When a new operating system comes to market the greatest excitement is arguably reserved for the cool kit which follows. Windows Phone 7 is rather different. Microsoft – traditionally liberal with its hardware requirements – has this time imposed strict hardware guidelines and even forbid tinkering with the interface.
The result is an army of clone-like devices with very little to separate them. The good news: LG has done just enough to enjoy the Optimus 7 on its own merits.
So what are we working with? As you might expect, all Windows Phone 7 demands are met. This means the Optimus 7 has a 3.8in 480 x 800 pixel 16:9 display, 16GB of internal memory, a five megapixel camera with autofocus, LED flash and 720p video recording and is powered by a 1GHz processor. Minimum requirements in these categories are a 3.5in 480 x 800 display, 8GB of native memory (no user accessible microSD), a five megapixel camera and 1GHz processor.
What hardware requirements don't enforce, however, is build quality and here LG has excelled. The Optimus 7 feels solid in hand without creaks and squeaks, the machined metal back plate adds a touch of class and it is the only Windows Phone 7 handset to launch with physical as opposed to touch sensitive buttons – a real boon to usability in our eyes. The embossed Windows logo on the home key is raised a little too high and can be scratchy while the on/off button on the top is needlessly small, but overall it is a handset you'll be proud to pull from your pocket.
Your pocket won't need to be on a pair of combat pants either since the Optimus 7 is relatively compact for its features measuring 125 x 59.8 x 11.5mm and weighing in at 140g. By contrast the iPhone 4 is 137g, the HTC Desire 135g, the Desire HD 164g.
So the exterior passes all tests, but what about actual usage? This isn't a review of Windows Phone 7 (Ed has covered that with his extensive write-up already), but rather how well has LG managed to implement it and differentiate it from the pack. In terms of the former the answer is extremely well – as have all launch partners to be fair. For all its limitations Windows Phone 7 is the fastest and most responsive mobile operating system on the market. Its detractors would argue this is because the OS is currently so stripped down - lacking the bloatware of endless apps, Flash support or multi-tasking – but regardless the Optimus 7 rockets along with fast, sensitive touchscreen feedback and extremely responsive multi-touch zooming both in photos and more complex web pages. That said there are bumps along the way…
Browsing may be fast, but LG's screen – while bright and crisp – doesn't measure up to the Super AMOLED displays seen in Samsung's latest handsets, the S-LCD on the Desire HD or the Retina display on the iPhone 4. As such text can look a little fuzzy when web pages are zoomed out. This isn't a huge problem given the responsive zooming of the Optimus 7 and it is by no means a bad display, just not a class leader.