We were very pleased that LG was kind enough to let us test the new LG Optimus L5. Everyone had heard different opinions of this device, some good, and others not so kind. So we dived into this without any preconceived ideas of the device, trying to find the good and bad in it.
Here’s an overview of the most significant specifications of the L5:
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon
- CPU: 800 MHz Cortex-A5
- GPU: Adreno 200
- Memory: Internal – 2.5 GB, 512MB RAM, External – up to 32 GB
- Screen: 4.0 inches
- Camera: 5MP (2560 x 1920 pixels), VGA@30fps
At first hand, looking at the specifications, I was disappointed to see an 800 MHz CPU and a camera that only recorded VGA when most mobile devices out there now record at 720p. On the other hand I was pleasantly surprised to see LG had equipped the L5 with Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream and NFC technology, which made me very curious and anxious to test and experiment with it.
LG has packaged the L5 in a minimalistic box, which is good.
What’s inside the box:
- The L5
- A headset
- USB data cable
- 1500 mAh battery
- Travel adapter
- Quick start guide
- Google account set up instructions
- NFC tag
You can check out the unboxing of the L5 in the video below.
Design and Ergonomics
The device has an appealing design. It has a stylish metal edge on the sides, straight corners and this makes the device look like a premium device, without even mentioning the plastic back that looks and feels great when you hold the device on your hand.
You will never have to worry about smudge marks on the back and will be pleased that the textured back keeps your phone from slipping from your hand.
The L5 weighs only 125g and is very thin. With the dimensions it has it could have a bigger screen since there is enough space available on the front (but that would defeat the purpose of the L7).
On the left side you have the volume rocker. It’s in the right place allowing you to use the phone with one hand, if you’re a lefty which by me is fine. On the top we have the audio jack and the lock button. On the bottom we have the microphone and the micro USB slot. There’s no buttons or slots in the right side of the device.
Once you remove the back cover you see the 1500mAh battery at the very center. On the top left you have the micro SD card slot, on the top center is the SIM card slot and on the bottom left is the speaker (more on this later).
LG got it right with the design and feel of this device. There’s no one that looks at it and is capable of thinking it’s a cheap device that will fall apart after 2 months of use.
Because it won’t, the L5 is very sturdy and if you think about it they were really smart about the metal edge because not only it is esthetically appealing it will also protect the phone if you let it fall. Of course there’s no guaranty about the screen not breaking, but well, that’s your fault not theirs.
The L5’s display is very bright and at 4.0 inches it’s the just about the size you want in order to be able to do something productive with the device, be it playing games or editing and reading documents.
All in all it’s a good screen when you first look at it but there are some issues that could have been avoided.
As the photos will show you the viewing angles of the LG Optimus L5 aren’t the best, far from that. If you happen to tilt the screen towards you, you won’t be able to see a thing. The good thing is that this doesn’t happen if you tilt the phone in any other direction.
The downside to this is that if you’re planning to play games or view videos in landscape mode, you will always notice the poor viewing angle, and it’s something you can’t run away from unless you keep to portrait mode, which in some games is impossible and makes watching movies in this screen ridiculous, or stare at it at a perfect 90 degree angle.
Performance and Software
The phone comes with Android 4.0.3 which is a very good improvement when comparing it with the LG Optimus 3D Max that although having a dual core processor, comes with Android 2.3.3.
There are 5 homescreens to play with. All of them have the Google search on the top and the voice search as well. On the top right of the homescreen there’s a plus sign that enables you to add widgets and apps to the homescreens and switch wallpapers with ease.
You can also organize your homescreens by touching a widget or an app icon for some seconds. It will enable you to resize the widget you touched or drag the app icon you chose anywhere you like in that homescreen or another of your choice. You will also be able to drag the widget or app icon in order to delete them.
You have lots of effects to choose from when it comes to changing between homescreens and wallpapers, making the L5 very customizable.
The lockscreen is already known by the users of Android 4.0.3, you can unlock the screen and go directly to the dial, messages, email or camera, or you can unlock the screen and go to the homescreen, as usual.
On the top of the screen you have the notifications bar, which is accessible even in the lockscreen. From the notifications bar you can go to the phone’s settings and activate and deactivate certain functions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and so on. Of course you can also see the phone’s notifications, missed calls, new emails, new messages, charging information, and so forth.
Contacts and Calling
When it comes to contacts the L5 has all the common features were are used to, you have the contacts, groups and favorites.
There are several ways by which you can import/export your contacts. You can do this via your Google account, via SIM card, or via SD card. This means that if you want to save your contacts to your SD card and later use it on another device to import you contacts, you can. In some ways this is better than importing your contacts from your Google account, since there are always some contacts that are useless and come attached.
You can search your contacts by name or number, whichever you prefer. Either in the contacts section, the dial section or even in the destination field when sending messages. You can also browse your contacts by letters or manually.
You can create contacts with as many details you want and you can assign a ringtone to each contact. You can also create groups and assign a ringtone to the group instead of assigning it one by one to your contacts. You can create a group and store it on your phone or you can store it in the Google account associated with your phone.
The favorites are automatically filled with contacts that you intervene with frequently, although you can also choose them from your contacts list, by picking a contact and marking the start in the top right corner.
Another feature that may help you contact your friends more quickly is the speed dials. To assign a contact to a speed dial you only have to touch the dial, open the speed dials and choose de number you want for the contact. Once you choose the number it will open the contact list and ask you to choose a contact.
The dial 1 is usually the voice mail. This helps in what way? If you’re in a hurry you only have to open the dial and prolong the touch on the number you choose for that contact and it will call it automatically, instead of you having to write the number down or search for it.
Every call I made or received came through clearly. I heard the other person perfectly and they heard me as well. There weren’t any dropped calls or poor signal to speak of, which is very good. One thing I missed was a warning light that told me I had missed calls or unread messages, would have been a great plus because this would enable me to look at the phone without having to turn the screen on just to see if I had any notifications.
Messaging and Email
Messages and emails are a pleasure to write on the L5 and it’s mostly because of its keyboard. Although the dictionary is not the best at predicting what you want to write, at least in Portuguese, you rarely press a wrong key.
If you try the voice interface you will not be disappointed. For example if you say something like “Hi there do you want to have dinner with me? I was thinking we could order Chinese” it will get every word right and I was impressed by that, taking into account English is not my main language my accent isn’t good at all.
Although it’s not perfect, because the punctuation marks aren’t put in, it facilitates a lot, especially if you are driving and can’t take your hands of the wheel or your eyes off the road.
The messaging interface is nothing out of the ordinary. When you send a message to a contact a blue balloon displays your message and a white balloon displays your contact’s message. All the normal options are available, such as attaching images, contacts, video recordings, audio, slideshows and schedules.
The email client is pretty standard, allowing you to sync your phone with an Hotmail email account if you have one, or with your Gmail account if you don’t like the Gmail app.
The Gmail app is what you know already, not many changes since the last version. Very easy to read and write emails and now putting labels on your emails became very natural, as well as archiving them.
Here is an overview of the apps you can find in your LG Optimus L5, without the typical Navigation, Local, Maps, Search and so forth.
This app shows stock market informations allowing you to keep up to date if you have your money invested in something.
Allows you to see what applications are currently installed and uninstall them if you want. The application manager only shows stock apps that can be removed, like Memo, Polaris Office, LG SmartWorld and Task Manager.
Records audio in very good quality, definitely impressed me.
The music player is pretty good. You can see your music organized by songs, albums, artists, playlists or files.
When playing a song there’s a mini player added automatically to the notifications bar, allowing you to change songs without having to access the app through the menu.
Video playback could be great if it would just support more video types. This inconvenient makes you have to download an app to play the videos you don’t have in those specific codecs. Would have loved to test it with some videos besides the camera samples but I couldn’t find any file that I could run in this video player.
When running the camera samples I could take a look at the video player functionality and it is pretty standard. You can brighten or darken your screen while you play a video. You can also choose the screen ration of the video you are watching. One good thing it has is that, if you for some reason stop playing the video, it saves the moment you were at and when you return to the app the video is right in the place you left it.
This app could be very useful if you’re into using NFC Tags. Here you can create several mode settings that will be activated once you read the respective NFC tag. You can choose which app to launch if the phone is silent, whether Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and data are on or off, amongst other things.
The idea behind NFC is very good and extends the usefulness of your smartphone without you having to configure it every time you enter and exit your car, or a meeting. It’s definitely a plus to this smartphone.
Connects to your Google+ account and enables you to chat with the contacts in your circles.
Useful app, as well as widget, that shows you the current weather and a simple forecast of 4 days. You can choose various cities to have the app memorize them and show you their weather forecast without having to search every time you open the app.
It is a little application that allows you to take various notes with the device keyboard. Shame it doesn’t allow free writing, which would be very useful to write down ideas such as sketches or some equivalent.
Asks you to choose the country and which kind of news you’re interested in. After that, if you choose to update data automatically you will always receive the news you want when you open the app.
Allows you to read, edit and create documents, spreadsheets and presentation files.
Very useful but it would be more practical with a bigger screen if you want to write freely instead of using the keyboard.
Nonetheless gets the job done if you find yourself having to make a presentation and your computer just died.
With the headset connected you can use this app to listen to radio, which was obvious. You can save up to 48 different stations. It has an auto-scan feature that facilitates your job if you don’t know exactly what the station frequency is.
It also saves every station it finds during the scan. One downside to it is that it doesn’t detect the station’s name so if you want to name it you will have to do it yourself.
Remote Call Service:
Allows a representative of LG to access your phone and control it, helping him see the error you reported or allowing him to show you something you asked for help about.
This is capable of saving endless hours speaking on the phone with someone that doesn’t understand what you’re talking about.
It’s a new LG app that allows you to share files from your smartphone trough Wi-Fi to your LG TV, if it is a Smart TV.
For example you can start a slideshow in your device and if you want it can appear also in your TV, the same goes for movies.
It’s the LG play store. This app enables you to download apps, wallpapers and ringtones.
You can browse around, although most of the applications you find in it are already in the play store, however you need and LG account to be able to download the features you just looked at.
I have to say the task manager that comes pre-installed is a shame, it doesn’t tell you the processes currently running it only shows you the applications that are running which is almost shy of useless if you want to free up used RAM.
If you look hard enough, you will find there’s actually another task manager in this phone, which you can open in the homescreen if you touch de menu button and choose app settings This manager actually shows you the apps and processes currently running, how much RAM they’re taking and if you like you can see all the processes that exist in your device.
I was impressed with the options the gallery offered. Besides viewing pictures and videos, you can share them to various social networks and you can also edit them. When you enter the image editor you have so many options that it will enable you to create some funny pictures based on the photos you’ve taken or on images you put on your device beforehand. For example you can fix the lighting, add special effects, spice up the color, remove red eyes, rotate or flip the picture, amongst many other things.
One thing I have to say I missed terribly in this device was a file explorer, I thought there would be one pre-installed but no, if you want to browse through your SD or your phone’s files you will have to go to the play store and download a file explorer application.
Video playback through YouTube is great. The image is sharp enough and audio quality with the headphones is good. Can’t say the same about the speaker though. The sound emanating from the speaker is too sharp and there’s not enough bass in it to provide a good time while listening to music videos.
When the headphones are connected and you are listening to music the call button works as a pause button. Listening to a live concert with the headphones makes it justice, and I can’t say the same for some other devices I tested.
The volume has a very good range also. If you are playing a game in a crowded room and don’t have headphones you probably will have to put the volume at a maximum to enjoy the game fully. This doesn’t happen with the headphones for the volume is exponentially increased, I couldn’t reach max volume even if I wanted to…It would blow my ears out.
In terms of performance, I ran the Quadrant Standard, the Antutu and the Nenamark 2 on the L5. The results weren’t that surprising taking into account the specifications of the device.
Putting the results aside I took it upon myself to test drive the device with some games. I played fruit ninja and during gameplay I didn’t notice any slowdowns, apart when loading the menu and going through levels, what is to be expected.
When I tried Dead Trigger on it, which Google play said it was supported, I found that the phone did as good as was expected, every time zombies came in groups in lagged. When I say groups I mean in pairs to. As if this wasn’t enough the graphics were weird, and there isn’t another way to describe it.
They started blinking and doing things they surely weren’t supposed to be doing. But apart from those little details I was glad I finally had a device that was able to run the game, barely but it ran, and I still enjoyed it has I got through the first levels.
Also tried the new Rovio game on it, “Bad Piggies”, needless to say that it ran perfectly, no break downs of any kind.
If you’re curious about the performance when playing games, take a look at the 2 part of the video review in which I show how the device handles the 3 games mentioned above.
Connectivity and Battery Life
The internet browser is fair enough and gets the job done pretty quickly. It took only a few seconds to open the AndroidEmotions website, as long as it takes on a regular computer. So I was impressed.
Zooming in and out is easy and you don’t notice any particular deformation of the text or images. You can zoom in and out with pinch to zoom or you can use a new gesture.
If you press the zoom button in the browser and tilt the L5 forward or back it will zoom in and out. We also performed speed tests to Wi-Fi and 3G connections and these are the results.
Battery life is great, which would be obvious since you only have a 4 inch screen with a 1500mAh battery to support it, so I got up to 3 days of use, keeping the Wi-Fi connection on when the screen was on, browsing the web to check some news and making a few calls.
I also got up to a day and a half while playing games, making calls, sending and checking emails and keeping the Wi-Fi live as long as the phone was active.
I really wish I had nice things to say about this camera, because I really liked the phone until I took it out to take a picture.
It’s not that the pictures aren’t good, it’s just that normal people don’t have hands steady enough to touch the screen to focus and then touch the screen again to take the picture without shaking the phone. It’s a pity because if this camera had the same interface that is on the 3D Max, it would be great. With this interface I must say that taking a focused shot is difficult, so no points for user friendliness.
You can take into consideration there are a lot of options in the camera UI, whether in video or camera mode, you still have the opportunity to adjust the settings to your desire and maybe improve the camera’s performance.
Recording something indoors might be a pain as well, so if you are looking for a phone with a superb camera this unfortunately isn’t it. When watching the video you can notice clearly the difficulty the camera has of capturing light indoors.
I assume it’s because this difficulty that there’s an option to keep the LED flash active when you’re recording a video, but I have to say I tried it and it doesn’t do much good either.
Filming outdoors, however, is another matter. As you can see from the video sample the camera does pretty well, since now it has all the light it needs to produce a decent quality video.
This camera is capable of making videos in the following formats and resolutions: VGA (640*480), QVGA (320*240) and QCIF (176*144). The last two formats enable you to send the recordings via MMS.
Video Review Part 1:
Video Review Part 2:
After two weeks of testing every crevice I could find in this device I must say that I would buy the L5 for the following reasons:
- Design and lightness
- Interface and flow
- Productivity apps (Polaris) and the phone’s performance with them
- Battery Life
- NFC connectivity
If you don’t mind having a phone with a middle rate camera and a screen with poor viewing angles I would definitely recommend this device. Even though it only has a single core 800 MHz processor it ran smoothly and only on rare occasions lagged. Even though the display has some issues I enjoyed playing all the games I could find, and producing some documents with the L5. Overall it is a very good smartphone and at around 159€ (170€ without service provider) it would be a great buy.
Review by: Cátia Sofia @ AndroidEmotions