Review: Strong on style, short on storage

Sim Ahmed reviews the LG Optimus L7 smartphone

The LG Optimus L7 is an entry-to-mid level Android phone that looks like it should be the Korean manufacturer’s flagship device. Its flat body, straight lines, and black finish gives the L7 an air of professionalism that is sorely lacking in higher end Android phones like the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III.

The 8.7mm thin body has a matte plastic back with a texturing that makes it look and feel like carbon fibre and the volume and lock buttons are laid very close to the surface of the device, making them very subtle.

The carbon fibre texture helps keep the phone secure in hand, which is useful because, weighing only 122 gram, the L7 could feel toy-like and flimsy otherwise. Overall, this phone has a clean minimalist design.

After a week of use the back lid started creaking when pressure was applied, a tell-tale sign of loosening which usually leads to cracking. But the payoff of the removable back lid is the ability to replace the battery and access the expandable memory slot (micro-SD card) — which is crucial because the device only comes with 2.7GB of usable storage (4 GB total).

Storage is the biggest drawback of the L7, and frankly the 4GB provided is ridiculous in this era when 8-16 GB is the standard. This means you’ll need to be frugal with the size of apps you download, the number of pictures you take, and the media you load onto the device.

LG could have supplemented this by offering a cloud storage service out of the box, or even partnering with existing services like Dropbox as HTC and Samsung have — but as of writing this review LG have not done so for the L7.

The L7’s 4.3 inch LCD screen provides a lot of screen real estate for running apps and browsing websites. The IPS display means viewing from different angles doesn’t distort the image significantly, but the overall image quality isn’t anything to get excited about.

Contrast and sharpness on the screen is clear, with small fonts rendering very neatly. However the screen displays colours very artificially, and gradients of colour look almost metallic.

With such a large and bright LCD display panel I expected a low to average battery performance from the L7. I was very pleasantly surprised when I was able to squeeze out up to eight hours of use each day with web browsing and apps. For comparison the same amount of usage on my iPhone 4S usually gets me around seven hours of battery life.

The 5 megapixel camera on the L7 is quite tame compared with the 8 megapixel and up devices in the same price range. The L7 camera has a relatively quick autofocus, but its low light performance is very poor. The noise is still apparent on images taken indoors even with plenty of light, it isn’t until you’re in the sun that images are completely free of noticeable noise.

The L7 has a 1 Ghz Snapdragon processor, and comes with 512MB of RAM. Combined with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) the user experience on the L7 was fantastic.

For the most part there was very little lagging or animation stuttering in the user interface. Apps ran very smoothly, and I didn’t experience a single forced closure in my week of use.

The L7 has a near field communication (NFC) chip which lets it communicate with other NFC enabled devices such as smart terminals or tap-and-go payment machines. In fact, the first time I saw the Optimus L7 was when Miki Sziskai, CEO of Snapper, bought me a coffee using Snapper on his L7.

I didn’t get to test this feature myself because the Snapper and 2degrees’ Touch2Pay service is currently only available in Wellington. Sziskai did say that any Snapper/2degrees SIM from Wellington will work with Auckland terminals, but with Snapper’s termination from the Auckland Transport contract the NFC feature might remain unused for some time.

The LG Optimus L7 is a beautiful phone that performs admirably, if not fantastically. At around $500 the device is well positioned for those who want a professional and capable smartphone, but don’t need top of the line specs for their day to day use.

3 and a half stars

SPECS

Dimensions: 125.5 x 67 x 8.7 mm

Weight: 122 grams

Display: LCD 480 x 800 pixels, 4.3 inches

Storage: 4GB

Processor: Snapdragon, 1 GHz Cortex-A5

OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Price: $499 from 2degrees and Vodafone

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