The LG Optimus Black is, well… black. And slim. Very slim indeed. And light. It’s well built, and has a good screen. And it runs Android. Its main problem is that there are lots of other Android handsets out there that are well built and look good. And at over £400, a handset needs to be rather special to succeed.
New screen technology
LG has equipped the Optimus Black with a screen technology called NOVA. This, says LG, make the 4in, 480×800 display brighter than usual and easier to view outside in direct sunlight. Colours are also more accurate than usual, making for better web browsing.
We found the Optimus Black performed well outside. Viewing the screen was a lot easier than it is with some rivals, and colours were bold. Web browsing, video watching and photo viewing were all pleasurable experiences. It’s difficult to find fault with the screen.
Also on offer with the LG Optimus Black is a whole library of gesture controls. If you enable these, you can do things like tilt the handset to pan around and move between images, flip it over to snooze the alarm, double-tap the left or right edge of the handset to move forwards and back through tunes, shake the handset to accept a call, and, when the handset is locked, shake it to go to the camera.
There are more gesture controls too, and all can be turned off and on individually so you can personalise things just how you like them. You can use the tilt and pan controls only if you hold down a button labelled ‘G’ on the left side of the chassis, so that you don’t use them accidentally, we suppose.
If you look at the key specifications of the LG Optimus Black, there’s a lot to impress. That thinness translates to 9.2mm, while overall the other dimensions are 122mm and 64mm.
There’s a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, HSDPA, Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi of course. There is 2GB of built-in storage. The 5-megapixel main camera benefits from a flash, and there’s a 2GB front camera too.
It’s a pity LG couldn’t manage to install Android 2.3, though, instead opting for 2.2. It’s true that the differences between the versions are not vast, but it seems odd for such an expensive smartphone not to be bang up to date. We also found the battery life was a little lower than average. Maybe the fancy screen is a real power hog, but whatever the cause you might need to think about a mid-afternoon power boost.
LG’s Android overlay is very familiar, with each of the seven home screens having four fixed-position shortcuts at the bottom of the screen for Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Applications menu. The apps list is separated into pre-installed and downloaded apps. If you want to, you can break things down using further customised areas.
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- Good screen; thin; good camera.
- Gesture control gimmicky; poor battery life.
The LG Optimus Black is a difficult handset to evaluate. Its poor battery life is a real let-down, the high quality screen a big plus point. We're non-plussed by the gesture control, but the general specifications are pleasing. In the end, it's better than average - but it doesn't blow us away.