The LG Optimus L7 is a lithe white or black device that seems to pack in a fair few great features. Not only do you have a 4.3-inch WVGA display, there's also NFC and Ice Cream Sandwich under the hood. It isn't meant to be an explicitly premium handset though. Costing around £250, the L7 packs a slightly dated single-core 1GHz processor. The question is, how does the hardware cope with the pressures of Android 4.0 and todays memory intensive apps?
LG Optimus L7 - Design
The L7's design is an amalgam of a Samsung Galaxy S2, an LG Prada and a fridge freezer. The results leave us with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the phone feels solid, the large screen sits well and the chrome-like accents along the top and sides coupled with the white might work for some white-phone fanatics. On the downside, the combination of sharp angles up top and smooth corners at the lower end leave the LG L7 feeling incongruous. That and the pillowy textured hard-plastic backing mean there's just too much going on for our tastes.
LG Optimus L7 - Screen
4.3-inches, WVGA, LCD, good viewing angles, sharp, vibrant, all these factors come together to make the LG L7's screen great to look at. When compared to the highest end phones, occasionally, things can look slightly washed out, however in its class, the L7 is head and shoulders above the rest.
LG Optimus L7 - User Interface
LG's custom interface feels more like a Google Play found launcher than a manufacturer skin like HTC Sense or Samsung's TouchWiz. This isn't necessarily bad, allowing you to do things like change transition effects and edit the shortcuts bar in the notification bar. It's therefore customisable and charming, especially the unlock screen animation. That said, it stutters a lot. This is something we'll come onto later in the performance section, but it really hurts an otherwise decent launcher.
We're overjoyed that the L7 comes loaded with Ice Cream Sandwich on board. With Jelly Bean landing on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus any day now, LG are delivering a perfectly respectable version of Android unlike Sony on their Xperia U and Samsung on their Galaxy S Advance. LG's skin doesn't detract too much from ICS, though the physical home button is a shame - we would have much preferred Nexus-esque on-screen buttons.
Aside from the stutter though, the only major gripe we have with the LG Optimus L7's UI is that the notification bar text is far too small and it can't be enlarged, despite allowing you to adjust the size of the UI text.
The keyboard is also pretty impressive with a little work. Out of the box, it's all very standard, though larger than most keyboards. Just jump into the settings and turn on word prediction and you'll make it instantly around 300% more functional. There's even an option turn the keyboard into a numeric T9 keyboard.
LG Optimus L7 - Multimedia and Camera
5-megapixels puts the LG Optimus L7's camera in line with its price group's key competitors, the Sony Xperia U on the lower end and Samsung Galaxy S Advance at the upper end. Performance wise and it actually does a very good job indeed. While it isn't the right form factor, with slippery slim sides and no camera button, the pictures look very good with great detail and solid noise handling. Ironically, the low light pictures we took with no flash were in many cases better than the flash picture, with the LED light laying a thick blue wash across the final image.
Video is recorded at VGA which is a let down for anyone who records video on their phone. Generally, we don't do it all that often, but it's nevertheless disappointing to not even have 720p. The music player is generic but functional and overall, in terms of multimedia, everything else comes together well, with the highpoint being the screen, which looks great and plays video up to its native resolution smoothly.
LG Optimus L7 - Connections and storage
The Optimus L7 comes loaded with NFC as well as all your standard Android amenities such as Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi-Direct, Bluetooth, 3G and GPS. It's therefore well connected and should see you relatively future proof as contactless mobile payments rear their heads here in the UK. The phone packs 2GB of storage on board with expandability up to an additional 32GB via micro SD card.
LG Optimus L7 - Performance and Battery
While it's all been generally middling to positive thus far, in this day and age with Ice Cream Sandwich and a £250 price tag, the 1GHz processor on board just doesn't keep things going at the rate we want them to go. We're noticing this in the first week, so we can only imagine how this will fare into a 24 month contract. It's a real shame as otherwise, the LG Optimus L7 is a pretty competent device, not least of all when it comes to battery, lasting around a full day or more if you watch your screen brightness. Phone call quality is also pretty decent. There's a slight muffling on the onboard speaker, but only when you listen out for it, and the microphone is sensitive and performs well.
LG Optimus L7 - Conclusion
We want to like the LG Optimus L7 and much of the time we do. It has some really charming quirks, a great screen, Ice Cream Sandwich and a good keyboard. The unlock animation is genius, the phone is thin and extremely well connected. Unfortunately, it's underpowered. Turning off all the animations LG make optional help, but it's hard to get past waiting a couple of seconds for a button to register and apps hanging after just a week of use. If you get this at a great price, there's a lot to love, alternatively, consider the Nokia Lumia 800 or Sony Xperia U for smoother performance in a similar price range.