First we would like to thank LG for letting us review this device and give you all an insight into what you will be getting with the LG-E400 (Optimus L3).
You can pick up the Optimus L3 from various retail outlets and online. Right now they are typically between £70-£90. A crowded market in that range now and the LG Optimus L3 has a lot of rivals to go up against.
This offering from LG is a low-level budget device aimed at the first time buyer market and a cheaper option to get into Android. We recently reviewed the Vodafone Smart 2, The Huawei Ascend G300 and other budget devices in the £100 and under category of Android handsets. This device fits in here and we will be putting it to the test and seeing if it’s a good option to take in the low-level smartphone market.
Now I must confess to not being a LG fan and the story here for me reviewing this device as follows: John McKenzie your Founder and Editor-In-Chief decided to send me a “Mystery Device”, arriving it was the LG-E400 or as we will refer to it from the now, the LG L3. Hoping to turn my head and make me like LG and it’s devices is the mission and here goes.
In The Box:
The Vodafone Smart 2 review unit that we received comes with simply the basics. It contains 1x Micro USB cable, 1x LG Optimus L3 booklet to get you started, the device itself of course and the power adaptor.No headphones though. Not great really, no hands free, no way to listen to music, I know you can use your own pair, but really you should be provided with some with the device itself. Also as this is a review device their was no MicroSD card provided, I think they could of done myself, but hey. I would of thought retail outlets will provide one at their own choosing though.
Front Face: On the front face is the screen surrounded by the plastic bezel/chassis, it’s got a chrome look around the trim of the device, but it is plastic and the impression will fool nobody. It’s a square look and finish, and it ultimately looks cheap and feels it really. Along the top you have the LG logo and above the that speaker grill.
The button arrangement is silly in my opinion as well. You have three buttons and 2 are capacitive with the additional middle button being a plastic physical button. They are from left to right: Menu, Home and Back. Why not all capacitive? The middle home button also feels when pushed very flimsy and a audible creak is heard that feels like a cheap plastic toy button from a kids play thing.
Top: Along the top of the L3 on the left as you look face on is a 3.5mm audio jack connection, very nicely positioned in my view along the top and to one side. You also get on the right the power/wakelock button, slightly raised this button is pressed easily and had no issues at all.
Left Side: The Volume rocker is situated on the upper middle side here and is quite a creaky plastic button set. Is responds well though and no issues were had in my time with the device.
Right Side: Nothing.
Bottom: On the bottom of the L3 in the centre we can see the MicroUSB port. Also with that is the mic right next to that, which as the phone is to your ear, the mic is situated well to pick up all the voice input well enough nicely. No issues or no problems here and the cable provided fit well.
Rear Face: The main camera lens is found situated in a designed strip as you can in the top middle section of the back cover. This is a black matte finished strip that has in the centre the lens and beside it marked 3.0, obviously indicating it’s a 3.0MP camera. Shockingly their is no flash, nope none at all, I know bad isn’t it. I know it’s a budget device and all but come on LG, this is 2012 and even the budget offerings now have a flash for the camera, poor show here.
Underneath And Back Cover: The removable black plastic back cover cover has a matte like designed and fell to it and you can see in the image it’s grooved finish. It feels okay in the hand, almost like an added grip in a sense, some may like it and some may not, I enjoyed it’s feel in my hand myself. It comes off pretty easy and no flimsy feeling that it will break like some back covers. Once off you have at the the battery housing pretty much square in the middle. Within this you can see he standard sized sim card slot on the left from the bottom and on the left side facing from the back, we have the microSD card slot.
The battery is a 1500mAh removable Li-Ion 3.7v type. Surprisingly quite large and we will touch on that a little later in the review. Underneath this L3 comes a nicely fitting apparatus. The back cover slides on with ease and covers everything well. Although very plastic and cheap feeling, it is well put together and built.
Coming in at 11.7mm thick and a lightweight 109 grams in weight, the L3 is a compact device that comes with minimal ports and eye catching designs. It’s simplistic and minimal, with little fancy designs and is pretty smoothly finished all round.
The LG Optimus L3 of course isn’t the best built though. It’s cheap feeling, all over plastic pretty much and feels it too. The again at the price of £70 and under that it is retailing at right now, you can’t discourage it at all, it’s not high end and it’s budget is what we must remember, this noted, it’ is nicely put together and feels decently made. You feel assured let’s say that it’s not crap.
Nothing great by LG here and spectacular. I feel they could of done and better to be honest. This is something you expect of ZTE, Alcatel or Huawei, not LG, but then again they have slipped the past 18 months and looks like they take the cheap and easy route. The L3 certainly has had that treatment.
Under the bonnet here powering the L3 is a Qualcomm MSM7225A that is clocked at 800Mhz. Pretty standard in low level budget handsets nowadays and ARMv7 chip can handle a fair few things thrown at it as well. The RAM is on the low side and that is disappointing, it comes in at paltry 384MB, not good in 2012, even on a budget device, it will struggle with this RAM at such a low level quite often. The chip also has a embedded Qualcomm Adreno 200 Enhanced GPU, with OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenGL ES 1.1, OpenVG 1.1, EGL 1.3, Direct3D Mobile capabilities. This ensures you that it will play some of the usual foray of games like Angry birds and also display Maps, graphic challenging media and the like without any troubles. It’s not the greatest, but it is better than some budget devices out there.
Internal storage wise the user gets 150Mb accessible. Not a lot by any standard so it won’t get you too many apps, but again the newer user will be fine with that I’m sure. Check out the specifications for more if needed ask questions in the comments section at the bottom of this review.
The LG L3 screen in a word is rubbish. It’s LCD TFT screen is well pitiful at best, but let’s get down to what is what first. It’s 240 x 320 resolution and that comes in at 125ppi, it’s pretty abysmal by today’s standards that LG even at the bargain basement level are using QVGA screen so cheap that it’s this bad.
Why’s it so bad you ask? Well it’s a few things that we need to hit on here: The viewing angles are the worst I have seen on an Android device, yes that bad, unless it’s completely centre your face and vision you can’t see anything on screen pretty much at all. Washed out blacks turn grey and the colours become all distorted and blurry screen time it becomes. It’s grainy, poor viewing angles and pixelated view makes the screen terrible. poor show LG and not good enough.
Now that said, WHEN you face the screen and get a good viewing angle, It is fine. No blur on moving and navigation, and it all looks okay, it’s just a shame everything else and general use becomes hard when the screen is so bad here. The 256K colour contrast ration and poor 125 pixels-per-inch image density let it down big time and the screen size makes it even harder.
One good thing on the LG Optimus L3 is that their is not a lot of bloat or LG skinning that interferes with the user experience. In my view the skinning and little touches LG have made here tailor quite nicely for the user and add to the stock Android quite well.
Running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and LG’s Optimus 2.0 lite UI it offers a minimal and simplistic approach. A dock, 5 homescreens and lightly skinned by LG in that it doesn’t interfere to much and deter the Android experience.
The screens are loaded up with the Google Search bar widget to access Google quickly, along also with a foray of useful applications to get quick access to what you need that is pre loaded.
Along the dock you get the essentials. From left to right you can see above you get; Phone, Contacts, Messaging and finally the App Drawer shortcut icons. All simple and easy for you to use and as this is marketed for the young or first time Android buyer, It’s a simple and easy layout for that person type with no hassles. The launcher itself and it’s navigation was decent enough. Scrolling caused no problems and was quite smooth, the CPU handles everything quite well really and it never got bogged down in my use of the device at all.
As you can see with the image above the notification pull down menu utilizes a lot of the space and as it’s a small screen that isn’t hard. But it does give you some handy add ons that you normally see in stock or other OEM’s skins. It has settings toggles in left to right: Brightness, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and Data. Quick and handy toggles are always great and this addition is welcome. You also get a music controller in the pull down menu, although nice, I think it’s a little unnecessary and space taking. You have all those screens to use and put in a music widget for quick access, I don’t need one in my notification menu. A small gripe, but it is annoying being always there. It was responsive and notifications via tapping went into the task or application at hand without an issue.
Above you can see everything that is in the app drawer and pre loaded. Not a lot extra or of LG bloat surprisingly. The Pre Loaded Apps application has just one application called LG Smartworld and it wouldn’t install. No doubt a hub for LG and it’s services, nonetheless it didn’t get in the way. Everything else is pretty much stock with a little LG skinning and it’s theme or simple, minimal and basic is carried along here with the software as well. The App Manager included by LG gives the first time or young market user a easy way to navigate through various options shown below that will help you ease into the world of Android and control your applications as needed. It has 3 options and they are running applications, downloaded apps and storage. The running applications is a task manager/killer. Now I recommend not killing any applications and letting Android do it’s work itself, but it’s an option if you do ever need to kill a rogue app. The downloaded apps section is what the description suggests and you can uninstall nay of those downloaded apps here. The third shows you the storage of your system memory and internal memory. Handy addition for the first time user, but useless for anyone else who can use Android as it has these options built in anyway.
A nice simple set of touches by LG sticking with minimal and not messing things up by adding bloatware and unneeded apps. If you download and install any apps you can see that they sit below in a downloads section in the app drawer, a tad annoying as you have to scroll down every time to get to these and no doubt the apps you use the most will be these, but of course that’s what the home screens are for aren’t they. So not that much of a annoyance, I’m just being picky.
The messaging and contacts section of Optimus 2.0 Lite is basic and functional. You can access the contacts or phone via the shortcuts in the dock or app drawer itself, the contacts section looks like stock Android and is simply skinned a little with tweaks and touches. scrolling up and down shows you all your contacts, you can add contacts, email, addresses and the usual foray of details you wish. You can also search from the top as pictured above straight away for a contact. You have the dialler, call logs, contacts and groups panes at the top to select from.
The dialler is not that bad. Stock Android which many budget devices use in the Droid market doesn’t have a smart dialler and it’s annoying. The LG Optimus L3 does. type name or number and it will bring this straight up for you to tap and call quickly. The calls out and received on the other hand wasn’t the best. It wasn’t the best quality and often it was muffled and distorted. Hear able, but poor quality.
SMS and the keyboard is okay, it’s basic and simple, but again leaves little to be desired. It’s a small screen and although the keyboard takes up quite a bit of room onscreen, it was functional and I found myself making little mistakes, typing with ease and it predicted well. That said, I can see if some find it cramped and cumbersome. The keyboard was basic and left little room to see the task ahead above when typing out anything in what task you are doing. It’s not the worst keyboard I’ve used though by any shot, and was easy to use and the first time user or teen market could use this out of the box pretty easy. QWERTY and landscape typing is pretty much unusable. It’s tiny screen and large QWERTY keyboard make it so hard to type. It offers little room to get in your key strokes and keeping to portrait is the only option really. Not ideal if you like landscape.
The messaging of the L3 is again minimal and basic. Seems it’s a running theme here LG doesn’t it, basic and minimal or just cheap and bereft of any imagination for a budget device maybe. However, moving on, the messaging on the L3 is functional and works just like stock Android. You have access via the icon in the dock or the app drawer. Their is no social integration and it’s basic as noted. Anyone who have used a phone pretty much knows the basic messaging layout and that is what you get here. Nothing fancy and nothing feature extra, it just works and is functional.
It’s pretty much all Android MMS here and it’s attachment system, features and implementation is what you get but skinned by the Optimus 2.0 Lite.
The L3 offers multitasking in a way by pressing and holding the home button. You the user are offered a pane of 8 recent apps. It’s no ICS or Jelly Bean by no stretch, this is Android Gingerbread’s system here and although it works, it’s not pretty. The lockscreen is not that bad and holds some information that is usual. By sliding up to unlock you go straight to the homescreen. When charging as you can see it shows your charging info with an image and percentage. The time, date, calls and messaging info is shown as well when you wake the device. Quite nice touches and better than just the Gingerbread stock lockscreen.
Overall the software and interface running on the Optimus L3 is at best average. Unimaginative and basic is what I would use to describe it, with no fancy features and extras to speak of and nothing that pops out.
It does zip along quite well with the 800Mhz processor and Adreno 200 Embedded GPU. Lists, applications, scrolling and navigating around was quite smooth. After some heavier load and more multitasking it becomes sluggish though, but probably not something that it will get exposed to much in the market it is aimed at I should imagine.
The whole launcher UI offering is overall a pleasant and minimal experience. It’s easy to use for the user and first time user at that it is marketed for. The L3 UI could of been worked on more in my opinion and made a lot more creative with added touches for the user. Since it is for the first time user or teen market, It would of been nice to see more social integration.
Unfortunately the UI and software gets bogged down by such a small screen. Their is no way around this and LG should of made it less cramped and more accessible in UI to compensate for the small screen they chose to go with, but it’s cheap and it’s an easy route in the budget market. Not the way in my opinion as you can make a budget device great and one that is made to work well in constraints of price and cost.
Simple, minimal and basic.
The only camera on the LG Optimus L3 is in a word, abysmal. It’s rear-facing only and it has no flash and is not acceptable even at this level of the market and such an omission baffles me in 2012. LG what are you doing here.
The 3MP camera indoors brings low quality shots, outdoors brings low quality shots and pretty much any situation it brings low quality shots. Grainy, poor coloured, and saturated images are produced.
Viewing the images on the display doesn’t do any justice or affinity to what you will ultimately see, due to the poor and small screen of the L3, it’s not what you get when you get on the PC or laptop. Strangely on the larger screen they don’t look that bad. Average, not great, but decent colours and in decent lightened locations, they come out alright.
Software wise it’s again, minimal and basic. Slightly skinned version of the stock Android camera UI and features. You get shooting options from sports, auto, sunset, portrait, night and landscape. Although they don’t seem to make a blind bit of difference at all. You can zoom x2 up and down, and their is various options regarding ISO levels, white balance, colour effects, timer sets and shutter sounds. Again all pretty useless on a poor camera like this. The bottom left you can see in the image a quick view shot of the image just snapped and tapping that takes you into that image within the gallery app.
The video camcorder on the L3 is never going to win awards and running at 640 x 480 VGA and 15fps, it’s pretty poor and basic recording. A little sample is below in the gallery to show you and I found a little jerkiness at times.
Here we will cover media on the device. In this I will include things like music, video and browsing services and functions. Pretty much essentials that we all use in today’s Smartphones.
Music & Video:
As we touched on before, what we have is an awful and small screen on the L3. It is not off to a great start for this device in being digitally and media ready. You’re not going to want to watch any movies, video clips or decent quality video playback if you are serious about decent viewing. Neither also are you going to be streaming content off a service like Netflix or TVCatchup. As the screen has a near non existent viewing angle and is poor anyway,the definition in watching media is terrible. Even when straight on viewing I was disappointed. Pixelated and grainy with no quality whatsoever. Software wise though I must add that it played fluidly and rendered okay. It was simply the poor hardware LG have lumbered this device with screen wise.
Video does not play well, but one place you can take advantage okay here is the music department. Okay, again it’s not the best, but it does perform alright here. Along with the pretty much stock Android music player, you also have an inbuilt FM radio as well. Battery saving and it picked up with no problem on the move, at a decent quality I might add as well.
The feature set of the Android music application is pretty simple and minimal again. It’s stock Android with it being skinned a little. Repeat, shuffle, previous and next track, as well as pause and play of course. It can list your music in categories of artist, albums, songs and a playlists if you so wish to make one. You get a simple control widget to use and a link in the notification centre when you pull down, along with that controller from within the notification bar also.
It was pretty decent in use and nothing special as most of the device as been so far. It works, not spectacularly, but it works fine. Surprisingly you have 1GB of internal storage for media, and you can add to this with up to 32GB of SDCard storage. Quite a bit of music if you wish to stack it full if you love your tunes.
Now in terms of audio playback and it’s quality you receive, the LG Optimus L3 expectedly falls short once again. It’s a budget device and I have take into account that I won’t be hearing the best the market has to offer, but it’s still pretty poor for this market end’s standard too. The inbuilt speaker isn’t placed badly by any means, it doesn’t get in the way of fingers holding the device and is always clear from obstructions. That said, sound is tinny and deprived of bass in nay way, the result is a poor quality listening experience.
I didn’t get any headphones with this review device, so couldn’t test that area of the devices out of the box experience. Overall, I wouldn’t want to use this for video playback at all and music wise, I could find better devices for that use alone. Poor again LG even at this budget level end of the market, It’s not good enough to show this much mediocrity and poor quality on your customers.
We all like to browse the internet for various things, and using a smartphone is supposed to bring that ease of use feel to you without the need to use a laptop or PC at home. Does the LG Optimus L3 do that? In a word, no.
This experience of browsing on the L3 took me back to when I had less sophisticated “Dumbphones”. Using the LG Browser is not a nice and seamless ride, if you are apart of the market of being a first time smartphone user, then you will expect something “Smart” and easy to use. This is not. Again, the screen comes into play, in that being that bad it hampers the whole use of it. Screen aside, it’s still not great.
As you can see by the images above it doesn’t render it to scale well on this size of screen. Fitting the whole www.landofdroid.com page in made it not viewable at all. When scaled automatically it means you have to constantly move from one section of the page to the other just to see what’s on a website’s page and content. Not enjoyable at all to say the least. The text is hard to read, it’s distorted and text reflow doesn’t work that well either really. It’s zoomed in content or nothing with the L3.
Speed wise over 3G and Wi-Fi the browser worked fine. No issues loading or rendering images in a decent amount of time. You can use different browser panes and access these for easy switching as pictures, which was decent in use, but it does miss a simple tabbed experience that requires less steps and clumsy approach. Alongside the URL bar you do have a bookmarks icon that pressing brings all your favourite bookmarks. A nice touch on a hard to use browsing experience and a welcome one for quick use.
Ultimately you have to use a mobile version of a website if available. Using ours as an example you can actually at least read content a lot better as it’s made to fit on these smaller screened devices. It’s not overly enjoyable, nor can you get every website in a mobile version too, but if you can and go for the L3, then go for that option if you can.
You can of course on Android download and install 3rd party browsers. This review is all about the out of the box experience, but I would recommend in exploring other options like Opera Mini or something similar.
Now this is one area that the L3 does alright in. It actually packs a decent battery for it’s budget level and size in the form of a 1500mAh lithium-ion battery. The LG-E400 Optimus L3 is said by LG to have a 600 hour standby time and up to 12 and a half hours worth of talktime. Without hammering the device and using it through the day I was impressed with the battery life. You could get a decent near on full day out of this little device and not keep having to check that battery all the time as we all do on an Android handset.
It maybe one of the only good points so far in this review, but it is a good one in today’s smartphone’s battery sucking devices we all have to put up with now. Want a decent battery life in a device, then this L3 will do you okay.
The Good Stuff:
Decent battery life
Not heavily skinned or bloated with OEM or carrier apps
Decent internal storage for music and media
Easy and simple UI
Nicely placed ports and buttons
The Not-So-Good Stuff:
Camera and video is poor quality
Plastic and cheap feel to the handset
All to simple and minimal. In a bad way.
Wasn’t a “Smart” experience for a new user at all
Another budget device and this time from LG. Does it change my perception of LG? No. Does this break the budget market as a good and decent device to purchase? No. It comes in retail from between the £70-£90 mark and there is lots of competition. Maybe LG feel they can put any old rubbish out, ride on their name and sell a device without much cost of materials, as that is what it feels like with the LG-E400 Optimus L3.
Ultimately it all falls down to possibly the worst screen I have ever used on a Smartphone. Words can not describe how bad it is and you have to see it in person to define just how awful it really is. Away from that it is not the best experience either too overall.
But it does what a first time smartphone user needs. It’s light and compact, it’s functional and easy use out of the box, and it runs quite smoothly as well. It’s good battery life, 1GB internal storage, which expandable up to 32GB, gives the user plenty of media consumption. The teen market also targeted makes this a prime budget device and ideal for a cheap option.
The thing is you have devices like the Orange San Francisco II and Huawei Ascend G300 that are massively better than the L3. They are in the same price bracket and vastly superior in every way. LG are going downhill in my opinion from the top range and down to the bottom. This device just adds to my opinion the LG just churn out cheap to build, unsupported, and devices that are not thinking about the user at all.
Simple, basic, minimal and very much below par. The screen alone makes this handset one to stay away from. Come on LG did you test the L3 out and think it was good enough for market. Word of advice, don’t go for this one.