LG KM900 Arena preview: First look

GSMArena team, 27 March 2009.
Pages: ę123456

Tags: LG, Touch UI, Preview

Middling camera, first-rate video recording

We really had high hopes for the 5 megapixel camera on the Arena but the best we can say about it at this point is OK. The full-res samples reveal poor detail. But let's not forget it's a pre-release unit, which may as well have most of the issues fixed before it's retail-ready.

The good things about the camera are that there is no over sharpening and the colors are lively and perfectly matching the scenes we shot. If it wasn't for the problematic detail we would've called the camera perfect. It's hard to find a cameraphone with such accurate colors and crisp contrast.

The LED flash is useless. It really struggles in poor light and will hardly make a difference, even in close quarters.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
Camera samples downsampled to 1024 x 768 pixels

The viewfinder is not the typical LG. Access to all the camera settings is via the left taskbar in the viewfinder. There you get virtual buttons for settings, flash, focus mode (auto/macro) and exposure.

This left task bar auto hides and is brought back as an overlay when you tap on the screen. On the right hand-side of the screen is another bar with a virtual shutter key, exit and gallery buttons. It's fixed and is actually not part of the viewfinder - that's the way to get around the wide aspect ratio of the LG Arena screen. That way the Arena doesn't crop part of the scene like the LG Renoir.

The actual Settings menu is a clever rotating dial with the available options for each setting displayed as a list. The interface is very handy, neat and usable, geotagging and image stabilization are among the nice extras.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
The camera interface

The LG KM900 Arena is capable of capturing video of up to D1 (720x480) resolution at 30 fps and slow-motion QVGA clips at 120 fps. The Arena, much like the LG Secret, takes the extra step of adding Fast videos. This is the time-lapse video capture seen in many digicams.

The actual quality is more than adequate and there is no trouble with frame rate either. Slow and Fast motion recording is available and with the right things to shoot can be real fun. Unfortunately, those are still limited to QVGA resolution. Even YouTube.com publish higher-res videos online these days.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
Camcorder options

The flash can also be turned on to act as a video light. Quite naturally, you can also record sound with videos, except in fast/slow-mo of course. As we already pointed out, the dedicated video recording microphone is on the back of the phone. Videos are encoded in MP4 but are saved in 3GP format.

Here's a sample to check out.

Web browser is nice, but still slow

The browser is decent, almost identical to the one on the Renoir and Prada 2. Scrolling and panning is quite prompt and smooth. Thanks to the multi-touch implementation on the capacitive screen, the Arena delivers where other browsers fail - the legendary 'pinch' zoom the iPhone is popular with.

Loading pages though is a bit slow. Compared to the iPhone, the LG Arena browser takes double the time to open the same web page - both over Wi-Fi.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
Entering a web address

The multi-touch zooming has been tweaked since the latest Prada and now it takes less time than before. There still is an annoying lag but at least the actual zooming is more accurate and does not interpret the gestures wrong. It's not as fluid as the iPhone but does the job right.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
Browsing GSM Arena on the LG Arena

The controls don't auto-hide and the only option to make them disappear is to turn on the full screen view from the browser menu or rotate the phone to landscape. There the accelerometer comes into play and does its job pretty well.

A useful feature is that you can have two pages open at the same time in tabs and switch back and forth between them. Saving pages for offline viewing is another thing that you'd probably use quite often.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
Full-screen view * the browser visual history

Another handy browser skill is searching web pages for specific words - the first match gets highlighted and the total number of matches is displayed, with up and down buttons for switching between them.

A visual enhancement of the plain browsing history list is the option to view snapshots of the pages you've visited. You can flick between the pages and tap to open the one you are looking for.

The LG Arena web browser lacks full Flash support.

GPS enabled

Google Maps is the most popular electronic map software for mobile phones and it comes preinstalled on the LG Arena making use of its built-in GPS receiver. Still the Java-powered version of the app wasn't meant for this screen resolution (480x800) and looks awkward on the phone.

LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena LG KM900 Arena
Google Maps * the GPS settings screen

Overall, the fact that the LG Arena is not a smartphone will be quite limiting when it comes to picking a GPS voice-guided navigation software as only Java apps can be installed additionally.

Final words

LG have always been prominent on the touchscreen map but the KM900 Arena adds a whole new dimension to their portfolio. The first ever WVGA screen of the house and D1 video recording are enough to make the LG Arena a landmark device. However itís the S-Class Touch UI that propels the handset to a higher league. Itís elaborate, responsive and impressively attractive Ė and weíre keen to see more of it, especially on top of the Windows Mobile OS that LG so heartily embraced in Barcelona.

As to the handset itself, the LG Arena hasnít lost a bit of the impact it made at the WMC. Itís got the novelties right and blends the best of the LG high-end expertise. Maybe itís too early for vicious head-to-heads but LG seem to have themselves a big enough player in the multimedia game.

Pages: ę123456