LG's original Optimus L3 wasn't met with much enthusiasm when it launched last year. Its cheap price didn't do much to detract from its poor specs, causing my former CNET colleague Natasha Lomas to conclude "there's little reason to buy the L3."
The L3 is back again though, with a new design and slightly beefed up processor. It's now packing a 1GHz chip and runs the much more up to date Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean software. Sadly though, the screen remains the same size and has the same resolution -- a major flaw of its predecessor.
With a pay as you go price of only £90 though, do this year's updates make it a worthy purchase?
Should I buy the LG Optimus L3 II?
At £90 on pay as you go, the L3 II is undeniably cheap, but you will have to make big sacrifices as a result. The screen is not only very small, it has a pitiful 320x240-pixel resolution that makes icons look fuzzy and text difficult to read.
The processor has been boosted from last year's model, but it's still quite a weak single-core affair. It'll tackle the essentials adequately, but don't throw anything demanding at it. It's running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean which is good though and LG has popped in a couple of extras that work well.
Splash just a little bit more cash and you can snag the excellent. Its screen is far superior and it has plenty of power for most of the things you'll find in the Windows Phone 8 app store. If you'd rather stick with Android, the has a higher-resolution display, more power and can also be bought for around £90.
Design and build quality
The L3 II is every bit as teensy as its predecessor. At 102mm long, 61mm wide and 11mm thick, its dimensions haven't changed, and nor has the 3.2-inch screen size. That's really on the small size for smart phones, with most of the elite bunch pushing upwards of 5 inches or more.
The L3 is much more pocket friendly, however, than phones like theand stretching your thumbs across the screen to hit keys isn't difficult. The downside of course is that there's less screen available to really show off your apps or videos, which I'll come to later.
There's no escaping the cheap price tag in the L3's design. The screen is squashed in, surrounded by a thick black bezel. The plastic back panel has been given a brushed aluminium effect. If you squint, from a distance, with sunglasses on, after cutting onions, you might just about be fooled into thinking it's real metal. Get up close though and the illusion is quickly shattered.
It's fairly inoffensive, but it's not exactly the most stylish phone you could put in your pocket. It's classier than Huawei's unpleasant Ascend G510, but if you want a splash more colour, take a look at Nokia's vibrant Lumia 520.
It feels fairly well put together though. There's little flex in the body and the buttons on the side provide a pleasing click. The back panel is very cheap-feeling when removed, but in fairness, you can say the same about the Galaxy S4's back too.
There's a single home button on the front, which has a glowing light around the edge. It pulses different colours to alert you to notifications without picking up your phone. It'll glow red when on charge, turning green when full, and flash multicolour when the alarm goes off. It's a nice idea, but it's very subtle -- you can easily miss it on the desk. The Sony Xperia SP has a similar feature but its wide, glowing perspex bar lights up in a much more appealing -- and useful -- way.
You'll get a mere 4GB of storage as standard with the phone, but you can expand it with a microSD card. Bear in mind though that Android Jelly Bean doesn't allow you to install apps to SD cards, only your photos, videos and music. You'll want to be very careful what big name apps you install if you don't want to run out of space.
The L3 II's 3.2-inch screen keeps the same miserable 320x240-pixel resolution as its predecessor. The poor resolution was one of our biggest annoyances with the original L3 so it's a huge shame not to see an increase in pixels a year on.
The low resolution means that icons look very fuzzy around the edges and small text in menus, apps and web pages is often unreadable -- you'll need to do quite a bit of zooming in before things start to become legible.