Look and feel
LG has placed an emphasis on design, and it shows. The Optimus L7’s slender frame is reassuringly solid, while the glass-covered front gives it a premium feel. It’s also a refreshingly scuff-resistant phone
Ease of use
Ice Cream Sandwich is a joy to use, with plenty of customisation options thrown in. LG’s tweaks, such as the power controls on the notifications bar, work well. The 4.3-inch screen is vibrant and spacious, if not amazingly crisp
The Optimus L7 lacks the excellent camera features of HTC’s One series, but still does a decent job capturing everyday shots. Built-in NFC comes with a Tag+ sticker, for quickly changing your profile
The single-core processor struggles occasionally when browsing the web or playing around in Ice Cream Sandwich, and doesn’t offer the flexibility and future-proofing of dual-core rivals
Even light use will kill the battery dead in 24 hours, despite the built-in power saver mode. If you want to stream video, listen to music or play with apps, you should pack a spare charger
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,3/1/2012 6:11:07 PM
Vibrant screen, slick and solid design, intuitive, customisable OS
Single-core performance, poor battery life, lacks features of close rivals
LG has put a big focus on design lately – first with the sexily sleek Prada Phone 3.0, and now with its fashionable L Series mobiles. Just check out the budget-priced Optimus L3, which rocks a surprisingly desirable body despite its low price tag. The Optimus L7 is the big daddy of the L Series family, boasting the biggest screen and most powerful specs, yet it’s just as pleasing to the eye and impressively slender too.
Sharp and sexy
We don’t want to sound like stuffy art critics, but the sharp corners of the LG Optimus L7 contrast nicely with the rounded contours, giving the phone a unique and attractive look. Just check out our photo gallery if you need convincing. Physical buttons are kept to a minimum – you get a rectangular Home button beneath the screen, while the Back and Menu buttons are touch-sensitive hotspots either side that light up when prodded. On the edges you’ll only find volume controls, with the power button and 3.5mm jack stuck on top.
A reassuring heft and solid build (reinforced by the metallic edges) means we’re confident this phone could survive a few knocks, although we wouldn’t want to drop it face-down on concrete. The glossy glass-covered front gives way to a textured plastic rear, and it feels great in the hand. Our white model also proved resistant to scratches and scuffs, keeping it in pristine condition.
The Optimus L7 is the largest of the L Series family, boasting a 4.3-inch TFT display. The screen isn’t amazingly bright, so we struggled to see when the sun came out (thankfully not much of an issue in the UK these days). However, the viewing angles are impressively wide, a very good thing indeed if you’re watching a movie or browsing the web with a friend, and both video and photos are vibrantly brought to life.
The WVGA resolution puts the Optimus L7’s screen on par with the HTC One S’s, meaning that HD video looks sharp, but lacks the sublime crispness of the HTC One X and Sony Xperia S displays. Still, we’d happily watch full-length movies on the spacious screen during those cross-country trips.
The colourful display is a good way of showing off your snaps, taken with the five-megapixel camera. In bright light our photos often came out well, with images both sharp and colourful, although the auto-focus occasionally struggled, leaving the subject a little soft or washed-out. We also noticed that some of our photos featured an unusual ‘aura’ – for instance, in this shot of our Android buddy, you can see a greeny haze around him (even though the camera and the Android were perfectly still at the time).
Low light shots are respectable for a smartphone camera. You get an LED flash which manages not to overexpose the subject to an alarming degree, and you’ll need to make full use of it, as our snaps were grainy without it. Check out our LG Optimus L7 gallery for more camera shots.
At last we’re seeing a rush of phones and tablets sporting Google’s excellent Ice Cream Sandwich OS, with the Optimus L7 being the latest. You get five desktops to populate with whatever you like, and doing so is a piece of cake – just press your finger to any spare space and you get a menu containing all of your apps, widgets, website bookmarks and other good stuff. There’s a good selection of widgets, allowing you to check your email inbox, social media feeds and lots more without having to bother opening apps. The lazy revolt starts here!
Sadly, the Optimus L7’s lock screen isn’t as customisable as the HTC One X’s, so you can’t see the latest headlines or Twitter updates without unlocking your phone. However, you can get instant access to four apps of your choosing (selected through the settings menu), or set a pattern/PIN lock to keep your phone safe. You can also choose the shortcut buttons that populate the bottom of each desktop, with up to five of your favourite apps.
Pull down the notification bar and you not only get updates on your emails, calls, texts and tweets, you also have quick access toggles for your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, as well as vibration mode. This shortcuts bar can also be customised to bring in different options such as NFC and Airplane mode, a neat touch by LG. And while this shortcuts bar was a pain on the L3 due to the tiny display, which meant your notifications were often barged off the screen, the L7 has enough room to accommodate everything comfortably.
A single-core 1GHz ARM processor runs the show, and for the most part it handles Ice Cream Sandwich well. We did notice the odd stutter when typing a text, loading an app or flicking through the settings, which was a little jarring and detracted from the otherwise smooth running of the Optimus L7. Our apps and games generally ran fine, with a decent frame rate. Don’t expect this phone to handle the latest games in a year or so however, especially with the influx of dual and quad-core smartphones hitting the market.
If you’re a massive mobile gamer, we’d recommend holding off for the LG Optimus 4X or grabbing the HTC One S, which has a dual-core processor and costs the same on most contracts.
Battery life is unfortunately weak compared to similar Android handsets. With the bare minimum of use (occasional texting, emailing and brief web browsing) the Optimus L7 still only barely scraped through 24 hours of life. If you start streaming YouTube vids, playing with apps, making phone calls and turning on Bluetooth and NFC, you’ll need to charge it up twice a day.
The main power drain seems to be the display. On a decent brightness level, simply having the screen turned on sucked up 10% of the battery’s charge in just half an hour. Thankfully you get an optional Power Saver mode that activates when you have anything between 10%-50% battery life remaining. This automatically adjusts settings such as display brightness and toggles your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off, to keep your phone clinging on to life for those precious extra minutes. You’ll still need to charge up every night, however.
If you’re the kind of web browser who always has five or six websites on the go, you’ll love the Optimus L7. To the right of the browser’s address bar you have a handy little icon telling you how many windows you currently have open, and a quick tap brings up a scrollable screen showing them all. Flick up a tab at the bottom of the screen and you can open a new window, and also bookmark the current one.
Browsing isn’t quite a smooth and satisfying experience, but it’s close. Websites loaded promptly over Wi-Fi and 3G, and we had no trouble skimming through the average page. Bigger webpages packed with photos proved a struggle however, stuttering when we scrolled around. Thankfully the touch-screen responded well to our swipes and pinches, and the display is sharp enough to clearly read text, even when zoomed right out.
As with most modern smartphones, the Optimus L7 has built-in NFC, which will soon be used to make contactless payments in stores. LG has actually made instant use of NFC through its bundled Tag+ sticker, which works almost identically to Sony’s Xperia SmartTags. You assign certain profile settings to each sticker – Wi-Fi on or off, Bluetooth on or off, and so on – and when you tap the back of the Optimus L7 against the sticker, these settings kick in. You can also select a single application to start up automatically, but this offers less flexibility than Sony’s Tags, which let you open as many apps as you liked, as well as specific websites.
LG’s Optimus L7 is a well-designed and smart little mobile that unfortunately isn’t quite as enticing as its main rivals. The screen is colourful but lacks the incredible detail of the Xperia S and One X displays, while the five-megapixel camera does a good job but lacks the fantastic features of HTC’s One series. The single-core processor handles Ice Cream Sandwich with only the occasional stutter, but doesn’t offer the future-proofing of incoming dual-core phones. And finally, battery life is a let down, barely lasting 24 hours with only light use. We like the L7, but there are better smartphones up for grabs at the same contract price.