LG Optimus F3Q (T-Mobile) review: LG's comfy QWERTY a little laggy, but reliable

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In this close up photo, the flower petals look sharp and vibrant. Lynn La/CNET

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This indoor photo shows some artifacts and digital noise, especially around the dark hues. Lynn La/CNET

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With this outdoor photo, the colors of this food kiosk appear true to life and objects are in focus. Lynn La/CNET

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Our standard studio shot shows a blue hue casted by the flash. Lynn La/CNET

However, only the rear camera features digital zoom (4x), three focuses that include face tracking, and nine shooting modes (which include panoramic and HDR). It also has five ISO options, three photo sizes (ranging from 1,280x960 to 2,560x1,920 pixels). Meanwhile, the front-facing camera has only one image size (640x480), and a mirror-image tool that saves a vertically flipped version of your photo.

Video quality was also solid. Both moving and still objects remained in focus, and audio picked up well. Sounds coming from far away were especially recorded clearly. Nearby audio, like my voice, was also recorded, but it came off a bit hollow. In general however, footage was adequate: colors were accurate, images looked crisp, and focus adjusted fairly quickly to various lighting situations.

Video-recording options consist of the same digital zoom, flash, brightness meter, geotagging, color effects, and white balances. You can also choose from four video sizes (ranging from MMS to 1080p full HD), take still photos while recording, and pause video without stopping recording altogether. There's also the live effect mode, which will distort your face (for example, bulge out your eyes, squeeze your mouth inward) while the video records, and an anti-shaking option feature.

Recording 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, flash, or anti-shaking, and video sizes decreased to three (ranging from MMS to 640x480).

Performance

I tested the quad-band (850/900/1800/1900) LG Optimus FQ3 in our San Francisco office and call quality was excellent. My calling partner's voice came in loud and clear, and it was very easy to hear what was being said. None of our calls dropped, I didn't hear any extraneous buzzing or noises (even in times of absolute silence), and audio didn't cut in and out. The volume range was reasonable (though max levels could stand to be a bit louder, but not by much), and I didn't catch any static during my calls. Likewise, my partner said that my voice sounded just as clear and easy to make out as well.

Hearing voices through the audio speaker did come off thin and a little tinny. When volume was increased to its highest level, the audio's flatness was more apparent. However, I could still hear voices fine and the issue wasn't overly distracting or detrimental.

LG Optimus F3Q (T-Mobile) call quality sample:

T-Mobile's 4G LTE speeds were impressively consistent and fast. CNET's mobile and desktop site loaded in 8 and 17 seconds, respectively. The mobile site for The New York Times appeared after 5 seconds, while its full Web page loaded in 15. ESPN's mobile site took 7 seconds to load, while its full site finished in 10. On average, it took a minute and 14 seconds to download the 44.22MB game Temple Run 2. Finally, Ookla's speed test app showed an average of 7.84Mbps down and 4.81Mbps up.

LG Optimus F3Q performance times

Average 4G LTE download speed 7.84Mbps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 4.81Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 44.22MB in 1 minute and 14 seconds
CNET mobile site load 8 seconds
CNET desktop site load 17 seconds
Power off and restart time 50 seconds
Camera boot time 2.36 seconds

The device's 1.2GHz dual-core processor is adequately enough to execute simple but necessary tasks like swiping through the home screen pages, calling up the keyboard, and unlocking the lock screen. However, I did noticed that the handset took a hair longer than usual, when it had to do other tasks like switching from portrait to landscape mode, launching the app browser, and quitting apps to return to the home screen.

All in all, however, the CPU is powerful enough to get you by. While playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP 2, the app launched and opened consistently. It never force quit or stuttered, though frame-rates for this game was not as fast and sharp as I've seen on other high-end smartphones. The FQ3's highest Quadrant result clocked in at 4,837, and the best multithread Linpack result was 243.386MFLOPs in 0.69 seconds. On average, it took the device 50 seconds to power off and restart, and 2.36 seconds to launch the camera.

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Ookla's speed test results (left) and the phone's Quadrant benchmark score. Lynn La/CNET

Powering the handset is a 2,460mAh removable battery, which has a reported talk time of 16 hours and a standby time of 16 days. Anecdotally, the battery survived a whole day with plenty of juice left, even after medium to high usage. A 30 minute phone call (with the LTE signal still active), only drained three percent of the battery. During our battery drain test for continuous video run-time, it lasted 14 hours and 30 minutes. According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.63W/kg.

Conclusion

Stylish, comfortable, and reliable, the LG Optimus FQ3 is a solid QWERTY handset that I can recommend for shoppers seeking a mid-level, mid-cost phone, especially one that comes with a keyboard.

True, there are higher-tiered handsets that outperform the FQ3, but not many messaging phones. At about $150 more, the keyboarded $530 BlackBerry Q10 gets you an 8-megapixel camera, four times the internal storage, and a higher external memory capacity -- but that also means switching from Android to an OS with an uncertain future.

Due to its bigger battery capacity and newer version of Android, I would still take the FQ3 ahead of Boost Mobile's $180 LG Mach, and Virgin Mobile's older Kyocera Rise. Even though the latter is much cheaper at $70, you'll be much more satisfied with the FQ3's faster processor and 4G LTE.

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