- Review Price: £499.99
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.
Another false step comes with the camera. Whilst it looks fantastic on the rear of the handset, in use the five megapixel shooter is nothing to write home about. Pictures lack detail and multiple light sources really confuse the sensor. As always, perfect conditions lead to excellent photos but anything less and you’ll be somewhat disappointed. This is a shame because one LG’s breakout features is a ‘Panorama Shot’, though – as you’ll see below – the effect is undermined by the poor quality of the images themselves. 720p video recording is little better with panning jerky and quality grainy.
The good news is from here things improve markedly. Panaroma shot may be a nice idea, but it is likely to be replicated by numerous Windows Phone Marketplace apps in coming months. Instead the real differentiator is LG’s wise decision to add DLNA support through its ‘Play To’ app. This enables handset owners to wirelessly stream pictures, music and video to DLNA compatible TVs, stereos, consoles and PCs of which there are many and the system works flawlessly.
Consequently the ability to walk into a room and fire music at the stereo, video at the TV and pictures at a digital photo frame really do feel like a slice of the future. What slightly sours the experience is Play To comes from LG’s own Windows Phone 7 app store, which only stocks 10 apps at the time of this review and does little other than to encourage fragmentation. This is a worrying early trend since Microsoft’s strict hardware requirements are likely to encourage desperate handset makers to try and differentiate their handsets any way they can.
This theme continues with LG’s ‘Voice to Test’ feature which can be used to write emails or update Facebook and Twitter while staying clear of the (admittedly rather decent) Windows Phone 7 virtual keyboard. It is fairly accurate, though does still show quirks depending on accent and intonation – sometimes with unintentionally hilarious/dangerous consequences. My advice: always proofread.
As for more mundane, but arguably more important aspects. The LG scores a win with a capacious 1500mAh battery which consistently saw the Optimus 7 last a full day, sometimes two days, depending on usage. This is significantly better than you’ll get from HTC’s HD7 Windows Phone 7 handset and its 1230mAh battery, all Android handsets and the iPhone 4. As for call quality, it is the usual smartphone story: good in areas of strong reception, more mediocre elsewhere but the subjective nature of cell phone reception from network to network and place to place make this a hard area to rate objectively.
What is worth bearing in mind though is you’ll need good Vodafone reception where you live since the Optimus 7 is a UK exclusive. The upside is price plans are good value with the phone being free on deals under £30 per month. Sim free is a more painful £499.99 and should be avoided at this price.
There is no denying the Optimus 7 is an extremely polished handset and its implementation of DLNA is far and away its killer feature. On the flip side the camera is a disappointment and you’ll need to buy in the knowledge that however slick Windows Phone 7 is it remains painfully short of core functionality at present. Vodafone price plans do make this easier to swallow, so if you’ve decided Microsoft’s new OS is for you check the DNLA status of your existing gadgets and dive in. The water’s great.
Score in detail
|Operating System||Windows Phone|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3.8in|
|Talk Time (Minute)||350m|
|Standby Time (Hour)||330hr|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||16GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5 Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs
|App Store||Windows Marketplace|
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