LG Optimus F3 review: Compact and inexpensive, but forgettable

Video features for the front-facing camera are nearly identical to those of the rear camera, including the quirky effects, except there is no digital zoom or flash, and there are only three video sizes, ranging from VGA to MMS.

For a 5-megapixel shooter, photo quality was good. Colors were true to life, objects were in focus with well-defined edges, and while you can see digital noise, the amount wasn't overly distracting. What I was mostly impressed with, however, was the speed of the camera. The shutter speed is fast, and I didn't have to wait at all for the camera to ready itself for the next photo.

LG Optimus F3 (outdoor)
Despite the blown-out sky, this overcast outdoor photo is still sharp and colorful. Lynn La/CNET

LG Optimus F3 (indoor)
In this dimmer indoor photo, you can still see the details of the folds in the white curtain. Lynn La/CNET

LG Optimus F3 (SSI)
In our standard studio shot, the flash casts a slight blue hue over the objects. James Martin/CNET

Video quality was also on par. Both moving and still objects remained in focus, audio picked up well, and I didn't notice any lag between the viewfinder and my moving of the camera. However, while shooting cars on the road during an overcast day, I did notice in my footage that dark colors tended to blend together, making them hard to distinguish.

Performance
I tested the LG Optimus F3 in San Francisco and call quality was mediocre. While none of my calls dropped, I did hear a notable amount of static, and a few times I heard several short clipping sounds. Fortunately, however, during times of absolute silence I didn't hear any extraneous noise or buzzing. Sound quality was also low, even on maximum volume, and several times I had to ask my friend to repeat himself. On my end, I was told I sounded a little muffled, but on the whole, clear.

Speaker quality could've been better. Calls sounded tinny, and at times, unpleasantly sharp. Music also sounded a bit flat, with little to no bass.

Likewise, calls on the Optimus F3 over T-Mobile's network were unimpressive. My tester said my voice sounded muffled. On speakerphone, she said that I sounded like I was in a tunnel and she was only able to hear me clearly when I held the microphone right next to my mouth.

On my end, her voice was also muffled and when I switched to speakerphone, the audio was distorted even with the volume turned down.

LG Optimus F3 (Sprint) call quality sample

Listen now:


LG Optimus F3 (T-Mobile) call quality sample

Listen now:


Sprint's LTE network hasn't officially launched in San Francisco yet, and while I was able to connect to the 4G network continuously, data speeds were abysmal. There were many times when it stalled and it would take several minutes to load a simple mobile page. For that reason, I defaulted back to 3G, which showed more consistent and even faster times. On average, it loaded our CNET mobile site in about 35 seconds and our full desktop site in about 53 seconds. The New York Times mobile and desktop sites took about 24 seconds and 1 minute and 10 seconds to load, respectively. ESPN's mobile site downloaded in about 16 seconds and it took 30 seconds to load the full site. It took 22 minutes and 18 seconds on average to download the 33.41MB game Temple Run 2, and the Ookla speed-test app showed me an average of 0.35Mbps down and 0.89Mbps up.

On T-Mobile's network in San Francisco, which is one of the few cities where the carrier has 4G LTE coverage, the Optimus F3 loaded Web pages and downloaded apps much more quickly. The 35MB game Temple Run 2 took 26 seconds to download, while CNET's mobile site took just 4 seconds to load.

LG Optimus F3 (Sprint) Performance
Average 3G download speed 0.35Mbps
Average 3G upload speed 0.89Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 33.41MB in 22 minutes and 18 seconds
CNET mobile site load 35 seconds
CNET desktop site load 53.3 seconds
Power-off and restart time 34.51 seconds
Camera boot time 2.41 seconds
LG Optimus F3 (T-Mobile) Performance
Average 4G LTE download speed 9Mbps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 8.5Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 35MB in 26 seconds
CNET mobile site load 4.7 seconds
CNET desktop site load 5.1 seconds

Like the camera, the 1.2GHz dual-core processor is zippy. Powering off and restarting the handset took 34.51 seconds on average, and it took about 2.41 seconds to open up the camera. Simple but necessary tasks like swiping through the app drawer, switching from landscape to portrait mode and vice versa, and transitioning back to the home screen pages were executed without a problem. Playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP also went smoothly. I did not experience any stuttering or unexpected quitting with the app, though the frame rates weren't as high as you see on higher-end phones.

During our battery drain test the 2,460mAh lithium ion battery lasted an impressive 9.98 hours for continuous video playback. Anecdotally, the Optimus F3 had an excellent battery life. With minimal to medium usage, it could last a workday without a charge, and the phone has a reported talk time of up to 16 hours. According to FCC radiation standards, Sprint's Optimus F3 has a digital SAR rating of 1.09W/kg, while the T-Mobile version measured 1.16W/kg.

Conclusion
If you're looking for an ultraportable Android handset that tucks away neatly, the LG Optimus F3 is good choice. For Sprint customers, I'd easily recommend it over the similar 4-inch, 5-megapixel-camera-toting LG Viper , given the former's beefed-up battery life and newer OS.

But if you're willing to consider a larger phone while accepting shorter battery life, the carrier offers so many better alternatives that are also free (with a carrier contract).

For example, the 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S3 and the 4.7-inch Optimus G may be many months older, but they're superior in almost every way. Not only do they both run Jelly Bean, but they're faster and have better cameras. Suddenly, all that extra heft doesn't look so bad anymore.

As for T-Mobile customers, the Optimus F3 is one of the best deals you can get with a prepaid Android handset.

At just $240, it's affordable, but it still doesn't skip out on quality. To give you an idea, the Optimus F6 is an excellent handset that sports a bigger screen and great call quality. But at $50 more, it may be too big of a jump for some customers to purchase.

The T-Mobile myTouch Q , on the other hand, is the same price as the F3, but it's bulky (even for a QWERTY phone), has a poor screen, and runs an older version of Android. Frankly, if you want a solid handset at a good value, it's best to consider the F3.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jun 14, 2013
  • Service Provider Sprint Nextel
  • Diagonal Size 4 in
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