LG New Chocolate Mini BL20 in-depth review -

Look and feel

As slick as the LG New Chocolate, the Mini BL20 doesn't have a touch-screen, but its tactile number pad is far better for texting

 

Ease of use

LG's standard user interface is a breeze to navigate and extra features like widgets, browser and camera are easily launched

Features

The Chocolate Mini is a pretty basic phone, with no Wi-Fi, no GPS, and a standard QVGA screen. The five megapixel camera is a nice extra though.

 

Performance

While the user interface was generally fast and smooth, there were substantial freezes in the browser, and many picture-heavy sites couldn't load at all.

 

Battery life

Above average, though you'd expect so without Wi-Fi or GPS.

 LG New Chocolate Mini BL20 Review -
3

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:56:46 PM

6

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

6

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Tactile keyboard better for texting, slick design, good camera for this price

Cons:

Patchy web experience, no Wi-Fi, no GPS or maps software

If the original New Chocolate was a leggy blonde you’d never score with, the New Chocolate Mini is the gal that anyone can get a grip on. It shares a name with LG’s high-spec multimedia smartphone, but it’s really a pretty basic device that happens to have the same sleek red and black design. The Mini has none of the high-spec goodness of the New Chocolate – no Wi-Fi, no GPS and a lower quality screen – but it’s actually more usable when it comes to texting and calling.

Look and feel

Those red and black good looks definitely prove the two phones are in the same family – but the Mini is a squat slider with an all-black glossy chassis that opens to reveal a flat, red keypad with heavy but tactile keys. Predictive texting old school style is fast and accurate, beating the laggy touch-screen keyboard of the New Chocolate.

No touch-screen here by the way, just a slightly pixelated 2.4-inch QVGA screen above a touch-sensitive navigation pad, which really threw us off – it’s responsive, but switching between pressing number keys and lightly tapping that touch-pad is counterintuitive and slowed us down.

Otherwise, the user interface is completely standard, with four customisable shortcuts on the nav-pad, a multitasking button you press to switch between running apps, and a widget launcher that acts as a shortcut bar to Weather, Calendar, and Favourite Contacts.

Media much?

The Mini has the barest concession to being a media phone like its predecessor, with a shortcut to media files on the left key, and browser on the right, but there’s where the similarities end. Its camera, maps and web features are nowhere near those of the New Chocolate, with the web being the biggest letdown.

For one, there’s no Wi-Fi, so you’re stuck with O2’s notoriously patchy 3G coverage. The browser is full HTML but because its free memory (RAM) is so low, Flash and picture-heavy sites take forever to load, in some cases not loading at all. At least mobile optimised sites are fine and using the navigation keys to browse is easy enough, with number pad shortcuts for entering new addresses and such. Zooming is pretty clunky though, particularly in non-mobile sites. You can easily zoom to either 100% or full page, but to zoom in any other increment, you have to go into the options menu and click through several times.

The phone slows down substantially when more than four apps are open at the same time, and the browser is the source of many freezes, particularly when you’ve made the mistake of trying to view a non-mobile site.

The camera has a five-megapixel Schneider-Kreuznach lens with LED flash and auto-focus, but none of LG’s usual array of settings – only night mode, white balance and ISO. It’s far less full bodied than the New Chocolate, which rocked one of the coolest panorama modes we’ve seen, and the video camera records at half the quality, too.

We don’t like the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack, but at least there’s an adaptor so you can use your own headphones. What bothers us more is the lack of GPS, or even any maps software. The downloads page at O2’s portal consists only of a series of ringtones and games, and even the ‘social networking’ shortcut is just a page of links to Facebook, Twitter and some questionable ones like Flirtomatic.

Conclusion

The New Chocolate Mini has been stripped of basically every feature that made the New Chocolate, though it is easier to text and call with, and the five-megapixel camera is good for a phone at this price point. However, the lack of both GPS and Wi-Fi is hard to overlook and the browser’s performance is so patchy, it actually lags behind that of lower spec handsets. All this, of course, is fine if you primarily want a good looking phone to do phone stuff with, but it’s not really the lower-spec media cousin to the New Chocolate; it’s just lower spec.

 

Reviewed by Natasha Stokes