Tuesday, 19 June 2012

LG Optimus L7 review

LG Optimus L7 Review
Introduction:

Coming with the latest Android Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, the LG Optimus L7 is the top shelf representative of the company's new line of affordable handsets with supposedly more appealing L-Style design.

Top shelf in the L line doesn't mean much in terms of specs, as the Optimus L7 still rocks single-core processor, WVGA screen resolution and 5MP camera, but it won't break the bank either.

Now LG promised to introduce a new design paradigm with the new L series at rock-bottom prices, but did it succeed in achieving that goal with the Optimus L7? Read on to find out...

LG Optimus L7 Review
LG Optimus L7 Review
In the box:
  • Travel charger
  • microUSB cable
  • In-ear stereo headphones
  • Sleep Mode, Car Mode and Office Mode NFC tags
  • Warranty and information leaflets

Design:

Despite LG's ruminations on the new L-Style design for the handsets of this series, the chassis of the Optimus L7 seems like your regular rectangular slab of black plastic. Still, all of the five elements that  LG envisioned for this design are here: "Modern Square Style for a comfortable grip, Floating Mass Technology for a slimmer look, Seamless Layout for a more intuitive arrangement of keys, Harmonized Design Contrast utilizing metallic accents and Sensuous Slim Shape that naturally draws one’s attention".
The LG Optimus L7 feels solid overall, and it is fairly easy to operate it with one hand - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 feels solid overall, and it is fairly easy to operate it with one hand - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 feels solid overall, and it is fairly easy to operate it with one hand - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 feels solid overall, and it is fairly easy to operate it with one hand

LG Optimus L7 Review

You can compare the LG Optimus L7 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Modern Square Style”? Check – the phone is rectangular and with sharp edges, but that is fairly neutral for holding it more comfortably. “Floating Mass” and “Sensuous Slim Shape”? Well, the handset is indeed very thin at 8.7mm, but those sub-10mm slim profiles are not sight unseen nowadays, even on flagship handsets. The “Seamless Layout” of the keys is an acquired taste – the power/lock key at the top requires moving your finger from the side to the top, whereas if it was on the right under your thumb it would have been more “intuitive”.

We can agree on the “Harmonized Design Contrast” part, as there are indeed some metallic elements in the design, like the lock key and the 5MP camera module plate on the back, but the rest of it is really just black plastic. The plastic is at least patterned on the back for better grip and a slightly more interesting look.
LG Optimus L7 Review
Android buttons - LG Optimus L7 Review
microUSB port (bottom) - LG Optimus L7 ReviewFront-facing camera - LG Optimus L7 Review
 
Android buttons
Front-facing camera

We found the volume rocker on the left and the power key too small and flush with the surface to be comfortable for finding and pressing, and with a shallow travel to boot. The home key underneath the display is well-positioned, for that matter, and very comfortable to press.
3.5mm jack and power key (top) - LG Optimus L7 Review
Volume rocker (left) - LG Optimus L7 Review

3.5mm jack and power key (top)
Volume rocker (left)
microUSB port (bottom)

The phone feels solid overall, and it is fairly easy to operate it with one hand, especially if you have larger palms.
Back - LG Optimus L7 Review
Camera - LG Optimus L7 Review
Speaker - LG Optimus L7 Review
Battery compartment - LG Optimus L7 Review
Back
Camera
Speaker
Battery compartment


Display:
LG Optimus L7 Review
The “Floating Mass” technology for the 4.3” IPS-LCD “NOVA” display that LG utilizes in the Optimus L7, means that the screen is closer to the protective glass, allowing for a slimmer device and a brighter display. Still, it comes with 480x800 pixels of resolution, and 217ppi pixel density is about the bare minimum we expect from this screen size now.

The display sports decent viewing angles and vivid colors, plus its brightness is above average at 450 nits, so outside visibility is decent. Of notable absence is an ambient light sensor to adjust the brightness automatically, so you'll have to make do with the handy toggle in the notification bar.

Interface and Functionality:

Having Android Ice Cream Sandwich is immediately thumbs up for the Optimus L7, despite that the manufacturer has skinned the stock interface with the Optimus UI backgrounds and icon design to position the phone as an LG Android device.

There isn't an abundance of new widgets that come up with the phone – you can count LG's additions, like SmartWorld for curated apps, on one hand. There are a couple of cool transitional effects for moving from homescreen to homescreen, a few wallpapers and that's that. It's no Optimus UI 3.0, if that's what you are asking, the good stuff will be reserved for LG's high-ends like the Optimus 4X HD.
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Optimus L7 has Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with Optimus UI

What LG handsets have always excelled at are the connectivity toggles in the notification bar, and with Optimus UI on Android ICS they are taken to a whole new amazing level. You can choose to have every single radio and profile switch in the pull-down bar, and can scroll them left and right for a quick access if they don't fit on one screen width - extremely helpful. Stock Android 4.0 allows direct access to system settings from the notification bar, but this here simplifies your life with the phone even further.
Connectivity toggles in the notification bar - LG Optimus L7 Review
Connectivity toggles in the notification bar - LG Optimus L7 Review
Connectivity toggles in the notification bar

Typing is easy on the virtual keyboard, as the phone has a large display, and the keys are spaced out enough. The Android ICS layout with its punctuation bar at the top, and the text prediction functionalities also help a good deal.
The virtual keyboard - LG Optimus L7 Review
The virtual keyboard - LG Optimus L7 Review
The virtual keyboard - LG Optimus L7 Review
The virtual keyboard

Processor and Memory:

The 1GHz single-core CPU on the LG Optimus L7 is the humble Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7227A with Adreno 200 graphics processor. It is coupled with mere 512MB of RAM and 2GB of internal memory.

Thus don't expect any benchmark wonders out of the handset, but it is enough to power through the lighthearted Android ICS with Optimus overlay, although we noticed a few delays here and there when loading apps or changing the transitions. Here are a few benchmarks to entertain your geeky hearts:


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
LG Optimus L71886284219,2
Samsung Galaxy S II3113607651
LG Optimus 3D2057537025,3

Internet and Connectivity:

The excellent stock Android 4.0 browser needs no introduction and that's what we have on the Optimus L7. LG has only added a small pull-up tab at the bottom for quick access to bookmarks, the home page and such. Since we have a single-core processor, don't expect rendering to be as fast and pristine as on the multicore phones - we came across quite a few bottlenecks.

Scrolling and panning around once the page has loaded are quick, but zooming in and out introduces slight stuttering, despite that the page isn't rendered in real time, only when you lift your finger off. Text reflow on double-tap works as advertised, fitting the article text in the screen width for easier reading, again with more delay than we are used to see.
The excellent stock Android 4.0 browser is what we have on the Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
The excellent stock Android 4.0 browser is what we have on the Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
The excellent stock Android 4.0 browser is what we have on the Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
The excellent stock Android 4.0 browser is what we have on the Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
The excellent stock Android 4.0 browser is what we have on the Optimus L7

The handset sports a 3G radio with 7.2Mbits maximum download speeds, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, A-GPS, DLNA and even NFC. The LG Tag+ app is present here as well, along with the three sticker tags that can put the phone in an Office, Sleep and Car Modes when you touch them with the back of the phone when the NFC is turned on. They put the phone in different profiles regarding connectivity, screen brightness, sounds and so on – cool to show off, but a tad gimmicky.
The LG Tag+ app - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Tag+ app - LG Optimus L7 Review
The LG Tag+ app
Camera:

The rather standard 5MP module in the Optimus L7 has an LED flash adjacent, and is managed by the same Optimus UI interface we are used to, no ICS shenanigans like taking pics while shooting videos or zero shutter lag – the processor/camera combo are just not capable of these. We do have, however, the continuous shot and panorama functions that come with the ICS camera API, as well as the usual scene mode basics.
Camera interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
Camera interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
Camera interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
Camera interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
Camera interface

The pictures, however, are soft and sport bland colors, plus some spots easily get overexposed, and inside pics get very noisy, all resulting in below average image quality. The situation with video is no better, and the camera can't even muster the strength to shoot in HD, we only have VGA video mode available.
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7 - LG Optimus L7 Review
Outdoor samples made with the LG Optimus L7

Strong - Indoor samples - LG Optimus L7 Review
Medium - Indoor samples - LG Optimus L7 Review
Low light - Indoor samples - LG Optimus L7 Review
Darkness with flash - Indoor samples - LG Optimus L7 Review
Strong
Medium
Low light
Darkness with flash
Indoor samples

Multimedia:

The music player takes cues from the stock ICS interface, with an overhaul towards simpler visuals, and tabbed categorization by artists, albums, playlists and so on at the top. There are no equalizers, but a couple of audio effects are present in headset mode. The loudspeaker is about average – not too strong, and a bit flat sounding.
The music player takes cues from the stock ICS interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
The music player takes cues from the stock ICS interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
The music player takes cues from the stock ICS interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
The music player takes cues from the stock ICS interface - LG Optimus L7 Review
The music player takes cues from the stock ICS interface

Divx/Xvid videos are something the phone recognizes and is able to play, but only limited to the screen resolution of 480x800, it will return you “unsupported resolution” error above that threshold. As usuall with LG, you'd have to register your device on the DivX codec website with the supplied code to be able to play those vids.
Video player - LG Optimus L7 Review
Video player - LG Optimus L7 Review
Video player
Performance:
LG Optimus L7 Review
Call quality is about average - the earpiece of the LG Optimus L7 does the job in terms of clarity, but  needs more strength, while the situation on the other side is a bit better in terms of power, but voices could come out cleaner. As mentioned, the loudspeaker is of average strength, so you'd have to max it out and hope you'll hear it if the phone is buried in a purse or is in another room.

The fairly generous for this market segment 1700mAh battery is rated for 6 hours of talk time, which is below average.


Conclusion:

Despite being the flagship of the new L series, the LG Optimus L7 main virtue is that it ships with the newest Android Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, rather than design and specs.

The handset is indeed thin and light, but the chassis looks run-of-the-mill with its rectangular shape made of black plastic, despite the metal plate around the camera module. Whether it's software optimization or just the single-core processor and 512MB of RAM, shmoozing around in the interface, browser and apps isn't devoid of slowdowns and interruptions.

There are some really neat ideas in the new interface, like the scrolling connectivity toggles in the notification bar, but these are overshadowed by the mediocre pictures and video quality, for example.

On top of that, the LG Optimus L7 has to battle a lot of more capable phones in its market segment. The HTC One V runs Android 4.0 too, but sports a more interesting design, the functional Sense 4.0 UI, and has a much more capable camera with zero shutter lag.

Sony Xperia U might have a smaller screen, but is cheaper, has a dual-core processor, more memory, and also has a more capable 5MP camera than the L7. The Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is a good alternative, too, with its dual-core CPU and a very good snapper, but is tied up with Gingerbread for now.

If you have to have a fairly large display, take a look at the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc S, despite that its ICS update is still pending – its price is down to the Optimus L7 levels, and it has the more appealing design, plus an 8MP camera capable of 720p video.

Software version: IML74K
 
Pros
  • Scrollable connectivity and profile toggles in the notification bar
  • Thin and light handset with a generous 4.3” display

Cons

  • Camera takes mediocre pictures and only records VGA video
  • Phone feels underpowered in the browser
  • No ambient light sensor
Average 6 out of 10
 


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