LG’s new range of Chocolate phones is all about style and we like style. Style is good. However, when form is top of the agenda, it often means function can be left lacking. Thankfully the BL40 that we looked at a few weeks ago, though far from perfect, mostly managed to avoid this. However, this week we’re looking at the BL40’s little sibling, the BL20. Though it looks very similar, this is a handset meant to provide the same sense of style but at a more affordable price.
So what’s different? Well, the BL40 is a tall slim candybar phone with a solid glass touchscreen front. In contrast, the BL20 is a shorter slider phone with a keypad and no touchscreen.
Build quality isn’t quite on the same level as the BL40, either, as the front is made from plastic, which will pick up scratches far more easily. In fairness, that’s the only major issue we have with the build quality as the rest of the BL20 is well put together with no hint of wobble in the all-metal slide mechanism and a general solidity to the whole thing.
Also absent is a headphone jack. Instead, you must use an adapter (included) that plugs into the micro-USB slot on the side if you want to use your own headphones – the earphones LG provides are adequate for making calls but next to useless for listening to music. This is all the more of a shame as a microSD slot under the battery cover means you could potentially fit plenty of music on this phone. The adapter does at least include a microphone and button for answering and ending calls.
The BL20’s styling, though, is identical to the BL40 with glossy black adorning the front and back, chrome strips running down the sides, and splashes of red on the top and bottom. It’s a design we liked in the BL40 and we think it works just as well on this smaller phone.
Another aspect that’s immediately obvious, despite the BL20’s premium look, is its small screen; just 2.4in diagonally. With only 320 x 240 pixels, it’s pretty low resolution as well, and doesn’t lend itself well to any task you might associate with a smartphone, like reading websites or emails. It also makes watching video a fairly taxing experience, though given its very limited file format support you’ll be hard pushed to find anything that plays on it anyway. All this said, with considerable brightness and colour saturation and decent viewing angles, it’s still a perfectly adequate screen upon which to view SMS messages, calendar entries, and other basic phone apps.
Below the screen sits perhaps this phone’s signature feature (after its styling); its array of touch-sensitive buttons. These are used to control most of the phone’s main navigation with a central ‘ok’ button surrounded by a quartet of direction buttons, two soft keys to the top left and right, a multitasking button in the bottom left, and a widget key in the bottom right. The latter pops up a list of basic applications like a weather display, alarm clock, notepad, and contacts rolodex. These can be opened on top of any other running program to quickly check something without disturbing what you were previously doing.
These touch-buttons are quite responsive and easy to use but we think they take up far too much room and that more space could have been given to the screen or the whole phone made smaller instead. This is all the more noticeable when you see the size of the keys on the keypad. In the same space as the BL20’s four rows and three columns of buttons, BlackBerry has managed to fit five rows and eight columns of buttons on its Bold 9700. While we’re not averse to having large easy-to-press buttons on phones of this type, it seems a little excessive. Nonetheless, the size of the keys does make it very easy to type on the BL20, despite their very flat and shiny surface and wobbly seating.
Another button-related oddity arises when we look at the right edge. Here are housed the volume and camera buttons, which are also touch-sensitive. They work perfectly well but we certainly wouldn’t say they’re any better than traditional physical buttons, especially the camera button, which obviously won’t have the two pressure levels you get with a physical button; one for focussing/exposure metering and another for taking the shot.
The camera itself is okay in stills mode, with 5-megapixels on offer and autofocus and an LED flash to back it up. It produces relatively clear pictures with good colour rendition and an acceptable level of detail, while the flash is enough to light up close objects. The video, however, is essentially useless thanks to a very low framerate and resolution and a maximum clip length of just 14 seconds.
The phone’s software is very simple but mostly effective thanks to exceptionally speedy operation. As well as phone and messaging basics, you get an mp3 player, FM radio, alarm clock, calculator, voice recorder, stopwatch, unit converter, and world clock. All told, for basic phone duties it’s perfectly fine.
Call quality is good with clear audio both to and from the handset. As for battery life, LG quotes 5hrs talk time and 450hrs standby. In our tests, the phone had one of its three bars of the battery indicator left after 2hrs of video, an hour surfing the web and 2hrs mp3 playback. This isn’t great but should easily see you through two days between charges when used regularly.
The LG Chocolate BL20 is a low cost phone with high-fashion pretensions and as such, it has its fair share of compromises. In particular, the lack of a headphone jack and a small screen let the package down. However, it is a nice looking handset that is relatively easy to use and does all the basics you want from a mobile phone.
Score in detail
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||2.4in|
|Talk Time (Minute)||300m|
|Standby Time (Hour)||450hr|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||0.06GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5 Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||No|