The L7 is square, man!

- June 17th, 2012
LG Optimus L7

LG Optimus L7

I find it odd strange that a company would name a phone after a derivative of the  ’50s slang term “square,” but that’s exactly what LG did with its Optimus L7. Not just because square means uncool, but because referencing the ’50s makes the phone sound like a relic. But then… retro is in again!. And the ’50s are really retro. So perhaps using a decades-old term for uncool, makes it cool.

And to be fair, the phone is undeniably boxy. With its black metallic, ridged non-contoured back, the 125.5-mm-by-67 mm-by-8.8-mm phone looks like a mini cigar tin. But at 122 g, it is lighter than I would have expected and the ridged back provides the hand a good grip on the phone.

Running on a 3G network instead of LTE (or 4G), the L7 doesn’t provide the same Internet horsepower as some of the other recent phones I’ve reviewed. But if you’re on a budget, this can be good as LTE/4G data plans are significantly more expensive. I got speeds between 1.77-2.53 Mbps for downloads and 0.34-0.35 Mbps for uploads on Rogers’ network. (Supposedly it can get up to 7.2 Mbps.) These might seem like low numbers but it’s sufficient for general web surfing. And it provides a strong and stable portable Wi-Fi hotspot, meaning you can surf the web on your laptop or another Wi-Fi-enabled device through its 3G network.

Admittedly, video playback has some problems. But it’s not a problem with the Internet connection, it’s a browser issue. Both the apps for YouTube (which comes installed) and Netflix (which doesn’t) worked fine for me and I rarely had buffering issues. But I wasn’t so lucky with mobile video sites. YouTube’s site occasionally worked but most others would just spin when I clicked on play. I’m not clear on whether it was a codec issue (i.e. additional software was needed) or whether the phone was trying to download the video instead of stream it. But even after I installed Flash, they still didn’t load properly, so my guess is the latter.

And the videos that do play, don’t look great. Sound quality for all media playback  is great. The basic equalization is good, voices are clear and sound isn’t distorted. And the L7 has 2 GB of internal storage and it can take up to a 32 GB MicroSD card for storage so there’s quite a lot of room for your music collection.

The image  is less impressive. The L7 boasts a 4.3-inch capacitive LCD TFT display from Gorilla Glass with 16.7 million colours on a 800×400-pixel WVGA resolution. But the colours look washed-out on the screen, creating a generally bland image.

Unfortunately, this poor image quality spreads to the cameras as well. The L7 comes with a 5.0 MP camera with autofocus and LED flash as well as a cheaper front-facing camera. But the results are far from desirable. Most people don’t expect a front-facing camera image to look great so I’ll let that slide, but the main camera image looked washed-out as well. And in low light, the image was pixellated too. The flash only seemed to wash out the image more.

Video shot with it looks just as bad. And the sound is often muffled as the mic can only clearly pick up someone if they are speaking directly into it. And yet, somehow it still picks up unwanted background noise.

But the phone’s interface is easy-to-use. Running on Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3), LG has provided a very simple skin to sit on top. It’s not very flashy. It’s just rows of icons. And the L7 responds much faster than I would have expected from a 1 GHz single-core phone. When it comes to loading and running apps, this phone seems as quick as many of its dual-core competitors. Rarely, did I get lag times with apps and it was easy to type on.

The L7 comes with a 1,700 mAh battery with up to 6 hours of talk time and 18 days on standby. With moderate use, you can get through the day without charging it.

But when it comes to making calls, the phone falls down again. The signal strength is generally fine but the volume makes me rethink what I said in a previous review about how sound quality shouldn’t be an issue with any new phone. The in-call volume is rather distorted even when you turn it down. And your side of the conversation will also dart in and out as the phone mic suffers from the same issue as the video mic. If you move your head too much, your voice will drop out as you talk.

As I mentioned earlier, the sound on media playback is quite good, so it’s possible a software update could fix the distortion issue with the in-call volume. But unless you duct-tape the phone to your head so it can’t move while you make a call, you’ll likely want a Bluetooth headset. (Luckily, Rogers is currently offers one for free when you activate a phone with a three-year plan.)

Still, since a lot of people text more than they talk nowadays, this may not be a concern. If you’re looking for a phone to surf the Web, listen to music and message your friends, the L7 may be a good choice, because the price is reasonable. It is available through Rogers  for a penny with a three-year plan and $274.99 for a monthly plan and Fido for free for a three-year plan and $300 to buy it outright.

Personally, I think I’ll wait for LG’s next ’50s-inspired phone – the Daddy-O.

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1 comment

  1. silver account | July 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    The L7 sports a 4.3-inch WVGA Nova display with an 800×480-pixel resolution and 450 units of brightness. Though the lowered specs aren’t as impressive as those of other phones, like the LG Optimus 4X HD, the screen is still decent in its own right. App icons were crisp, text was sharp and at maximum brightness, colours were vivid. Although gradient patterns looked somewhat streaky, on the whole, images were rich and highly saturated.

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