LG enV2 Review

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$129
Editor's Choice

Pros: Sleeker design and larger keypad; Bigger internal display; Comfortable keyboard; Fast and accurate GPS; Good call quality

Cons: Tiny front screen; Choppy video playback; 2.5mm audio jack

Verdict: This messaging phone sequel offers a slimmer design and bigger display while still including a comfy keyboard, GPS, and plenty of multimedia amenities.

The LG enV was one of the most popular messaging phones ever to grace college campuses and cities across the United States, and with the enV2 ($129 from Verizon Wireless) LG makes a few key enhancements without messing up a winning formula. Among the improvements are a more compact design, larger dialpad, and a bigger 2.4-inch inner display. Heavy text messengers and instant messengers, especially those who can't afford to step up to the touch-enabled LG Voyager, will be very pleased with the new enV2.

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LG enV2 Design

LG managed to shrink the enV about half an inch lengthwise without skimping on keyboard real estate, making for a similar typing experience and improved media viewing and Web navigation. The handset weighs a lighter 4.2 ounces compared with the original enV's 4.6 ounces. The decrease in size and weight means the phone feels less bulky in your pocket.

The 1.5-inch outer display is so small it's almost comical, but it was good enough for dialing phone numbers, and you can also use it to select a song, send an SMS (to only one recipient at a time on this display), or access Bluetooth controls. If you activate the camera with the phone closed, the 260,000-color external screen becomes the viewfinder, though it's pathetically tiny for that task.

On the other hand, the external dialpad is large. Although they're flush with the surface, these keys were easy to press and provided good feedback. Along with alphanumeric keys, you'll also find buttons to turn on the phone's microphone and launch the music player.

On the left side of the unit are the camera button and volume controls. A microUSB port is on the bottom, a microSD Card slot and 2.5mm headphone jack are on the right side, and the 2-MP camera is on the soft-touch back.

Inside the unit is a large 2.4-inch widescreen display, which offers 262,000 colors. We appreciated the bright and vivid menus as well as the sharpness of images on the internal display. Along the sides of the display are two speakers.

Good Keyboard

The enV2's keyboard is slightly more cramped than the original enV, but the keys remain large enough and easy enough to punch out a quick text message or e-mail. The enV2 scraps the ugly gray, black, and blue color scheme from its predecessor's keypad for a more professional black with a soft white backlight and orange accents on the Space, symbol, function, and soft button keys. We just wish it had a single spacebar (instead of two) and that it was underneath the QWERTY layout instead of off to the sides.

Easy E-mail and Instant Messaging

You can sign in to AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger with the enV2, but you'll first need to install the Mobile IM app from Verizon's Get It Now menu. It's free, but make sure you have a data plan and a subscription for plenty of text messages, as each message and sign-on/sign-off action counts as a single SMS.

E-mail works similarly to SMS, and we suggest making sure you have a data plan for that, too. You can choose between setting up your own account with Mobile E-mail or using Mobile Web e-mail, which launches Verizon's browser and provides access to AOL Mail, MSN Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail.

We set up our Gmail account using Mobile E-mail. You'll need to open the application every time you want to check for more messages, but you can set it up with most POP or IMAP accounts. Unfortunately, more than once, we weren't able to access our Gmail account, even with a full signal.

One fun feature in the enV2's SMS component is Text to Speech, which reads your SMS messages over the speakers or headphones in a female voice. It sounded weird, but it worked well enough for us to understand the messages. "Hey want to get dinner," was pronounced perfectly, but it was very monotone and robotic.

Music and Video on the LG enV2

The LG enV2 supports Verizon's V Cast Music and V Cast Video services. We downloaded George Strait's "Give It Away" (songs cost $1.99 each), a 1.8MB file, in 47 seconds over Verizon Wireless' high-speed EV-DO data connection, which is relatively fast compared with other Verizon phones. The enV2 has an inconvenient 2.5mm headphone jack, and it doesn't come with headphones, so you'll need to buy a pair that fits or grab a 3.5mm adapter.

Audio quality through the dual speakers was loud enough for playing music in a small room or annoying folks in public, but it predictably lacked bass. The stereo Bluetooth connection on the enV2 worked well when listening to music and streaming videos.

Using the V Cast Video service, we streamed "NHL Minute" (a 1:54 clip) from SportsCenter. The video buffered within 3 seconds. The image was too blocky, but at least it played without lag. When a video is first launched, it's about the size of a stamp, but you can expand it to near full-screen size. Although we could easily understand the announcer's voice, the audio sounded a bit watery.

Same Old Camera

Photos taken with the LG enV2's 2-MP camera were on a par with the BlackBerry Curve, with a resolution of 1600 x 1200. Too bad this phone doesn't have a flash. The good news is that you can e-mail or MMS full-resolution photos. We e-mailed a shot of a New York City landscape. Colors were represented well, and the images didn't look too washed out, but we wish they were a bit crisper. The 320 x 240 video recording wasn't impressive, as our footage looked rather blurry when played back.

Rock-Solid GPS

On our tests, the VZ Navigator service ($9.99 per month) was fast and accurate. It took only 20 seconds for the enV2 to lock in on our position, and the large screen displayed easy-to-read turn instructions. We were also impressed with the volume of the spoken directions, though we wish VZ Navigator featured street name pronunciation. During our trip from New Jersey to Manhattan, we successfully used the local search functionality to locate a nearby Staples and Starbucks along our route. VZ Navigator didn't return results for a Longhorn Steakhouse near our home, but it has been open for less than six months.

LG enV2 Call Quality

We had no complaints about the call quality of the enV2. We were able to hear our callers just fine out on the streets of New York City, and they said we sounded equally clear during multiple extended phone calls. We did notice that it was hard to hear when trucks whizzed by and found ourselves often saying "what?" in loud environments, even with the volume maxed out. We made a speakerphone call in a carpeted room and in a tiled kitchen. Our caller said we sounded exceptional in both places, and the enV2 had noticeably less echo in the kitchen than with other handsets. We were pleased with the voice volume, too.

Battery Life

LG claims the enV2 has 5 hours and 20 minutes of usage time. We used the phone heavily from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and still had two bars left. When we got home, we streamed more video and browsed the Web, then rested the phone for the night. It died at 7 a.m. the next morning. That's 20 hours of battery life with a night's worth of idle time and a day's worth of heavy usage. Not too shabby, but you'll want to bring your charger on weekends away from home.

Verdict

Like a DJ that takes a good song and remixes it into something better, LG made just the right tweaks with the enV2. There aren't too many enhancements aside from the physical features, but typing remains easy and is perfect for messaging fans. Further, its good call quality, strong GPS performance, decent battery life, and continued support for a host of multimedia options make it a steal for $129.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Carrier Verizon
Form Factor Flip
Data EV-DO
Internal Memory 32MB RAM
Internal Memory 64MB ROM
Memory Expansion Type microSD Card
Display (main) 2.4 inches (320 x 240 pixels, 260,000 colors)
Display (secondary) 1.5 inches (160 x 64 pixels, 260,000 colors)
GPS Yes
Bluetooth Type Bluetooth Mono
FM Radio No
Camera Resolution 2 MP
Talk / Standby Time 5.3 hours/21.7 days
Size 4.0 x 2.1 x 0.7 inches
Weight 4.2 ounces
Company Website http://www.verizonwireless.com