LG Optimus 7 Review – A New Kind of Phone

By Cosmin Vasile on December 20th, 2010 20:01 GMT
The E900 Optimus 7 is the first smartphone manufactured by Korean company LG that runs on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile platform.

Unlike its Windows Mobile predecessor, which was targeted at enterprise users, the Windows Phone 7 operating system is aimed at consumers. This puts the WP7 platform in direct competition with Apple's iOS and Google's Android, which both have the same target.

Microsoft has issued strict hardware requirements for all manufacturers who  want to implement the new OS on their devices. These hardware requirements are tough to meet and limit the variety of devices that can run Windows Phone 7.

Obviously, the LG Optimus 7 fulfills the minimum requirements needed: 1 GHz processor, DirectX9 rendering-capable GPU, 256MB of RAM with at least 8GB of Flash memory, accelerometer with compass, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and Assisted GPS, 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, FM radio tuner and 6 dedicated hardware buttons.

Announced in October 2010, LG Optimus 7 was launched on the market in November 2010. Currently, the handset can be purchased for about $550 without a subscription.

Design

LG Optimus 7 looks like a true smartphone, large and elegant at the same time. The device measures 125 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm and weighs 157g (battery included). The Optimus 7 is no business phone, but neither a device meant exclusively for the tech-savvy users.

The phone's matte plastic that covers the front part gives a nice feeling to the touch and doesn't attract fingerprints. The battery cover on the back is entirely made from metal, which adds to the smartphone's weight, but this is compensated by the fact that it makes the phone more solid. The Optimus 7 is not easy to fit in an average pocket, but that's the case with all smartphones that feature such a large display. The smartphone's curved shape makes it easier to handle and differentiates the Optimus 7 from other WP7 phones.The device features a 3.8-inch LCD touchscreen display, which puts it in the average category in comparison with HTC's 7 Pro 3.6-inch display and HD7 with a 4.3-inch screen.
Above the display there's a secondary camera, an ambient light sensor, as well as a proximity sensor for auto turn-off. Below the screen there's a set of three keys, which are required by Microsoft: Back, Start and Search. These are physical keys and a little bit hard to press when the phone is operated with only one hand. Users with longer fingers will have an easier time, but otherwise Back and Search buttons are harder to reach.The middle Start key protrudes a bit and feels rather cheap as the silvery paint wears off in time. The right side of the phone features the microUSB port and a dedicated camera key, which can be set to unlock the phone and start the camera. The left side of the phone includes both volume keys, while on top of the device there's a 3.5mm jack port and the Power/Lock button. The mouthpiece has been placed on the bottom side of the smartphone.

The 5-megapixel camera on the back features flash, as well as self-portrait mirror. The
battery cover can be pulled out by pressing on the the small latch at the base, below the Windows Phone 7 logo.

The loudspeaker has been moved on the front part just above the display, along with the earphone.Even though this is LG's first Windows Phone 7 smartphone, the manufacturer succeeded in making its device stand out from other WM7 phones. Because of the strict hardware requirements set by Microsoft, this could prove quite a challenge. Overall, LG Optimus 7 feels like a smartphone with a great build quality, elegant and appealing to business-oriented as well as mass market users.

Display and Camera

LG Optimus 7 features a 3.8-inch TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen with up to 16M colors and WVGA 480 x 800 pixel resolution. Aside from the usual LCD issues, such as poor image quality when viewed at an angle and average sunlight legibility, the screen colors, brightness and contrast are quite nice.

The screen features accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate, as well as Proximity sensor for auto turn-off during calls. Unfortunately, the accelerometer acts strangely sometimes. It changes to landscape mode and stays so even after the phone has been turned back to portrait position.

You can try to reset it to the default position by turning the phone from portrait to landscape mode again and again. On the other hand, the Proximity sensor works like a charm, so users won't have to worry for call interruptions, as the screen 'blanks' as it nears the ear.The 5-megapixel camera features autofocus, LED flash, geo-tagging, as well as video recording capabilities. The UI of camera is intuitive and includes a new perk added by Microsoft, as users can slide to the right to get to the last photo shot and back to the live view. In addition to the standard settings such as contrast, white balance, colors, flash, shake reduction and others, LG implemented two new options for the camera, Intelligent and Beauty modes.

The quality of the pictures is very good for a 5-megapixel camera, but snaphots still have traces of noise and sharpening the photos will have even worse results.The Optimus 7 comes with LG's Panorama shot app pre-installed, but if it happens that your Optimus 7 doesn't have it you can always download it from the market for free. The Panorama shot app takes a maximum of 5 snapshots, which can be aligned to form a larger image. The first picture is taken by clicking the shutter, but the next are taken automatically.

As I already mentioned above, the shutter key of the device can be set to unlock the phone and start the camera. Furthermore, it appears that this features has been implemented in an intelligent manner, as the shutter won't unlock the phone and start the camera if there is something in front of its proximity sensor. This makes sure that accidentally clicking on the button while the phone is in the pocket will not unlock the phone.The camera can also be used to record clips in three resolutions: QVGA, VGA and 720p@23fps, in MP4 format. Unfortunately, the more action you get on the movie, the lower the quality will be, as the recording will drop the number of fps to the point that the clip becomes choppy.

Check out the samples below for a more accurate opinion about the quality of the photo snapper.

Menu and Software

Obviously, Windows Phone 7 is different from any other mobile platform on the market. Microsoft started the development of WP7 from the scratch and it shows. The whole UI is based on tabs, much like Symbian^3, only these are more like squares and are called Hubs.

There's little to no customization at all, as Microsoft said they are taking the responsibility of a single UI which should not be changed drastically by the user or manufacturer. Of course, adding more Hubs, such as Contacts, Bookmarks or apps on the home screen is possible. Themes can also be changed, but that is limited to changing the colors of the hubs and background. At least manufacturers are allowed to bundle some of their apps into the phone.It looks like Microsoft decided to go for a simple, minimalistic, but rigid look, rather than give the user the possibility of customizing the device to meet his demands. Navigation through the phone's menu uses two axes: horizontal and vertical. Users can slide up/down and left/right. Contextual menus are also added to some features and can be accessed by long pressing on the said feature.

The entire home screen is built like a 'never-ending' grid where the user can add whatever he needs to access quickly, in the form of Live tiles. Basically, the home screen acts like a desktop, which is built on two rows and is populated with shortcuts, bookmarks, contacts, favorites, apps and more. Obviously, the more tiles you have 'pinned' on the home screen, the harder will be for you to find a certain contact or app. Also known as Start screen, the home screen is very flexible, as users can move these tiles around and arrange them as they wish.A side slide to the left will bring you to the Main Menu of the phone, which is not so different from the home screen. However, instead of hubs, we now have a long list of settings, features and apps arranged in alphabetical order. Any of items in the list can be 'pinned' to the Home screen, by long pressing on the title. Do the same to uninstall an application, but choose Uninstall instead of Pin to start.

LG also bundled two more apps, in addition to the Panorama shot, an augmented reality application and a DLNA connectivity app.

One of the major apps included is the full Microsoft Office suite, which seems to get along  perfectly with the operating system. From what I've seen this is one of the best implementation of a document reader. You can do just about anything with a document file, from synching it with Microsoft's cloud service SkyDrive or Windows Live account.Two important features are missing however, copy/paste and true multitasking. The first will be implemented with the first major update of the operating system, which is scheduled for early 2011. On the other hand, Microsoft's idea of 'multitasking' is a bit different from what other mobile platform developers see things. Currently, the Back key is the only way you can go back to an app that you used earlier. The good news is that the apps will continue from the last point they were left.

The bad news is that you won't be able to run the music player or a third party app in the background and use the Internet browser at the same time or write an email. Windows Phone 7 does not have a true multitasking feature, but allows users to go back to an app with the Back button. Basically, you can cycle between app that have been used and are still working in the phone's memory. Furthermore, it looks like applications can stay resident in the phone's memory even if the device is in standby mode, as long as the  user allows this when the system asks for permission.The device's Phonebook, also known as the People hub, is shown on the home screen and may include contacts from various accounts such as Windows Live, Gmail, Facebook or SIM card. If you did not associate a Windows Live ID account with your phone, the first time you click on the People hub you will be able to import all your contacts from the SIM.

Afterwards, this can be done by pressing and holding your finger on the People word, in the People hub, and click Settings. Every contact in the phone looks like a profile on a social network site. Lots of details can be filled for every contact and you can also decide how these will be arranged, by Last name or First name. Obviously, there's no limit to the the number of contacts you can store, as this only depends on the storage space of the phone.In addition to the Microsoft Office package, there's also a business-oriented Calendar application, which feature three view modes: agenda, day and month view. The interesting part is that you can sync it with multiple calendars such as Outlook and Google calendar. Events will appear in different colors, according to the calendar it belongs to. These colors can be changed and an unlimited number of alarms can be created.

As mentioned above, the Optimus 7 comes with three LG apps bundled: Panorama shot, PlayTo and ScanSearch.

With PlayTo users will be able to turn their smartphone into a DLNA server and watch pictures, videos and music on compatible TVs and PCs.

ScanSearch is an augmented reality application which uses the camera and its geo-tagging feature to overlay information about various points of interest. Furthermore, the application seems to take advantage of the phone's digital compass.The Marketplace hub lets users install third-party apps on their smartphone. It features four categories: applications, music, games and LG App store. There's also an Update all option, which allows users to update all their installed apps with only a click of a button.

The good news is that users will be able to try an application before buying. The bad news is that the Search function available provides results from all categories, no matter where you made the search. Basically, you will get results from apps mixed with songs and games. Currently, WP7 marketplace features more than 4000 apps and is growing steadily.The Xbox Live hub is where business meets entertainment. It includes most of the features available for the Xbox such as avatar, achievements, high scores and the likes. Unfortunately, the Xbox Live feature is not available in all countries where the phone is being retailed.

All in all, Windows Phone 7 is another kind of mobile platform, with lots of downsides, but feature rich at the same time. I found it easy to use, but not so intuitive as I wanted or expected. The environment is also too strict and it's only serviced by other Microsoft services, which are not offering too many choices for the end-user.

Communication

LG Optimus 7 is fully compatible with GPRS and EDGE Class 10, as well as HSDPA 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA 5.76 Mbps. The phone also features Bluetooth 2.1 and microUSB 2.0, though file transfer through Bluetooth is not possible.

Windows Phone 7 does not support storage mode, which means that users won't be able to transfer files without using the Zune software. Furthermore, users can only transfer images, videos, music files and documents through the synching software. One of the great features of the smartphone is definitely the Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n connectivity, which cuts the bill for data transfers.

The messaging features are very well integrated with the operating system. All messages are organized by conversations. Sending MMS messages is very easy, but you will only be able to attach one photo. The client does not allow you to attach short movies for the moment.Setting up an email account is very easy, as users will have to follow a step by step guide. The client automatically detects settings for Windows Live ID and Google email accounts.

The Optimus 7 comes with Internet Explorer web browser, which is a huge step forward compared with the last mobile web browser included with Windows Mobile OS. This one is very fast and handles rich content pages extremely well. However, I have found two annoying downsides, which makes the web browsing experience rather questionable. When you turn the phone in landscape mode while browsing, controls and address bar will disappear for the full screen mode. If you want to make them appear again, you won't be able to do it unless you turn the device back to portrait. This means that you won't be able to input a new web page address or use the virtual keypad in landscape mode. Another issue arises when you zoom in to read a text. There's a high chance that you will need to slide the page left and right to be able to read the whole text.However, the new Internet Explorer offers an enjoyable web browsing experience with the exception of the two issued mentioned above. Another two problems that Microsoft promised to solve in the near future is the lack of Flash/Silverlight, as well as YouTube client.

The smartphone also includes a built-in GPS reciever with A-GPS support. The integrated GPS works along with Microsoft's Bing Maps, which are not so bad at all. On the contrary, I found that the GPS pinpoint is pretty fast even when indoors. As long as the maps will be kept updated, Bing maps is a great location tool.The quadband (GSM 850 / GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900) network-compatible bar handset has an average GSM signal reception. The sound is great at both ends and extremely loud. In fact I was surprised to notice how loud the in-call sound is regardless of how noisy the background is.

Processor and Memory

LG Optimus 7 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650 1 GHz processor, which is the minimum requirement for Windows Phone 7 devices. While browsing through menus is pretty snappy, I have noticed some lags when using the camera, as well as bigger than usual loading times when the applications working in the phone's memory are accessed after the device has been in Standby mode.

The device includes 16GB of internal memory, 512 MB RAM and 512 MB ROM. The phone does not feature a microSD card for memory expansion, nor storage mode.

Multimedia

All multimedia feature reside in the Music&Videos hub with the Zune logo on it. To transfer music files and clips you will have to use the Zune synching tool. The music player does not feature Equalizers, instead you will be able to 'pin' a song, a radio station or even a video to the Start screen. Album art is available, as well.

The multimedia hub is organized in five parts: music and video player, podcasts, FM radio and Marketplace.LG Optimus 7 is no music phone, but it offers an enjoyable multimedia experience. Music sound quality is above average, as long as you use your own headphones. Obviously, both radio and music player can be run in the background.

The FM radio features the RDS function, but does not work without the headphones inserted, which act as antenna.

The video player is not compatible with .avi files, but the good news is that Zune can convert these files into .MP4 files. Unfortunately, this will take forever if you plan to convert entire movies and you don't have a powerful PC.

Battery

LG Optimus 7 features a Li-Ion 1500 mAh battery rated by the manufacturer for up to 330 hours (up to 330 hours for 3G) or up to 6 hours and 40 minutes (up to 5 hours for 3G). Sadly, the phone's battery will deplete very fast if you plan to use the Wi-Fi connectivity for more than an hour or so. The battery's energy drops very fast when browsing the Internet over a Wi-Fi connection. Otherwise, you can have 2-3 days of medium use with only one charge. Of course, I suggest disabling some additional settings that will stop data connections in the background, as well as the location services.

Impressions

Windows Phone 7 is definitely a work in progress. My impression is that the platform was delivered unfinished. However, WP7 is certainly a good start for a new Microsoft project, which will probably become mature once Windows Phone 8 will make its way on the market. I believe that LG's try on a Windows Phone 7 is a success, even if the manufacturer had to abide by Microsoft's strict rules.

The Good

LG Optimus 7 is one of best looking WP7 phone, as it uses high-quality materials and excellent finishes. The bundled LG apps are also a nice addition to the operating system: Panorama shot, ScanSearch and PlayTo. Some of the best features of the device are the good in-call sound, as well as the 5-megapixel camera and the powerful 1GHz CPU. Wi-Fi and DLNA support are also among the strong points of the phone, along with Microsoft Office package and social networking integration. For those who wish to give Windows Phone 7 a chance, I would recommend trying the LG Optimus 7 as one of the best value for the money.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the phone's downsides are mostly related to the Windows Phone 7 platform. A big list of unsupported features plagues the operating system: no copy/paste, no storage mode, no file manager, no Bluetooth file transfers, no Flash support, no video-calls support, no multitasking, no tethering.

However, a better quality display might be a better idea for a future LG WP7 phone, as well as an improved music sound quality.

Sales Package

LG Optimus 7 handset
Li-Ion 1500 Battery
Charger
Wired earphones
USB cable.
LG Optimus 7
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   LG Optimus 7

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