The LG Chocolate VX8550, available in the US from Verizon for $250 - £125 - with a two-year contract, eschews a button-oriented navigational ring for a navigational wheel.

We found the LG VX8550's wheel a mixed blessing. It simplifies navigation in some menus, but makes it more onerous in others. Sometimes it's easier to press the wheel like a four-way button to navigate up/down and left/right.

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The top half of the LG Chocolate VX8550 slides upward to reveal the phone's keypad. LG has added an extra row of buttons at the top of the keypad, for send, camera, and end/power. To use the phone for functions such as playing music, though, you have to push up the slider first so you can power the phone up.

The LG VX8550's standard 3.5mm headphone jack is a welcome feature; and a new microSD card slot, protected by a sturdy cover, can handle 4GB high-capacity cards.

Otherwise, much remains the same in the LG Chocolate VX8550 as it was in previous LG Chocolate phones. A 240x320-pixel, 11-line display with 262,000 colours; a 1.9GHz CDMA PCS, 800-MHz CDMA (Digital Dual-Band) radio; high-speed EvDO support; a surprisingly capable 1.3Mp camera/camcorder with serious shutter lag; and stereo Bluetooth. The phone supports web-based email and instant messaging.

The LG VX8550 sounded clear in our informal tests, even under windy conditions on a local street corner.

The LG Chocolate VX8550's four capacitive touch buttons include a dedicated speakerphone, which the first Chocolate lacked.

Audio sounded clear in our informal tests. In our formal talk-time battery tests, the LG Chocolate VX8550 lasted five hours, 12 minutes - nearly twice as long as the first LG Chocolate.

On the back of the LG Chocolate VX8550, you'll find its speakers. Sliding the phone upward reveals its 1.3Mp camera and camcorder.

In the US, the included V Cast Music service charges $1.99 and up for music downloads from Verizon. You'll also get charged for airtime minutes for the download, unless you step up to the VPak music and video service, at $15 per month. As yet there's no word on when the LG Chocolate VX8550 will launch in the UK.

LG Chocolate VX8550: Specs

  • CDMA technology
  • 1.9 GHz CDMA PCS, 800 MHz CDMA (digital dual-band)
  • high-speed EvDO data transmission
  • 96x48x18mm
  • 100g
  • 262K Color TFT, 240x320 pixels, 11 lines
  • 800 mAh Li-Ion Polymer battery
  • usage time: up to 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • standby time: up to 16 days
  • CDMA technology
  • 1.9 GHz CDMA PCS, 800 MHz CDMA (digital dual-band)
  • high-speed EvDO data transmission
  • 96x48x18mm
  • 100g
  • 262K Color TFT, 240x320 pixels, 11 lines
  • 800 mAh Li-Ion Polymer battery
  • usage time: up to 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • standby time: up to 16 days

OUR VERDICT

This LG Chocolate VX8550 may not be the best platform for handling multimedia or messaging. The lack of a keyboard makes texting difficult at best, and the interface for music playback lacks the finesse of those on competing phones such as the Nokia N95.

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