LG latest offering from their Optimus range is the stylish LG Optimus Black. The Korean company have been making a big deal of the phone’s NOVA display, claiming it can be used in direct sunlight, but will that feature alone allow the device take on the higher end of the smartphone market?
The Optimus Black is in keeping stylistically with some of the bigger smartphones we’ve come across of late. The handset is dominated by the 4-inch screen and the four touch-sensitive nav keys, commonplace among Android phones, are positioned at the foot of the display.
That NOVA display is certainly impressive, and LG’s claim that it can be used perfectly in direct sunlight certainly holds some water. However, whilst it does show up detailed images and information in conditions other phones would struggle with, the high gloss screen does suffer from glare from time to time. The resolution, at 480×800 pixels, is slightly less than the Retina display found on the iPhone 4 but there’s no doubt that the screen is strikingly bright.
There are no problems with the onscreen keypad – it’s pretty standard Android fare and easy to use whichever way you hold your phone. LG’s Optimus UI 2.0 has some fairly basic-looking icons along the bottom of the screen which aren’t the most attractive but are no trouble to use at all.
The casing that holds the bright screen in place does leave a lot to be desired though. It’s minimalist, certainly, but the plasticky back and rounded edges do give it a slightly cheap feel. It’s one of the thinnest smartphones around, at only 9.2mm thick, and it only weighs 109g but it’s no landmark in modern mobile phone design.
One point that is pretty original is the gesture button mounted on the side. Hold it down and you can skip through options and functions by tilting the phone and also navigate around photos after you’ve zoomed in on them. It’s a bit of a gimmick but it is handy and works well.
Power and Operating System
LG haven’t put the latest version of Android on the Optimus Black and instead it comes loaded with the older 2.2 Froyo operating system, something of a strange move as the smartphones in a similar price range are increasingly coming with Gingerbread on board.
Yes, Froyo is tried and tested and it works well on the Optimus but there are older phones around that run the same software and are more competitively priced. Also, LG’s user interface isn’t as impressive as the likes of HTC’s Sense 3.0 – the bright screen could do with something much more modern-looking to show it off. However, LG are said to be prepping an update to Gingerbread for soon after the phone is launched.
On the plus side, the operating system is powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor with 512MB RAM which is well up to the task. There is no noticeable lag in moving around the phone and apps are quick to load and work smoothly. Also, the bright screen doesn’t seem to be too much of a drain on the battery life – the LG Optimus Black stayed powered-up for long enough but don’t expect to go more than a day before charging it.
Internet: The Optimus Black handles browsing well and the display certainly comes into its own when viewing webpages filled with graphics and the reproduction of both text and images is clear and crisp. The 1GHz processor helps the Optimus load pages reasonably quickly whether you’re using Wi-Fi or 3G and even with the older operating system there’s still Flash support so animations and YouTube clips are supported. There isn’t anything startling about the way it performs but it doesn’t cause any frustration either.
Camera: The LG Optimus Black comes with a 5 megapixel camera on the back – standard stuff for a phone at this end of the market. It has an LED Flash along with geo-tagging and face detection as well as video recording capabilities at 720p. Images come out well enough and look good on the bright screen.
There’s also a front-facing camera which at 2 megapixels, is an improvement on most other smartphones. The picture obviously doesn’t live up to the quality offered by the main camera but it is noticeably better than other handsets and an unexpected bonus from LG.
Other tech specs:
- Music player – Supports MP3/WAV/WMA and eAAC+
- Media player – Supports MP4/DivX/Xvid/H.264/H.263 and WMV
- 2GB internal memory
- MicroSD card slot that supports up to 32GB
- MicroUSB port
- Also available in white.
There isn’t a great deal that stands out about the Optimus Black other than the NOVA display on which LG seems to be pinning its hopes. The casing seems cheap and flimsy and doesn’t live up the standards of similarly positioned devices. LG’s Optimus UI 2.0 is also a pretty unimpressive-looking thing and you don’t get the latest version of Android.
The LG Optimus Black isn’t pretty but it isn’t bad either. The 1GHz processor is well up to the task of handling the operating system and the phone is quick and easy to use. It does have a couple of interesting quirks such as the gesture button and the unusually high-specced 2 megapixel camera on the front but when compared to Sony Ericsson’s Neo, the Optimus Black is a little lacklustre. As a standard Android package however, it does the job.