LG Optimus review: LG Optimus

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
Pricing Unavailable

The Good Faux metal finish. Basic smartphone features.

The Bad Slow performance. Unresponsive resistive touchscreen. Bland feature set.

The Bottom Line LG has cut corners in the wrong places to deliver the Optimus at the right price. Poor performance and frustrating input are always deal-breakers, regardless of price.

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Blue steel

We first saw the Optimus back in February at Mobile World Congress when it was called the GT540. At the time we were amazed at how much its tough plastic chassis looks and feels like cool, brushed metal. Even now as we gawk and prod at the Optimus it's hard to believe this is a plastic handset.

Sadly, these smoke and mirrors are about the only part of this handset design that we like. The Optimus relies on touchscreen input with the aid of five awkwardly-shaped mechanical keys, which when put together made it a very frustrating experience from an Android handset this year. The touchscreen is especially bad, LG has opted for a resistive screen and has not ended up with a very good one at that. You need to press the screen reasonably firmly to get a response, and even then you may struggle to make the selection you want. One key area that drove us crazy was the difficulty we had dragging down the notifications bar; you basically have to start dragging off the top of the screen to use this feature. We understand this is probably one of the key elements in keeping the price of this phone down, but the sacrifice in usability is unacceptable.

Everything else is pretty much standard, there's a 3.5mm headphone socket on top, volume and camera keys, USB charging port and a microSD card slot under the battery cover. LG has generously included a 2GB memory card with the phone, which is a good start, though media junkies will definitely want to upgrade this to something a bit bigger.

The bare necessities

All in all, this is a pretty bare-bones build of Google's Android. Running on version 1.6 of the operating system, the Optimus features all of the same smartphone tools you'd expect to see on a Google phone, but no real added bonuses to differentiate it from the growing number of other Androids. LG pre-loads a few unique widgets, but nothing worth mentioning in this review.

Email is fully covered by the Optimus, with the option to add webmail, ISP and MS Exchange accounts for business users. There's also a dedicated Gmail app, as there is on all Android devices. Social networking is one area LG attempts something unique, featuring an SNS tool for storing all of your account details and feeding you updates through one central, cleanly-designed message hub.

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Where to Buy

LG Optimus

Part Number: CNETLG Optimus

Typical Price: $509.00

See manufacturer website for availability.