Following the successes of last year’s L-Series handsets and in particular the Optimus L5, the LG Optimus L5 2 is now here to inject new life into the line, one year on.
This new Android mid-ranger offers a new processor, new OS and new design but is it a worthy update over the original?
LG Optimus L5 2 review: Design
The first thing you notice with the L5 2 is that it’s light, extremely light in fact at just 103 grams. In this instance, when paired to the fact that the bodywork is all-plastic; including the chromed bezel and removable back, it makes for a very cheap overall feel.
The design is an improvement over its predecessor with dark chromed trim, a centrally mounted hardware home button that doubles as a multi coloured LED notification light, its programmable QuickButton on the phone’s right side and a laser cut contour along its edge.
The phone’s front also features capacitive back and menu keys, the earpiece, display and proximity sensor but no front-facing camera; whilst the sides play host to knurled plastic hardware controls such as the aforementioned QuickButton, a volume rocker and the power/lock key on the opposing side.
The back offers up a faux-brushed metal design, but although nice to look at, it again is plastic. Underneath you’ll find space for a 1700mAh battery, full sized SIM card, microSD card up to 32GB and the NFC receiver. There’s also a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and room for a loudspeaker in the bottom right corner.
LG Optimus L5 2 review: Screen
Just as with the previous Optimus L5, the phone totes a 4-inch display but with a higher resolution WVGA (480x800) IPS LCD panel on its frontage.
Certainly a highlight of the device, the screen offers great viewing angles, accurate colours and clarity across both text and images. Blacks are its biggest weakness; a more prominent issue with cheaper, older LCDs as has been used here.
The most unusual quirk appears to be a lack of automatic brightness functionality. The sensor near the earpiece appears to operate solely as a means to detect proximity from phone to face. There’s no option for setting auto-brightness on or off from within the settings and instead there’s only access to a manual brightness slider from within the phone’s settings menu or notifications bar.
LG Optimus L5 2 review: Operating system
LG has made sure the Optimus L5 2 feels current thanks to the inclusion of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. The OS features LG’s own Optimus UI, which although heavy adds a good amount of customisability. It could be perceived as a blank canvas on which to customise or an interface lacking in out the box features, but by default commonly used widgets like clocks and calendars aren’t present by default.
Having said that LG have included a host of new native applications which enhance the experience; SmartWorld offers discounts on popular Android apps, whilst Safety Care includes location monitoring and emergency call settings.
Users can change wallpapers, app icon images and sizes with a long press, access a host of quick settings from the notifications bar and program the phone’s hard QuickButton to launch any installed app
LG Optimus L5 2 review: Camera
With no front-facing camera, the L5 2’s imaging prowess relies solely on its rear-facing 5-megapixel camera.
Aside from the welcome addition of an LED flash, the resultant experience is a pretty lacklustre. Outdoor shots offer only a narrow dynamic range, colour reproduction is also poor in such scenarios. Macro imagery is a little better with pleasing depth of field from the auto-focus camera, but images maintain their low colour saturation.
Low light shots highlight the camera lack of clarity and strong noise, whilst the video side offered a surprisingly low resolution 480p SD option as its highest setting, something which squarely places the camera behind so many of its rivals.
LG Optimus L5 2 review: Performance and battery
For a mid-ranger in 2013, we were a little sceptical at first regarding the L5 2’s 1GHz single-core processor and 512MB of RAM.
Out-the-box the UI turns out to be surprisingly snappy, but whilst navigating homescreens remains fluid, after a little use many other aspects of the phone begin to lose their polish. Switching between apps, accessing the notifications panel and gaming can all result in a lag and poor performance so we suggest sticking to the likes of Candy Crush over Real Racing or N.O.V.A.
With regards to the 1700mAh battery, it’s a brighter story, with a single charge lasting a day and a morning; likely a result of the phone’s frugal overall spec sheet.
Alongside that battery, the phone’s removable back also conceals the microSD slot that supports cards up to 32GB. A feature you’ll definitely need to use if you want to store any content beyond the 4GB of user accessible storage built into the phone, particularly as in practice the remaining on board storage space is just 2.1GB.
LG Optimus L5 2 review: Conclusion
It’s hard to love the LG Optimus L5 2 in the current smartphone market. On the surface elements of the design and UI feel premium and snappy, but dig down deeper and you’ll find sluggish performance, an underwhelming camera and a high price tag at around £189.99 SIM free.
We’d rather lay our cash down for one of the myriad of affordable dual-core offerings in the same space. The Nokia Lumia 520 totes a dual-core processor and a premium Windows Phone 8 user experience bolstered by Nokia’s own apps and services. If you want to stick with Android, the Acer CloudMobile S500 offers a 720p HD display and dual-core specs. It also costs £169.99 at Expansys, £20 less than the Optimus L5 2.