Gadget review: LG Renoir KC910

9 Jan 2009

With the name Renoir, there is no doubt where this handset’s strength lies – its powerful 8-megapixel camera, which will turn your pictures from mere cataloguing into an art form – but the device’s touchscreen interface fails to beat the iPhone’s golden standard.

Testing out the LG Renoir handset was more of an emotional rollercoaster for me than any other I had tried out in a long time. No other smart phone has delighted me as much, with an incredibly capable camera packed with the best touchscreen activation and on-board editing (it gives actual digital handhelds a run for their money). Yet, at the same time, it created frustration by not quite achieving the intuitive level of haptic or touch interaction that would encourage me to browse the web.

I’ll start off with the good bits though. This phone is attractive enough, being both deceptively lightweight and thin with a nice, shiny plastic casing that gives it a friendly, approachable air (although I do prefer brushed metal or matt black finishes myself) and a 3-inch screen.

The operating system is Windows Mobile, but like the Samsung Tocco and the Samsung Omnia, the home screen is all drag-and-drop widgets, making it quite easy to use and get at your favourite applications.

While the touch interface itself is more responsive than RIM’s BlackBerry Storm, it just doesn’t feel or handle like the intuitive technology of Apple’s iPhone.

This is where the Renoir falls down for me. My acid test for any smart phone is navigating on the web and finding out how friendly it is towards rendering my Google RSS reader, and also if I can fire out tweets from Twitter easily. I found the Renoir passable for the former and impossible for the latter.

The device is fine for browsing the web, but when you flip the screen to input text on the virtual keyboard, it takes up most of the viewing space, and typing text quickly wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.

I couldn’t see myself shopping online and writing emails regularly from the Renoir, even though I currently do this on my iPhone. However, on the flip side, I’d be better off with a piece of paper and some crayons than relying on the iPhone to take good photos.

Despite these misgivings, I couldn’t help but love a large chunk of the Renoir. The camera is simply brilliant. At 8-megapixels, you are essentially getting a proper digital handheld, but the auto-focus was so easy and so much fun.

Flipping the Renoir on its side in camera mode and picking your target (I mean, subject), you can actually choose the object of your focus by touching it on screen. I loved this feature and felt very hi-tech and Mission Impossible while playing around with it.

The face-detection, smile-detection and even blink-detection technology are also bang on, and I quite liked the air-brushing feature too.

LG’s Renoir shows great potential and shouldn’t have to be compared incessantly to the iPhone, but the fact of the matter is that a standard for mobile touch technology has been established and consumers expect the same kind of feel from all smart devices now.

Touch interface aside, the Renoir is one hell of a powerful multimedia device. It has 3G and Wi-Fi,DivX and XviD support for great video performance and assisted GPS-enabled navigation, so it ticks all the boxes, as well as being the first mobile phone to have Dolby Mobile on board for really clean, powerful sound.

Investing in a handset like this would certainly be far from a bad purchase, but I felt as though I was somehow settling for the all-round nice guy when Mr Right Phone could be out there somewhere. 

Functionality: Superb camera and good all-rounder, but the touch navigation was a bit tricky. 

Design: Quite stylish and lightweight

Verdict: If you’re big on optics on your handset, then this is a very worthy investment 

Price: From €199 to €449 


By Marie Boran

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