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Friday, November 11, 2011

LG Enlighten reviewed

I’ve been a fan of LG electronics since the day I bought my first flip phone about 10 years ago as a Sprint Customer. The look, quality, feel, design and features of that phone instantly won me over. Since then, I’ve always admired LG’s products and hold them in the same regard that I do with companies such as Apple or Google.

So recently, I got a chance to review LG’s Enlighten smartphone, which was released sometime in September.

The LG Enlighten, which runs Android version 2.3.4, is simple enough to use. The form factor is very compact. It fits nicely in the palm of your hand and takes up very little real estate in your coat or pants pocket, which is nice in a world where everything in our lives is in gadget form.

The Enlighten is your typical Android-style phone, with a power button on top, volume controls and USB/charge port on the side and four context buttons along the bottom: menu, home, back and search. Missing from the Enlighten, however, was an HDMI port, which is used to output high-resolution video and graphics to a television or computer monitor. While HDMI is a bit of a luxury feature, it’s slowly becoming standard on most Android phones.

The Enlighten's slide-out
keyboard is a nice perk.
Underneath the phone lies what is the selling point of the device for me: the slide-out keyboard. Now, the Enlighten is not the first – nor will it be the last – smartphone to feature a physical slide-out keypad, but it’s a nice perk in a time where most phones only offer the virtual keyboard, which gives no feedback and can be a bit tricky to get used to.

While the keyboard is a nice feature, there is definitely a learning curve involved as it takes some adjustment to find your way around the key placement. For example, the shift key is replaced with a function key and the space bar is wedged between the “V” and “B” keys on the bottom row. It can also be a bit tricky to hit the right keys if you have sausage fingers like me. That said, if you have the patience to get used to the keyboard, it’s a definite advantage over typing with the virtual keypad. I found myself typing about twice as fast as on my iPhone – or even the much larger iPad.

The LG Enlighten is definitely an entry-level smartphone. Under the hood lies an 800 MHz single-core processor with only 150 MB of built-in storage. The display is rather tiny at 3.2 inches and has a resolution of only 320 X 480 pixels — rather small by today’s standards. It comes with a 1540 mAh battery, which equals out to about 6-8 hours of talk time on average.

At 3.2 megapixels, the built-in camera is somewhat weak compared to most phones, but unless you’re a professional photographer, that resolution should suffice for a day at the amusement park or a stroll through the hood with your homies. The Enlighten also comes standard with the usual built-in WiFi (b,g,n), Bluetooth, a micro-SD expansion slot and accelerometer; oh, and don’t forget the built-in slide-out keyboard.  

The Enlighten comes loaded with Android version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) and runs quite well, despite its entry-level specs. Loading your favorite apps or setting up Google Mail was a breeze, and playing a TV show on Netflix loaded quickly. However, the audio was delayed slightly from the video, making for an awkward watching experience.

Unlike the iPhone, the Enlighten does have Flash built-in, which allows games and many videos to work natively in the Web browser. It also comes with the standard calendar, alarm, email app and document viewer.

Overall impression
While it’s not packed with a lot of punch, the Enlighten does have some nice features — such as the slide-out keyboard and compact size — that make it great for people looking to buy their first smartphone or wanting to scale down from a monster phone, such as the LG Revolution.

Overall, it’s a solid phone with average features. However, with an asking price of $269, you’d better bundle this with a Verizon activation or contract extension — when you can get the phone much cheaper or even for free. Otherwise, it's hard to endorse a phone with these specs at that price.