By Anton D. Nagy | January 25, 2011 1:48 PM
The LG Optimus 7 is part of a new breed of handsets mainly because it’s a Windows Phone 7 device, powered by an operating system which is new, fresh but nevertheless with its flaws. Microsoft has set out strict system requirements for Windows Phone 7 but has let the choice for manufacturers to decide upon form factor which, besides the quality of the build, materials used and bundled software, could make a certain device stand out from the rest. The LG Optimus 7 certainly stands out from several perspectives as well as it blends in from other points of views. Read on for our full LG Optimus 7 review.
Take a look below for our unboxing of the LG Optimus 7. The box contains a wall charger, a microUSB cable and noise cancelling buds, but unfortunately LG doesn’t bundle a pouch for device protection which we really think is useful if you want to keep your device in top shape over the period of your usage. The materials used in building the handset may be tough (i.e.: stainless steel back and glass protected screen) but a pouch would definitely add some more protection in case of accidental slips, drops and abuse.
The LG Optimus 7, like all Windows Phone 7 handsets, sports a 1GHz CPU. It’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650 and the device comes with 16GB of internal memory - unlike many of the other Windows Phone 7 devices out there — packs a 3.8-inch WVGA (800 x 480) capacitive TFT screen with tempered glass front for added protection, a 5MP with auto focus and LED flash, Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and digital compass. It has FM radio as do the rest of the Windows Phone 7 devices, has a 3.5 mm headphone jack, microUSB connection and everything is powered by a 1500mAh battery. A unique feature among Windows Phone 7 devices is the DLNA ability of the LG Optimus 7 which enables you to wirelessly play back music, pictures and videos to a DLNA certified device.
The front side features an earpiece at the middle-top which also acts as the device speaker. This is very good because when you listen to music or play games, the sound comes from the part which is closer to you, opposed to other devices that have the speaker oriented towards the back, making sounds hit the table if sat down on a flat surface or directing the tunes away from you when you listen to music or play your favorite game. The handset quality is good (not excellent) but when used as a device speaker the volume is decent with tendency to distort sounds around the top scale of the volume level (especially levels 29 and 30 on Windows Phone 7′s 30-step volume scale). Keeping it at 28 and below produces a sound characterized by intense highs (not exaggerated though) with decent mids and low bass but considering it’s a phone speaker, it delivers above average sound quality. Speaking of sound quality, we found the bundled noise cancelling buds to sound great compared to other noise cancelling buds from other manufacturers (not only phone but dedicated headphone manufacturers too), producing great bass (if you fit them properly, as with any in-ear headphones) and mids, lacking a bit on highs. On the left-top side you’ll find the proximity and ambient light sensors which both operate as they should, so nothing out of the extraordinary here.
On the bottom part of the front you will have Windows Phone 7′s dedicated buttons for Start, Back and Search and, opposed to the other Windows Phone 7 devices out there, LG chose to design the Optimus 7 with real hardware and not capacitive buttons. These have a great feedback when pushed so you get a classic feeling of pressing a hardware button that clicks but, it’s a matter of personal preference as some users will prefer capacitive buttons with device vibration feedback. While at the buttons, we need to express our hope that the silver coating on the buttons will stand the test of time and not fade away, as they add to the device’s attractiveness. We also feel that LG should have designed the Optimus 7 with an LED indicator on the front (or anywhere else for that matter) not from the network connectivity point of view but rather from the new notifications perspective as there really is no way in telling whether you have a missed call, text message or email if you glance at the device. You need to turn the screen on and take a quick look at Windows Phone 7′s Lock Screen to check all that and we believe this could have been achieved with a one or two-color LED somewhere on the device. There’s also no way in telling when you handset has finished charging; you have to glance at the operating system’s battery icon for that too.
On the top side the device features a 3.5mm headphone jack which we tried out with several headset jacks just to make sure the slightly angled top will not cause any connection problems and indeed it did not. The power button is also placed at the top and while we wish it would have been just a little but larger, it too has a great feedback when pushed letting out a small click.
The left side of the device features the volume rockers while on the right side you’ll find the dedicated camera button and the microUSB port. The camera button is hardware two-stage which also offers great click feedback on both stages, first for focusing and the second stage for releasing the shutter and capturing the picture. The microUSB port is covered by a small plastic lid which adds a nice look to the device without exposing the port but we hope that the plastic part will stand the test of time and not brake with usage, especially the hinge part.
There’s nothing at the bottom except for the microphone hole. The back of the device exposes the 5-megapixel camera surrounded by a shiny circle that sports the LED flash as well as a self-portrait mirror and wears the HD Camcorder label. Taking the stainless steel back cover off with the aid of the back plate eject button right below the Windows Phone branding exposes the 1500mAh battery and a SIM card slot. The LG Optimus 7 does not have a user accessible microSD card but the 16GB built-in memory makes up for that.
The LG Optimus 7 runs Windows Phone 7 and comes bundled with three LG applications: PlayTo, ScanSearch and Panorama shot. PlayTo is LG’s implementation of DLNA and while only server-side, meaning you can only stream from your handset to other devices and not vice-versa, it represents a great way to show off content on your phone by hooking it up wirelessly to a big screen, notebook or computer that is DLNA certified. For that to happen, devices have to be on the same WiFi network and once paired, the Optimus 7 will remember your preference. One note though that DRM protected music can’t be streamed using DLNA most probably because of copyright reasons. Check out the demo below:
ScanSearch is an application which we unfortunately couldn’t test, not because of an application fault but because it is based on maps provided by either Bing or Google, as per your choice. The region where we tested this out doesn’t have a high detail on either of the two map providers so the number of points of interest is very low and incomplete. The application — with exclusive access to Microsoft’s camera software — fires up your device’s camera so whatever your camera sees will be overlaid to your screen. With the aid of data connection, GPS and digital compass, the program get your exact location and looks for points of interest featured on Bing or Google maps to overlay to your real time augmented reality screen whatever POIs you choose (i.e. restaurants, shopping, gas stations, etc.) Turning your device in either direction will change the labels on buildings in real time so that you know where that certain POI is and how far it is from where you are standing. Turning your device to the sky will get you Weather information for your location.
In addition, LG is offering LG Windows Phone 7 owners access to 10 free applications every 60 days available from the LG Application Store section of the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, spanning across many categories such as social networking, utilities, and gaming.
Applications bundled can be easily uninstalled by tapping and holding on the application name inside your program list in case you find some useless or just need more space. You can reinstall from the LG Application Store at any time and they will be back on your device after you perform a Factory Reset.
The LG Optimus 7 can record 720p videos but there’s a bug which automatically reverts your video size settings to VGA by default the same way any customization you apply to the picture capture settings inside the camera app will revert to the original once you’ve hit he Back or Start button. The video quality on the LG Optimus 7 is mediocre, colors seem a little but off and the captured sound quality isn’t top notch. Still photography can be improved with the help a several LG specific features built into the camera application, a place where you can select Intelligent Shot (smart scene, portrait, landscape, night and backlight modes), Beauty shot, Color effects and Anti-shake, even though applying these features will have a rather small impact on the final snapshot. See pictures taken: close-up outdoors, close-up in dark with flash, close-up in low light without flash, sunny outdoors.
LG also bundles the Panorama shot application which accesses your camera application and enables you to take 180 degree panorama shots split out into five pictures with a single push of the shutter button, stitching them together at the end to result in a panorama picture. You only have to press the shutter button once to capture the first frame and the program automatically takes the second, third, fourth and last frame when the desired perspective is achieved.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE
The 1GHz processor used by all Windows Phone 7 devices, together with the speed of the operating system work together to offer a great user experience that is fast and fluid. Application load times are quick regardless if we’re talking about a simple application like Calculator or a complex game like Need for Speed. Since Windows Phone 7 combines the device memory with the one of the Internal Storage into one, LG seems to have opted for a fast microSD card solution as overall load times are among the fastest between Windows Phone 7 devices.
With every battery draining option enabled (WiFi always on, two email accounts set up, location services on and both find my phone options on) we managed to squeeze out two days on a single charge with the 1500mAh battery. Typical day-to-day usage included emailing, Twitter, Browsing, Bing search, music playback, gameplay, taking pictures, all on moderate typical usage levels. Playing long periods of time will drain the battery faster but on classic every day usage battery will hold you anywhere between one and a half and two days.
BUGS AND WISHES
Throughout our testing period we didn’t encounter any issues, both the device and the Operating System were reliable. You can easily press the Camera button on the right side while picking up or holding the handset in your hand and the first stage needs only a light press for the button to click its feedback so you might need some time of getting used to it, even if the Camera application is not triggered at this time, only with the second stage press. We wish the first stage would have needed more pressure to register. The bundled applications offer improved features and the ones given away for free by LG add to the experience but we wish the Voice to Text application that would add another feature to the phone was available but, at the time of this review, it was not yet released.
+ Windows Phone 7 is an exciting new mobile OS
+ Great battery life
+ Physical hardware buttons
+ DLNA support
+ Free LG applications
+ Good TFT LCD screen
- Windows Phone 7 still lacks key features which we hope will be addressed
- No expandable storage (16GB built-in only)
- Only one speaker so mono output
- Camera button stage one easily pressed
- Camera quality could be better
- Speaker distorts at high volume levels
- Doesn’t do USA 3G
If you are the type of person who likes medium sized screens, like the one on the HTC Desire for instance (which is 3.7-inch in diagonal), the 3.8-inch screen on the LG Optimus 7 will be to your liking and the featured TFT LCD screen is really good compared to other LCD screens in its class. With a huge 1500mAh battery, you’ll go anywhere from one and a half to two days on a single charge with a typical day-to-day usage. PlayTo is a unique feature of the LG Optimus 7 which is great for instantly streaming multimedia to DLNA certified devices and so is the Augmented Reality app called ScanSearch with exclusive access to Microsoft’s camera software helping you around points of interest using Bing or Google maps.
The build quality and materials look good, the device feels solid with no squeaking of fiddling and the hardware buttons are a nice addition if you’re the old style button lover. We hope the chrome coloring on the buttons will stay there forever the same way we hope the microUSB port lid will not break in time
If you would prefer a Windows Phone 7 device with a large screen, you might consider the HTC HD7; if you’re into sound volume and quality, the HTC Surround might be for you and if you won’t settle for less than AMOLED screens, check out the Samsung Focus.
I give the LG Optimus 7 a 4.5/5 because of the high quality materials used, solid build and bundled features. If you’re into speed, good battery life and added features plus apps on Windows Phone 7, the LG Optimus 7 is a great choice.