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LG eXpo Review


_DSC0142For a complete review of the LG Expo’s Mobile Projector, go here.

The LG eXpo is the first phone available in the U.S. with a projector function. We’ve been hearing about projector phones coming to market for a while now, and almost thought that they’d never really materialize. But finally, one projector phone has made it’s way to U.S. shores, and is it all it’s cracked up to be? Read on to find out.

The LG eXpo’s mobile (pico) projector accessory is a major draw for this phone, but even without the projector feature, the LG eXpo has a lot of features to stand with on its own. The phone is feature rich with Wi-Fi, AGPS, Bluetooth, a MicroSD card slot for expanding its memory, and all the features you’d expect in a modern day smartphone.

Under the hood the LG eXpo is running Windows Mobile 6.5 and a powerful 1GHZ Snapdragon processor. This is the first Windows Mobile 6.5 phone that I’ve used, my last Windows Mobile phone having run Windows Mobile 6.  The improvements over Windows aren’t drastic, but 6.5 does seem to run faster and the interface feels more modern, cohesive and uncluttered. Overall I’m enjoying 6.5 much more then I did 6. The home screen is now much more intuitive, not to mention, prettier. It contains shortcuts for all of the important apps like your email, and you can browse through and access your photos, play music files without leaving the home screen, view missed calls, recent text messages calendar appointments and more.

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The LG eXpo is shorter and has more narrower than the iPhone, but with its built-in slide out keyboard, it’s also thicker. Still it’s a nice size and very comfortable to hold in your hand. It’s black and silver coloring also lends to it being a rather nice and sophisticated-looking phone. It’s not quite a head-turner, but its still somewhat of a charmer.
In particular, one very unique feature of the LG Expo is the Smart Senor which is located below its display. We’ve seen this kind of technology on business laptops, but we cant remember ever seeing it on a smartphone. The Smart Sensor is essentially a fingerprint reader that you can use to unlock your phone. That is definitely a lot more secure and convenient than using a pin number. The smart sensor also doubles as a kind of 4 directional D-Pad that lets “turbo”-scroll through menus, lists and down web pages. Unfortunately we didn’t find it very comfortable to use because of its ridges, and we generally preferred skipping out on using it altogether as a D-pad.


The eXpo sports a 3.2 inch WVGA, 16M color 480×800 resistive touch screen. The display is very bright with great color reproduction. It’s one of the best displays I’ve seen on a smartphone and it makes the eXpo great for viewing photos and videos. On-screen text and graphics also look exceptionally sharp and crisp, making the LG eXpo great for reading.

Putting those positive aspects aside,  the display also ends up being one of the LG eXpo’s weakest aspects. If you try to operate the eXpo with your finger, you need to use hard presses or else you won’t be able to successfully hit buttons and select apps. Because its resistive, it does operate better using your fingernail than it does with the front of your finger. This is nothing like the iPhone, or other capacitive phones on the market which require relatively light amounts of pressure – those smartphones really just need a light tap to launch an app. Not so with the LG eXpo, the eXpo requires hard presses which can be frustrating at times. Also, when trying to push down on smaller icons, like the “X” for closing a window, my finger often wasn’t able to select it and I found myself resorting to my finger nail or to the included Stylus to operate the phone. When it comes down to it, the most efficient way to operation the eXpo is with the included stylus. Unfortunately, using a Stylus in 2010 seems like a step backwards in a world where capacitive multi-touch is slowly becoming the standard.

Speaking of the stylus, this is the first Windows Mobile phone we’ve seen come packaged with a stylus, yet it doesn’t have a stylus slot built into the phone to actually hold the stylus. On the top left corner of the device there is a place to tie the lanyard that is attached to the bundled external stylus. Sure, you can operate the phone without a stylus, but it’s more efficient to use with the stylus, so we wish they would’ve incorporate a slot to hold one. Instead, the stylus hides inside a matching attractive black/silver casing, and it can be extended for more ergonomic use.

The LG eXpo also has a slideout keyboard which is very comfortable to use and even people with big fingers should have no problem using it. The only issue that some might have with it, is that its keys don’t have much bevel at all and are pretty flush against the base. However I didn’t have any difficult typing on it. The keyboard’s characters also conveniently light up when you type on it in dark environments, which is a nice and very convenient touch. This is also necessary if you want to use the keyboard while the projector is on in a dark room, or else you wouldn’t be able to see what keys you are typing on.

Call Quality:
Call Quality on the LG eXpo is good. I tested it in New York City. I was able to hear callers loud and clearly and they said the same of me. The speakerphone also plays pretty loudly.

Internet Explorer has been much improved in Windows Mobile 6.5. I don’t recall loading websites this fast in Windows Mobile 6, even on a 3G connection. On previous Windows Mobile phones we have recommend using Opera Mobile or SkyFire, which is a free web browsing app that offers a faster surfing experience on mobile devices. But this time around we don’t need to recommend SkyFire, and actually the built-in Internet Explorer offers a decent web browsing experience.
Testing the eXpo in New York City, using AT&T’s 3G network we experienced the following loading times:

3.5 seconds for NYTimes.com (mobile version)
3.3 seconds for CNN.com (mobile version)
38 seconds for ChipChick.com
13 seconds for Google.com (mobile version)
13.9 seconds for YouTube (mobile version)
8.5 seconds for ESPN (mobile version)
5.4  seconds for TMZ.com (mobile version)
25.9 seconds for SmashingMagazine.com
16 seconds for Bensbargains.net

The LG eXpo comes with a wealth of software applications, including Microsoft Office: Excel, PowerPoint, Word, an Instant Messaging app for AIM, Yahoo and MSN, AT&T GPS Navigator, Sprite Backup (for system backups), Adobe Reader, a Mobile Java app, an RSS Viewer, a Podcast app, a stopwatch, a Tip Calculator, and much more. All of these apps really add to the eXpo being a very resourceful smartphone, so much so that it’s almost a mini computer. The are a bunch of cool games included like Tetris, and Monopoly. The games play really well on the eXpo and help show case its beautiful display, unfortunately most of these games are just demos. The Windows Marketplace application also gives you access to a wealth of other convenient apps. Sure, it’s not quite as robust as the appstore, but there are many great apps available there, and many of them are free.

LG has also bundled the phone with their LG Menu software. LG Menu essentially an additional menu system GUI for a user to use if they so choose. It breaks down the phones’ apps into 4 rows of apps – Communications, Multimedia, Applications, and Settings. The GUI is organized nicely enough, but there really is no point to it since Windows Mobile’s menu system is pretty good this time around. LG also includes a Task Manager. The included LG Task Manager is kind of slick, as it displays screenshots for currently opened applications. However, the close buttons are too small and difficult to close unless you’re using the stylus.

The bundled headphones use a microUSB connector, so that means you can’t use a standard pair of 3.5mm headphones without an annoying adapter. Common LG, haven’t you learned anything from HTC’s past mistakes? This pretty much takes the eXpo out of the running for being a serious music device. But other then that it’s multimedia features are solid. Videos play very smoothly and as I mentioned before, the display is great for photos and video.

The eXpo has a pretty pretty robust 5MP camera with autofocus a flash, and video recording. The device takes good pictures, but it’s flash isn’t all that helpful in low light situations.

The LG eXpo is a solid Windows Mobile phone with a well rounded feature set. We love the fast web browsing, its beautiful display, and that it packs in pretty much everything but the kitchen sink- heck, it even has a fingerprint reader. Unfortunately we are frustrated by the fact that we have to use a stylus to operate the device efficiently, and worse, the stylus has no place to be stashed inside the device. But if you can look past those gripes, you’re going to be wowed and quite taken by its mobile projector accessory. There literally is nothing quite like it out there. The LG eXpo can really be a swiss army knife of a smartphone for a businessman. Need to whip out a presentation on the go without any hassle? The LG eXpo will be there for you. And even though the LG eXpo’s multimedia capabilities are capped a but by the lack of a 3.5MM jack, we can imagine that many people would love to use the phone’s projector to watch videos together with friends, which definitely gives it a lot of appeal to college kids and teens. However, where the LG eXpo lacks, the projector comes in and wins you over. For a relatively new smartphone feature, LG did a very good job of implementing the mobile projector accessory. It works well and is easy to use. Here is to hoping that mobile projectors become the new standard in smartphones, because this is one cool technology that pushes the smartphone envelope.

The LG eXpo can currently be purchased for as low as $99 on contract with AT&T. The Mobile Projector accessory should be available to purchase soon.

Keep checking out ChipChick.com for a special giveaway announcement, as we’ll be having a special LG eXpo giveaway soon.

The good:

A Swiss army knife for a businessman, mobile projector works really well, display is bright and colorful, fast internet browsing, tons of bundled software, nice form-factor with slide-out keyboard

No 3.5mm jack for headphones, touchscreen requires hard presses/ a stylus to operate efficiently, there is no internal slot to hold the stylus, smart sensor isn’t very comfortable to use and feels a little funny operating

For a complete review of the LG Expo’s Mobile Projector, go here.