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printed September 19, 2014
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Review: LG enV3

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It would have been difficult for LG to make the form factor of the enV3 any smaller than the enV2 was. I was surprised, however, to see that LG went in the opposite direction and made the enV3 bigger than its predecessor. Not by a whole lot, mind you, but it is wider, thicker and taller than the enV2 (based on direct eye-ball comparison). Despite the slight increase in size, the enV3 is extremely light and easy to hold. Build quality feels top notch. Pocket friendly? Check. Good looks? You got it.

The biggest change in design is on the front of the phone. The enV2 had a cramped display and overly-large buttons for dialing phone numbers. The enV3 strikes a much better balance. The display has been give more real estate on the front of the phone, and the gawky control buttons of the enV2 have been replaced with a real d-pad on the enV3. The numeric keys may be smaller and had great travel and feedback.

The navigation cluster has also been redesigned, and this is a really good thing. The enV3 has a full-pad that is easy to find and use with your thumb. Travel and feedback of the d-pad is just about perfect.

In case you haven't gotten the point, LG nailed it with the enV3. Usability of the controls on the front of the phone are the best we've tested in some time.

As for the rest of the hardware, less has changed. There are two keys along the left side of the enV3 . The top most is the camera key. With the phone unlocked, it will launch the camera and also serve as the shutter release button. Below that is the bi-directional volume toggle / camera zoom key. It is a decent size and is easily found and used. Feedback was good.

The right side of the phone has just the cover for the microSD slot and 2.5mm headset hack. The microSD slot was easy enough to open, but we're disappointed that the enV3 does not have a 3.5mm headset jack. For a phone with such powerful media capabilities, this seems to be a questionable choice for LG.

The microUSB power port is located on the bottom of the phone and presented no trouble.

When opened up, the enV3 begins to look more familiar. The internal screen is slightly larger, but the overall design is nearly identical to the enV2. The screen is flanked by stereo speakers, and there is a full QWERTY keyboard for composing messages.

The top part of the enV3 can be pushed open to about 120 degrees for normal use, and a full 180 degrees to help framing pictures. I found when using it all the way open, it was very easy to accidentally cover the lens with the fingers on your right hand.

All of the nav controls are on the right side of the keyboard, as with the enV2. They have been given just a hair more real estate and are more comfortable to use than with the enV2. The send/end keys are above the d-pad and the speakerphone and clear keys are directly beneath it. As with the enV2, I found myself hitting the speakerphone key rather than the clear key from time to time.

The QWERTY keyboard itself is the best we've seen from LG on these messaging devices. The keys are big enough so that you don't run the risk of accidentally punching the wrong key. Each key has a nice little click to let you know that you've pressed it. I am also relieved that LG got rid of the two separate "space" keys that were on the enV2 and instead gave the enV3 a "space" bar in the middle of the keyboard, where you expect to find it.

LG has put some dedicated function keys on the keyboard, as well. There's a favorites (see Contacts secsion) shortcut key and a text message shortcut key. Both are appreciated.

In all, with a few forgivable flaws aside, the enV3 is the best version of this form factor from LG yet.

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