Design & Handling
With its sober, angular and passably elegant exterior, the Optimus L7 brings back memories of the last Prada. It clearly challenges the rounded aesthetics of its South Korean competitor, Samsung, in a move that will surely garner its share of followers.
The design here is minimalist and far more rectangular than Samsung's phones. With the grooved plastic back, the L7 is a nice object to hold. The size, thickness and weight are well balanced, and it should be able to fit unobtrusively in any jean pocket.
While the finishing is as fine as they come, we were disappointed to see the half-millimetre-wide space separating the screen from the frame. Lint and bread crumbs have a serious talent for finding their way in there...
The main physical button (screen on/menu/multitasking) has a touchscreen button on either side whose functions (back, settings, etc.) change depending which app you have open. Unlike certain other smartphones that use the same system, such as the Galaxy S3, the buttons on the L7 are not overly sensitive, so you don't end up selecting their functions on accident all the time. One point for team LG.
However, we would have preferred to see an LED for notifying you when you've received a text, e-mail, etc. Instead, LG has provided an alarm tone (which, of course, can be turned off). This is practical, but certainly not discreet.
Similar in size to the Samsung Galaxy S2, the Optimus L7 has a nice 4.3" Nova display (480 x 800 pixels) that, in theory, should be ideal for surfing the net, playing games and watching movies. Our sensor picked up an excellent Delta E of 4.8, which means that the colours are almost perfectly accurate. This is one of the best Delta E's we've seen on a smartphone. For comparison, the BlackBerry Bold 9790 beats this with a dE of 3.9, as does the HTC One V (4.6), but the Optimus L7 is lower (= better) than the iPhone 4S (6.2), the Galaxy S3 (5.3), the Galaxy S2 (6.6) and the Xperia S (7.0). Even further down the line is the Samsung Mini 2 (dE of 11.7). The 788:1 contrast ratio is very good, as is the brightness. In practical terms, this means that the screen stays legible even outside in the sun.
The touchscreen is relatively precise, although it lacks a certain responsiveness.
Interface & Navigation
The trend over the past few years has been for brands to go beyond the basic Android OS and offer software UIs, or overlays, to enhance Android by bringing it more widgets and a more user-friendly interface. Android purists, however, will of course prefer the bare bones of Ice Cream Sandwich. Companies use the overlays in part to brand the OS with their own "flavour" and set their devices apart from the competition. HTC's Sense and Samsung's Touchwiz are good examples, with a special mention for Sense, which is even more bold and extensive than Touchwiz.
LG's overlay is full of goodies, such as features that let you go straight to your favourite functions from the lock screen, access your widgets and apps from any of the five homescreens and customise your notification bar. There are several widgets that allow you to personalise your phone, and navigation between the various functions worked perfectly well during our tests.
With a 5-Megapixel camera sensor, this multimedia-oriented smartphone should be capable of offering at least adequate images. Instead, the photos it produces lack a good deal of sharpness (detail). The L7 does a better overall job than the Optimus 4X HD, but with the middling quality of the pictures it could never rival even an entry-level device like the HTC Desire C, which isn't exceptional either, but at least it doesn't smooth the images to the same degree. On the positive side, the Optimus L7 keeps the image noise down to a tolerable level, and focuses and shoots quickly.
The headphone output is respectable, with good precision and decent dynamics for low distortion. The volume level is average, no more. As for the audio interface, there are just as few settings to choose from as on other Optimus smartphones (for example, there's not even an equaliser).
The general lack of speed on the smartphone drags the web browsing experience down with it. Before you can type in a URL, first you have to wait until the keyboard decides to show up (we should mention in passing, however, that once the keyboard appears, it works fine), then wait for the page to load, then wait for the layout to correct itself, then wait for the zoom to kick in so you can read the page clearly... Basically, it'll more or less do the job if you really need to look something up, but for leisurely surfing, we've seen better and faster.
One of the highlights of this phone is its battery life. The Optimus L7 lasts long enough to satisfy even the most intensive of mobile users. Its 1700 mAh battery keeps pumping past 24 hours using 3G and Wi-Fi, with fairly extensive use, including photos, Internet, texts, phone calls, games and GPS (which, by the way, fixes quickly).
- LG interface
- Battery life
- Generally choppy
- Lacks responsiveness
- LG interface could be perfected
The Optimus L7 has a nice screen, Ice Cream Sandwich and a fairly practical LG overlay, but all these strengths are hindered by a lack of speed and fluidity that quickly gets on your nerves. The HTC One V, which is similar to the L7 but with a smaller screen, functions more smoothly on the whole.