Reviewed Feb. 18, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
LG released several Shine series phones worldwide last year; and while they don't always share the same form factor and feature set, the full metal body, shiny mirror display and integrated 2 megapixel camera defined the series. In the US, Verizon released a flip version of the LG Shine: the LG VX8600. Now AT&T has picked up a slider version, the LG CU720. In addition to the metal body, 2.2" display and an excellent 2 megapixel camera, the LG Shine for AT&T adds US 3G, CV (Cellular Video), HSDPA, video sharing and more. Also, the Shine has integrated Bluetooth with A2DP support, comes with a very capable music player, a very good web browser, mobile email and messaging support. The Shine is currently priced at $99.99 on AT&T with a 2-year contract after rebate, and is sold in two colors: silver and red. We have the silver version for this review, and AT&T released the red Shine in time for Valentine's Day of 2008.
Design and Ergonomics
Many words have been used to describe the Shine series phones: attractive, sleek, GQ... They all apply to the latest version. The LG Shine has a brushed metal body with smooth stainless steel accents and polished side buttons. The slider phone has a large 2.2" mirror LCD that dominates the front with two menu buttons and a thumb stick below it. Slide open the display to reveal the flat number keypad with backlight. The number keys are indeed flat, much like those found on the Motorola RAZR phones. The side buttons are minimal with only volume keys, multitasking key and camera key on the right side; and the microSD slot and charge/headset port on the left. The 2 megapixel camera with flash and self-portrait mirror live on the back of the phone, and the battery and SIM card are under a large back door. You will need to remove the battery to access the SIM card.
Weighing in at 4.23 ounces, the LG Shine for AT&T feels solid in hand but not overly heavy. The phone feels very well built and the slider action is smooth yet firm. There is a drawback to the mirror-like front display: it shows fingerprints like crazy. While most controls on the phone are easy to use, the small thumb stick that functions as a 5-way d-pad isn't. It's not only small, but also difficult to control and is best approached with a fingernail to move it around.
Phone Features and Reception
The LG Shine for AT&T is a quad band GSM world phone that works anywhere in the world where GSM services are available. The Shine also has UMTS/HSDPA 3G support on the US bands (850/1900 MHz). The reception on the Shine isn't the strongest we've seen but it's useable. It gets 2 -3 (out of 5) bars of 3G signal strength in areas where AT&T has excellent coverage including 3G, but the radio will boost the reception when you are making a call and the phone has never dropped a call. Call quality on AT&T's 3G networks in the Dallas area is excellent with clear audio and very loud volume. Data speed is fast when the reception is good, video streaming is smooth with audio in sync with video. When 3G reception is weak, video streaming suffers frequent buffering interruptions and dropped connections. The LG Shine is one of the few AT&T phones that have video sharing, which is a service that allows mobile phone users to make one-way video calls.
The LG Shine comes with the usual set of call management features (call waiting, conference calls, etc.) and a phone book that holds 500 contacts. Each contact can have 5 numbers, 2 email addresses, a unique ringtone and a picture ID. You can also assign speed dial (8 total) to contacts. There isn't a dedicated speakerphone hardware button on the LG, but there is an option to launch it with single-button press when in call. The LG Shine supports multi-tasking while in a call and you can launch any application (even the web browser when in a 3G coverage area) on your phone by pressing the multi-tasking key on the right side of the phone. The LG comes with voice command software for voice dialing and other functions. You can initiate calls, check voicemail and messages, check date and time and more using your voice. The voice recognition works great without any training or pre-recorded tags, and voice dialing works fine via Bluetooth headsets.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The LG Shine has a great display that's bright with saturated colors. Pictures, videos, games and web pages look good on the screen, and when in video playback and camera/camcorder mode, you can rotate the display to landscape mode. The viewing angle is wide, but the mirrored screen is hard to see in the sun. There is a screen lock when the slider is closed to prevent accidental button presses.
Behind the LG's pretty face lays a strong multimedia phone thanks to the rich content offered by AT&T. The bundled music player supports MP3, WMA and AAC files, and offers equalizer, visualization and playlists. The sound quality through the built-in mono speaker is decent with good volume, but excellent through Bluetooth stereo headphones via A2DP. AT&T offers eMusic and Napster services where you can buy songs over the air. Napster songs cost $.99 per track and eMusic requires sign up. Additional music services include Pandora radio, XM Radio (monthly fee after trial), Music ID (monthly fee after trial) and music videos.
AT&T's video content helps show off the Shine's large display. In addition to music videos ($2.49/vid), CV offers free (with data plan) news, weather, entertainment, sports, comedies, cartoons and more. Serious mobile TV fans have the option to get MobiTV ($8.99/month), HBO mobile ($4.99/month) and even get full episodes of hit shows like Lost. Videos can play in landscape mode in QVGA resolution; news clips are a bit blurry but TV programs look great in bigger resolution.
The LG Shine also supports Java games and AT&T offers game downloads. We tested several Java games including Diner Dash, Pac-Man and MidnightBowling 3D, and the LG worked very well with all. The gaming speed was good, graphics were smooth and sound was decent. The screen is great for gaming but the thumbstick sometimes is a struggle in some games. The phone has total of 70MB internal memory and you can expand that using the microSD card slot.
The LG Shine for AT&T has a 2.0 megapixel camera with fixed focus lens and a flash. It takes great pictures by 2 megapixel camera phone standards. The still images have sharp detail and natural colors; they're not overly sharpened or color saturated. In most outdoor shots, the contrast is very good. In some outdoor shots, there is a slight purple tint. The noise level in indoor shots is low by camera phone standards, and the light and color balance look good. The LG can take photos in 5 resolutions ranging from 1600 x 1200 to 160 x 120 photo caller ID. It also has a multi-shot mode and self-timer. Like most camera phones, the LG offers customizable settings for shutter sound, white balance, color effects, brightness and more. The bright and colorful display makes a wonderful viewfinder.
The camera phone can also take video with audio. Video resolutions are 320 x 240 and 176 x 144 pixels, and video lengths include MMS (42 sec. max) and general (long video) which you can save to either internal memory or the storage card. The video quality (max setting) is decent and audio is in sync with video.
The LG Shine has integrated Bluetooth v1.2 and supports headset, hands-free, DUN, A2DP, object push (vcard and vcal), FTP and AV remote control profiles. The phone can save up to 20 Bluetooth pairing partners and paired easily with the computers and headsets we tested. Sending pictures and other content via Bluetooth is fast enough, but not as fast as Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR. The LG Shine works well with most Bluetooth headsets for hands-free calls including the Jawbone and the Plantronics Explorer 330 Bluetooth headsets. Voice quality was above average and volume was reasonably loud. Incoming voice was a bit distorted but not badly on the Jawbone, and the outgoing voice was clear. The DSP worked very well on the Jawbone; our callers could hardly hear any road noise or wind noise. The range between the Jawbone and the LG Shine reached between 10-15 feet. The incoming voice was much clearer on the Plantronics Explorer 330 but the outgoing voice wasn't as good as the Jawbone's. The DSP is less powerful on the Plantronics with low-level road noise seeping through. Range was about 5 feet between the Shine and the Plantronics.
The LG Shine comes with a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery that's 900 mAh in capacity. The battery is user replaceable and can be charged with the included world travel charger (100-240V). Battery life isn't stellar on the LG: heavy multimedia use (videos, gaming and music) required daily charging and some multimedia use combine with moderate talk time lasted us 2-3 days on a charge. Standby time isn't great either. The claimed 10 days and 10 hours standby seem to be optimistic compared to our test results.
The LG Shine is an attractive phone with strong multimedia features and a great camera. US 3G support ensures excellent voice quality and fast data. Bluetooth and USB keep you connected and microSD card slot provides the expansion. For the price, the LG Shine is a strong multimedia phone for fashion conscious users.
Pro: Great looking phone if shiny is your thing. Multitasking experience is great on the LG and playing videos in strong 3G coverage areas is a joy. Excellent web browser by feature phone standards. 2.0 megapixel cameras has very good performance.
Con: Fingerprints will dull your shine. Display is hard to see in sunlight. Joystick control isn't great for some games. We wish the battery were a little longer.
Price: $99.99 with 2-year contract after $50 mail-in rebate.
Display:262K color TFT. Diag.: 2.2". QVGA 320 x 240 resolution.
Battery:Lithium-ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 900 mAh. Claimed talk time: 3 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 10 days and 10 hours.
Performance:70 MB internal memory.
Size:3.93 x 1.99 x 0.59 inches. Weight: 4.23 ounces.
Phone:Quad band GSM world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with GPRS and EDGE as well as 850/1900 MHz US 3G UMTS/HSDPA.
Camera:2.0 megapixel camera with 2x zoom (max resolution and multi-shot mode don't have zoom). Has flash and self-portrait mirror. Still images resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels. Can capture video with audio. Video resolutions: 320 x 240, 176 x 144 pixels. Video lengths include MMS (42 sec. max) and general (long video).
Audio: Supports MP3 ringtones. Music player included for your MP3 pleasure. Supported formats include MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+/eAAC+. Has voice memo recorder for both MMS and general use.
Networking:Bluetooth v1.2. Supported profiles: headset, hands-free, DUN, A2DP, object push (vcard and vcal), FTP and AV remote control profiles.
Software:PIM apps include Contacts, calendar, notepad, calculator, tasks, alarm clock, tip calculator, world clock, unit converter, date finder and d-day counter. Music play onboard for MP3 playback. Web browser included. Games and other applications are available for purchase and download over the air.
Expansion:1 microSD card slot. Supports up to 4GB cards.
In the Box:The Shine with standard battery, travel charger printed User Guide and Quick Start Guide.