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Panasonic Eluga dL1 review

Seth Barton
23 May 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
365
inc VAT

A super-stylish waterproof smartphone, but it’s a limited by Android 2.3.5, a small battery and some annoying buttons

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Specifications

Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread), 4.3in 960x540 display

To help sell you a policy, the purveyors of mobile phone insurance often foretell of a watery doom for your new device. Whether it's dropped in a puddle, in the bath or in a pint, liquids have long been presented as the nemesis of phones. How likely such events are to occur will depend hugely on your lifestyle, and waterproof handsets are available for those at high risk - watersports fanatics for example. However, such devices (including the excellent Motorola Defy Mini XT320) have always been a little on the chunky side; but not anymore, with the new Panasonic Eluga dL1 being among the most stylish, slimmest Android handsets to date.

Panasonic Eluga dL1

Emerging from a bowl of water, the Eluga can survive submerged for 30 minutes, perfect for use in the bath

This is actually Panasonic's first Android handset, a surprise for a company that competes with the likes of Samsung and Sony in most product areas. The Waterproof element of the Eluga is less of a surprise, as Panasonic has long been lauded for its waterproof and shockproof Toughbook laptops. The Eluga dL1 is dustproof, and can survive in water up to 1.5m deep for up 30 minutes. We asked Panasonic about its beer-repelling capabilities and they assured us that, stickiness aside, it would survive such a dunking.

The Eluga's slender body doesn't betray its waterproof nature. It's just 7.8mm thick, with a beautifully simple curved rear panel. The bezel around the display is one of the thinnest we've ever seen, measuring just 4mm along the edges. It's a great piece of engineering, with the 4.3in display fitted into a handset measuring just 123x62mm, compared to 131x68mm for the - hardly-bloated - Motorola RAZR. The Eluga is simply one of the best-looking smartphones we've ever tested.

At first glance then, the Eluga is impressive. However, when we thought about it and used it a bit more, the two key draws - style and waterproofing - don't quite gel together. For starters the curved rear panel makes it practically edgeless; which means it's not the easiest phone to keep hold of. If you want to avoid getting your phone wet, then the first line of defence is not to drop it in the first place, but the Eluga's design just makes it want to squirm out of your hand. Failing that, a second line of defence would be a lanyard, but there's no hole for one here. You could argue that the waterproofing makes such considerations unnecessary, but most swimming pools are deeper than 1.5m, and dropped objects have a habit of bouncing off hard things (like the pool side or the bath edge) before sploshing in. The Eluga isn't shockproof, nor does it claim to have a toughened glass screen to protect its display.

Panasonic Eluga dL1

Not many ports or slots on the waterproof Eluga

Whether driven by waterproofing or a desire for a minimalist appearance, all the ports are concentrated on the top of the handset. There's a micro SIM slot, but no micro SD card slot, so you're limited to the 8GB of storage provided. The only other port is for micro USB, there's no HMDI output provided. Physical buttons are limited to power and volume, and are limited in size too. The rear position and tiny size of the power button was particularly aggravating, it being impossible to find and push without some fiddling about. You can unlock the phone by a long press on the touch-sensitive Home Button, but it’s a long-winded way to wake up the phone.

Panasonic Eluga dL1

The button placement and size was among our biggest bugbears

Once unlocked, we once again appreciated the big 4.3in display that's been squeezed in here. It has a respectable 960x540 resolution, giving plenty of onscreen detail, though lagging behind the 1,280x720 resolution of the best screens now available. The OLED display is not the brightest we've seen, we're guessing it's been dialled down to improve on battery life, and we ended up overriding the automatic brightness in order to get the best contrast. Like the screens on the Motorola RAZR and HTC One S, it uses a Pentile pixel structure (with two subpixels per pixel instead of full RGB) and so the actual resolution is lower than stated. In compensation, OLED screens have far better contrast ratios and lower power consumption than their LCD competition.

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