In their long history together, LG and Verizon Wireless have given us more than their share of quality handsets. From high-end handsets like the LG Chocolate Touch to simple models like the VX5400, we’ve been mostly pleased with what we’ve seen. The new LG Accolade VX5600 is closer to the latter, but it also meets with our approval. It’s not our pick for a camera phone, but it has an easy-to-use design, good performance, and a feature set that focuses on the essentials. And at $50 with service, or free online with an additional discount, it’s fairly priced. Even if you pay the full price of $199, it’s still a good buy.
The Accolade has a common flip phone design that doesn’t make an effort to stand out. The minimalist blue-gray color scheme is broken only by a mirrored plate on the top of the front flap. The mirror catches the light and serves as a rudimentary compact, but it’s also a magnet for fingerprints and smudges.
The external display sits in the middle of the mirrored section. Though it’s a bit smaller than we’d prefer (1.04 inches), it has a decent resolution (96×64 pixels; 65,000 colors). Besides displaying the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID, it also works as a viewfinder for self portraits. You can change the backlight time and clock style. The camera lens sits above the display, and the Accolade does not have a camera flash.
The left spine has the majority of external controls. You’ll find a 2.5mm headset jack, the volume rocker, a voice-dialing control, and a micro-USB port for the charger and USB cable. Over on the left spine there’s just a camera shutter. The Accolade’s skin is plastic, but it has a relatively sturdy feel and the hinge is stiff. It’s also compact (3.56 inches long by 1.83 inches wide by 0.72 inch deep) and portable (3 ounces).
The internal display is also a bit small for the phone’s size (1.76 inches), but like its external sibling, it has a rich resolution (220×176 pixels) and vibrant colors (262,000 hues). Graphics and photos look good and we could navigate the menus easily. You can choose from three menu designs (list, tabs, and icons) and you can customize some menu choices. Other customization options include banners, wallpaper, display themes, the font type, and font size.
The navigation array is spacious and comfortable. You’ll find a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone control (nice), a clear button, and the Talk and End/power keys. All controls are slightly raised, so we were able to use them by feel. The keypad buttons are spacious as well, and we appreciated the large backlit numbers (an LG trademark). The letters on the keys are smaller, but most users shouldn’t have a problem. We could dial and text quickly without making mistakes.
The Accolade has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, an IM screen name, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair individual contacts with a photo and one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. Other basics include text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, a to-do list, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a speakerphone, a world clock, and a notepad.
Beyond the essentials, the Accolade offers a functional assortment of features. You get Bluetooth, speaker-independent voice commands and dialing, a universal search feature, direct access to Bing Mobile (Microsoft sure has its fingers in lots of pies), support for VZ Navigator and Verizon’s Family Locater, Web-based POP3 e-mail, an airplane mode, USB mass storage, and PC syncing. You also can set the phone to read out numbers as you type the on the keypad.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in thee resolutions (1,280×960 pixels, 640×480 pixels, and 320×240 pixels). You also can use a self-timer, the 2x digital zoom, a brightness meter, a night mode and a noise reduction feature, and choose from four white-balance settings, four color effects, and three shutter sounds, plus a silent option. And for really advanced shutterbugs, there’s an option for spot metering. The Accolade does not record video.
Photo quality is just average. Our images were dark even when we had enough light, and colors were muted. Image noise was kept to a minimum, though. When finished shooting, you can transfer your images off the phone or save them to the internal memory. The Accolade has about 15MB of user-accessible storage. It doesn’t come with any games, but you can download BREW titles and additional customization options via the WAP 2.0 browser.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was satisfactory all around. The signal was strong and clear, the volume was loud, and our callers sounded natural. We could talk in a variety of environments and we didn’t encounter static or interference from other electronic devices. If we had one complaint, and this is minor, it’s that some callers sounded breathy at the highest volume levels.
Our callers were pleased, as well. Though they could tell that we were using a cell phone, they didn’t report any significant problems. They could understand us even when we were speaking in a noisy place and they said that background sounds were kept to a minimum. Speakerphone quality wasn’t quite as sharp. The volume was loud, but voices were a bit distorted. Bluetooth headset calls were fine. The Accolade is compatible with M4/T4 hearing aids.
The Accolade has a rated battery life of 7.6 hours talk time and 28.3 days standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Accolade has a digital SAR of 1.01 watts per kilogram.