The LG Optimus L3 is an attractive option to those on a budget, offering smartphone functionality at an affordable RRP of R1,500. But has LG cut the right corners?
Design and build quality
With most entry-level phones, it can feel like minimal effort has gone into design. LG breaks the mould here – the hard rectangular L-series design is elegant in its metallic-looking frame, and there’s a nice textured appearance to the back which also feels good in your hand.
The plastic casing isn’t going to fool anyone into believing this is a high-end device, but it’s nice to see a bit of thought put into the styling, despite the cheap materials.
The Optimus L3 feels sturdy enough, and the power and home buttons have a good tactile response. The home button is flanked by touch menu and back buttons, both of which were responsive and well-lit.
With its 102.6 x 61.6 x 11.85mm dimensions, it’s small enough to fit comfortably in hand and pocket, and while not remarkably slim, it doesn’t feel bulky.
The L3 comes with a decent processor for its price, sporting an 800MHz single-core ARM Cortex-A5, as well as 384mb of RAM. I never had any lag issues using the interface; navigation felt fluid and even games such as Angry Birds Space ran without a hitch.
It comes with internal storage of 1GB, which can be expanded to 32GB through the micro-SD slot. It has the standard Wi-fi, Bluetooth and 3G functionality you would expect from a smartphone, as well as GPS.
The phone achieved an average AnTuTu Benchmarks score of 2322.6, an impressive performance for its price, placing it very close to the higher-end LG Optimus Black, which scored 2585 in our tests.
Screen and responsiveness
It’s obvious that the R&D budget was tight in this area – the screen is awful.
It’s one of the worst looking displays I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s no surprise considering a resolution of 240×320 stretched over a 3.2-inch screen. This results in colours that lack any depth and fuzzy text.
On the plus side, the screen doesn’t have much trouble outside, and even on a very sunny day it’s perfectly usable outdoors.
LG describes the display as “comfortable to look at”, but I have to strongly disagree. It may be fine for day-to-day use, but lengthy sessions of internet browsing or reading may give you a migraine.
The touchscreen performed well, having no problems in testing with up to 4 simultaneous touch points. It was also responsive and easy enough to type on, thanks to a touch keyboard that makes full use of the 3.2-inch display.
The camera is very basic 3-megapixel affair with no flash – fine for taking snaps of friends out on the town, but I wouldn’t rely on it for your holiday album. The photos come out dull, with washed-out colours – don’t expect a lot.
The camera is capable of recording 640×480 (VGA) video at a smooth 24FPS however, which is nice.
We’ve not come to expect much out of our cellphone batteries, but the Optimus L3 performed decently, managing 9 hours of looping, full-volume video.
A full charge will easily last a day of solid use. Moderate use should last 2-3 days on a single charge.
Sound and call quality
The sound for video and music doesn’t come from a separate loud-speaker, but from the earpiece speaker. This isn’t as bad as you might expect. While the audio does lack depth and bass, it at least remains relatively clear, even at high volume. It’s not great, but it’s not unpleasant.
Call quality was perfectly reasonable, no problems to report there.
The LG Optimus L3 comes with the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system, and LG’s own UI skin slapped on top of it. The skin is great for a first-time smartphone owner (the presumed target market) as it’s very simple to navigate and rather intuitive.
LG hasn’t included a lot of bloatware. You won’t receive a device full of additional apps you’ll never use, but you won’t get any useful extras either.
Overall, the LG Optimus L3 provides a lot of good value for your money. At an RRP of R1,500, the processing power and functionality is very good for those looking to go smart on a budget.
However, I’d have a hard time recommending it because of the poor screen quality. The solid performance in other areas makes the horrid display a real shame, but for most smartphone tasks, the low resolution is going to frustrate.