Hands-On: LG eXpo
Phone Scoop was able to spend a few moments with the recently announced LG eXpo. This Windows Mobile 6.5 phone sports a unique, detachable pico projector as well as a QWERTY keyboard and touch screen.
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LG recently announced its second Windows Mobile device for the U.S. market — the eXpo. This device is more than a mere smartphone, however, and has a trick, removable pico projector for showing your friends movies...er...colleagues those PowerPoint presentations you've been working on.
Even without the pico projector attached, the eXpo is one chubby phone. It has a reasonably large display and is a sideways slider that reveals a full QWERTY keyboard for messaging. This form factor is not known for its svelte waist line, so it's no surprise that the eXpo is exponentially thick. It feels weighty and solid in the hand, and made of middling quality materials. They aren't the finest we've laids hands on, and they're certainly not the worst.
Disappointingly, the touch surface is resistive, not capacitive. It works OK, but not as good as many of the new devices that have hit the market lately such as the Motorola Droid and HTC Hero/Eris.
There are a few controls on the front, which include send/end keys, a Back key and the D-pad/fingerprint sensor. "What?" you ask, "A fingerprint sensor?" Yes, that's right. AuthenTec has been supplying smartphones overseas with these nifty little sensors for years. I am surprised that it's taken so long for a U.S.-bound smartphone to ship with one built in. It works as a D-pad, and lets users move the on-screen cursor around the display. It also depresses so users can make selections, just like a regular D-pad. It can also be used to secure the phone.
Users will first need to register their fingerprint with the phone, which takes a few sample swipes. Basically, put the first joint of whichever finger you want to register along the sensor and swipe your finger downward. The fingerprint can then be set as a password for nearly any application on the phone. Need to unlock the home screen? Swipe! need to open the email program? Swipe! Need to access sensitive corporate files? Swipe! You get the picture.
On the left side is a very small volume toggle. It was difficult to find, and it presented very little travel and feedback. On the right side, there are several buttons, including a camera key and an application key. These are also hard to find and use. Jammed into the upper-most corner is the hatch covering the microSD slot.
On the top of the eXpo you'll find the power key and LG's proprietary data/charging/headphones port. I say "Boo!" to this. Smartphones should at least be using miniUSB or microUSB. It's a shame that LG left out what's becoming an industry standard feature.
The slider mechanism feels solid and good. Opening and closing the eXpo is easy-breezy. The QWERTY keyboard felt fantastic. The keys had a really nice shape to them, were well spaced, and had excellent travel and feedback. I was really impressed with the action on the keyboard.
The eXpo runs Windows Mobile 6.5. Professional. For the most part, that's what you see most of the time you interact with the device. However, if you wish, users can choose to open an menu system that was devised by LG for Windows Mobile. It's a proprietary menu that sits on top of WinMo. It is not a user interface overlay. It's simply a different way to interact with the menu. Rather than the off-set Windows Mobile pattern, it offers four neat rows of applications. Users can scroll sideways through each row to find more applications. It's not immediately intuitive, but it makes sense it its own way.
In all, the hardware isn't bad. It's definitely a more usable phone that LG's first Windows Mobile effort from last year, the Incite.
The projector is the real interesting part of the eXpo. First, it is not included with the phone. It is an optional accessory that has not yet been priced. The eXpo itself will cost $200 after rebate with new agreement. LG said it didn't know when pricing for the separate projector will be available.
The battery cover of the eXpo snaps off and the projector slides onto the eXpo in its place. There are contacts at the top that connect the electronics of the projector to the phone itself. These are hidden once the projector is snapped into place.
With the projector attached, the eXpo becomes truly unwieldy and completely incompatible with any pants pocket. It also adds noticeably to the weight. LG says that it uses the eXpo's battery to draw power, but that it is fairly power efficient.
There is a sliding hatch that covers the lens. Slide it open to activate the projector. The eXpo immediately launches the software to start the projector.
The projector simply projects whatever is on the screen. You can choose to show things in landscape mode (default setting) or manually switch it to portrait mode. According to LG, the projector can project an image with a diameter of 40 inches a maximum distance of eight feet. That's more than enough to share photos, video clips and, well, PowerPoint presentations.
It's not exactly super bright, but even in a well lit Starbucks, I was able to make everything out when the screen was projected onto a dark brown wall. Shine it on a white wall in a dark room, and I'm sure you'll be fine.
It's definitely a neat accessory.
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