LG has been a bit slower on the Android uptake than its key rival Samsung. And rather than fire back with a top-end effort to trouble the awesome Galaxy S, it’s opted to play in the shallow end with the LG Optimus. So should this budget number stop you from eyeing up that HTC Wildfire? Read our complete review to find out.
Despite its name, the Optimus is not some hulking beast. It’s undoubtedly LG’s best looking handset ever, the sleek tapered edges and pocketable size putting it ahead of the Wildfire in the looks department at least.
Start tinkering with it though and you’ll quickly find a few nasty niggles. The touchscreen is resistive rather than capacitive, something even budget phones can barely get away with these days. And the reliance on the super old-school Android 1.6 software is nothing short of a crime.
As mentioned above, the Optimus is a real looker. The chrome-style finish and tapered ends mean it feels great in the hand. At 12.9mm it’s not the thinnest phone we’ve ever seen, but the three-inch screen means that it can easily slip into your pocket without any unsightly bulges.
Design quirks aren’t absent though. The soft keys at the bottom can become infuriating and cause you to slip back and forth between menus unnecessarily. When you have a touchscreen, such buttons are frankly pointless, especially when there are home and dial keys beneath them. The screen, though, is a bit of a winner at this low price point, the 320 x 480 resolution giving its Wildfire rival a hearty slap down.
This phone is built around a basic build of Android, so stand out features are more prosaic than on competitors like the Wildfire. The 3.15 megapixel camera is perhaps the biggest draw in this regard. Yes, it’s only 3.15 megapixels, but what it lacks in terms of resolution and flash, it makes up for in terms of functionality and usability.
The cool jog wheel lets you tinker with drill down features such as blink detection and white balance, while a comprehensive selection of scene modes mean this snapper works well as long as you’re shooting in decent light.
The LG Optimus loses marks when it comes to software. Android 1.6 was big news 12 months ago, but it’s been outdone consistently by newer versions, which arrive on average four months. That LG has plumped for this creaking version makes this phone very hard to recommend for those who want bleeding edge Google phone skills at a knock down price.
The HTC Wildfire offers that with Android 2.1, and that has HTC Sense slathered on top. The Optimus is hamstrung by the lack of multiple email accounts, Google Goggles and Google Maps Navigation. This is offset by some seriously cheap deals, but there are phones six months old that are more cutting edge than this.
Ease of use
For a phone with a resistive panel, the LG Optimus is remarkably easy to scooch around. It’s the best touchscreen of its kind we’ve used, although you’ll find tapping rather than swiping is the way to go. Typing out texts is fine using the numeric virtual pad, but the QWERTY is so poor that we suggest you steer well clear. Getting around Android remains a doddle though, with easily proddable widgets and foolproof OS design.
- 3-inch, 320x480 screen
- Android 1.6
- 3.5mm audio input
- 54.5 x 109 x 12.9 mm
- microSD support
- 600MHz processor
- HSDPA & Bluetooth 2.1