LG’s sleek new flip phone, the LX5450, aims to prove that camera phones don’t necessarily have to take crummy photos. It doesn’t quite deliver that proof, but it gets closer than most. As a bonus, it’s got advanced Web browsing and data features that make it an entertaining and even passably useful companion, although it falls short of having full-blown organizer and synchronization features that would make it a truly smart phone.

In appearance, the CDMA-based LX5450 is a fairly generic plastic clamshell with three shades of metallic gray plus a bit of chromelike trim. The antenna housing juts awkwardly three-quarters of an inch above the top, and you can extend the flexible antenna another two and a quarter inches to increase reception. A standard monochrome LCD on the outside of the phone displays the date, time, and basic service information such as signal strength, battery level, and whether you have messages waiting.

It’s inside that the phone shines most, however, with a bright 160 x 120-pixel TFT display. It’s not as big or beautiful as the display on the NEC 525 HDM (see our April 2004 review) but its image quality is better than most, and it’s well suited to showing photos. The phone ships with a collection of highly saturated, animated wallpapers.

The LX5450’s 0.3-megapixel camera isn’t likely to win you any photography awards, but it does produce decent 640 x 480-pixel images. The lens rests in the back of the phone, just below the hinge. If you hold the phone in your right hand, there’s a good chance your index finger will land directly on top of the lens and obscure the image, unless you take care to hold the phone in a lower, somewhat less comfortable grip.

Like most camera phones, the LX5450 lacks a flash and its lens is set to a fixed focal length. It doesn’t do well in low-light or high-speed situations, but when the light is good it can produce entertaining shots of still objects and people. Unlike most camera phones, however, this LG includes options for adjusting brightness, white balance, and file quality, and for adding color effects such as sepia tones and monochrome — all on the fly. This can make a substantial difference to image quality, turning a yellowish interior shot into something that actually looks right.

Once you’ve snapped a picture, you can send it to friends (assuming they’re also using an Alltel phone) as an MMS message or save it to the phone’s memory. It’s got enough storage to hold 20 snapshots.

The LX5450’s built-in Openwave Web browser renders ordinary websites fairly readable. The Alltel version of the phone we tested also includes a link to Axcess Apps, a mall of online applications and content featuring goodies such as downloadable games, cartoons, and ring tones, all available for small fees. It took us two minutes and 79 cents to download a week’s worth of current Dick Tracy cartoons from Axcess.

The phone’s easy-to-use menu system contains a variety of other quasi-useful features including an address book with a 500-name capacity (with up to five phone numbers and one e-mail address per entry), a calendar, voice memo, and more. Since it lacks an easy way to synchronize these apps with your computer, however, this phone won’t come close to replacing your PDA. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: On-the-fly photo quality adjustments
Worst Feature: Middling battery life

LG LX5450
$150 with a one-year contract
Weight: 4 ounces
Size: 4.4 x 1.8 x 1.1 inches
Specs: 800/1900MHz CDMA/PCS; 800MHz analog; 1xRTT; 160 x 120-pixel TFT; exterior 96 x 28-pixel LCD; 0.3-megapixel camera, lithium-ion battery; AC adapter
us.lge.com; www.alltel.com

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Link: LG LX5450

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