- Very stylish
- Good range of features
- Good audio output
- Resistive touchscreen
- Small keyboard keys
- No camera flash
- Review Price: £179.99
- 76mm (3-inch) display
- Android 1.6
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 3-megapixel camera
The price of the Optimus may be cheap, but the look and feel of the phone certainly isn’t. In fact this is one of the more stylish-looking Android handsets we’ve come across. The phone is relatively small by smartphone standards measuring just 54mm wide, and the curved edges make it feel slimmer than its 13mm thickness would suggest. LG has used a very convincing brushed metal finish on the front and rear of the phone and you only realise it’s actually made entirely from plastic by taking the battery cover off for closer inspection.
The button layout is a little unusual for an Android phone in that the home and call buttons are grouped together on a single line, while the Option and Back buttons have been placed directly under the screen. And while most Android handsets have the search button on the front, LG has moved it to the right hand edge of the phone above the dedicated camera key. The layout actually works quite well and helps preserve the handset’s clean lines. We also like the fact that LG has placed the standard headphone jack at the top of the Optimus so it doesn’t snag when you’re taking the phone in and out of your pocket.
The GT540 is powered by a Qualcomm processor running at 600MHz. While this is some way off premium Android phones that use faster 1GHz Snapdragon processors, the Optimus still feels fairly nimble in use, although you will experience a bit of slow down here and there if you’ve got a few apps running in the background. There’s a rather limited 130MB of memory for storing apps and files, but you can beef this up using microSD cards of up to 32GB in size.
So far so good, but where the Optimus starts to falter is with LG’s decision to use an older version of Android. The phone runs V1.6 rather than the newer 2.1 release that’s used on most of the latest breed of Android devices. This means you miss out on the interface enhancements introduced in V2.1 such as live wallpapers and the 3D effect in the main menus. You also don’t get some other updates such as the native support for Exchange. Nevertheless, LG has customised the standard V1.6 interface a bit. It has added extra home screens so you’ve more space for widgets and shortcuts and has also placed two shortcuts to the messaging app and dialler on either side of the main menu button.
Another issue is that like many cheaper Android handsets, the GT540’s 3in touchscreen uses resistive rather than capacitive technology. This means you don’t get support for multi-touch (it’s not natively supported in Android V1.6 anyway) so instead you’re left with either double tap zooming or the onscreen magnifying icons to zoom in and out in the browser and Google Maps applications, which isn’t as intuitive as multi-touch zooming. Nevertheless, the screen’s sensitivity is good so it responds well to even lighter touches and swipes. It’s bright too and delivers strong colours.
These attributes combined with its resolution of 320 x 480 pixels means that text and graphics on web pages or in menus are crisp and easy to read. However, entering text can be a problem, especially when you’re using the screen in portrait mode, as the keys on the QWERTY keyboard are frustratingly small, thus leading to numerous typing errors.
When it comes to connecting with the outside world the Optimus covers all the important bases with Wi-Fi and HSDPA for fast data access on the move, plus Bluetooth and GPS support. The latter worked well in the Google Maps application, and if you update the maps app via the Android Market you now also get the beta version of Google Navigation, which provides turn-by-turn navigation instructions complete with synthesised voice announcements. We had no complaints about call quality either as the phone performed flawlessly in this regard. Battery life was also pretty much in line with other Android handsets we’ve tested as we managed to get about two days out of it before it needed a recharge.
The phone’s camera may have an average 3-megapixel resolution, but at least LG has added its own camera software that includes a few extras such as face detection. Shots look reasonable with well-defined edges and fairly accurate colours. It also manages to largely avoid the fringing that you sometimes see on images from camera phones. There’s no flash though, so you need lots of light indoors if you don’t want your pictures to look dark and very grainy.
When it comes to music you’ll find that the supplied headphones are a little below par, but at least the standard headphone jack means you can easily use your own cans with the phone. The audio output is rather good, delivering warm deep bass and crisp high frequencies on cymbals and hi-hats. LG has also added an FM tuner to the handset so you can switch to radio when you’re bored of your own tunes.
The phone handles video pretty well too. Its DivX certified so it’ll play standard definition DivX and Xvid files without any problems. Naturally, there’s also the standard YouTube video player onboard.
LG certainly has some of the ingredients right with the Optimus. It looks stylish, has good performance and a decent range of features. However, the company has dropped the ball by using a resistive touchscreen and lumping the phone with the older V1.6 release of Android. It’s also worth adding that the HTC Wildfire can be had for around £50 more and that handset beats the Optimus GT540 hands down thanks to its capacitive display and newer V2.1 version of Android.
Score in detail
|Operating System||Android OS|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3in|
|Talk Time (Minute)||440m|
|Standby Time (Hour)||500hr|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||0.139GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||600MHz Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs
|App Store||Andriod Market|
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