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LG, Mobile Phones, Reviews
May 8, 2012 by Dan Grose
LG is having a much better 2012 compared to last year. Following rumours of positive plans for a device capable of taking on the Samsung Galaxy series and the iPhone, the South Koreans have been enjoying widespread recognition thanks to the success of the luxurious Prada phone. So it’s fair to say eyebrows were projected upwards after the company announced its intention to move away from high-end smartphones towards the budget market. The LG Optimus L3 is the first of this new breed, promising a low cost smartphone with the same user experience offered by more wallet damaging handsets. But does the dinky pioneer live up to this billing?
Design & Hardware
The L3 certainly ticks the budget boxes in terms of appearance, with its small and blocky stature evoking memories of older devices. At 11.8mm thick it’s a chunky little chap as well, and first impressions may leave you a little disappointed. However, when in-hand the L3 feels comfortable and sturdy, making for an enjoyable all round experience. The chrome bezel and textured back panel offer a small slice of glam that belies the budget bracket, albeit for aesthetics rather than practicality. Crucially, its size also makes it pocket friendly, meaning it slips in and out with speed and efficiency.
As you’d expect, the 3.2-inch screen is basic, and its 240×320 pixel display kicks out acceptable if not awe-inspiring images. Despite this the touchscreen is responsive and sharp, and the layout makes sure every bit of space is utilised. Things get a bit crowded when it comes to texting, but in landscape mode there are little to no problems.
At just 800MHz, it’s fair not to expect fireworks from the processor, but it proves to be a competent effort. Whilst it may not be as fast as the chips housed by other more expensive gadgets, the L3 handles its business with aplomb, only getting a little bogged down when laden with open widgets and running apps. There’s only 1GB of internal storage, but this can be expanded to 32GB via microSD card, so you’ll always have enough room to cram in music and all the rest of it.
Software & Multimedia
The device runs Android Gingerbread, which may disappoint those looking for a more premium software experience. But, as the price suggests, this phone is more about functionality and the operating system stands up very well to the things it’s tasked with. You’re still able to indulge in the usual customisation offered by Android, so oft-used apps and widgets like Facebook and Twitter can be placed so they’re never far from the action. As mentioned, it can all get a bit buggy with too much going on, so it’s important to keep an eye on what you’ve got open if you want to maximise the L3’s potential.
In addition to its operating system the L3 also boasts LG’s own Optimus UI, which adds a bit of flavour to the Android experience. Whilst seemingly not doing much on the surface, the Optimus UI adds helpful drop down menus to assist in the everyday use of the phone, so you can turn features on and off without navigating away from your current app. It’s not particularly flashy, but it proves very helpful in the long run.
In terms of multimedia, the L3 puts up an admirable fight but ultimately suffers when compared to other, better specced smartphones. The 3 megapixel camera is basic at best, and the video function is less than spectacular. Despite this you’re still able to rack up some pretty decent images, and there’s even a basic picture editor thrown in too. LG has also kindly added a front facing snapper, so you can video call to your heart’s content. Surprisingly, there’s also an mp3 player, meaning you can listen to your music whilst going about your daily business. The browser also deserves a special mention, standing up well against most internet requirements in spite of the small screen. Zooming may result in having to move about to read all he text on a webpage, but the display remains commendably clear despite the basic screen.
Whilst none of these features are particularly exceptional, LG deserves a bit of credit for at least attempting to offer a multimedia experience on such a tight budget (and having more than a decent stab at it).
Performance & Verdict
On the surface, many will no doubt find themselves frustrated by the LG L3’s budget feel and limited performance. But, seeing as its mission statement is to fulfil the smartphone experience on a shoe string, it is nothing short of a functional triumph.
Whilst overall performance falls short of that offered by more sophisticated Android-based devices, the L3 more than holds its own when it comes to covering the basics. The main tasks of a smartphone – texting, calling, app usage and web browsing – are all taken care of with aplomb despite the processing power, and it is only at the multimedia hurdle that the device hints at a slight stumble.
Although the L3 does indeed suffer from a case of underdeveloped multimedia prowess, the basic camera and MP3 player still put in a valiant effort, and that doesn’t go unnoticed. It may not turn you into the next David Bailey, but it also won’t fail in capturing the moments you need capturing.
That is perhaps the best summation of the LG L3; a functional, no-frills device that does exactly what is required of it. Despite minor foibles over its media capabilities, the L3 proves to be a plucky, reliable and ultimately likeable little phone that does the basics really rather well. It may not have the looks or features of flashier, more expensive devices, but if you’re looking for smartphone capabilities on a budget, the L3 does it better than most.
If you're looking for the Android smartphone experience on a budget, the L3 ticks all the boxes with its tidy operating system and compact, palm-friendly design.
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