LG recently introduced what they claim to be the thinnest and brightest Android phone available in the market in the form of the Optimus Black.
It is also one of the most affordable phones with above-average specs for its price point that we have today. I had the pleasure of using this phone for a bit and here’s my verdict on the phone.
The LG Optimus Black boasts an elegant minimalistic design coupled with their so called Nova display technology. This is also the thinnest smartphone I’ve reviewed so far with its thickest point measuring at only 9.2mm.
The front panel of the phone is covered entirely in glass with the 4-inch capacitive screen occupying its entirety along with your fingerprints. The proximity, light sensors and the 2MP front-facing camera are located at the top bezel and the standard Android touch buttons at the bottom. One thing to note here is that LG employed a neat approach with their capacitive buttons. The buttons are highlighted when you turn the screen on and register a subtle haptic response while emitting a blue glow when activated; a simple feature that somehow adds elegance to this device.
The right side of the phone is devoid of anything while on the left you will find the volume rocker and the “˜G’ button (more on that later). On top of the device is the 3.55mm jack the microUSB slot with a slide cove similar to Samsung’s implementation and the power/lock button.
On the back panel made of hard plastic, you will find a small slit for the speaker and opposite it is the 5MP camera beside the LED flash which is slightly recessed to avoid scratches on the lens. At the bottom you will only find a tiny slot for opening the battery cover which I found taxing the first time I tried.
The device itself feels good in your hand although I find it a extremely light. At only 109g, it’s lighter than the Samsung Galaxy SII. However, it doesn’t mean it’s not solidly built. The sleek design of the Optimus Black is definitely eye-catching.
Display and UI
The highlight of the Optimus Black is what LG dubs the Nova display. I have to say that the screen on this phone blew me away. The screen has a resolution of 800X480 capable of detecting up to 5 fingers for multitouch. The colors are bright and vibrant even on the lowest brightness setting. Outdoor visibility and viewing angle on this phone is amazing. The colors and contrast of the display is unaffected even on direct sunlight.
The image above shows the LG Optimus Black’s Nova display against the HTC Desire S’ SLCD display. Both are at full brightness already but the Optimus Black made it look like HTC’s bright isn’t bright enough.
This phone runs on Android 2.2 Froyo with capability for an Android 2.3 upgrade once LG releases it. The Optimus UI is laid on top of Froyo similar to how the HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz is tacked on to other devices.
You can have a maximum of 7 home screens and a minimum of 1 wherein you can add useable widgets like any other Android phone. There are four persistent buttons at the bottom to access your phone, contacts, messages and the application dock.
What I like about LG’s execution is how you can categorize your applications in the application dock, a feature I wish is included in my HTC phone. The pull-down notification bar includes shortcuts to turning connectivity settings as well as controls for the music player.
The Optimus Black runs on a 1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor with 2GB internal memory and 512 RAM, which is quite underwhelming in today’s standards considering the release of dual-core phones.
It produced a Quadrant benchmark score of 1295.
I find it a little disappointing that the Optimus Black is somehow outshined by an older device such as the HTC Desire in terms of speed and fluidity. You will constantly see subtle lag or choppiness in screen transitions, may it be in the home screen, the browser or even some apps such as the music player.
I’m not sure if it can be attributed to the microSD included in the review unit but the phone really lagged big-time when I tried to scroll through the music library with the albums category. I tried launching the Mega Jump game (not resuming) and HTC Desire S was faster by a couple of seconds even if the game was moved to the phone from the SD card.
The onscreen keyboard on this device is relatively good, same with old LG phones. I haven’t had a single mistyped word thanks to the evenly spaced layout of the keys which is possible due to its large screen real estate.
The G button
LG has employed some unique features in the Optimus Black courtesy of its internal gyroscope and its “˜G’ (for gesture I presume) button. Basically, it is another avenue to control your phone. Pressing the “˜G’ button and tilting the phone left or right will navigate you from home screen to home screen. Similary, doing the same gesture in the browser (or any built-in application that requires scrolling) pans the browser window in the tilted direction. There is also this capability to directly launch the camera application while in the lockscreen by shaking the phone while pressing the “˜G’ button.
It will take you some time to memorize the whole lot of customization that you can do with the “G” button but you may find them useful at times.
The camera is a 5MP shooter capable of taking photos of up to 2592 x 1944 resolution. You can tweak a lot of stuff in the settings to produce more than decent quality pictures. Check out some sample shots:[nggallery id=15]
The camera can also shoot videos of up to 1280X720 HD videos @ 30fps.
Multimedia and Internet
There is a native DivX support on this device and video playback on an episode of Big Bang Theory was quite smooth.
Instead of utilizing cover flow, LG uses a wall to display your music collection. Reminds me of the CoolIris plugin for Firefox. It’s a neat-looking eyecandy that you might want to show off to your friends.
Aside from the slow start-up, playing games went pretty smooth.
Browsing on this device is flawless. With slightly spacious screen, you can see much of the page content. The brower supports double-tap to zoom and pinch gestures to navigate. Flash elements loads fine although the phone stutters once you begin panning pages with flash elements which is pretty common on single core processor phones.
The Optimus Black runs on a 1500mah battery which is quite standard for 1 GHz big phones. It could last a day of normal use with the occasional browsing, gaming, calls and multimedia playback.
The LG Optimus Black might be underpowered compared to the superphones being released these days but it doesn’t try to compete with them. What it does is give you an affordable alternative for a phone with above-average specs, top-notch display and an sleek design.
If you can wait for the Gingerbread update and want a super light phone, the Optimus Black’s usability and reliability as a smart phone cannot be denied. It won’t give you much in style points but it’s also not something you won’t be proud of.
|LG Optimus Black P970 Specs:|
|1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor, TI OMAP 3630 chipset|
|PowerVR SGX530 GPU|
|Android OS, v2.2 (Froyo), upgradable to v2.3|
|4.0-inch capacitive Nova display (Gorilla Glass), 480 x 800|
|Optimus UI 2.0, Gesture UI 2.0|
|2 GB storage, 512 MB RAM, microSD up to 32GB|
|HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps|
|Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, EDR|
|Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|5 MP autofocus camera with LED flash, 2 MP front cam|
|Video recording at 720p @ 30fps|
|GPS + AGPS|
|122 x 64 x 9.2 mm|
|Li-Ion 1500 mAh|