LG Optimus Black review:

LG Optimus Black

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Typical Price: £400.00
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 8 user reviews

The Good Bright, clear display; Impressively slim and light; Decent camera.

The Bad Plasticky casing; Not the latest version of Android; Not as good in direct sunlight as advertised.

The Bottom Line It might not break the mould, but the LG Optimus Black is a decent all-round Android phone. It's speedy, and the bright screen is a definite plus, if not quite the revolution in outside viewing LG promised. It's let down by a slightly plasticky case, however.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall

We can barely move for brilliantly made, tech-filled Android phones recently, from the ruggedly gorgeous HTC Incredible S to the shockingly slender and capable Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. Filling a mobile with all the tech under the sun is one thing however, but it counts for nothing if you can't actually see what's happening on the darned thing.

LG wants to dominate in the display stakes with the LG Optimus Black -- a mysteriously named smart phone with a display so bright LG reckons you'll be able to able to make out on-screen action even in direct sunlight. But costing around £400 SIM-free, is the Optimus Black a bright spark, or a flash in the pan?

The new Black

In terms of design, the Optimus Black isn't too ambitious, rocking the shiny black rectangle look that's become the default styling for smart phones. A 4-inch touchscreen sits in the centre of a slim black plastic surround, beneath which you'll find the four touch-sensitive buttons common to Android mobiles.

The back of the Black is charcoal grey, ironically enough (wait, is that ironic? We can never tell...), with a silky metallic finish. In recent months we've seen a version with a white back, so that's something to look out for if you're averse to the charcoal look. There's a 5-megapixel camera housed around the back too, but more on that later.

The Black is one of the thinnest phones around, just pipping the iPhone 4.

Dimensionally, the Black is one slender smart phone, and at 9.2mm thick, it's certain to slide into even the tightest of trendy jeans. It's impressively light too, tipping the scales at a delicate 111g. That's just thinner than the 9.3mm iPhone 4, and significantly lighter than its 137g. 

While the Optimus Black looks good sat on our desks, it feels less graceful in our eager palms. Squeezing the casing we can hear the plastic creaking a little, and the edges around the bezel feel a little sharp for our liking. The phone doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart, but it's not the exquisitely hewn smart phone-sculpture that the iPhone 4 or HTC Incredible S are, for example.

Let there be light

We're pleased to report that the Optimus Black's much-touted display is indeed very bright, and impressively clear, with a decent level of contrast, so text on webpages stands out.

Disappointingly though, performance in direct sunlight isn't much cop. The Optimus Black's display might be brighter than its rivals, but under the punishing glare of the Sun Gods, the screen is just as invisible as that on every other phone, laptop and tablet, and the only thing that shows up clearly in direct sunlight is fingerprint grease. Yuck.

The display is good in other respects though. Its resolution of 480x800 pixels isn't as high as the iPhone 4's impressive 640x960-pixel retina display, but despite not looking quite as pin-sharp, it would be a cruel gentleman that called this display blurry. Everything on-screen looks tidy and precise, and lettering is rendered very clearly, so peering at smaller chunks of text in the phone's browser isn't too rough on the eyes.

Colours are vivid, with more than a touch of saturation, making photos and videos look almost unnaturally colourful. Side-by-side with an iPhone 4 there's a striking difference in the way the two mobiles portray colours. The Optimus Black has a tendency to display whites with a yellowish hue, but when looking at colourful photos it seared images into our retinas with a fierce intensity. Apple's device is more muted, and while still very colourful, images on the iPhone 4 didn't look quite as brash.

A final observation is that the Optimus Black's display isn't set as close to the surface of the screen as some other mobiles. Keeping the actual panel flush with the top of the touchscreen looks very classy -- it's something we particularly liked about the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, for example, so it's a shame the Black doesn't meet that standard.

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