LG has made good capital out of its Chocolate series with its hidden buttons and it could be said that most of their handsets since have been a variation on that theme.
But if it ain’t broke, why fix it, and while the prosaically named KF510 dispenses with the Chocolate moniker, but it’s certainly taken on some of the Chocolate style.
Slim and simple design
It’s a very good-looking phone with oodles of class that won’t be too macho for the ladies or too girly for the geezers. It’s available in grey or red and in both cases the colour scheme gradiates from light to dark at each end.
It comes in an all-metal case – no plastic here, not even the display cover, which is made of tempered glass and is exceptionally slim for a slider, measuring in at a gnat’s doobie under 11mm.
But besides its slimness and sleek metallic looks, the most striking thing about the KF510 is the hidden keypad beneath the screen. It looks plain in repose, but secret lights strike up when you open the slide.
Flashy mobile phone
There are two soft keys on top, call start and back-up buttons on the bottom (the end button is actually a slide switch on the side) and a series of little stars in the middle which arrange themselves into different shapes depending on what you’re doing.
Lights form a five-point D-pad, but you can also brush your thumb across it, HTC TouchFLO-style, so that it races through the menus. This does look lush, with little arrows and other sparkling shapes forming as you drag your thumb across the touchpad.
It all looks very flash, and feels quite funky too thanks to the haptic feedback built into the panel, so you get a little buzz every time you press one of the buttons. The buzzing takes a bit of getting used to actually, but more of a problem is that it’s not as responsive as you’d expect from a hard D-pad and so it can be a bit irritating, especially if you’re in a hurry.
It’s a good weight in the hand but with that metal case there’s a downside. When open it feels top heavy and it can be a bit awkward to input numbers, let alone text.
It’s switched on by a slide button on the side, which also returns you to the main menu and doubles as the end key.
The tempered glass which covers the bright 262K-colour screen is claimed to be scratch proof and it seemed tough enough in our totally unscientific pocket test, which included a bit of key-and-coin action.
What looks like a video calling camera in the top corner is actually a sensor that detects light levels and automatically reduces the brightness of the screen and touchpad to save power. Whether this was effective or not we couldn’t say, but we did get a good three days out of it with moderate use.
Unusually, the camera shutter button on the side doubles as a quick-access button to both camera and music player. A quick press and it goes to music, a longer press and it goes to camera. It’s a nice space-saving idea and works pretty well in practise.
A multi-featured camera
The camera is a 3-megapixel model with multi shot capability but no zoom that we could find. It has autofocus, anti red eye and shake reduction options, though we couldn’t tell much difference in the pics whether these were switched on or off.
There are also the usual colour tints and white balance options but no option for editing your pics after you’ve taken them. There’s a photo light rather than a dedicated flash – you’ll need to be fairly close to your subject for it to be effective.
Picture quality is pretty good overall, though it did seem to struggle a bit in low light, losing a lot of sharpness in pics taken using the photo light. Video suffered a similar fate, and really seemed to struggle with any sort of movement, though you can set playback to full screen (as can your pics), which looks quite impressive.
But the main problem with the camera is the gap of a second or so between pressing the shutter button and taking the picture, so quick snaps are pretty much out of the question.
Impressive music player
The music player does everything you’d expect, sorting tracks by name, album, artist and genre as well as allowing you to set your own playlists. There’s a graphic equaliser on board with ten presets (you can’t set the levels individually) though as usual with these things, they’re more for fun than effect.
The loudspeaker isn’t bad, though you’re stuck with the merely average headphones since there’s no 3.5mm jack plug, though you could use Bluetooth headphones if you’re wirelessly inclined. There’s also an FM radio which has auto scan to help you find stations, though there’s no RDS to identify them.
There’s only room for around a half dozen music tracks on board, thanks to the 16MB memory though you can add a couple of thousand more with a microSD card (not supplied). You can hot-swap the memory card without removing the battery, since it’s cunningly hidden inside the slide.
An attention-grabbing phone
The browser offers to reconfigure websites for viewing on the small screen - a handy feature for finding your way around busy pages, although they don’t seem to much resemble the originals after they’ve been modified.
The touchpad is useful for browsing too, allowing you to glide around pages with ease. But with no 3G connection, browsing can be a frustrating experience.
The bottom line is that LG knows how to make a stylish, attention-grabbing phone. If you can live with the occasionally niggly touchpad, this is an eyeball magnet for hipsters and wannabes alike.
Ease of use:
O2, Orange, others TBC