Those keys include a shortcut to the cube interface and the two standard call handling keys - Call and End.
Sliding the phone open reveals the Crystal's most extraordinary feature: the see-through keypad is actually a simple touchscreen with letters etched on its surface and a metallic frame. The cool illuminations actually come from the side, somewhere from within the main body of the handset. That said, we admit we're oversimplifying things in our description to make the concept easier to grasp. In fact we're quite impressed by the clever implementation and the LG R&D team certainly deserves quite a few pats on the back for coming up with the LG Crystal.
The touch-sensitive keypad is smooth and really responsive but we doubt that its input capabilities are a match for a regular tactile-feedback one. It is certainly cool looking and unique, but feature-wise it does nothing but double the touchscreen as an input option. Still, even if it serves almost no practical purpose, it remains one of the best reasons for getting the Crystal, so we shouldn't judge it too hard we guess.
Plus it offers multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom and gesture shortcuts. The latter is certainly one of our favorite features, allowing instant access to your favorite applications. We'll take a closer look at them later in the review.
The only element on the left side of LG GD900 is the microUSB port, covered by a small plastic lid to prevent it from getting all dusty. The LG Crystal was the first LG phone to come with a such a universal connectivity port and more will surely follow. It will certainly make consolidating your family cellphone accessories a realistic task.
The right side of the Crystal hosts the camera key and the volume rocker. Those are average in size but we are not particularly happy with the feedback they provide. We are not saying that they are hard to use, but we have certainly seen better. Strangely enough those were working fine on our pre-release Crystal that we previewed a while ago.
The top of the LG Crystal features the On/Off button which, much like on the LG Arena, is used to lock the device display.
The back of the GD900 hosts the 8 megapixel camera and its companions - the self-portrait mirror and the LED flash. Those are of course only visible when the slider is open, giving them plenty of protection from scratches. Right next to them is the microSD card slot.
We were able to confirm that the Crystal can handle a 16GB microSD card, which is the largest currently available on the market. It also has an acceptable initializing time with that kind of card.
The battery cover is as interesting as the see-through keypad. At first you might be wondering how to get to the battery but then you'll notice the small shiny latch at the bottom of the phone.
The problem with the battery cover is that it seems too prone to scratches. The transparent plastic is soft and it only took us a short time to get a couple of them and we are pretty careful when handling our phones.
Under the semitransparent battery cover is the 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery as well as the SIM card slot. The battery is quoted at 300 hours of standby and up to 6 hours of talk time.
In reality the handset can make it through a day and a half of some intensive usage (twenty minutes of telephony, half an hour of browsing, about thirty photos and a couple of hours of exploring the rest of the features).
The general build quality of LG GD900 Crystal is good, and there are only a few slight creaks on the back. The slider is also nicely done - as is usual for LG, it's smooth and stable. The only real negative is the battery cover's aforementioned ability to attract scratches.