March 6, 2013

LG OPTIMUS ONE P500 REVIEW


LG's first Android phone in India was a veritable disaster. It failed to impress on nearly every front and apart from the spacious full QWERTY keypad, it had nothing going for it. It had a poor display, outdated software, sluggish interface, poor call quality and horrible battery life. Their second Android handset in India, the GT450 Optimus, unfortunately never reached us for a review, so we don't know for sure how good or bad it was.

LG's latest Android phone in India is the P500, also called the Optimus One. Unlike its predecessors it makes a good first impression, with Android 2.2 Froyo being pre-installed and other features such as DivX/Xvid support. So we took it for a spin to see for ourselves whether it's any good.  



Bundle  
  • LG Optimus One P500
  • Battery Charger
  • Headset
  • USB Cable
  • 2GB microSD Card
  • User Guide  
Design & Build  

The LG Optimus One is a very simple but pleasing phone to look at. It comes decked in matte black with a matte silver finish on the sides. There is nothing about the design of this phone that stands out, but despite that we can't help but like the phone. Those into devices with simple designs would definitely love this phone.   


On the front side of the phone is the earpiece at the top, which is also the phone's loudspeaker. On its left you will be able to spot the proximity sensor but that's all that is there. The Optimus lacks a front video call camera or even an ambient light sensor or a notification light. Below is the 3.2-inch touchscreen display.   


Below the display you will see four physical controls. The Home and Back buttons have been given more prominence with a combined button that has a nice brushed metal finish and chrome garnish around the edges. These are some of the nicest buttons that we have used with a superb tactile feedback, so much so that you would want to use them just for the heck of it. On the left is the Menu button and on the right is the Search. While adequate, they don't feel as nice to operate. The P500 lacks a D-pad or trackpad/trackball for precise navigation.   On the right side of the phone are the volume control buttons.






On the top is the power button and the 3.5mm headphone jack. We found the power and volume controls slightly difficult to use because of their thin and flat shape. On the bottom of the phone is the micro USB port and the microphone.   On the back of the device is the 3 megapixel camera lens. The Optimus One lacks a flash for low light photography. The entire backside is the battery cover, which can be easily removed by prying it open. 
 


One of the great things about the phone is its fabulous build quality. The phone really feels sturdy and well built, as good as phones twice its price. The fit and finish too is top notch and even though the phone may not look expensive at first glance, it does feel like one when you hold it in your hand. Top marks to LG for this.    

Display 

The display on the Optimus One is a 3.2-inch LCD with a capacitive touchscreen layer on top. The image quality of the display was really good and definitely the best that we have seen in this segment. The colors are a bit saturated to make the display look great and this works out well most of the times. Images and videos look great on the display. Outdoors, the display washes out a bit, but things aren't as bad as older LG phones, and the display still remains readable. The touch response of the display is good, but at times when you are trying to scroll, you end up selecting something on the screen. However, this has less to do with the display itself and more to do with the OS and processing power of the phone, which lags behind at times.   

UI and Applications

The LG P500 comes with Android 2.2 Froyo pre-installed. To be honest, that's the way it should be with every new Android handset launched post Froyo. But as we have seen most don't even come with Eclair pre-installed (like Sony Ericsson). As such, LG's decision to equip the P500 with Froyo is commendable, considering it is a mid-range device.   


LG usually installs their custom skin on their Android phones, but as we saw on the P500, they have customized very little aspect of the device and most of it for good. For starters you get to choose from either five or seven homescreens depending upon your needs. LG has installed some rather good widgets, such as the one for weather, which not only shows the temperature but also the day, date and time, all the while looking attractive. There are other good widgets in there as well. LG has also provided some great looking wallpapers and you can also use the Live Wallpapers, which despite the phone's modest hardware don't seem to affect performance considerably, or in any way at all.  

You will also notice that LG has pinned commonly used functions such as contacts, messaging and browser to the tray at the bottom, so you don't have to waste screen space by having their icons when you can use it for other apps.   The application menu has been redesigned and one great thing about it is that all the apps that you download to the device are at the bottom of the list in a separate section. So you don't have to hunt for them in the main list.
 


Unfortunately, the P500 in India also comes with a boatload of crapware pre-installed, many of which include Bollywood applications. Some of them give you notifications once or twice a day regardless of whether you use them or not. There are some good apps in there as well, such as Aldiko, Dictionary, Layar, News and Weather, Places, TasKiller, ThinkFree Office and Twitter for Android. LG has also changed the clock app, which lets you dim the display while showing a large clock, so you can keep it beside your bed at night.  


There is also the Car Home application, which houses the most used functions in the phone and assigns large buttons to them so you can use it easily while driving. Unfortunately, the apps aren't any different, so for example, when you click on the large Contacts or Music button in Car Home, you end up in the standard Contacts or Music Player app, which don't have interfaces that are optimized for use while driving.  



The P500 also comes with an FM radio application, the interface of which matches that of LG's feature phones. The radio supports RDS but you cannot record broadcasts.   Now even though the P500 has 512MB of RAM, it runs on a meager 600MHz processor. Due to this the user interface isn't exactly what one might call smooth. In fact, at times, the phone can get quite sluggish. This can be observed when you are typing in an application and the keys sometimes get stuck, or while viewing an image in the gallery where the phone takes a long time to load the image, even the ones captured by the phone's camera, which are just 3 megapixel in resolution.

Even the built-in browser lags at times, but we feel this has more to do with the browser itself than with the phone, as Opera Mobile runs fine. If you are buying this phone don't expect a blazing fast and ultra smooth interface. The phone is quite usable and although it does get annoying at times it won't really get on your nerves. To put things into perspective, the iPhone 3G running iOS 4.2 is much more sluggish in comparison.  

We must mention that the phone did crash and restart thrice when we were using it. Both the times the restart seems to have happened for no good reason, as nothing that would put a strain on the phone was being run. Those were the only times that it happened in more than a week of using the phone but we still think it is worth mentioning as normally it shouldn't happen at all.   Note: We suspected the phone was crashing because we had configured an email ID with the standard mail client built-in to the phone, and sure enough when we deleted the account the phone stopped crashing.   


Connectivity  

The LG P500 is a quad band GSM handset supporting HSPA. It also includes GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth v2.1 connectivity. We had no problems with either the call quality or the network reception on the phone, as both were flawless. The earpiece being a loudspeaker can go a bit louder than most phones, so it is best to keep it at a notch below max volume. As a loudspeaker, it is quite powerful as well and thanks to its front position there is no worry of it getting blocked when you keep the phone on a table. Both calls as well as ring tones come out loud and clear at all times.  

In messaging, the P500 comes with the usual SMS, MMS application, an email client and a GMail client, usual fare for all Android phones. As far as typing is concerned, LG has provided two keyboards on the P500; one is the default Android keyboard, while the other is their own keyboard. Neither are particularly easy to type on in portrait.

In landscape mode, however, the LG keyboard fares a bit better compared to the default Android keyboard, which never gets better no matter how much you turn the phone. Both keyboards have a predictive system that is pretty much useless, as it only gives correct suggestions as long as you type correctly. If you type one character wrong the suggestion system goes for a toss and you have to go back and correct your spelling.

The keys are also a bit small on both the keyboards and hence hard to hit accurately. It would be better if you install a third party keyboard such as SwiftKey, which have a much better auto correction system, one that actually works. 

The web browser in Android 2.2 is actually pretty fabulous as we discovered on the HTC Desire, but on the P500 it is rather sluggish. This could be due to the slower processor, but then again, it didn't fare much better on the Galaxy tab as well. It can get pretty slow at times and makes the phone seem slower than it actually is. What's interesting is that P500 does not come with Adobe Flash 10.1 pre-installed and what's more, you cannot install it from Android Market, as it's nowhere to be found.

We always thought that Flash would be a part of all Android 2.2 devices, but it seems that manufacturers can selectively remove it for certain devices and even make sure users don't install it on their own. This was probably done because of the slower processor on board. LG doesn't seem to trust that it has enough horsepower to run full Flash content in the browser. With Flash out of the way, you have even lesser reasons to stick to the built-in browser, and we would suggest you use Opera Mobile the way we did.   

Multimedia 

The LG P500 has a 3 megapixel camera with autofocus. It seems LG was hell bent on removing any signs of flash from the phone as they have not only removed it from the browser but there is no flash for the camera as well. There is also no physical shutter button and one would have to press and hold the on-screen button to focus and then release it to take a picture. The camera software looks similar to the ones on other LG touchscreen phones and is easy to use, but has a problem remembering your settings when you quit the application, a la Symbian phones.  

Surprisingly, the camera comes with a manual focus option. When selected you get a slider at the bottom of the screen which you can use to adjust the focusing range. The slider, however, is very small and a pain to use. With this option, you can have the focus point far closer to the lens of the camera than what is even possible with the macro mode. It says the closest it can get is 10cm, but you can get much closer than that, as much as 2cm from the lens. This lets you capture some incredibly detailed macro shots and makes you cry out for a higher resolution sensor.   


The actual image quality of the camera is a bit of a mixed bag. It suffers in two key areas, bright light and low light. In bright light the camera tends to blow up highlights in the images, making you lose details in those parts that can never be retrieved with any image editor. It doesn't even have to be very bright to screw up even in areas under shadow during the day you have blown highlights on brightly colored objects. At night there is too much noise in the images than what can be considered acceptable. Also, 3 megapixels just don't seem enough these days and LG should have at least provided a 5 megapixel sensor on board. The lack of a flash does not help matters as well.  









Tip: For those who are already using the phone, when you press and hold the shutter button on the screen to focus but realize that you don't want to take a picture - either because it did not focus properly or because you changed your mind - just slide your finger towards the middle of the screen without releasing it. Once the finger is away from the shutter button, release it. This way the picture won't be taken.  

The music player on the P500 is the default Android music player. Although not the best tool to play your music, it gets the job done with minimum fuss. The audio quality of the phone through the headphones as well as the loudspeaker is excellent. Through the headphones, the P500 can go very loud, even louder than our iPhone 3G, which itself can go pretty loud. For someone who uses in-ear earphones, setting the player at 50% volume would yield enough sound. Those with bigger headphones will find the higher volume range handier. The loudspeaker was also pretty loud with a crisp, distortion-free sound. We also liked the position of the speaker, which points towards the listener rather than at their feet or the desk, as in most phones.  

Fortunately, LG has used its own video player on the P500, and it is even capable of playing back DivX and Xvid files. Of course, the files have to be in standard definition resolutions, but that's perfectly fine. For the time we had the phone with us we watched several videos and movies on the phone and the P500 played them without a hitch. For a phone in this price range, we really don't expect any more than this.  



The image gallery is the standard Android 2.1/2.2 affair. We aren't big fans of the fancy animations, and on the P500 they seem to slow things down a bit. We also did not like how it would take ages to load the images at times. You cannot just rush from one high resolution to another and there is a considerable loading time in between, which takes the fun out of viewing images. The display on the phone is well up to the task of displaying photos, but unfortunately the processor isn't.    
Battery Life  


The LG P500 has a 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery because of which it easily managed to run for a whole day on a single charge with two mail clients running in the background, extensive Twitter application usage, several shots from the camera, web browsing, one hour movie and music playback each and general fooling around in the interface and with the apps.   

Verdict


The LG Optimus One P500 is priced at Rs. 12,999. At that price you are getting a lot of smartphone for your money. The phone has excellent build quality and a pleasant design. The display quality is quite good, as is the audio quality, which would come in handy when playing music or those DivX/Xvid videos on the phone.

The camera quality is average but we haven't seen much better in this category. The only thing that keeps me from recommending this phone is that it can be a bit sluggish at times. Now this might not be that big a problem for some, but for those who have used faster phones will find it rather annoying. But to be honest you can't really expect a lot at this price point. The phone is already offering you a lot of features and it does perform well in most areas. When it falters you can excuse it because it does not burn as big a hole in your wallet as some of the more expensive phones, which aren't perfect either.

We would still suggest you try out the handset before you hand over the cash, but if you are fine with the speed (or the lack of it) then you should be perfectly happy with the Optimus One.

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