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LG Optimus L3 ‚ a beginner’s choice

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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.

9/10

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.

9/10

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.

5/10

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?

10/10

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.

3/10

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.

7/10

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.

7/10

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.

7/10

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.

6/10

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.

10/10

Conclusion

73/100

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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Featured

Hit the road with high-tech night light for bikes

Cyclists need effective lighting by night and day, writes JOEL DORFAN, in his test ride of the latest in high-tech from Fenix

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Since 2004, Fenix Light has been manufacturing quality lights ranging from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and bike lights.

There are many folks who ride their bicycles at night for various reasons. Whether on-road or off-road, there is always the need to see the path ahead of you. During the day, it’s wise to have a really bright strobe light so others around you can see you coming. 

Enter the BC21R V2.0.

The original 880 lumen BC21R was released some years ago. Besides the main light, it also had two red lights at the side. However, there were several complaints about this older version. The main ones were:

  • Plastic construction – does not dissipate heat causing the light output to step down;
  • Rubber mount – stretches and perishes over time;
  • No helmet mount.

With the launch of the new light, now called the BC21R V2.0, the folks at Fenix have kept all of the good features and added a bunch more, as well as remedying all of the complaints from the original. In a nutshell, it offers:

  • 1000 lumen output
  • Removable 18650 LiIion battery
  • Built in USB Type-C charging port
  • Dual Distance Beam System
  • Battery level indication and low-voltage warning
  • All-metal heat fin; IP66 rated protection
  • Quick-release bike mount compatible with Fenix bicycle light helmet mount

The increase from 880 to 1000 lumens means that there is now better coverage of the road ahead. The dual distance beam system means that the areas both near and far are illuminated. They do this by graduating the top half of the front lens that refracts some of the light down towards the front wheel, allowing the rest of the light to illuminate the roadway.

When you do not need all 1000 lumens, sequential taps of the on/off switch will cycle through the different output settings of low, medium, high and turbo. In any of these modes, a double tap of the switch will put the light into strobe (alternating high and low output) mode. On a fully charged battery, runtime on Turbo is published as being 2 hours, and on low at 50 hours. 

Many lights today are sealed units. Once the battery stops taking a charge, the light would have to be discarded. The removable battery means that, once it reaches end of life ,it’s a simple matter of inserting a new 18650 battery. Also, should you be on a really long ride and find that the battery starts going flat, you could stop along the way and swap out the battery for either another fully charged one or two CR123 batteries. 

At any time, you can tap the on/off button, which will light up an indicator to tell you the current state of charge of the battery. This same indicator will flash red when it’s time to recharge the battery.

To prevent damage to the LED light source, temperatures are monitored and, if the light gets too hot, the output is reduced. This is not ideal when you are out on a ride on a hot evening. By changing the head from plastic to metal with cooling fins, however, the light will now remain cooler, allowing for full output for longer periods.

Instead of a stretchy plastic mount like on the older model, Fenix has now gone with a proper clamp type mount. This is secured to the handle bars using a thumb screw; and then there is a quick release that allows the light to be attached or removed from the clamp with ease. Two different-sized rubber inserts for the clamp ensure a good fit on different diameter handle bars.

A bonus of this type of quick release mechanism is that the light is now compatible with the Fenix helmet mount should one wish to mount it there. Also, should you wish to use the BC21R V2.0 as a handheld flashlight or to stop it being stolen, no tools are required to remove it from either the bike or helmet mount.

So how does the BC21R V2.0 perform in real life?

It puts out a very concentrated spot-like type beam optimised for distance. The lens setup ensures that most of the light is below the horizon where it needs to be, which also makes sure that it does not blind oncoming motorists. 

The light will start getting warm to the touch when stationary or when hand held. However, when cycling, the cool air passing over the finned head does keep the light cooler.

Being a single 18650 battery light, a ride of longer than about 90 minutes will see the light starting to reduce output. It’s the tradeoff of size vs run time. Therefore make sure that, if you’re going to need the full 1000 lumen output for an extended period, to carry a spare battery with you.

The older model cost $75, and the good news is that Fenix appears to have maintained this price even with all of the extra features of the V2.0 model. This places the BC21R V2.0 in the mid- to high-range of  single battery lights. Given the features and multi-use applications it’s pretty good value for money.

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.

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While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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