LG Optimus Regard review:

Don't hate it for being basic

For video, the Optimus Regard can shoot 1080p clips, though 720x480p is the default resolution. Editing options are similar to those for the still camera, plus it has the creepy live effects (as seen on other LG phones) that will give your subject quirky facial features like big eyes or a massive mouth. Also, a Video Whiz feature lets you add music and a theme to your clips and you can snap still photos while recording. But here again, the features outweigh the quality of what the camera produces. You can, however, shoot for as long as the available storage allows.

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Conditions improved in direct sunlight, but even here the areas in the shadows are almost black. Kent German/CNET

The Optimus Regard has a standard media player, though it's equipped with Cricket's Muve Music service for downloading tunes. Check out Jessica Dolcourt's review of Muve Music for more details. Alternatively, you can download books, magazines, movies, and TV shows from the Google Play store.

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The Optimus Regard's flash had little impact in a dimly lit room. Kent German/CNET

In a welcome move, the Optimus Regard comes with both a standard Android browser and a dedicated Chrome browser. I preferred the latter since you can browse in incognito mode and sync it with your computer or tablet to share tabs and bookmarks.

Memory and storage
The handset has a respectable 8GB of internal memory, with 1GB of RAM. That's not terrible, and the microSD card slot can accommodate cards of up to 32GB in capacity. It's very easy to swap files back and forth using a memory card or a USB cable. When I connected the Optimus Regard to a Mac, it recognized the handset immediately. There's also a Smart Share app for sharing media files via Wi-Fi, though I didn't test it.

Processor and data speeds
The Optimus Regard runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. That's more powerful than I was expecting and I was relatively pleased with its performance. Outside of a very short lag (see the chart below) when opening the camera camera, the main menu and most other features launched almost instantly. Swiping between menu pages and scrolling through lists also was fast. In my tests, the Optimus Regard had an average Linpack score of 198.129 MFLOPs (multithread) with a high of 220.7 MFLOPS. On the Quadrant benchmark it has an average score of score of 5,216.

Sadly, San Francisco isn't part of Cricket's home network, so I couldn't test the Optimus Regard's data connection on LTE. As a result, I fell back to 3G EV-DO, which didn't deliver any surprises. Out of five separate tests in the same location using Ookla's Speed Test app, I clocked an average download speed of 0.32Mbps and uploads at 0.44Mbps. That's obviously a big change if you're accustomed to 4G, but those speeds are slow even as 3G networks go.

Those pokey data speeds were even more evident when using the handset. When I used the Chrome browser, the CNET mobile site loaded in 20 seconds, the full CNET site loaded in 55 seconds, and the full site for American Airlines loaded in 47 seconds. The CNET Android app (3.72MB) downloaded in 2 minutes, 24 seconds and launched with updated content in 10 seconds.

LG Optimus Regard Performance testing
Average 4G LTE download speed 0.32Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 0.44Mbps
App download (CNET) 3.72MB in 2 minutes, 24 seconds
CNET mobile site load time 20 seconds
CNET desktop site load time 55 seconds
Restart time 19.8 seconds
Camera boot time 0.62 seconds

Call quality
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Optimus Regard in San Francisco using Cricket's roaming network. On the whole, audio quality was quite admirable. The volume was loud enough for me to hear in all testing locations and I didn't encounter any static or interference. Voices sounded natural even if they were a little higher-pitched than normal. It took me a while to notice it, though, and it varied by person. It wasn't a big deal by any measure.

Callers didn't report significant problems outside of some background noise. It was worse when I was outside, but even then my friends said they could hear me fine. I also didn't have problems with automated calling systems, but I'd still recommend staying in a quiet place when you phone an airline or your bank.

LG Optimus Regard call quality sample

Listen now:

The speakerphone performance was uneven. It gets really loud, but the audio is distorted at all volume levels. Yes, that's true for any speakerphone, but this felt worse than most. Still, I could carry on conversations and my friends could hear me. The Optimus Regard has a maximum SAR of 1.03 watts per kilogram as tested by the FCC. The 1,700mAh battery has a reported talk-time of 5.4 hours. During our battery drain test it lasted 8.4 hours for video playback.

LG has been criticized for diluting the Optimus brand with simple phones like Regard. Yet, the truth is that the Optimus One family -- the first in the Optimus series to really go big -- was pretty entry-level even in 2010 when it landed. It was only later that LG really turned up the volume with models like the Optimus 4X HD and even then it kept on giving us budget handsets like the Optimus L4. So while that charge has some relevancy -- just as it does for Samsung's Galaxy line -- it's not entirely fair.

What handsets like the Optimus Regard really do is bring Android to the masses. Here you get a real smartphone with all the features that a less demanding user would need. It has a browser (two, actually), access to apps, a media player, and a touch screen. It also delivers reliable performance, and LTE (when you can get it) is the cherry on top. So while it can't compare with LG's best and brightest, it doesn't have to.

For its price, I'd recommend the Optimus Regard to Cricket customers who want a starter smartphone with a little extra oomph -- provided, of course, that you're not a photographer. You can spend almost $400 for the Samsung Galaxy S3, but in that case I suspect that you're not really interested in the Optimus Regard. Alternatively, the $279 HTC One SV delivers a better design, but camera quality is just as poor.

On the other end of the pricing scale, Cricket offers a few high-quality models that are cheaper, like the HTC One V, HTC Desire C, and Kyocera Hydro. They surpass the Optimus Regard in some areas, but I'd opt for them only if you don't need LTE or you can't get a reliable 4G connection from Cricket in your area. Similarly, the Optimus Regard is a much better choice than the slightly less expensive ZTE Engage.

What you'll pay

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