LG Optimus GT540

Full review Budget Android offering with great touchscreen

Image 1 of 2 LG Optimus GT540 side
LG Optimus GT540 side
Image 2 of 2 LG Optimus GT540
LG Optimus GT540

LG's new effort pairs great design with Android smarts, but it really needs an update

The LG Optimus GT540 aims to bring the Korean mobile maker’s new found skills for sharp phone design to the lower end of the Android arena, where it hopes to do battle with the likes of the HTC Wildfire, Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini and T-Mobile Pulse Mini.

Sadly, that means bleeding edge Android features are MIA, along with some top end specs too.

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Perhaps the biggest casualty in LG’s race to the bottom is Android itself. The version here is Android 1.6, which was cutting edge roughly a year ago and has since been superseded three times over. That’s not to say the OS itself is a struggle to use. Customise the homescreen with widgets from the Android Market. The familiar sliding screen unlock feature is here, as is the simple menu system which can be accessed by pressing the bottom of the touchscreen.

LG Optimus GT540: Screen skills

That’s pressing rather than sliding, as you do on Android phones rocking capacitive touchscreens. See, the Optimus utilises a resistive effort, which means prods rather than swipes are the order of the day. That said, it’s surprisingly assured and doesn’t require repeated stabs in order to register commands. We’d even go as far as saying this is one of the best resistive touchscreens we’ve ever come across. But it still doesn’t measure up to the much classier capacitive effort on the HTC Wildfire. However, the 320 x 480 resolution stacks up well against rival budget Android phones. There’s occasional blocky rendering on icons and while watching web videos, but nothing to detract from overall performance.

However, the virtual keyboard is a major failing. Tapping out missives minus spelling errors using the QWERTY version is nigh on impossible, largely down to the fact Android 1.6 is under the hood. The virtual pad update that came with Android 2.1 has given HTC’s phones the best keyboards in the business. Choosing the numeric version makes typing texts easier, but you’ll want to avoid using the QWERTY edition in portrait mode unless you’re keen on getting a spot of RSI.

LG Optimus GT540: Camera

At 3-megapixels, the Optimus’s snapper just can’t compare with some of LG’s older phones, such as the Arena. The sensor and the lack of a flash are both real failings and mean that this is a peeper for use during day time or in bright rooms only. Put this aside, however, and the controls are actually pretty impressive. The virtual jog wheel offers up a welter of smart features including the chance to tweak the white balance, choose a shooting mode, pare down the pixel count and even activate blink detection. It’s perhaps best to remember that this is a phone aimed at the budget end of the market rather than at those jonesing for a compact replacement.

LG Optimus GT540: Multimedia maven

The LG Optimus isn’t lacking in the media department. The music player is standard Android fair, but it’s very easy to navigate and creating playlists is as simple as tapping the playlist tab and hitting create new. Likewise, video functionality is basic but intuitive. It also handles playback well thanks to wide-ranging file support including Xvid and DivX. Likewise, the browser keeps things nice and simple, although the lack of multitouch means zooming isn’t the most pleasant of experiences. For a more complete mobile web offering, we recommend nabbing Opera or Firefox Mobile the minute you get the phone up and running. All this media tinkering does hammer battery life and we found the Optimus gasping for juice at least once day.

One area where you can’t knock the Optimus is value. Starting at £15 a month on a two year Orange deal, with 100 minutes and unlimited texts, it’s cheaper than a night at Wetherspoons. Even pricier offerings aren’t bad. Vodafone has the cell for £30 a month on an 18 month package including unlimited texts and 300 minutes of calls.

That places it right up against the T-Mobile Pulse Mini and HTC Wildfire. We’d recommend the latter over the Optimus. While its screen resolution doesn’t match up, the capacitive touchscreen, up-to-date Android software and HTC Sense make it the winner. Compared to the T-Mobile Pulse Mini though, this is a far better bet.

The LG Optimus GT540 is out now, find out more from LG

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Specifications
OS: Android 1.6
Processor: 600 Mhz
Storage: MicroSD
Screen: 3inch, 320 x 480
Connectivity: HSDPA 7.2Mbps, Wi-Fi, 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth 2.1
Camera 3.15 MP
Video: 640x480
3G Talk time: 500 mins
Dimensions/weight: 109x55x13mm/77g
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