With its half-touchscreen display and slider form factor, the Venus by LG is like the little brother to the full-touchscreen Voyager
. It's a flashy multimedia phone that will turn heads, but it costs a pretty penny. While not without its flaws--namely its key-locking mechanism--the Venus is a worthy upscale alternative to the LG VX8700
and Motorola MOTORAZR2 V9m
Aesthetics and Exterior
The first thing you'll notice about the Venus is its black bezel (also available in pink starting December 11th) and half-mirrored display, which has a silver tint to it. At 4 x 2 x 0.6 inches, it's just a hair larger than the Chocolate but 0.1 inches thinner. Just below its upper 2-inch, 320 x 240-pixel display is another 1.5-inch, 240 x 176-pixel haptic touchscreen used to navigate the phone's menus. The left side of the phone features volume controls, a 2.5mm headphone jack, and a speakerphone button. On the right side of the unit are shortcut buttons to both the camera and the music player, as well as a microSD Card slot for adding up to 8GB of memory.
The entire back of the Venus is black with a soft-touch texture. The back also houses a 2-megapixel camera, which took the same quality pictures as the Voyager; it reproduced colors and light well and easily handles quick shots on the run. You can also shoot respectable 320 x 240-pixel videos with the Venus.
IMing with the LG Venus
The Venus includes clients from AOL, MSN, and Yahoo for easy instant messaging. We logged onto AIM and chatted with a few friends, but we wished that the keys had more depth. Typing long messages on the dialpad was uncomfortable, and because of the proximity of the keys to one another, we often clicked the wrong ones by accident.
Navigate by Touchscreen
The touchscreen displays icons for Messages, Contacts, All Calls, and Shortcuts, plus a Menu button, which leads to standard phone options. Keep in mind that the touchscreen is used for navigation and nothing else. You use the Up, Down, Left, and Right buttons to navigate through menus and select using touch. We loved the buzz feedback response from the touchscreen, and it doesn't require too much thumb accuracy, thanks to the large icons. Learning to touch only the lower screen takes some getting used to; we often tried to click icons on the upper screen.
Not-so-Fast Net Browsing
Surfing the Web wasn't an exhilarating experience, but it wasn't a bad one, either. Launching the phone's proprietary mobile browser takes you to Verizon Wireless' VZW Today page with standard links for trivial mobile phone Web surfing. CNN.com loaded in 11 seconds with pictures, and 4 seconds without. NYTimes.com took just 6 seconds without pictures. Loading Gizmodo.com with pictures either crashed the browser with an "insufficient memory for this operation error," or never loaded the pictures at all.
Music, Video & GPS
The Venus also supports video playback capabilities using the V CAST Music store. We put on VH1's The Salt-N-Pepa Show; the dancing featured in the video was quick but a bit pixelated, and the V CAST controls took up about a third of the screen. The clip played out its full 2 minutes and 16 seconds without a skip. Our 320 x 240-pixel videos came out clear as well. When we had the phone paired up to Bluetooth and played the videos back, however, we heard a clicking noise coming from the phone, even with the volume turned off.
Like most Verizon Wireless handsets, the Venus supports VZ Navigator for GPS functionality. It costs $9.99 for a monthly subscription or $2.99 per day. Unfortunately, it lacks support for the Chaperone GPS locator feature.
We listened to about 4 hours of music on the Venus (with some charging in between). LG doesn't offer a headset with the phone, so we had to use our own. Song quality was solid on a run-of-the-mill set of headphones, and even better on a high-end stereo Bluetooth headset. We found that the treble in the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Soul to Squeeze," was a little irritating at high levels, though, specifically during the opening guitar and drums segment. And we like that the music player has a cover-flow theme to it; you can see what album is up next and what album just played.
Occasionally, we would hear music playing out of nowhere. After looking around at everyone in the room, we were embarrassed to notice that the music was actually coming from our pocket. Inconveniently, the Unlock button serves as the shortcut Music button as well, so whenever we inadvertently pressed that button twice consecutively, the music player started.
Phone Quality and Battery Life
The phone's call quality was on a par with the Voyager and was plenty crisp and loud. Our stereo Bluetooth headset paired easily, and although the calls were static-free and we could hear perfectly, our partners did notice a small echo on their end. Battery life hovered just around the advertised 4 hours, although the battery drains quicker when you're using the V CAST Music Store and listening to music. During a 2-hour bus ride, we listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, made a few phone calls, and still had two bars of battery left before we put the phone back on the charger.
Our Final Word on the LG Venus
Overall, we were pleased with the performance, look, and feel of the LG Venus. Its touchscreen is as much a conversation starter as it is a versatile design element. However, for the price we would have liked to have V CAST Mobile TV
as an option, which is available on the $20 cheaper Motorola MOTORIZR Z6TV. If you can live without that feature and have the means, this handset is worth the splurge.
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