Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
4/12/2012 1:00:48 PM
Solid build, respectable budget camera, Low price
Dinky screen, no built-in storage, some UI quirks
LG's Optimus phones are some of the better-named mobiles around, always reminding us of the fantastic transforming toys of the 80s (we refuse to acknowledge the existence of Michael Bay. Apart from just then).However, the LG Optimus Net, a dinky entry-level Android phone, could've done with a better moniker. Compared to the likes of Sensation and Desire, Net sounds rather stoic. The phone may not be too exciting either, but it's another in a growing range of worthy budget Androids – following the HTC Explorer, Samsung Galaxy Y and a ton of others.
Despite its compact build, the Optimus Net feels suitably solid in the hand, thanks to its chunky frame and surprising heft. This may be a budget mobile but it looks smart, with glowing buttons on its chin and a brushed aluminium backside. Sure, it can't be described as ‘desirable', but it's not ugly either.Optimus UI 2.0 adds a few little tweaks to the Android Gingerbread OS, while keeping the familiar look and feel. Background and ringtones can be changed to whatever you like, and you have seven desktops to populate with a decent range of widgets as well as shortcuts to your favourite apps.An on-screen shortcut bar sits at the bottom of the screen, for the dialler, phonebook, texts and apps. These shortcuts can't be altered, which is a minor pain – we'd rather have an email shortcut in there than the dialler. However, you can add folders to any desktop, to fill with apps.
The notifications bar has been bolstered with media controls and toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS – a neat idea, although the actual notifications area is crushed into half the space as a result, which is annoying if you're super popular and get lots of texts and emails. You can also add widgets to your desktop that do the same, so this change is a little pointless.
While a 3.2-inch display isn't an ideal way to enjoy movies, the Optimus Net can still play or stream video. What the screen lacks in sharpness, it makes up for in vibrancy. You get naff all internal storage though, so you better invest in a Micro SD card if you want to carry around movies, music, take photos or download apps. Luckily they're cheap enough these days. You can bag a 32GB card from the likes of Play and Amazon for less than twenty quid.
That compact screen also makes it difficult to read busy websites such as Mobile Choice, but you can zoom in and out using multi-touch gestures, so at least you won't kill your eyes. The display is responsive, so navigating through sites is a breeze. You can save bookmarks and get multiple tabs on the go, if you like to check out lots of different websites at once.
Unfortunately the Optimus Net won't play flash video in-browser, but you can download apps for the likes of BBC iPlayer from Google Play, if you're a massive MasterChef fan. And let's face it, who isn't?
The 800MHz Qualcomm CPU provides basic performance, but the Optimus Net didn't noticeably struggle, even with loads of browser windows or apps on the go. We were also happy with the battery, which lasted well over the requisite 24 hours even with constant use. No doubt that's helped by the smaller screen, which saps less power.
We thought that texting and emailing might be tricky thanks to that dinky display, but we made surprisingly few mistakes even when holding the Optimus Net in portrait mode. The ever-reliable Android auto-correct is always at hand to right your wrongs.
The rear-facing camera was another pleasant surprise. While its 3.15-megapixel lens might not take ultra-crisp shots like many modern smartphones, our photos came out well for a budget model. A built-in auto-focus quickly locks onto your target and keeps it sharp, while the auto-lighting adjust helps to prevent overexposure. Unfortunately, you're limited to well-lit environments, as the lack of flash means dim interiors come out a hazy black.
GPS is included, so you can easily track your position on Google Maps. The Optimus Net also has built-in NFC, which came as a surprise, especially as the technology won't become big for a good few months. It's an extra bit of future-proofing, if you plan on keeping this phone for a couple of years.
The LG Optimus Net is a compact budget Android that isn't ideal for web play or media, but has a decent crack at both.