LG Optimus Black P970 review

LG is known in South Africa for its budget Android devices such as the Optimus One, which offered a full Android 2.2 experience (excluding Flash) at a R2,500 price point.

The recently introduced Optimus Black is a far more high-end device which stands toe-to-toe with the likes of the HTC Desire and Nexus One.

It sports 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor with PowerVR SGX530 graphics, 512 MB RAM, 1GB internal storage and support for a microSD card of up to 32GB.

LG Optimus Black home screen
LG Optimus Black home screen

One of its key hardware features is its 4-inch WVGA (480×800) “Nova” display. LG explained that the display uses a form of in-plane switching (IPS) that lets them achieve 700 nits of brightness.

The display lives up to the hype around its brightness and certainly offers some of the best visibility in sunlight we’ve seen.


To test the raw performance of the hardware three different benchmarks were used: Quadrant, AnTuTu, and DeviceMark.

Quadrant Standard doesn’t allow commercial use of its benchmarks, but running it did help confirm the results of AnTuTu and DeviceMark.

The Optimus Black scored 2585 in our AnTuTu benchmark, ranking just below the HTC Desire HD and ahead of the Nexus One.

In DeviceMark the Optimus Black stands side by side with the HTC Desire.

LG Optimus Black AnTuTu and DeviceMark benchmarks
LG Optimus Black AnTuTu and DeviceMark benchmarks

Messaging and dialing

Similar to the Samsung Galaxy S2, the Optimus Black offers push e-mail functionality which didn’t work well with our mail server at all.

The more conventional POP configuration worked well though.

LG also offers their own take on the in-dialler contact search. Rather than switching to the “Contacts” view to look for someone’s number you just start typing their name or number straight into the dialler.

This brings up a one-line recommendation above the keypad with the option to show more search results by tapping on a down arrow button.

This is a little finicky and it is easy to tap the number, indicating that you want to dial it, instead of the arrow. Fortunately the LG dialer requires that you confirm that you want to dial a number by tapping on a big green square.

LG Optimus Black
LG Optimus Black



The LG Optimus Black has a 5 megapixel (MP) camera on the back along with an LED flash and autofocus. It also has a 2 MP camera on the front for self-shots and video calls.

Though better than certain other Android smartphones, the LG Optimus Black’s camera isn’t something to write home about.

It takes decent “happy snaps” in a pinch, but suffers in low light conditions. Close-up photos are possible, but need quite a bit of fiddling from the user to get the focus right.

Manufacturer-specific features

Interestingly, the LG Optimus Black seems to have eschewed sharing its Internet connection with a connected PC over USB.

However, it does still have the standard Android 2.2 “Froyo” ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot which laptops and other Wi-Fi capable devices may connect to.

LG Optimus Black notification bar
LG Optimus Black notification bar

LG have also included a type of power control widget in the notification bar, as well as a media player control.

Similar to Samsung devices (and the iPhone), the LG Optimus Black lets you take screenshots by pressing the power and home keys simultaneously.

Another feature that sets the LG Optimus Black apart is its gesture button, or “G key,” on the left side.

In addition the gestures supported by other devices, such as flipping the handset over to silence an alarm or incoming call, LG also offers a host of other gestures.

These include holding the G key and tilting the phone to pan around a picture or webpage, or holding the key and shaking the device to answer or end a call.

On the lock screen you can also hold the G key and shake the device to launch the camera.

The Optimus Black also lets you tap its sides to move a cursor, or navigate between songs and pictures.


The LG Optimus Black has a recommended retail price of R3,999, with LG confirming that the LG Experience store in Monte Casino is selling it for R3,700.

Though the price is competitive one wonders how the device will fare at that price point against the likes of the HTC Desire S and Samsung’s mid-level smartphones.


  • Android 2.2.2
  • 1GHz ARMv7 processor rev 2 (v7l) OMAP3660
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4” 480×800 “Nova” display: 700 NIT IPS LCD
  • PowerVR SGX 530 graphics
  • 1GB internal storage
  • 2GB microSD card
  • 5 MP rear camera with autofocus and LED flash, 2 MP front camera

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LG Optimus Black P970 review