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LG Optimus L70 review: Lacks LTE, but a strong prepaid contender

The prepaid Optimus L70 is a solid midtier handset for the budget-conscious, even though it lacks LTE.

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Lynn La
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Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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8 min read

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MetroPCS' LG Optimus L70 isn't the highest-powered Android device around, but what it lacks in robust features, it makes up for in reliability and price.

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6.7

LG Optimus L70

The Good

MetroPCS' competitively price LG Optimus L70 features consistent and impressive 4G speeds, clear call quality, and a customizable quick-launch key.

The Bad

The Optimus L70 can be slow at times, and its video quality is mediocre.

The Bottom Line

Priced at $50, the LG Optimus L70 is one of the best 4G Android handsets on any prepaid network.

As a midrange handset, this 4.5-inch phone has a 5-megapixel camera, a meager 4GB of internal storage, and a dual-core processor that feels sluggish at times. Still, it has decent and consistent 4G data speeds, and solid call quality. LG included some useful software as well, and you can expand the memory up to 32GB. Best of all, you can nab the prepaid L70 for just $49.99.

Optimus L70 shines bright for prepaid users (pictures)

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Design

With its long oval home key and softly rounded corners, the L70 sports a similar design to the rest of LG's midrange Optimus family . However, its unique honeycomb design on the battery door does help the device stand out from the crowd of plain black slabs.

The handset measures 5 inches tall, 2.63 inches wide, and 0.38 inch thick. Weighing 4.5 ounces, the phone is comfortable to hold and easily manageable with one hand. On the left edge are a volume rocker and Quick Launch key. Personally, I really like this shortcut button -- you can customize it to launch any app of your choosing, such as the alarm clock, the Chrome browser or music player. It also doubles as the shutter key when the camera is opened, and you can quickly assign or change the app with a long press. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and the right edge houses a sleep/power button. The Micro-USB port for charging is located on the bottom.

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The Quick Launch key can launch one app of your choosing. Josh Miller/CNET

On the back side you'll find the 5-megapixel camera, with its flash to the left. Located on the bottom right corner are two slits for the audio speaker. Using the Micro-USB port as a seam, you can pry off the battery door to access the removable 2,040mAh battery. Unfortunately, the SIM card sits right above it, so if you want to swap your SIM, you'll need to take the battery out first. To the right is a microSD card slot that accepts cards with capacities of up to 32GB.

The L70 has a 4.5-inch WVGA touchscreen with an 800x480-pixel resolution. This doesn't sound like much, and indeed it isn't. If you look really closely, you'll notice some aliasing with small text, and the edges of images and icons look a bit pixelated. Overall, though, the display wasn't so grainy as to drag down my user experience. In addition, it's bright enough to be easily read outdoors, it's responsive to the touch, and it's coated with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for durability. Above the screen is a front-facing camera, and below are two hotkeys (for back and settings) that flank the aforementioned home key. To call up recent apps, users can long-press the center button.

Software features

Because the L70 is a midtier device, the fact that it runs the rather recent Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS is a plus. And as a Android handset, you'll get a number of Google apps, such as Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Maps, Hangouts, Photos, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Newsstand, Games, Movies & TV, and Music are loaded as well.

The phone runs the LG Optimus 3.0 user interface, and has a number of signature software features. These include customizing certain app icons; QuickMemo, which lets you jot down quick notes or sketches directly over images onscreen; and Knock Code. Knock Code consolidates turning on your L70 and unlocking the lock screen into one action. By dividing the display into four quadrants, users can tap a certain combination within these zones to wake up and unlock their device. There's also QSlide 2.0, a multitasking function that you can use to view and resize apps (like the calculator and notepad) while using other apps or viewing the home screen.

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The L70 has the Knock Code unlocking feature (left), as well as a multi-tasking tool called QSlide. Lynn La/CNET

MetroPCS threw in some carrier services, too, like its mobile hotspot app; an app storefront; and Metro411, which searches for and locates nearby businesses and restaurants. The carrier also included its visual voice mail feature; a music and ringtone portal; and MyMetro, which lets you check your account balance and plan.

Basic task-management apps consist of an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, native browser and email clients, a memo pad, a to-do list, a dictionary, music and video players, a voice recorder, and a file manager. There are some other nonstandard goodie apps, too, like a document manager called Box, a translation app, and the mobile document suite, ThinkFree Viewer. Lastly, you'll get Bluetooth 4.0 and 4GB of internal storage.

Camera and video

Photo quality for the 5-megapixel camera was decent. Though you'll have to wait a beat after you tap the shutter for the camera to snap a photo, pictures came out clear and in-focus for the most part. I had no issues taking pictures of objects up close, and with ample lighting, photos looked sharp and showed even lighting. With dimmer, indoor scenery, colors tended to look a bit more muted, and you will see traces of digital noise and artifacts. But picture quality was still adequate. To know more about these photos, be sure to click on them below to view them at their full resolution.

Video quality fared just a tad worse. While I was satisfied with the true-to-life colors, and the camera's ability to focus well on both moving and still objects, the max recording resolution is only 800x480. This means you won't be able to view videos very clearly on a bigger screen like a computer before it gets too pixelated and distorted. In addition, though background audio was picked up fine, nearby audio came off sounding echoey and hollow.

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In this outdoor photo, the color contrast is pleasing, and hues are vivid. Lynn La/CNET

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This close-up picture of these flowers is sharp and in focus. Lynn La/CNET

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In dimmer indoor lighting, this picture shows a notable amount of digital noise. But colors are still bright. Lynn La/CNET

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In our standard studio shot, a yellowish hue encircles the white background, and objects look grainy. Josh Miller/CNET

The rear and front-facing camera offer a variety of options. Both have a brightness meter, five white-balance options, four color effects, a timer, geotagging, and four shutter tones. There's also "cheese shutter," which is a voice-activated shutter function that takes photos when you say certain words, such as "cheese" and "whiskey."

Understandably though, the rear camera has a few more features, including a digital 4x zoom, flash, four scene modes, including Panorama and continuous shooting, three focus options, and five ISO settings. You can also save up to three photo sizes (from 1,280x960 to 2,560x1,920 pixels). Meanwhile, the front-facing camera has the option to save a photo flipped vertically, and has one picture size (640x480).

Video recording options for the two cameras include the same brightness meter, color effects, and geotagging functions mentioned beforehand. Both cameras can also pause recording and restart it again in the same video, take photos while recording, and detect faces to warp them for silly (read: creepy) effects. The 5-megapixel camera also has continuous flash and the ability to record up to four video sizes (from 176x144 to WVGA 800x480). The VGA camera can record in three video sizes (from 176x144 to 640x480).

Performance

Call tests made at our San Francisco offices were excellent. With its quad-band (850/900/1800/1900) capabilities, the Optimus L70 didn't crop any of my calls, and neither lines heard any distracting buzzes or extraneous noises. Volume range was adequate as well -- my calling partner sounded even, clear, and appropriately loud. When she did not talk, it was absolutely quiet and I didn't pick up any static.

Podcast

As for audio quality, sound quality came off thin and sharp on high volume. But, I was still able to hear my partner well enough, and she was still easy to understand. As for her end, she said that I sounded great. She also didn't hear any muffles or noise interference. When I stepped outside and was across the street from a construction site, she didn't hear any of the background noises from all the activity. My partner also commented that audio quality sounded the same when I moved from indoor to outdoor.

Though the device isn't LTE-enabled, 4G speeds were impressive and reliable. Sites loaded in a reasonable amount of time and downloading apps didn't stall during testing. On average, it took 9 and 29 seconds to load CNET's mobile and desktop site, respectively. The New York Times' mobile page finished loading after 8 seconds and its desktop version loaded in 13. The mobile site for ESPN clocked in at 6 seconds and 10 seconds passed for the full Web page. Ookla's speed test app averaged out to be 2.97Mbps down and 1.48Mbps up. Lastly, the 48.61MB game Temple Run 2 finished downloading and installing in around 2 minutes and 54 seconds.

LG Optimus L70 (MetroPCS) performance times

Average 4G download speed 2.97Mbps
Average 4G upload speed 1.48Mbps
Temple Run 2 app download (48.61MB) 2 minutes and 54 seconds
CNET mobile site load 9 seconds
CNET desktop site load 29 seconds
Restart time 36 seconds
Camera boot time 2.18 seconds

The handset's 1.2GHz dual-core processor isn't the most powerful CPU on the market, but it can execute your necessary and basic tasks smoothly. Sure, compared with phones with faster processors, the Optimus L70 does take just a hair longer to do such tasks such as calling up the keyboard, launching apps, and switching from landscape to portrait mode. But it never ran too slow that it was too discouraging or annoying. And though I've seen higher frame rates in higher-tiered devices while playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP 2, gameplay on the L70 was fluid and steady, and the app never stalled or force-quit.

The handset's best Quadrant score was 5,427, which falls slightly below the ZTE Sonata 4G's score of 5,544. The phone's best multithread Linpack result was 133.862MFLOPs in 1.26 seconds, which again, the Sonata 4G beatout with 269.867MFLOPs in 0.63 seconds. On average, it took the phone 36 seconds to shutdown and restart, and 2.18 seconds to launch the camera.

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A few of the phone's Ookla speed test results (left) and its highest Quadrant score. Lynn La/CNET

Anecdotal observation for the 2,040mAh removable battery appears adequate so far. After a whole day of mild usage with the screen's brightness cranked to its maximum level, the L70 only lost about 50 percent of its juice. It has a reported talk time of up to 13 hours, and lasted 7 hours and 42 minutes during our battery lab test for continuous video playback. According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a SAR rating of 0.70W/kg.

Conclusion

For $50 off-contract, the LG Optimus L70 makes a few compromises. You'll have to make do without a blazing-fast processor and despite having decent 4G speeds, it does lack LTE. But at that price range, the device does offer a lot -- especially compared with its other 4G prepaid competitors.

Cricket's $59.99 ZTE Sonata 4G , for instance, may score higher on benchmark tests. But its camera fares even worse off than the L70s, it runs an older version of Android, and it has a smaller screen and thicker profile. There's also MetroPCS' free Nokia Lumia 521, which is a good device for a Windows Phone user on a budget. However, if you're looking for an handset in that price range that can access an app ecosystem as robust as Google's Play store, the Optimus L70 is the phone to get.

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6.7

LG Optimus L70

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 8