LG Optimus 7
21st Oct 2010 | 11:41
Is LG's Optimus 7 the prime Windows Phone 7 handset?
LG Optimus 7: Overview, design and feel
Windows Phone 7 has arrived an array of different handsets, so here we're looking at LG's entry: the Optimus 7.
Microsoft sets out some design rules for Windows Phone 7 hardware, and there are some ways in which the Optimus 7 is very like all the other Windows Phone 7 handsets out there, such as the HTC HD7, Samsung Omnia 7 and HTC 7 Mozart.
There's a camera button on the right edge and three shortcut buttons on the front: Search, Back and one to take you to the Windows Start screen. You'll find these on all Windows Phone 7 handsets.
There's also the usual smartphone goodness of Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS. HSDPA support runs to 7.2Mbps download and 5.7Mbps upload. A five-megapixel camera sits on the back, and there's a generous 16GB of internal memory.
The memory quota is actually quite important with Windows Phone 7 because no Windows Phone 7 handset caters for hot-swappable memory via adding your own microSD card. You're stuck with what's there from the outset, so you need to be sure it's enough to meet your needs. 16GB is currently the maximum available, so that puts the LG Optimus 7 in a good light.
Despite Microsoft's 'rules' for smartphones carrying its OS, there are some features here that you won't find on other Windows Phone 7 handsets. Quite naturally enough, really, since manufacturers want to differentiate one smartphone from all the others.
Most notably for the LG Optimus 7, there's a panorama camera mode, an app called ScanSearch, and a feature called PlayTo for DLNA. If you want the ultimate review of the Windows Phone 7 software itself, then check out our in-depth look at the OS.
The LG Optimus 7 is a bulky old thing. It's a massive 125mm tall, 59.8mm wide and 11.5mm thick. That height doesn't actually mean there's an oversized screen here. What you get is a 3.8-inch screen with 800 x 480 pixels.
We do like the screen, which is capacitive and ultra-responsive. We've found in general that tapping away at the on-screen keyboards and icons of Windows Phone 7 is a positive experience, and the LG Optimus 7 provides us with more of the same. We actually sighed with pleasure that Microsoft has at last consigned its teeny icons and menus based system to history.
The physical design of the LG Optimus 7 leaves us slightly unhappy, though. There's quite a lot of empty space above the screen, and the three under-screen buttons are in an area that's oversized for our tastes. We'd have liked more streamlining, to be honest.
In fact, the three buttons are a bit weird. The start button looks like a stuck-on tile, though it is a real button that you press in. The back and search buttons also press in, but they're flush to their surroundings. It's all nowhere near as sleek as the touch buttons on, say, the HTC 7 Mozart.
The general build is fairly premium, and we particularly like the metal backplate. There's a rubberised finish to the rest of the chassis which helps with grip. The micro-USB slot that you'll use to charge the battery is under a hinged protective cover on the right side of the chassis.
LG Optimus 7: Interface
If you've read other reviews of Windows Phone 7 handsets such as the HTC HD7, HTC 7 Mozart and Samsung Omnia 7, or our already mentioned review of our Windows Phone 7 itself, you'll be familiar with how the operating system stacks up.
There is but a single Home screen, and it contains shortcuts to apps, data and groups of information via 'tiles'. Most of these are square, some are double width, and there is apparently no limit to the number you can have on the Home screen. You scroll vertically to get to them all. You can move them around so that your most used bits and pieces are at the top.
We've so far found this works okay but not brilliantly. We don't like scrolling too far down to get to an app or bit of data we like, and are just as happy to do a quick horizontal scroll to get to the complete apps list.
But if you're the kind of person who doesn't have a huge amount on the go at once, we can see that the system could work well for you. Either way there's no doubting that the large, easy to hit icons are a boon.
LG Optimus 7: Contacts
The LG Optimus 7 is pretty social networking aware, but like many aspects of Windows Phone 7 you really need to buy into the whole Microsoft experience to make the most of it. Windows Live contacts are pulled in from the cloud, for example. You can also pull in Facebook contacts and get contacts from your SIM.
But if you want desktop Outlook sync, then you'll need to take your Outlook contacts into the cloud first, because there's no desktop ActiveSync any more.
One thing we really like is the ability to see what's new on Facebook. This is a vertically scrollable list of new posts. There's a little box telling you how many comments there have been. Tap it and you can see all the comments, and make your own. Easy, neat, fast.
LG Optimus 7: Messaging
When it comes to messaging, Windows Phone 7 has the major bases nicely covered. Setting up a lot of accounts is easy – all you need is your email and password.
For other accounts, you can enter the incoming and outgoing email server details manually. That info is readily available from your ISP and entering it takes a matter of seconds.
We love the way that there's a colour change in email data to show it has been read rather than an extra icon on screen. Microsoft has done a pretty good job of minimising icon use, and this is one place where that is evident.
But we do have a gripe. We get a lot of email and we'd have liked to be able to reduce the font size on screen so we could see more than five emails at once. Other smartphones manage to show more and seeing more emails makes for less scrolling.
Whether it's email or SMS (or any other text creation come to that) the keyboard is paramount and we found the LG Optimus 7 to be superb in this regard.
In both tall and wide modes, it's remarkably easy to work at speed. The capacitive screen is responsive and the word correction system is great.
We really like that the red wavy line concept has been brought over from Word on the desktop. It highlights bad spelling that the handset can't autocorrect itself, and you can keep on typing, then go back, highlight the word, and correct it manually – or add it to the dictionary.
LG Optimus 7: Internet
Web browsing was never a very satisfying experience on Windows Mobile, but Microsoft has worked on Internet Explorer and has improved it. There's very responsive pinch-to-zoom support on the LG Optimus 7, and you can have multiple windows tabs at once with no bother.
Hyperlinks are recognised from within other documents. We really like that you can pin a favourite web page to the Home screen so you can get to it quickly. The Smart Address Bar is quite useful, too – it makes suggestions for what you was you are typing, and if the right one pops up you just tap it. It can be a real time saver.
YouTube videos are well within the compass of the web browser too.
LG Optimus 7: Media
We weren't too happy about having to use Zune to get media onto our LG Optimus 7, but there's no drag and drop support for file transfer.
This makes dropping the odd tune or podcast onto the device a bit more time consuming than it is with, say, the HTC Desire. We think Microsoft has shot itself in the foot a bit here, sacrificing ease of use to its overarching desire to lock everything down.
Still, the Zune software enables you to import music, video and podcasts, albeit the latter at a snail's pace, and the Music and video hub adds in access to an FM radio and to the Marketplace, where you can buy some tunes.
The radio needs your earphones to act as an antenna. LG provides a decent set of ear canal earphones that, and this might be a first for a smartphone for us, we didn't immediately want to swap for our own favourite cans.
LG Optimus 7: Camera
The LG Optimus 7 camera has that standard Windows Phone 7 feature of being able to run from the lock screen if you hit the side button. You can shoot a photo and share it to Facebook, messaging, contacts or email without actually leaving the lock screen, making getting those quick fire shots really easy and fast.
The camera shoots stills at five megapixels and has a little LED flash. It shoots video at 720p. There is also a panorama shooting mode that stitches a number of photos together into a wide, thin panorama.
The camera sports an 'intelligent shot' mode that enables it to pre-select shutter speed and aperture according to the subject and brightness. There's also a 'beauty shot' mode, which fiddles around with how people look to try to make them more photogenic. Not our favourite idea, to be honest.
On a pleasant autumn morning, the camera had a bit of trouble coping with the bright sunshine. The overall effect is rather washed out as a result, and this is something we found generally to be a problem.
This mosaic is always an interesting test for a camera. It's in a darkish corner of a walled garden, and there's lots of reflected light from the mosaic pieces themselves. In this case the camera struggled to balance the light and shade.
Indoors and quite close up, the camera performed really well. This shot is crisp and clear, and there was plenty of ambient light about so that the flash wasn't needed. As lighting conditions got gloomier indoors, the flash kicked in and shots were less satisfactory.
The LG Optimus 7 takes a series of photos automatically to stitch into a wide, narrow panorama (3556 x 730 pixels). You shoot the first photo and then get a large pointy arrow on screen indicating where to move the camera for the next shot in sequence.
Red borders sit at each corner of the screen, helping you further in framing your next shot. When you have the image in frame to the phone's liking, it automatically shoots the next photo.
When you've got five photos done, they're stitched together into a panorama. The stitching is pretty good and you end up with a traditional wide, thin panoramic shot. The only thing to note is that you have to move the camera pretty slowly through this process or you get some image blurring.
720p HD video recording is not an uncommon feature these days, but good quality video at those specs is. The good news here is that vide was not overly jerky, but as with stills the camera struggled a bit to capture enough light to produce high quality results.
LG Optimus 7: Play To and ScanSearch
Play To is LG's DLNA-based app. You can stream pictures, music or videos from the LG Optimus 7 to any other DLNA supporting device such as a TV or Windows 7 PC. Getting it to work is really easy once you're connected to a Wi-Fi network on each device.
On the LG Optimus 7 you choose Play To from the Home screen, then opt for the media type you want to transfer, wait for the phone to find your playback device – which in our case was a Windows 7 PC, and then choose what you want to stream.
The process worked really well for us, and it is a great advance on hunting around for cables when you just want to show off a few snapshots or video, or share a tune on an ad hoc basis.
ScanSearch is a little augmented reality application that's rather fun to use and could also proved quite handy at times. It is a bit like the Layar augmented reality application that Samsung puts into some of its handsets and which is a download from the Android market and app store.
The idea is that you point the screen around to get live information about things. So, if you're stuck in a strange town and you need a pizza, a hospital, a train or a hotel, you should be able to find something to meet those requirements simply by choosing that class of info from the menu then waving your handset around so that 'finds' show up on screen.
When you see a suggestion you like, tap it and details pop up on screen including full address and phone number. You can then tap again to view the place on a map, do a Google or Bing search if you want to get some more info (such as a restaurant review). You can also share any finds you make via Twitter, Facebook or email.
There's another trick too. Turn the handset towards the sky when it's in ScanSearch view and you get a weather report with a little forecast for the next few days. Now that's neat.
LG Optimus 7: Battery life and connectivity
LG has equipped the LG Optimus 7 with a 1500mAh battery and that's pretty capacious in smartphone terms. We found we were able to keep going for a day and a half between charges – which is more than we'd usually expect from a smartphone by 50 percent.
But as ever what you'll get in the real world is very much contingent on how you use your handset. Go wild with Wi-Fi or get going with GPS and you may find you need to recharge more often.
Like other Windows Phone 7 smartphones, the LG Optimus 7 has a good range of connectivity options. We didn't have any trouble with the Orange SIM we put into our LG Optimus 7 in terms of maintaining a signal, and voice calls weren't a problem at all.
We aren't the greatest fans of having to use the Zune software for PC connectivity and file transfer.
What's wrong with a portion of a Windows Phone 7 device's built in memory showing up as a drive for drag and drop? We'd rather not require yet another desktop app install when we really prefer simple drag and drop for file transfer.
And while we're complaining, what's with the need to connect to mains power before doing a Wi-Fi sync? That's just a barrier to make something that should be easy and painless slightly less easy and more painful.
LG Optimus 7: Hands-on gallery
LG Optimus 7: Official gallery
LG Optimus 7: Verdict
The LG Optimus 7 implements the basics of Windows Phone 7 well, and the software extras – plus a doubling of the standard 8GB of built in storage – are enough to help it stand out from the crowd.
The super-sharp and highly responsive screen is a joy to use for typing and sweeping through photos.
The web browser works well on the large screen, and it's a pleasure to see – and use – pinch to zoom.
The headphones provided are higher quality than we're used to and delivered punchy sound.
16GB of internal storage is enough for plenty of data and nearly (but not quite) makes up for Microsoft's refusal to allow the user to add removable storage on Windows Phone 7 handsets.
The Play To DLNA feature worked really nicely for sending stuff to our laptop computer. We can see this being used to show off holiday snaps quite a lot.
The camera needs a bit of attention. Panorama mode works well, but images are washed out overall.
This is a Windows Phone 7 gripe, but we hate that you have to use Zune to transfer photos and videos to and from a PC. What's wrong with drag and drop?
The chassis design has its good and bad points. While the metal backplate is a plus, the odd Windows Start buttons is rather bizarre.
With Windows Phone 7 devices sharing an awful lot in terms of base specifications and button placement, it's arguably a challenge to get differentiation. LG has chosen to up the basic memory quota and add some apps.
On the whole we like what has been done.
But, we've really taken against some aspects of Windows Phone 7, not least being locked into Zune and not being able to expand on internal memory. Microsoft may have shot itself in the foot a couple of times there, and poor old LG (and Samsung, HTC and Dell) have just had to make the best of it.