Introduced to the world by LG at Mobile World Congress in February 2011 then officially announced on the 8th of May the LG Optimus Black (LG-P970) is not only one of the world’s thinnest and lightest Android handsets but it also features LG’s NOVA display technology which they say is designed to produce the brightest, clearest and most readable display among mobile screens. Is this really the case? Does the LG Optimus Black really shine brightly and can you read the display even when the sun is shining brightly?
WHERE TO PURCHASE:
Clove Technology – £318 – BUY NOW
INSIDE THE BOX:
- LG Optimus Black Handset
- 1500 mAh Li-ion Battery
- 3 Pin UK Plug with USB slot
- USB to Micro-USB sync and charge cable
- 3.5mm In Ear wired Headphones
- LG-P990 User Guide
For full specifications please visit GSM Arena
- Handset Design
- 4 inch Nova Technology LCD Screen
- LG World Application
- LG App Advisor
- Location of Charge / Sync port
- Back Cover
- Front Facing 2MP Camera
DESIGN & LAYOUT:
TOP: 3.5mm Headphone Socket | Microphone | Micro USB Sync / Charge Port | Power Button
LEFT: Volume Up and Down Rocker Button | G Button
BOTTOM: Finger Slot for Rear Cover Removal
FRONT: Internal To Ear Speaker | 2 MP Front Facing Camera | Menu / Home / Back / Search Touch Buttons
BACK: 5MP Camera | Single LED Flash | External Speaker
When you get the chance to review a “world’s first” handset you instantly look forward to getting your hands on it and seeing what the manufacturers have done to showcase just how exciting this is. Sadly, LG really hadn’t done anything to showcase how thin or how bright this non AMOLED screen was. The retail packaging for the handset was a little lacklustre and the images on the front show the Optimus Black with a pure white screen shining outwards… though to be honest it looked tacky and and came across very boring. The inside of the box wasn’t anything special either as it simply carried the exact same packaging style as the Optimus 2X. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a badly packaged box, infact it’s rather nice and very neat however I just feel that given the unique chance LG had to showcase this handset, they simply flushed it away.
On the Optimus 2X Review I mentioned just how hard it was to get the back cover off the handset, this one wasn’t any better, infact it was a lot worse. The finger indent is a great size however the back cover makes up so much of the side walls on the handset that it makes it very difficult to remove it without using both hands and prizing it off.
When the back cover was removed it was refreshing to see that LG had stuck with the design we seen on the Optimus 2X. It was very neat and provided easy access to the Micro SD slot, sim card slot and battery.
The power on gave me exactly what I was looking for and exactly what LG had advertised. The 4 inch NOVA Technology powered LCD display was shining like a national guitar (excuse the pun). In all seriousness this was probably the brightest and cleanest display I had seen on a mobile device that did not have Super AMOLED technology. The brightness almost made me forget about how slow the LG boot animation was.
It was now time to set the handset up. I was happy to see that LG included the “Push button request” in the WiFi settings area, this makes life so much easier for the non tech savvy folk (obviously I personally didn’t;t use it).
The next couple of screens took me to the Email Account Setup screen which gave options for MS Exchange or Other. I don’t use MS Exchange so set up an IMAP account to the Land of Droid email server which took around 2 minutes. though this is not specific to the phone itself, I should mention that it seemed to complete the setup a lot quicker than any other handset at this stage.
It was next time to setup LG’s Integrated Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. I hit the skip button at this point as the only one that was any good out of the integrated apps was the Twitter one which I chose not to set up as the official Twitter app is slightly better (and I would say only slightly).
After setup had completed I was greeted with the screen below. It was nice to see that LG had thought on their target handset with this screen. We should never assume that the users know how to do everything and this clearly was thought out by the design team.
The home screen was standard for LG with the custom launcher bar at the bottom and 7 home screens set as default. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the image LG have chosen to be the default wallpaper was an excellent choice, it continued to show off the screen NOVA technology LG had used.
The home screen was very simple to customise. The regular method of moving things around the home screen(s) by a long press of your finger on the icon / widget was there though LG had changed the long press on a blank area of the screen to display a new menu across the launcher area that let you add widgets, shortcuts, folders and change the wallpaper. As soon as you chose a widget, shortcut or folder you were presented with a grid on the screen that showed free space… a simple place of your new addition on the screen then a press of the back back key took you out of edit mode and back into regular screen view.
Adding a Live Wallpaper wasn’t just as easy though. To get the live wallpapers (even though I hate them) I had to choose the wallpapers icon on the wallpaper tab of the edit function and I was then given the option. This was not documented anywhere on the screen and for me was a miss by LG.
I was very happy to see that the version of the weather widget being used was the one that when clicked, took you to a full screen current date and time weather overview with the very sweet animation based on the weather being displayed. The application also gave an hourly overview with a graph showing temperature and humidity being the main focus. A 15 day forecast was also given in the tabbed options which I personally found to be great given that most weather apps only give a 5 day forecast.
A click on the launcher bar’s Applications icon took me into the regular application menu though again we were greeted with a helpful info box telling us how to use one of features of the application menu.
The menu was bog standard for LG and it contained all the things we had found on the Optimus 2X like the layout and category manager menus.
The one thing I did notice and was please to see that they had removed the Home Selector app which was reviewed by us as being pointless anyway.
The other noticeable changes to the menu structure was the change to the Smart Share icon and the introduction of LG World which we will cover a bit later in the review.
Desperate to see if the App Advisor on this device had retained the animated juggling android logo that I liked so much I clicked on the app and there it was….. for a fraction of a second before I got hit with the Update Available pop up. I never liked this app in the first place and now dislike it even more because they are forcing me to get rid of juggling Andy (that’s my pet name for the Android logo for those that don’t know).
I hit OK on the update much to my dismay and was greeted by the “Install Blocked” pop up which takes you to the settings menu and an area that you can select to allow apps to be installed that are not from the Android Market. I have to say that LG missed the boat on this one again. Why should I need to agree to this and worry if I am doing the right thing or not for applications that come built in to the phone? Surely it would be better to either have these apps with a market signature or pre-install them?
LG World which we had mentioned earlier as being a new feature was next on my list to check out. When I clicked on the icon I was taken to an LG webpage where I could download the application. After clicking the Download LG World button I was asked to rename the file as the content already existed with that name which confused me a bit. If the application was already there then why was I prompted to download it again?
I got over my confused state quite quickly and decided just to do what the screen told me and I downloaded the app with a new name which then fixed itself anyway when it over wrote the existing application and re-installed itself.
It was worth the wait! LG World was amazing. After signing in…..OK you caught me, I had used LG World before this review with the Optimus 3G which we will review on here over the next week. Anyway, after signing in I was told that I already had a device registered with LG World and was given the option to add this new handset to my account which of course I did.
What lay before me was LG’s answer to the Android Market and though there were no where near as many apps on LG World as there were on the market this was a refreshing addition and a perfect excuse to get rid of the LG App Advisor.
When messing around with the settings on the handset I noticed that there was a dock option in there. This is for the LG SDT-180 Multimedia Desk Dock which you can buy along with the phone. It would have been nice to have had this during the review though as it looked pretty good.
Next on my list was to see exactly what version of Android OS we were using. I had a firm feeling that we would be stuck with Froyo though I had half hoped that LG sent me an updated test handset with Gingerbread but sadly I was correct, the phone was running 2.2.2.
On the off chance I clicked the Software Update Check and there it was… an available Software Update. I clicked download and off it went doing its stuff. The phone re-booted, I headed back into the settings menu and BANG! my excitement was flattened like pancake. The software update done nothing to the Android Version, I was stuck on 2.2.2 and all that had changed was the software version to V10c from V10a.
The web browser was next on my hit list and it performed as well as I expected it too though being honest I didn’t feel that it handled the colours as well as it should for the type of screen the phone had.
The Quadrant test on the phone placed the Optimus Black just below the Nexus One on 1,298 points which was to be expected considering it runs on the OMAP 3630 chipset which is the same as the Motorola Droid X which sits just 3 bars below the Optimus Black on performance.
I’m not going to pretend that there were no lags on the phone and wont stick up for it in this area though it is worth noting that the lags were very infrequent and lasted no more than milliseconds. We can only assume this is down to chipset optimisation though can’t say for sure.
Moving away from the software and on to the phone itself, the Optimus Black has fixed a number of the things I found wrong with the Optimus 2X. The volume buttons had moved from the right hand side of the phone over to the left hand side which for a right handed user is the most comfortable option. Below the volume buttons over on the left hand side was a new G button.
The G button is one of the other things the handset really didn’t need. Its main functions include panning up or down, left or right when viewing photos in the gallery or when surfing the web, as well as switching between home screens by tilting the handset to the left or right. Do we honestly need a button for this LG? Personally I would have preferred if this was a dedicated camera button.
Talking about the camera we managed to pull off a number of shots over the 3 weeks we had this handset and between me using it for 3 days and Stephen using it for almost 2 weeks solid we were both very impressed with the performance. Despite only having a 5 MP camera the images were clear and crisp though it is worth pointing out that the digital zoom on distant shots really doesn’t help with the images at all and should probably be left alone if you can afford to. The front facing 2 MP camera performed just like any other front facing 2 MP camera and didn’t give me anything extra to write home about.
Going back to the hardware, another disappointment for me was the location of the charge / sync port which sat right at the top of the phone making it difficult to use and charge the phone at the same time. I will mention though that it has a slide over cover to protect it which is a BIG plus for me as I hate these pull open, hang on a hinge of rubber type covers that we have seen on other handsets.
Call quality on the handset was excellent as far as listening indoors goes though for some reason LG thought it wise to place the microphone on the top of the phone which in turn picked up noises like wind and amplified them way more than you would expect on any handset. This affected more than just the call quality and passed through to video recording too sadly.
The LG Optimus Black lives up to it’s claims of being a lightweight super bright single core handset. The NOVA based screen should 100% be adopted on all of the LG range of handsets as it offers so much in terms of clarity and brightness. There are not many handsets that let you have a clean view of the screen in bright daylight and this is one of the ones that does just that.
There are a number of “annoyances” on this handset but it is worth pointing out that they are exactly that, annoyances and nothing more. Unfortunately there are also a number of design flaws on the handset too which makes the annoyances seem more than what they are.
There aren’t many if not any other handsets on the market though at this price that offer the same screen quality or weight and dimensions though if I had the money to spend I would go out and buy the cheaper Optimus 2X and live with the weight and lack of NOVA screen.
Overall Score: 7 / 10
Posted by: John
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