LG Optimus L90 (T-Mobile) review: Midtier prepaid Android combines solid specs and savings

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good T-Mobile's competitively priced LG Optimus L90 features a sizable battery, reliable call quality, and a protective "self-healing" coating.

The Bad The handset lacks LTE and its camera takes mediocre photos indoors. There were also some hiccups with Wi-Fi calling.

The Bottom Line Though it doesn't have LTE and takes unimpressive photos, the LG Optimus L90 remains a worthy midrange contender that you should look at if you're on a budget.

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For prepaid carrier T-Mobile, reliable midrange devices that are under $300 are few and far between. Some devices are inexpensive, but don't offer a smooth and consistent user experience. Other higher-tiered handsets, however, cost around $500 or more, and can be out of range for those wanting to save money. Then there is the LG Optimus L90. Reasonably priced at $228 off-contract, the phone is a perfect combo of respectable specs and savings.

The device has its drawbacks, certainly. Though it has 4G, it doesn't have LTE, and its camera is unexceptional (especially with indoor pictures). But for its price, it certainly offers a good amount of value: solid call quality, a long-lasting battery, and Android 4.4.2 to name a few strengths.

If you're hunting for a bargain handset, but aren't willing to make too many sacrifices, the Optimus L90 has just enough hardware muscle and software features to satisfy your needs.

Design

As the biggest member of the L-series family, the L90 features larger measurements while remaining pocketable and easy to hold. It is 5.18 inches tall, 2.60 inches wide, 0.38 inch thick, and weighs 4.37 ounces. While you can definitely feel its presence in the front pockets of your jeans, it's not big enough where the fit is too snug or too uncomfortable.

On the left edge sits a volume rocker and a shortcut key that you can assign to launch one app of your choosing. It can be the browser, camera, or your camera. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster (more on that later). The right edge houses a sleep/power button and on the very bottom is a Micro-USB port for charging.

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The device's "self-healing" coat helps protect the battery door from everyday scratches. James Martin/CNET

The battery door is decorated with a subtle diamond pattern, and is coated with a slick material seen previously on LG's top-tier G Flex handset. This "self-healing" coat is slippery to hold at times, but when scratched, it works to seal up any minor scuffs that can accumulate from everyday wear and tear. This worked well when I repeatedly scratched the surface of the phone with a set of car keys. However, keep in mind that it isn't impenetrable. One flick of an X-Acto knife will scar the back easily.

Located on the back is a 5-megapixel camera lens and accompanying flash. Below that are two small slits for the audio speaker. Using the Micro-USB port, you can pry your fingers into it and remove the battery door. There, you can access the microSD card slot (which accepts cards of capacities up to 32GB), the removable 2,460mAH battery, and SIM card.

The 4.7-inch qHD touchscreen has a 960x540-pixel resolution. Despite the display's low resolution, the screen is still bright and vivid. True, I can see a bit of graininess when it comes to the default wallpapers and images, and text showed obvious aliasing if I looked closely. However, neither of these characteristics was too distracting or annoying to the eye during general use. In addition, the display is responsive to the touch and easy to view in direct sunlight. Below the screen is a physical center home button, flanked by two hotkeys for back and menu settings. To call up recent apps, long press the home key.

Software features

The L90 runs the LG Optimus 3.0 user interface, and has a number of signature software features. These include the option to customize certain app icons; QuickMemo, which lets you jot down quick notes or sketches directly over images onscreen; and QSlide 2.0, a multitasking function that you can use to view and resize apps (like the calculator and video player) while using other apps or viewing the home screen. Users will get QuickRemote too, which works with the IR blaster situated on the top edge, to turn the handset into a remote for household devices like a TV or cable box.

Considering the fact that this is a midtier handset, it's great to see the phone include a more recent version of Android (4.4.2 KitKat, to be exact). It also has your standard stock of Google apps: Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Maps, Hangouts, Drive, Photos, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Newsstand, Movies & TV, and Music are loaded as well.

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Running Android 4.4.2, the handset features a more recent OS compared to other phones in its class. James Martin/CNET

Surprisingly, there are no carrier apps loaded from T-Mobile. As someone who wants as much internal memory and the least amount of bloatware as possible, I appreciate this move. But there are some other "goodie" apps such as the Amazon shopping app, a document cloud manager called Box, a translation app, and the mobile document suite, ThinkFree Viewer.

Basic task-management apps consist of an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, native browser and e-mail clients, a memo pad, a to-do list, a dictionary, a voice recorder, and a file manager. Lastly, you'll get Bluetooth 4.0 and 8GB of internal storage.

Camera and video

Photo quality for the 5-megapixel camera is good, especially in settings with ample enough light like outdoor scenes. In these photos, objects were in focus, and crisp outlines, and colors were true-to-life. However, there were times when light sources were too overblown. In addition, the camera struggles with indoor settings. In dimmer environments, photos had a notable amount of digital noise and artifacts. Colors also looked muted and landed on the colder, bluer side. For more on the phone's photo quality, check out the photos below. And be sure to click on each picture to see them at their full resolution.

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In this outdoor picture, the flower petals are sharp with clear edges, and colors are vibrant. Lynn La/CNET

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Service Provider T-Mobile
    T- Mobile
  • Weight 4.37 oz
  • Diagonal Size 4.7 in
  • Sensor Resolution 5 pixels
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