The LG Optimus Chat aims to bring Qwerty keyboard goodness to the Android masses. It's not ashamed to wear its budget credentials on its sleeve, though, so don't expect a premium experience.
The Chat is available for £140 on pay as you go, exclusively from O2.
Keys to our heart
Physical keyboards on smart phones have become the exception rather than the rule, now that we live in the age of the touchscreen. Thankfully, the Chat's keyboard is excellent. The buttons are spaced out well, and they're a pleasure to prod and press.
The only drawbacks are the small space button, which can make high-speed typing problematic, and the rather flat profile of the buttons. They sit almost flush with the base of the keyboard, and this can make them hard to distinguish at times.
Keyboard aside, the Chat offers little in the way of surprises. It looks and feels very much like a budget handset, with a predominantly plastic casing and a 320x480-pixel, 2.8-inch touchscreen.
The touchscreen is less than ideal for browsing detailed websites, but, on the plus side, it uses capacitive touch technology, so it's more responsive than cheaper resistive screens. It also means that the Chat supports the pinch-to-zoom command, allowing you to enlarge Web pages, photos and Google Maps with a simple gesture.
Capture the moment
The Chat packs a 3-megapixel, fixed-focus camera that can record standard-definition videos at a 640x480-pixel resolution. Its photographs are unlikely to blow minds, but the camera's perfectly acceptable given the phone's price.
Like the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Mini, the Chat uses a 600MHz processor. This isn't out of the ordinary in the budget sector of the Android market, and the phone's low-res screen means the CPU isn't overly taxed anyway.
In fact, we were impressed by how nippy the user interface proved to be. Navigating around the home screens is a smooth process, and there's no discernible lag when switching between applications.
Sadly, the low processor speed means Adobe Flash isn't supported, so you won't be able to view complex Web animations or download Flash games via the brilliant Kongregate app. Boo.
With Android 2.2 Froyo on board, the Chat is a step behind the leading lights of the Android world. We imagine that LG will upgrade the phone to Android 2.3 Gingerbread at some point, since it's already been confirmed that the older Optimus One will receive a Gingerbread update shortly.
Even so, Android 2.2 is a decent version of the operating system, and prospective buyers needn't feel as if they're going to miss out on the core Android experience. You get access to all the usual Google features, such as email and calendar syncing. The Android Market -- complete with thousands of apps and games -- is also yours to pillage.
The LG Optimus Chat stands out from other budget Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Fit and Vodafone Smart, thanks to its Qwerty keyboard. If you've struggled with touchscreen typing in the past and hanker for the feel of proper, physical buttons, then it's well worth a look. Just don't expect cutting-edge hardware and software.
Edited by Charles Kloet