LG has announced its latest entry-level smartphone, the Optimus L3. SEAN BACHER finds it performs well, despite its sub-standard screen. (and see how to win an Optimus One)
While many smartphone manufacturers are launching smartphones that are packed with features, functions and dazzling high-quality screens, LG is focusing much of its attention on the entry-level market.
This became evident at the end of 2010 with the launch of the Optimus One, a smartphone that retailed for under R3 000, but did not compromise on any features. The phone was extremely successful, becoming the best selling smartphone in LG’s history and was followed by the Optimus Black, the Optimus 2 and now, the recently launched Optimus L3.
(We’re giving away an Optimus One to two readers as an ideal back-up phone. Click here to enter)
We put the LG Optimus L3 through the Gadget Ten Task Test to see how well it copes as an entry-level smartphone.
1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)
The LG Optimus L3 looks and feels very different to the previous Optimus range of phones as it now forms part of LG’s new ‚L‚ series of smartphones, which were launched at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year. This translates into a more compact, almost square-looking phone instead of the stretched candy bar shape synonymous with the previous Optimus range.
The Optimus L3’s guts are protected by an aluminium shell, which gives it style and adds a little weight to the phone, making it feel more expensive than it really is. At the back is a removable plastic cover from where you can access the battery and SIM card. However, this feels a little cheap and, if not taken off carefully, may just snap in your hands.
With the battery and SIM card installed and the back cover in place, the LG Optimus L3 feels solid and compact and looks very stylish.
For an entry-level phone, you can’t fault it on its build and design.
2. Slippability (Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)
Measuring 102,6 x 61,6 x 11,7mm, the Optimus L3 is really small. An average hand will easily wrap all the way around and it will fit snuggly into most pockets. Unlike many other smartphones, the Optimus L3 will easily go unnoticed when carried around.
It is also very easy to operate with one hand, as a thumb will be able to stretch from one corner to the other ‚ no dislocation needed.
Overall, the Optimus L3 is small and compact, yet not small to the point where it is unusable.
3. General performance (speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)
The LG Optimus L3 uses an 800Mhz CPU, 200MHz faster than the Optimus One and only has 384MB of RAM ‚ compared to 170MB on the Optimus One. Although these specs are an improvement on the older Optimus phones, they are still worryingly below the current norm. However, the Android 2.3 or Gingerbread operating system ran with ease and the phone booted up quickly. Scrolling through the five home screens was fluid and there was no jolting.
Launching apps was quick and the Internet browser made surfing the Internet seamless. But, as more and more programs were opened, I did notice a delay and switching between open applications was slow.
Gadget’s current benchmarking app ‚ Angry Birds Space – installed easily but didn’t run very well. Although the birds flew through space without jumping or freezing mid-flight, the sound effects were sometimes delayed. This became more of a problem when adverts popped out of the top right-hand corner. The game became nearly unplayable when other programs were running in the background.
The Optimus L3 doesn’t score well here. The phone will slow down even more as additional apps, social feeds and e-mail accounts are loaded.
4. Life as we know it (How’s the battery life?)
The 1 500 mAh battery that comes with the phone is better than those found in many high-end phones. For instance, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 uses a 1 270mAh battery and the Nokia Lumia 800 only1 450mAh.
When fully charged, the Optimus L3 lasted for around 10 hours, during which I was checking my Twitter account, e-mail, Facebook, downloading new apps and taking the odd phone call.
Overall, the LG Optimus L3’s battery was phenomenal and I had to ask myself: If an entry level phone like the Optimus L3 can use such a good battery, why can’t a high-end one like the BlackBerry Torch 9810?
5. Vision of the future (picture, video and browsing quality)
A 3MP camera at the back of the Optimus L3 is capable of taking pictures at a maximum resolution of 2048×1536 pixels. It also allows for video recording and has an autofocus feature.
But, all this is a waste due to the sub-standard display. The LG Optimus L3 uses a 3.2‚ 256 thousand-colour capacitive touch screen, offering a resolution of 240 x 320 with a pixel density of 125 pixels per inch. This screen resolution is worse than the Optimus One, which had a 320 x 480 resolution and a pixel density of 180 pixels per inch.
The screen is so bad that the icons look grainy and, when viewed on a computer, the pictures taken with the camera look nothing like on the phone’s screen.
The screen is one area where LG should not have faltered. This single feature prevents the Optimus L3 from being a very good phone.
6. Talk to me (quality of audio)
The Optimus L3’s loudspeaker is more than adequate to listen to MP3s or YouTube. However, it does get tinny when the volume is cranked up all the way.
Voice quality during a conversation is clear and does not distort. An audio jack and Bluetooth connectivity rounds out the audio options.
Overall – average.
7. Message in a bottle (range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)
Preinstalled on the LG Optimus L3 are a Twitter, e-mail and Facebook apps. All these are the standard ones found on other Android phones. They are easy to set up and use, and there are dozens of other messaging apps available for download from the Google Play.
8. Keep control (How effective are hardware and software controls?)
A Power button at top right, a Volume rocker on the left and home button below the screen that also launches the application manager make are all within easy reach and nearly impossible to confuse in the dark.
Software buttons include a Menu button which changes according to the app you are in and which also launches a Search option. A Back button returns you to the previous screen when browsing the Internet or going through menu options on the phone.
The software and hardware controls are much the same as on any other Android phone.
9. The new new (innovations, unique features)
The Optimus L3 does not offer anything in the way of innovation, or unique features ‚ but has left little out. It runs on plain vanilla Android 2.3 ‚ meaning LG has not plastered the phone with its own skin.
10. The wallet test (Is it competitively priced?)
The LG Optimus L3 shines here. It sells for a cash price of R1 499, cheaper than the Optimus One and one of the cheapest major brand smartphones available in South Africa.
The Optimus L3’s screen is major drawback, but it doesn’t fall short anywhere else. It is by no means a workhorse, but more of a device for a first-time smartphone user.
* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher
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