What's not: Voice quality is subpar, grainy screen.
Reviewed August 15, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
T-Mobile has been busy releasing smartphones with touch screens, but feature phones with touch screens are still in small numbers. We have reviewed the Samsung Highlight and Samsung Behold touch screen feature phones on T-Mobile, and now the LG Sentio makes its debut as the first LG touch screen feature phone on T-Mobile. The LG Sentio has a 3” resistive touch screen, a 3 megapixel camera, a built-in GPS that works with TeleNav and Google Maps, built-in Bluetooth with A2DP and a microSD card slot. The LG Sentio is a quad band GSM world phone with 3G UMTS on T-Mobile USA bands only.
Design and Ergonomics
If you like slim touch screen phones, the LG Sentio will please. Measuring 4.2 x 2.1 x 0.5 inches, the LG looks and feels thin. Though the phone has a plastic casing, the surface is soft and smooth, yet not shiny. The 3” display has 240 x 400 resolution and is resistive; so there’s no pinch and zoom found on capacitive screens. The LG Sentio’s screen is bright but looks grainy. Outdoor viewing is good as long as you don’t look at the screen in direct sunlight. Touch controls work reasonably well, and the on-screen keyboard works in both portrait and landscape modes. The phone also has audio and haptic feedback when you type on the keyboard or tap the on-screen menu buttons. Those who are fond of hardware call buttons should be happy to know that the LG Sentio has call send and end hardware buttons below the screen with the “Back” button sitting in between.
The LG Sentio has raised thin buttons on its sides and they are easy to press. Side buttons include volume buttons, the dedicated camera button and a task menu button (it shows what applications are currently running). A screen lock button sits on top of the phone on the right with a phone charm holder on the left. Both SIM card and microSD card slots are under the battery door, but only the SIM card requires battery removal for access.
Phone, Web and Multimedia Features
The LG Sentio has very good reception in our area that’s blanketed by T-Mobile 3G, and most of the time the phone has full bars of signal strength. Voice quality however is another matter: both incoming and outgoing ends have subpar voice quality with digital distortion. Compounding the issue, the phone’s loudspeaker sounds very tinny and hissy; phone calls through the speaker sound particularly harsh. Other phone features include a phone book that can store 1,000 contacts entries and 8 speed dials, and voice command software that works well for voice dialing, bringing up the message app and more.
The LG Sentio has a customized widget UI that’s easy to understand. The widget window hides on the right side of the screen and comes to full view when you touch the tab on the upper right corner. The widget screen shows 7 widgets and two message/social buzz (Facebook, Twitter and MySpace) shortcuts. You can delete any widget and add your most used widgets on this screen. If you aren’t a widget user, the LG Sentio offers a menu UI also. Tap on the Menu button on the bottom tray and the menu launch bar shows up on the right with four categories: Phone, Media, Organizer and Settings. The menu UI is also easy to understand with no learning curve. Since the LG Sentio has a resistive touch screen, applications like maps and the web browser offer on screen zoom in and out buttons. The resistive screen requires a firm touch compared to capacitive touch screens found on T-Mobile’s higher end smartphones like the Samsung Vibrant and HTC HD2.
The LG Sentio supports SMS, MMS, mobile IM (AIM, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger) and mobile email (AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail and other POP3 accounts). The phone can save up to 500 messages in internal memory. The LG Sentio also has a full HTML web browser that loads full HTML pages with most layouts and images intact. Page loading speeds over T-Mobile 3G are very reasonable even when loading large pages with lots of images. The web browsing experience is humbled by the resolution of the screen for most full HTML pages where you don’t see enough content after zooming in to the point where you can read text on the page. The LG also has social networking integration under Social Buzz that links to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
The LG Sentio comes with a music player that works with MP3, WMA and iTunes music files. Music playback through the built-in speaker isn’t as harsh as phone calls or TeleNav voice guidance, but the included stereo headset is your best friend if you listen to music on the go. Music through the headset is full with good bass power. The LG Sentio also comes with a mobile YouTube player, though YouTube videos play at about 10 fps.
The LG Sentio has built-in GPS that works with both Google Maps and TeleNav navigation software. TeleNav runs smoothly on the LG Sentio and provides maps, turn-by-turn directions and voice guidance for driving. The GPS gets fixes at reasonable speeds, though accuracy is only within 150 feet or so. Maps load quite fast over T-Mobile 3G on the LG Sentio and directions and guidance all seem right on target. The only thing that subtracts from otherwise smooth and excellent navigation services using TeleNav is the built-in speaker: it’s harsh with low quality sound bites. It’s certainly loud enough, but the speaker has a noticeable buzz and voice cracks a bit. TeleNav is a paid service, and with the LG Sentio you can get a 30-day trial for free or pay a small fee to use it for a day if you don’t want to pay the $10/month fee.
The LG Sentio also has Google Maps (inside Organizer/More) which is free. Google Maps offers some nice features including street view, satellite view as well as on-screen directions, but data download speed for maps is significantly slower than TeleNav. Routing is fast though, as is search. Google Maps also has traffic check, POI search but it doesn’t offer voice guidance for turn-by-turn driving directions.
The LG Sentio has a 3 megapixel camera that takes decent pictures and can also shoot video with audio. Still photos have good color balance and look bright even in indoor shots. They do however have noticeable levels of noise and oversharpening artifacts at the same time. Videos look good with audio in sync. The camera software offers white balance, ISO and shot mode settings as well as color effects and night mode.
The LG Sentio has a rechargeable battery that’s 900mAh in capacity and is user replaceable. The battery can last you 1.5-2 weeks in standby, and several days if you only make a moderate number of phone calls and check messages a couple of times a day. Running TeleNav and playing YouTube videos will run your battery down really fast; you will need to charge the phone every other day if you use these apps.
For LG touch screen phone enthusiasts who have been eagerly waiting for the popular LG Cookie phone to come to a US carrier, the LG Sentio isn’t the answer to your prayers. The LG Sentio is an entry-level touch screen feature phone that carries a $69.99 price with a 2-year contract after rebate. With T-Mobile’s Even More Plan, you have choices to get the phone with just Talk, Talk + Text or Talk + Text + Web plan depending on your budget. For first-time touch screen feature phone users, the LG Sentio has its appeal: it has a slim design, solid GPS performance and an easy-to-user touch interface. But voice quality needs improvement and the grainy screen won’t impress today’s users who have trained their eyes on much nicer touch displays.
Pro: Slim phone, easy-to-use UI.
Con: Voice quality is subpar, grainy screen.
Price: $69.99 with 2-year contract after rebate and discount. $179.99 without contract.