The LG Optimus L7 is the flagship smartphone from the Korean giant's L-Style range, offering Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich action for the mid-level masses
First announced back in March at Mobile World Congress (MWC) as the standout device from LG's new L-Style of “lifestyle” handsets (which also includes the LG Optimus L3), the LG Optimus L7 (opens in new tab) won't be heading to the Android top-table to do battle with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X.
LG Optimus L7: Build
At first glance, our attention was aroused by the slick aesthetics of the L7 (our review sample was the fetching white version) but, on closer inspection, it's easy to draw comparisons between it and the Samsung Galaxy S2. Pretty it may be, original it isn't.
And, the sad thing for LG is that the build quality isn't quite on a par with its Korean rival - although that's not to say that the L7 isn't a stylish device. If it has anything, it's style, but it's more High Street than catwalk.
Decked in a plastic chassis with a metallic edging, the LG Optimus L7 feels solid enough in hand but the removable back panel (which also contains the NFC antenna) pops off with ease and is anything but sturdy.
The presence of a physical button, despite this being an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) device, helps to reinforce the Samsung comparisons as well.
We also weren't too keen on the two capacitive buttons that are invisible until touched. Sure, there's not too far your fingers can stray either side of the home button but it's surprising how often you'll forget which side hosts which soft-touch button.
Weighing 123g and measuring 127.5 x 69 x 8.7mm, the L7 does manage to cram in the 4.3-inch screen without making the handset too bulky.
LG Optimus L7: Features
The LG Optimus L7 trumps the Sony Xperia S and matches the HTC One V by running Android 4.0, albeit with a custom UI thrown over the top. However, LG's UI is fairly minimalist and doesn't really take away from the Ice Cream Sandwich experience. There are a couple of notable native omissions such as face-unlock and widget resizing but that's no great shakes.
Although, speaking of widgets, there are a distinct lack of options to place on the five homescreens that the custom skin provides. There are some nice touches in LG's Android interface though; we love the unlock screen that lets you peer, portal style, onto the homescreen and the way the icons bounce between homescreen swipes is fun.
The 5-megapixel camera is another plus point, with LG providing a wide range of shooting options and settings (including a fantastic point to focus mode) and the sensor producing clear, bright images. But video recording isn't great – just 640 x 480 VGA footage.
On board storage for your digital lifestyle is a paltry 4GB although you do have the option of expanding this with microSD.
NFC features aren't anything to get too excited about at this point. You won't be throwing away your credit cards and cash just yet – the only NFC action out of the box is an automated settings tweak using a supplied tag. Stick the tag on your desk at work, for example, and you can quickly switch off Wi-Fi, put the L7 on silent mode, and so on.
LG Optimus L7: Screen
The display on board the L7 is a spacious 4.3-inch IPS LCD one, with a resolution of 800 x 480. It's okay for watching standard definition video, browsing the web, tweeting, email and so on, but throw anything HD at it and you notice its shortcomings. It's also terrible under bright sunlight.
4.3-inch seems to be the flavour of month with Android handsets at the moment and, in our experience, is the perfect size for viewing HD video content.
LG Optimus L7: Performance
Not that your L7's innards would appreciate you trying to play HD content on it. Anything 720p and above is a no-no, as are games with anything more than basic graphics. Music playback is good, however, with strong sound from both the internal speaker and out of the 3.5mm jack.
All of the action is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 1GHz CPU, which, to be honest, is massively underwhelming in a smartphone world that's being dominated by dual and quad-core chipsets.
512MB of RAM is hardly mind-blowing either and it's this low-key power setup that results in frequent performance issues. App loading and switching is often slow and laggy, and the L7 is also prone to the occasional freeze or crash.
LG Optimus L7: Battery
Again, not brilliant. Our stress test – streaming HD video from YouTube on a loop – resulted in a lifespan of 183 minutes, at least 100 minutes short of what the likes of the Sony Xperia S and the HTC One V managed.
And, even with brightness turned down and some power saving features enabled, you'll still need to charge the LG Optimus L7 before the day is done.
LG Optimus L7: Verdict
The LG Optimus L7 may have style, but it doesn't have a lot of substance. Call clarity is great and it's fine for basic tasks. But, try to push it even a slightly bit further and you'll come unstuck.
We know that this isn't the handset that LG intends to signal its big return to the Android arena with (that's the task of the LG Optimus 4X HD) but it's one that it will want to make an impression on the mid-level masses. Sadly, the LG Optimus L7 fails to compete with what's already available from HTC, Samsung and Sony.
LG Optimus L7 availability: Available now
LG Optimus L7 Price: £250
Review by Paul Lamkin