The LG Optimus L3 is dinky enough to slip in any pocket or bag, but comfortable to use too. LG's focus on design makes this one of the best-looking budget phones in a while
A 3.2-inch screen isn't ideal for browsing the web or playing with apps, but we found it surprisingly fine for typing thanks to the excellent virtual keyboard. We'd still recommend trying it for yourselves in-store, however
As with all budget phones, the Optimus L3's features are basic. LG had to stick with a disappointingly low-res screen to cut costs, while the three-megapixel camera is fine for bog standard Facebook photos but not much else
A single-core 800MHz processor handles most apps fine, but the most complex games struggle on the Optimus L3 and you don't get much future-proofing
We listened to hours of music, played with dozens of apps, browsed the web, shot plenty of photos, and got stuck into some serious texting and emailing. The Optimus L3 still lasted well over 24 hours on a single charge
LG's Optimus L3 is the first phone in its ‘L-Style' range to hit the UK, and the dinkiest of the trilogy - at just 3.2 inches, it is dwarfed by the four-inch Optimus L5 and the 4.3-inch Optimus L7. LG has made a fair bit of fuss about design lately, launching the Prada Phone by LG 3.0 at the end of 2011 and following up with these L-Style models. But is the Optimus L3 a classic case of beauty over brains?
The compact Optimus L3 looks quite unlike other mini Androids, sporting a chic square edged design that's almost retro in its minimalism, and despite the squat build it's surprisingly weighty. That extra heft means the phone is comfortable to hold and doesn't feel like it might fall apart at any moment.
A textured plastic rear sticks the Optimus L3 to your palm, while the faux-metallic rim adds an extra impression of strength. We also love the glass panel, which stretches beyond the screen to the phone edges.
A 3.2-inch screen feels pretty meagre when you're used to phones packing an extra couple of inches, but Android Gingerbread is perfectly usable. Each of the five desktops is a 4x4 grid which you can populate with shortcuts or a limited selection of widgets. Beneath the Optimus L3's screen you get a physical Home button, as well as touch-sensitive Menu and Back buttons, which help you to navigate around the interface.
The Android notification bar keeps you informed of any texts, emails and other events, but it's a little cramped as LG has included media controls and power controls (for toggling the Wi-Fi, GPS and more). If you regularly get emails, texts and social media updates, you'll end up doing a lot of fiddly scrolling. There's also no notification light on the phone, so you need to check the screen to see if you've got any alerts.
You might wonder how easy it is to type on such a dinky screen. In portrait mode it's certainly a challenge, and we hit the wrong letters enough to necessitate turning on the auto-correct. With that enabled, we actually belted out lengthy emails in just a couple of minutes. Of course we always recommend that you try it out for yourself in-store, to make sure you're comfortable with the reduced size.
Turn the Optimus L3 on its side and texting gets even easier, although the virtual keyboard takes up most of the screen, which is annoying when you want to review what you've just written.
Unfortunately, if you're after an affordable phone for watching movies or shows on the daily commute, the Optimus L3 falls short. Images are just too pixelated because of the low 240x320 pixel resolution - bearable for short YouTube clips, but annoying for anything longer.
At this price point it's not easy to find a dedicated video player, but something like the Orange San Francisco II would suit better, with its 480x800-pixel resolution and slightly larger 3.5-inch screen.
The Optimus L3 fares much better as a music player, producing good quality sound when listening to tunes or podcasts. It's also a reasonable web browser, with pages loading impressively fast. Skimming and zooming through websites is a smooth experience, although the small screen means most pages look a little cramped, and the low resolution means you have to zoom right in to read text.
Full Google Play support means you can download hundreds of thousands of apps, but you might want to expand the 1GB of built-in storage first via the microSD slot (which gives up to 32GB more). We tested some of the latest games to see how the Optimus L3's 800MHz processor handled them. Bearing in mind that this is a budget phone, we expected it to struggle with more complex titles.
True to form, some of the more strenuous 3D apps had a less-than-smooth framerate, dipping to around 10 frames per second at times, which was still just about playable but made everything a lot more difficult. We also found the touch-screen occasionally didn't register our swipes, leading to premature and frustrating deaths. We'd suggest sticking with the likes of Angry Birds instead, which doesn't have complex graphics and doesn't require reaction gestures.
Although performance is understandably stilted, battery life more than makes up for it. On a single charge the Optimus L3 lasted around 36 hours, despite the punishment we dished out. For the record, we listened to music for hours, took plenty of photos, streamed some video and played with a number of apps - not forgetting the occasional text, email and phone call. Speaking of phone calls, we had no issues with call clarity and signal remained strong at all times.
Rounding off the Optimus L3's features is a basic three-megapixel camera. There's no focus, so our close-up shots were generally blurry, and a lack of flash makes night shots near impossible. Even in soft light, our snaps were grainy and dull. Colours fared a little better in full daylight, but our photos were still rather fuzzy. Still, this camera's fine for shooting random Facebook snaps, as long as you don't inhabit many dingy pubs and other poorly-lit establishments.
The first of LG's new L-series smartphone range is here, and it's certainly an intriguing compact designer device. The £80 price point is a huge sell, but to keep the price so low, LG has had to seriously compromise over screen quality. Movie fans will be seriously put off by the blocky resolution, with similarly priced mobiles such as the Orange San Francisco II providing a more satisfying experience. However, if you're a social media and music fan looking for a well-designed budget Android mobile, the Optimus L3 is worth checking out.