By November 23, 2010

LG Optimus 7 Review

Optimus7-main The Optimus 7 is LG’s first and only new Windows Phone device currently available here in the UK. The full touch slate design doesn’t seem to be that different from the plethora of available touch phones, but it does hide a pretty punchy specification sheet – the 1GHz processor, WVGA screen and 5MP camera (albeit required by Microsoft) indicates that this is a phone that means business. However, all the WP7 handsets now and in the future will match or even better these specs, so have LG placed enough consideration in other design elements to keep up with the competition? Read on to find out!

 

What’s in the box?

  • Device
  • 1500mAh battery
  • USB wall charger
  • USB to microUSB sync/charge cable
  • Headphones + S/M/L rubber buds
  • LG E900 manual
  • Windows Phone 7 get started guide

You can view Matt’s LG Optimus 7 unboxing video to see more.

 

Ten Second Review:

  • Device: LG Optimus 7 (E900)
  • Price: From free on £30pm contract (Vodafone exclusive)
  • Summary: Solid, responsive, all-rounded phone
  • Best of: Build quality, fast UI, large battery, Office integration
  • Worst of: Average LCD, speaker, WP7 limitations
  • Buy it now from: Vodafone

 

LG Optimus 7 specification:

  • 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • 3G Network: HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100
  • Screen: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 480 x 800 pixels, 3.8 inches
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Phone 7
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650 1 GHz processor
  • Internal: 16GB storage, 512 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM
  • 3G: HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA
  • Bluetooth: v2.1 with A2DP
  • Radio: Stereo FM radio
  • GPS:  with A-GPS support
  • Primary Camera: 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
  • Video Recording: [email protected]
  • Dimensions: 125 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm
  • Multi-touch input method
  • Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
  • Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
  • Standard battery, Li-Ion 1500 mAh

 

General:

On the top of the device, there’s a flush 3.5mm headphone jack and the tiny pill-shaped power and sleep button.

Optimus7-top

 

Moving over to the right hand side, there’s the micro USB connector (and cover) and a two-stage camera button lower down.

Optimus7-right

 

On the bottom, there’s nothing but a small hole for the microphone.

Optimus7-bottom

 

Over on the left, there’s just an up/down volume rocker.

Optimus7-left

 

On the rear of the device, we have a nice brushed metal back cover and the 5MP camera lens, and the accompanying self-portrait mirror and single LED flash. Nearer the bottom, there’s a pretty large ‘Windows Phone’ logo.

Optimus7-back

 

Flipping over to the front, there’s obviously the 3.8″ display, with the speaker and usual array of sensors above it. Below, there is the Windows key (the button is actually the shape of the logo) and the standard back and search buttons either side of it.

Optimus7-front

 

 

Highlights:

  • Original WP7 user interface
  • Office integration
  • Fast boot up time
  • Protected camera lens
  • Fantastic build quality

Lowlights

  • No expandable memory
  • Average LCD display
  • Slow camera autofocus
  • No mass storage mode
  • No universal email inbox

 

Review

Receiving and unboxing the LG Optimus 7 was personally my first experience of Microsoft’s renewed quest for mobile dominance. A little excited was an understatement and from my first impressions with LG’s hardware combined with Microsoft’s OS, I was very impressed.

Right from the moment I picked it up, I knew this was a quality phone – the first thing I thought of (quite unusually?) was “Wow that is a nice battery cover!” The overall feel in the hand is excellent. The back edges on the side are curved to cater to your hand and fortunately helps the device feel less chunky, which is lucky because the phone is quite a mammoth. At 125mm tall this is definitely not a small device, even if it is just 11.5mm thick. And at just under 160g, it feels pretty hefty too, but it definitely adds to that premium feel.

In fact, it is one of the nicest made phones I have ever come across. The semi-rubberised sides help keep your new investment firmly in your hand, and there is not a single flex or creak in the phone – it is truly solid, of which even HTC would be proud. The battery cover release mechanism is worth a mention too. LG have taken into account that people don’t like the feeling of breaking their phone when they’re trying to pry off the cover (ahem, HTC Desire). Here there is a finger-friendly sized button below the cover, which only needs a firm push and the cover will pop up, rather like a car bonnet. Simply press the button, and lift the lid – no fingernails required.

Optimus7-angled-back

Underneath that bonnet, you’ll find the battery compartment and the sim card slot. Although the sim slot isn’t technically under the battery, you’d still need to remove the battery to swap sims (which probably won’t happen very often as this is a Vodafone exclusive for now). Notice the lack of a microSD card slot that you’d usually come to expect on a phone of this calibre; however this isn’t really an LG omission. Windows Phone 7 currently doesn’t (officially) support expandable memory (yet), as much of the operating system files are stored on the memory. As the Optimus 7 handily comes with 16GB of built-in storage, it shouldn’t be a problem for most users, though just under 15GB is actually available after formatting, and a bit less after taking the system files into account.

Moving to the front of the device, we have the 3.8″ display. For previous Windows Mobile users, don’t worry – it’s a very sensitive and responsive capacitive panel. However, unlike some other manufacturers, LG have gone for a standard run-of-the-mill LCD. In practice, it doesn’t have a huge impact on day to day usability. What it does have going for it is slightly better sunlight readability than a normal OLED display, but OLED does come into its own indoors. The WVGA resolution is just fine for the size and although it may not have Retina display pixel density, individual pixels are certainly not noticeable. The colours are about average, and so are the viewing angles. Colours do change when tilted vertically but horizontally, it’s pretty good. But since LG do make displays themselves, it would have been nice to have some sort of extra screen tech here.

Underneath the display are the buttons. The Windows key, back key, and search key are a requirement for Windows Phone 7 – you’ll find nothing more and nothing less on the front of any other WP7 device. The Windows logo is actually the button, rather than the logo just printed on a button. The flanking back and search buttons do depress in the whole area which is nice – big, thumbable and clicky buttons seem to be more and more difficult to find nowadays.

There is only one criticism I can comment on about the design. The bezel above and below the screen is too large – it makes the phone unnecessarily tall. There is about ¾ of an inch above and nearly a full inch of space below. I do love those buttons, but it would be even nicer if the buttons below the screen were fitted into about ½ an inch of bezel. Functionality would remain more or less the same, and you’d have a much more pocketable device. The Optimus 7 is certainly not the only phone with an oversized bezel, but at least it does give you somewhere to hold it when in landscape.

Optimus7-angled-left

Windows Phone 7 is very much a move away from the commercial market and towards the consumer market, and for many of those consumers that means multimedia, and a major part of that is audio. The sound on the Optimus 7 comes from a single speaker, which doubles as the earpiece for calls – you won’t find any dedicated speaker grills on the device. The sound from this can get very tinny especially at higher volumes but during calls it performed better. That’s not to say it’s amazing; it’s just what you’d expect from a phone like this – slightly above average in all respects. Using the headphones is where it gets better. The supplied headset are of the in-ear type and are better than most supplied headsets by a country mile. The inline mic is actually placed on the cable where your mouth would be (it’s surprising how many there are that are too low down) and they’re very light and comfortable. Although I’m no audiophile, the sound quality from them is pretty decent, except it does sound ever so slightly muffled. Of course, that’s got nothing to do with the phone itself – plug in a decent set of cans and it sounds very nice and balanced.

Another media feature is would be the camera. The Optimus 7, like all its other internals, decided not to go beyond the required call of duty, and features a 5MP autofocus camera, with 720p video recording at 24 frames per second. The camera app launches pretty fast – you’ll be ready to snap within two seconds. The interface is pretty simple to use – press the camera key to take pictures, and there’s onscreen options for camera/camcorder mode, a zoom function, and a settings button. Speaking of settings, there are quite a few, the most notable being the Intelligent shot, Beauty shot, white balance, colour effects, and anti-shake. The intelligent shot feature is supposed to be able to analyse the surroundings and adjust all the settings accordingly, but it didn’t seem to make any difference whatsoever between the normal auto mode and the ‘intelligent’ mode. The rest are pretty self explanatory, but it doesn’t remember any settings you’ve changed. Turn anti-shake on, back out the app and go back in and it will be switched back to the default off. This is particularly annoying as the video defaults to 480p, and every time I want to record in 720p (every time) I have to go into the settings and change it. Hopefully it will be sorted out in a future update. Sometimes, the autofocus does take a second or two longer than you’d expect to focus, but once it’s done, taking pictures is very fast. Picture review is set to a very short time, and so you’re ready to take another picture just a second or two later. Another feature of the camera app I really like is the ability to just swipe left to see the pictures you’ve taken, and then swipe back to go to the viewfinder. This makes viewing your photos then quickly taking more, so much easier.

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In terms of picture quality it’s pretty average for a 5MP shooter. Photos taken in good lighting conditions have good colour accuracy and are overall very nice pictures, but the flash isn’t great – within about half a metre most objects get whitewashed, a typical result from small LED flashes. The 720p video records at 24 frames per second which isn’t really that high – nice smooth video is usually achieved when a camera is capable of 30fps. Anyhow, video seemed much smoother than I thought it would be, and it colours are pretty good too. There was one problem though – even in lowish light, the video recorded much darker than it actually was. Switch to the camera, and the brightness will be what it should be. But switch back to camcorder again, and it suddenly gets darker. I’m not sure whether it’s a duff unit or whether all of them suffer the same problem, but hopefully a firmware update will fix that in the future.

WP_000009 WP_000010 WP_000016

Battery life is an area which can vary greatly depending on use, so read the next few sentences with a pinch of salt and allow for your own usage. You’ll be glad to know that try as I might, I couldn’t run down the battery faster than about 10 hours. It may not sound like a long time, but there were a lot of texts sent, internet sites browsed, games played, and roads navigated all on a modern power-hungry device. The 1500mAh is pretty large but then again that 3.8″ display, speedy processor and hardware accelerated graphics drink a considerable amount of juice. When used less obsessively (around 30 mins 3G browsing, a few calls and texts, light gaming and playing around with the phone), I got squeeze a good day out of the battery, plus about 20% left for the following day. With even lighter use, you can expect something closer to two days, but it would be very unlikely to reach more than that – I’d say two days is about this phone’s max.

Optimus7-angled-right

All that’s well and good, but arguably it’s Windows Phone 7 that’s the main showing here, so let’s dive right in. James has done a comprehensive and in-depth review of the operation system here [http://www.tracyandmatt.co.uk/blogs/index.php/htc-7-mozart-and-windows-phone-7-review] and so I will concentrate on some of the main features that stand out on this particular device.

Holding the power button will give you a short buzz and then you’d be ready to roll in about 25 seconds, which is really quite quick. Starting with the lockscreen, you get a status bar up top with the signal strength, wifi, and battery indicator. When listening to music, there is also a handy drop down bar which gives you basic media and volume controls, and a handy toggle to switch between ring and vibrate. Swiping up pushes the lockscreen up and out of the way, presenting to you the well-known Metro UI in all its live-tile glory. As you’d expect, each and every tile can be moved around or deleted, and more can be added from the main applications list. To do that, a simple swipe left brings to you an alphabetical list of your applications, and holding one down will give you the option to pin it to the home screen.

DSCF0073

Firstly we’ll take a look at the apps specific to LG’s WP7 build; they have added three of their own apps. The first is Panoramic shot. As its name suggests, it allows you to take five pictures that are stitched together to create one super wide (panoramic) picture. This feature is actually available on quite a number of other non-WP7 phones and cameras, but the Optimus 7 only requires you to take the first picture. Once you’ve snapped that first one, you simply pan the camera until it indicates you to stop, and from there it will take the second picture for you when it detects that’s where the next frame should be. Continue this all the way to the fifth one, and it will stitch them for you. The results are actually really good, and this app makes taking a panoramic shot as painless as it could possibly be – well done LG.

The second app is simply called Play To. But play to what, you may wonder? Well, that’s up to you – you can play DRM-free content on your phone, and wirelessly stream it to other devices. They do however have to be DLNA certified, and be on your wifi network but if you can tick those two boxes you’re good to go, and it’s just as painless as the Panoramic shot. You just select what you want to stream through the ridiculously simple interface and you’re away. Getting it to work on a DNLA laptop was as easy as checking a box to enable remote control in Windows Media Player, and my media streamed and played flawlessly. I didn’t have a DLNA tele to test with, but if the computer experience was anything to go by, it should be just as simple.

DSCF0088

The third application added by LG is the ScanSearch app. It’s an augmented reality app (similar to Layar for iOS and Android) and basically just shows you points of interest in your vicinity. It harnesses the phone’s GPS chip and the digital compass to show you how far and in what direction places are. You can search different categories and clicking on one of the points of interest that appear tells you further information like the address and phone number, and clicking again gives you options to view it on Bing maps, search it on the web, and see what else is nearby. What is missing though, is guided directions to places you select. The closest you can get is seeing A and B on the map, but you have to work out how to get there on your own as there’s no navigation function which kind of defeats the purpose in my view. It’s fun to play around with, but it doesn’t have as much in terms of function compared with the other two apps.

DSCF0089 DSCF0090

As the operating system is made my Microsoft, it’s only natural that you’d find Microsoft Office preinstalled on each and every Windows Phone. The Optimus 7 is no different, and it works a treat. It launches just as fast as any other app and includes OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and SharePoint features. OneNote, (a note taking application) simply presents you with a page where you can add a title and type notes below it. Saved notes are displayed as tiles within the app so you can quickly continue writing and editing when you exit and re-enter the application. For documents, only Word and Excel are there as options for a new document – PowerPoint is missing, but if you’re making your presentation on your phone you’ve probably left it too late already! You may not be able to create, but you can edit and make last minute changes to your presentation on the go with the app. SharePoint is useful for businesses that operate a SharePoint server, but as I don’t, I haven’t been able to test all of its sharing features. The experience of Office has always been top-notch on Windows Phones and I’d say it’s among one of the best implementations of any productivity suite on any mobile platform.

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The main thing you do in an Office suite is type, and one of the reasons why I think Office on WP7 is so good is because of the keyboard. Thanks to the 1GHz processor, the keyboard never hangs or lags, and thanks to the responsive screen, every tap is registered. Getting used to the keyboard is very fast and easy, and Microsoft have got the layout right too – the dedicated comma and full stop keys are something I miss on my BlackBerry, and the emoticon shortcut is a nice touch too. The buttons themselves are a good size, bigger than on current iOS devices (because of the larger screen). The word prediction is also just as good, but with a less aggressive approach on auto-correction, so you’d have to get used to taking more notice of whether it changes if you’re coming from an iPhone. Still, I prefer it this way, and overall the keyboard on Windows Phone 7 is nothing short of excellent.

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A feature becoming more and more important, especially in large touchscreen phones is web browsing. Microsoft have clearly been working hard on improving that dreadful Internet Explorer on WM6 as it is now up to date with the best of the best in mobile browsers. It is miles faster than any browser was on previous versions of Windows Mobile, and just as easy to use as Android’s browser or mobile Safari. The speed was very impressive, and never found myself wishing for Opera Mobile like I did on Windows Mobile. In fact, I did run some quick tests, comparing the Optimus 7 and the fourth generation iPod touch (which has near enough the same hardware as the iPhone 4). In very unscientific tests loading up tracyandmatt and BBC Sport, the Optimus 7 did actually trump Safari on the iPod most of the time, while using the same WiFi connection. There is the ability to have several tabs open, and pages can be made a favourite with one tap. There are only a couple of criticisms I would make – when zoomed out and viewing the whole page, small text is not very well rendered. It is still (just) readable, but it could do with a bit more anti-aliasing. When you’re more zoomed in though, text rendering is not a problem. The second issue is that in landscape mode, it is forced into fullscreen. That means there’s no url bar, no back or forward buttons, nothing; only the webpage. Every time you want to search, type in the url bar, navigate back and forth, or favourite a site, you have to turn it back portrait first. Still, its early days and I hope Microsoft will fix this in a future update.

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Another Windows Phone 7 feature is the voice recognition. Simply holding down the Windows key from any menu will bring up the voice commands where you can say anything from “Call mummy” to “Open Office” Many people’s experience with voice recognition has been a negative one, but I am happy to report that the commands with 9/10 times. I have tried out a lot of commands, and only once did I have to repeat.

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The final thing I want to mention is the App Marketplace. Here, you can swipe around featured apps and, click through to go to applications, games or music, which can be further broken down by the usual free, paid, popular and new lists, and they can also be sorted into various genres. Obviously there aren’t a vast amount of apps just yet, but there’s still quite a number to choose from. Many developers out there have praised WP7 for being easy to develop for, and hopefully that (as well as large sales numbers) could draw in more devs to create apps. LG have promised that owners of their WP7 smartphones will get 10 free apps worth around $30 every two months, which is quite a nice perk and selling point. LG have also added their own application store, which can be accessed through the Marketplace. At the time of writing, there are only 10 apps (all free) in the whole LG store, but each one is an LG exclusive, and it will be interesting to see what other apps appear here.

 

Conclusion

One major thing that WP7 has over some other competition is the glancable information thanks to the live tiles. Although it’s still early days and many developers haven’t taken advantage of them yet, they have huge potential and could be one of the main advantages to WP7 and the Metro UI. But perhaps the main thing I like about Windows Phone 7 is the consistency of the user interface. Whether you’re in the People’s Hub or a 3rd party app like BBC News Mobile, the way you interact with the information and the UI elements, all share the same design ethic, interface, and interaction method – swipe up and down to see information, and swipe left or right to see categorised lists or different sections – it’s as simple as that.

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It’s not all positive though – a pretty big issue about this phone (and its brothers from other mothers) is the immaturity of its operating system. I’m a strong believer in that a phone is only as good as its software, and whether the platform will be a success or flop is a question no-one can answer yet. Windows has a massive brand image and is a more or less a household name, but the previous versions of Windows on mobile devices left a sour taste in most users mouths. Why should they go back to a Windows phone? Well there are actually many reasons to say no. Windows Phone 7 has many features docked that were present in previous versions, in their effort to achieve a more refined and polished operating system. There’s quite a lengthy list of notable missing or unsupported features like multitasking, copy and paste, Flash, online video streaming, SD cards, mass storage, tethering, universal search, Bluetooth file transfers, a file manager…the list goes on (and that’s not even mentioning the complete lack of screenshots!). However, we have to keep in mind that this operating system has only just been born, and these missing features doesn’t necessarily mean it will fail; just look at iOS – in its early days there was no app store, no multitasking, no copy and paste, and look how wildly popular it has proven. Microsoft has said they will provide updates directly which hopefully means we’ll get updates when we’re supposed to, avoiding Android-like delays.

If we judge WP7 by its merits rather than its shortfalls then it’s clear that given time, it will evolve and mature, and hopefully into something great. After all, it definitely has bags of potential. If developers get on board, and carriers push the devices then there’s no doubt Windows Phone 7 will be a major player in the future. But now is not the future, and now is when the Optimus 7 is being sold. It is beautifully made and runs WP7 smooth as butter but it isn’t a truly perfect phone – then again, there isn’t one. But should you get one now? If you’re set on a new Windows Phone, then the obvious thing to do would be to compare the other options from HTC and Samsung, but if you decide that the Optimus 7 is for you then I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Review by: Vince

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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