LG Chocolate BL40 review -

4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati, 12/12/2011 3:56:11 PM

8out of 10
Performance
8 out of 5
Look and feel
6 out of 5
Ease of use
8 out of 5
Features
8 out of 5
Battery life
Pros:

The four-inch 21:9 high-def LCD screen makes for a spectacular viewing experience.

Cons:

With only 1.1GB of internal memory, for a multimedia phone we expected LG to include an additional memory card.

Big is beautiful. Or it is in the case of the LG Chocolate BL40, the latest, largest and most powerful addition to LG’s Black Label series. Following in the footsteps of the original Chocolate, the Shine and then the Secret, the LG Chocolate BL40 is the fourth member of the family (BL40 = Black Label Series 4) and as with its predecessors, design is at the forefront of this phone.

Look and feel

Before we admire the Chocolate’s beauty, let us focus on the obvious – the sheer length of the phone. Resembling something akin to a stretched iPod Nano, or if you were wanting to take a crueller swipe, a remote control, the Chocolate measures 128mm in length. Our immediate thoughts were that it was too long, but after taking a stroll with it in our trouser pocket, we’re happy to report there was no discomfort. There is in fact reason to this lankiness, and that is to accommodate the vibrant four-inch, 21:9 HD LCD screen. The benefits of a screen of this magnitude are obvious; widescreen video, a fuller web browsing experience, but we did have our grievances, more of which later.

Good looks are something we’ve grown accustomed to with LG’s Black Label series, and with the Chocolate’s polished black chassis, red top and bottom and the metallic silver trim, this handset is no exception. The colour scheme complements each other perfectly, while the TFT capacitive display sparkles with 16 million colours and a whopping 345x800 pixel count. Bar a selection of keys positioned on the side of the phone, the Chocolate is operated solely by the touch-screen. This took a bit of getting use to as below the screen there is enough room for at least a couple of hard keys and as such our thumbs were instantly drawn there. A back key at the very least would have improved the usability of the phone, rather than relying on the onscreen virtual button.

Built on LG’s now familiar S-Class user interface, the Chocolate sports four home screens, which can be displayed as standard or as a 3D-like cube. Each page is customisable and is divided into; Widgets, Contacts, Browser and Shortcuts. The browser homepage was a particular favourite of ours. Choose your most visited websites and a thumbnail of that site will sit on the homepage providing quick and easy access to that website by simply pressing it with your finger.

Internet experience

In fact, it’s with the internet experience that the LG Chocolate really comes into its own and once again, it’s that large display that takes the plaudits. The phone is fitted with accelerometers that turn all content into a horizontal view. This also applies to the menu screen, enabling you to view all the icons in one as opposed to portrait mode when you will have to slide between them. However, it also gives you the ability to display webpages in their entirety without having to scroll from left to right in order to read all the content. It means far more websites become mobile friendly as more content can be displayed at any one time. Scrolling up and down the pages, we found that the webpage sometimes took a few seconds for it to catch itself up, but the phone feels great when in both hands, similar to that of a PSP.

Implementing a multi-touch procedure similar to that of the iPhone, place your finger and thumb on the screen and slowly pull them apart to zoom in or vice versa to zoom out. Sadly, and it pains us to say it, it doesn’t work as smoothly as Apple’s creation, as we often found ourselves inadvertently scrolling a page rather than zooming in. Tap the screen and your internet menu options will be displayed. These consist of the address bar, a text search option, refresh key and an icon that enables you to open up more than one webpage. With super-speedy HSDPA data speeds available, Wi-Fi is an added bonus and was a cinch to set up. To access it you’ll need to press the reception icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen, which activates a drop down list leading to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a shortcut to the music player. It’s a little strange in that there’s nothing flagging this menu list up, but take our word for it, it’s there.

Dual screen

Turn the handset horizontally in text or email mode and LG will reward you with a spacious QWERTY keypad that we were able to bang out messages in next to no time. However, what really makes the messaging facility unique is its dual screen facility. The widescreen divides into two, with your list of messages on the left hand side of the screen while allowing you to read each one on the right. It saves you having to dredge through an entire list opening up a message without knowing for sure that it is the one you are after.

Video experience

As touched upon, the LG Chocolate excels at video playback. Watching a film in the Chocolate’s widescreen mode was a joy and gives as close to a cinematic experience as you’re likely to achieve on a mobile phone. Press the screen while playing a video and a host of frames will appear at the bottom of the screen. This enables you to jump scenes as you would if you were watching an actual DVD. With video at its forte it's little surprise to find it is compatible with DivX, XviD and MP4 formats, making the Chocolate a true visual experience. There’s also the much sought after yet rarely rewarded 3.5mm headset port, which enables you to plug in your own set of cans. Coupled with Dolby Mobile sound and the Chocolate is easy on both the ears as well as the eye.

So taken were we with the video and audio experience of the Chocolate that we began Bluetoothing a whole host of content to our review sample. While the pairing process was a cinch to master, we were a tad disappointed in the length of time it took for us to transfer files. For example, sending a three and a half minute video clip to the Chocolate took around 15 minutes, while an MP3 of similar length still took a lengthy five minutes. Another minor gripe we had was that for such a powerful multimedia handset, 1.1GB of internal memory is a little stingy. The handset does in fact support memory cards of up to 32GB, though you’ll have to buy a card of any capacity separately.

Camera credentials

Camera wise and the LG Chocolate BL40 ticks all the boxes without troubling more dedicated camera phones such as the Samsung Pixon12 or even LG’s own Viewty Smart. With a five-megapixel snapper, Schneider-Kreuznach optics and LED flash the hardware is all there, along with some quirky additional features. Smile Shot and Beauty Mode (extinguishes any blemishes your subject may have) we’ve seen before, both of which worked flawlessly on the Chocolate. However, Stitch Shot was a new one for us. Rapidly capturing a string of photos, Stitch Shot differs from Continuous Shot mode (which is also present) as it blends all the images into one image file.

Though there is a dedicated camera key and the volume keys can be used as a zooming function – both found on the right hand side of the phone – the camera can be controlled solely via the touch-screen, with various settings situated on both sides of the screen. This mystified us somewhat as we feel the Chocolate could have made the most of the large screen by making these virtual icons only visible when needed thus freeing up the rest of the display. One of these icons on the right hand side of the display allows you to quickly alternate between still and the video camera. As with the still camera the video camera does a job without leaving us dumbfounded. It was a shame to find there was no slow or fast motion setting as found in previous LG handsets, but at the same time it was a piece of cake to upload video direct to YouTube.

In terms of navigation the LG Chocolate BL40 is top notch. With the help of the onboard A-GPS we achieved a near instant satellite fix that remained strong and consistent. The ever faithful Google Maps was also present though with more and more handsets including the excellent Street View functionality it was a shame to see it omitted from the Chocolate. If you’re wanting a little more, you can make the most of the 28 day free trial of WisePilot that provides both voice guidance and 3D maps.

Conclusion

The LG Chocolate BL40 will certainly get people talking. Its unusual design is both eye catching and pragmatic. The movie experience was particularly enjoyable while browsing the internet also benefited from the widescreen. However, due to the sheer size of the screen we also found accidental key nudges were more frequent than we’d have liked. It looks great and is a worthy addition to the Black Label series, but a few usability issues left us slightly irked.