The LG Optimus L3 is the lowest ranked handset in LG’s L Series – which also comprises the LG Optimus L5 and Optimus L7 – but you can’t tell by looking at its design. It’s not a great-looking handset, but in a world where the trend for devices is to get bigger and bigger, almost bridging the gap between smartphone and tablet, the Optimus L3 has no confusion over its identity.
While it is a budget phone, it doesn’t feel like one. The Optimus L3, unlike many of its rivals which can be found at this price, has not sacrificed quality for value. The phone feels solid, using a mix of metal around the screen and two types of plastic for the cover – shiny and textured – and the results are excellent.
The first thing you notice is how small the handset is. It fits almost too easily inside your hand, suggesting immediately that this device is more suited to the younger generation or destined to be carried comfortably in a pocket or a handbag. It doesn’t feel too light either, weighing in at 109g
The 3.2-inch screen looks good. There is no Gorilla Glass, but this is to expected at this price. The rest of the device is as we would expect for an entry-level handset. Just a single button below the screen, a volume bar along the side, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left and a power button to the right.
On the rear of the phone is a 3-Megapixel camera. And along the bottom is a Mini USB charging point, which we found is surprisingly fiddly to use, requiring a little more care and attention than you’d expect when connecting to a power charger.
Unfortunately, for all that is good on the outside, the same can’t really be said on the inside. The TFT screen is average at best, with its low 240 x 320 pixel resolution clearly reminding us of the Optimus L3’s affordable, entry-level roots.
The biggest problem we found was that we needed to hold the device at a particular angle to see it clearly. At times it was like watching a film on an old laptop, having to adjust to see it properly, if at all. Sunlight was also a major problem, with reflections proving far too excessive when viewing in bright conditions.
That said, the phone is what you would expect from an Android 2.3 handset, with LG seemingly holding little interest in spending time creating a proprietary UI. Apparently the pre-installed Android OS also can not be updated to a newer version in the future, which seems a rather odd decision.
As with all Android handsets, there are multiple home screens for displaying your favourite apps and shortcuts. Swiping to your left displays shortcuts for music, gallery, YouTube and video player. Swiping to your right shows calendar, settings and an apps icon which shows the number of apps currently running and installed. The fourth screen is empty and ready for you to add your own favourite shortcuts.
The touchscreen works well and responds in the way you would expect from a more expensive phone. Navigating the device is simple too, and shouldn’t cause too many problems for newcomers. The same goes for the onscreen keyboard, with the full QWERTY option working well.
The Optimus L3’s music-playing abilities stand out, in particular. With 1GB of internal storage and a MicroSD card slot allowing expansion up to 32GB, it will certainly appeal to people wishing to use their handset as an MP3 player and the handset does a decent job in this area. Sound quality is good, although it is not particularly loud when compared to some other smartphones we’ve seen lately.
The 3-Megapixel camera is very basic, with the screen quality affecting its performance. There’s no flash either, which strains image quality yet further. Zooming is also not advised, as the quality is simply not good enough and the menu option for the camera is awful, providing very poor usability.
When taking a picture, the image shows at the bottom left of the screen and can be viewed by tapping it, but sending photos to friends is a real chore. The interface and options can be confusing to navigate, making it frustrating to send images and leading to a disappointingly poor camera experience.
Video quality is also below average, with the limited resolution producing very poor quality recordings. The handset picks up sound surprisingly well, however – certainly better than some of the more expensive high-end smartphones that we’ve tested in the past.
Taking the poor screen quality out of the equation, the online experience isn’t bad, thanks largely to its 800MHz processor. Accessing websites is quick and easy, with web pages loading with suitable speed. Viewing videos on YouTube is also simple and provides a good experience, with very little delays noticeable when loading content. While videos don’t look perfect, due to the low-resolution screen, they are by no means terrible and look good enough.
Lastly, battery life on the Optimus L3 is a final redeeming feature, with up to 600 hours of standby time and up to 12.5 hours of talk-time. If you’re looking for an affordable smartphone that is easy to use and provides decent features and battery life, the Optimus L3 may suit your needs. Don’t expect more than the basics, however.