Taking the Viewty touchscreen concept to the next level, the LG Renoir is a serious 8-megapixel camera phone with ambitions of replacing your standalone digital snapper. We took it out for a spin to see if this phone lives up to its (rather silly) artistic name and whether or not it's LG's best touchscreen phone yet.
You'll be able to buy the LG Renoir at the end of October for free on a monthly contract.
The LG Renoir definitely progresses on from the design of the LG Viewty and has a smoother, more refined feel to it. Its touchscreen lies behind a plastic casing that doesn't have the same quality feel as the iPhone's glass housing, but it results in a lighter overall feel. As with any touchscreen phone, be prepared to deal with fingerprints and other marks.
The Renoir's touchscreen is more responsive than the Viewty's, but less so than the iPhone's. Combined with a finger-friendly interface, similar to the Viewty's, we found the Renoir's touchscreen straightforward to use and the physical shortcut key at the bottom makes it easy to open apps quickly.
Another way to access apps is via a widgets bar on the screen, which you can then drag apps out of and put them on your home screen, similar to the Samsung Omnia or T-Mobile G1. The widgets give you quick access to info such as the time via an analogue or digital clock, or a memo pad for quick notes, for example.
One of the features you're likely to use often is the Renoir's camera. Housed at the back of the phone behind a substantial lens cover, it juts out somewhat unceremoniously -- it's large but well-designed. To take a picture, you can hold the Renoir sideways and use the large shutter button to snap a quick pic.
Aside from the camera, LG is also proud of the Renoir's music capabilities, particularly since it teamed up with Dolby. While we can say that the Dolby Mobile software does add something extra to playback, the lack of a built-in 3.5mm headphone jack is really disappointing -- you can use an adaptor, but we'd much prefer a built-in jack.
Starting with the Renoir's most exciting feature, the 8-megapixel camera, it's definitely a step up from the days of the LG Chocolate's 1.3-megapixel camera. While it's fair to say that megapixels aren't everything, the Renoir's camera performed well for the most part, taking sharp pictures in daylight and providing a variety of fun modes.
There's a face-detection mode, smile detection that only takes a picture when your subject is grinning, and even blink detection, to avoid taking pictures when someone has their eyes shut -- all of which work well. A beauty mode claims to smooth out imperfections and it works to some extent, but it's no magic wand. You may prefer the harshness of reality anyway.
You can adjust the exposure and ISO, up to 1,600. There's also a panorama mode, but it doesn't compare with the Samsung i8510's automatic panorama, which we were extremely impressed with. As if all of that weren't enough, the camera also records video at up to 120 frames per second, so that you can play it back in slow motion.
Our only disappointment with the Renoir's camera is its performance in low light, which we thought would be good considering there's a xenon flash. The flash provided less illumination than we expected when we tested it out in our dark room. We also found that at close range there was a bluish hue to pictures.
Back to the rest of the Renoir's tricks -- there's plenty more left to play with. As with the Viewty, the Renoir supports DivX and Xvid files, so you can view films and video clips, stored on microSDHC cards up to 8GB. If your digital media isn't formatted in a compatible codec, the software in the box lets you encode video files into DivX.
The Renoir is packing HSDPA for fast mobile Internet, and built-in GPS that can be used alongside Google Maps for navigation purposes or to geo-tag your pics, so that later on you can plot them on a map. There's also a jogging app that tracks how far you've run and how long it took you, similar to the Nike + or Nokia's Sports Tracker.
If you're curious about what it's like to text on the Renoir's touchscreen, we can report that although it's not perfect, it is pretty good. Whether it's an SMS or a Web page you're writing on, the Renoir pops up a traditional mobile keypad with predictive text or a full Qwerty keypad, depending on which way you hold it up.
Video looked good on the Renoir's screen and it's definitely large enough to enjoy sitting through a film. The audio quality during music playback definitely benefits from Dolby Mobile, which adds width and bass to otherwise flat-sounding tracks -- it's not just an equaliser. Call quality was loud and clear.
LG rates its battery life at 350 hours standby and 220 minutes talk
time. We'll update this section when we've completed our real-world
As interfaces go, the Renoir's is usable but lacks the openness of other platforms, such as Android or Symbian. As a camera phone it performs well in daylight, but we think it could do better in the evening. The music player sounds good, but we wish there was a built-in 3.5mm headphone jack.
Overall, we found the Renoir to be a competent camera phone, but we're not convinced it's LG's best touchscreen phone to date. It's a logical upgrade from the Viewty, but compared to when the Viewty came out, we're not as impressed with it relative to the current competition.
With a few tweaks, such as a slightly more responsive screen, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an open platform such as Android, we think LG could really shake the market up. Fingers crossed we'll see this push forward from LG soon.
Edited by Nick Hide