LG’s has experienced a downturn in fortunes in recent times. Over the last two years the manufacturer has seen its share of the UK market cut in half and has been eclipsed by several rivals. The plan to reverse this trend involves a five million pound mass-media marketing campaign to promote a new range of mid- and low-priced handsets, known as the L series.
The first one out of the traps is the LG Optimus L3, a compact device aimed at bringing style and luxury to the budget phone market. Will this new series be enough to turn the tables for LG?
- Android 2.3
- LG Optimus UI 2.0 Lite
- Single-core 800MHz processor
- 2.3-inch LCD touchscreen
- 1GB internal memory
- 3.2 megapixel, fixed focus camera
- 1540 mAh Li-Lion battery
Design and Build
Take a quick look at the L3 and its apparent that claims of style and luxury are a little wide of the mark. It looks like a budget phone but that doesn’t necessarily mean ugly, and its compact, stocky design is actually quite appealing, in a functional sense at least. The 11.85mm thick chassis means that it feels quite chunky when held in your hand and this is noticeably different to many of the more expensive handsets available, something that isn’t unwelcome. As much as sleek, slender phones very much have their place, there’s something satisfyingly durable about the feel of the L3 that gives the handset an identity of its own.
The textured plastic back is very easy to grip and the small stature of the device means it can be comfortably used with one hand. Couple this with the generally high build quality and what you get is a handset that feels like you could throw it around a bit without doing any damage.
A handset aimed at the budget market is never going to be fitted with a top quality display but, even considering this, the screen on the L3 is surprisingly poor. The 3.2-inch, 240×320 pixel TFT LCD display makes its graphics look blocky and dull, not really doing justice to webpages and other digital content. Typing with the onscreen keypad is difficult and errors are common occurrence. On the plus side though, the touchscreen is very responsive which makes things a little easier.
Under the Hood
Despite that low-resolution screen, the L3 definitely has some good points about it and LG has done some impressive things whilst staying within a budget. The processor, a single-core, 800MHz offering, may not sound like much at all but LG has used its limited power wisely and has got the most out of it. Filling homepages with widgets and running lots of simultaneously will see the phone begin to slow down, but straight out of the box you get a surprisingly fast and fluid performance with there little or no delay in switching between screens and opening apps. Animations are also smooth when navigating around the phone’s different screens.
There’s only 1GB if internal memory though, and that doesn’t leave a great deal of storage space if you happen to be a file hoarder, however, there is the standard microSD card slot that allows expansion up to 32GB
Operating System and User Interface
The L3 doesn’t run the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, which isn’t surprising for a budget phone especially when you take into consideration the power and hardware that ICS requires to run. Instead, the older Gingerbread variant is present here, overlaied with LG’s Optimus UI 2.0.
Gingerbread doesn’t look as flashy as the newer software and especially so when shown on the L3’s low-resolution display. However, it works well on this device and doesn’t put too much of a strain on the 800MHz processor. If LG decided to go with Gingerbread to improve performance at the expense of aesthetics then it was definitely a compromise worth making to keep cost down. As with the latest Android iteration, homescreens are customisable with widgets for functions and services like YouTube and Google+, and the email app is basic but functions effectively.
The Optimus UI doesn’t make many changes to the basic Gingerbread interface but it does add a few touches such as extra control options positioned at the top of the drag-down notification bar. These offer a handy way to turn Wi-iFi and Bluetooth on and off along with a other functions such as controls for the music player. It may not be a big change but a simple, well thought out addition like this can make a big difference to a budget package and shows that the L3 has something to offer aside from the basic.
Online performance is fast when using Wi-Fi but the display means that websites perhaps don’t look as good as they should. If viewing a website as a full page the text is too small to read and zooming in means having to scroll left and right to read a full article. However, the pinch-to-zoom capability works well and the responsive touchscreen makes it easy to click on links.
Camera and Video
A budget phone such as this is never going to feature a high-quality camera and the 3.2 megapixel offering on the L3 isn’t anything impressive. Image quality is noisy and the fixed focus makes it very difficult to take a photo with any depth or detail, meaning that the camera is really only capable of producing the most basic of pictures. Video is equally lacklustre and, annoyingly, footage filmed in portrait mode will only playback in landscape, cutting the size down to around half.
Performance and Verdict
The L3 doesn’t make any claim to take on the high-end, Ice Cream Sandwich-packing Androids around so it would be unfair to judge this handset against them. LG has set out to make a budget phone, a range of them in fact, and the L3 fulfils this criteria quite well. What this handset lacks in flair it makes up for in performance and LG has produced a chunky, compact phone that delivers the basics with aplomb. The display is disappointing, as is the camera, but the processor and software are geared to work well together without any hang-ups. However, the extra functions in the notifications bar offered by the Optimus UI are a small but interesting detail that means the L3 isn’t without its special features.
After LG’s recent lack of success the change in strategy to producing lower-end handsets could be a step in the right direction for the Korean manufacturer and it’ll be interesting to see how the L series pans out as whole. The L3 doesn’t ooze style and luxury but LG has succeeded in making a solid and impressive low-end phone.