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LG Optimus F6 review: Reliable Android handset for the price-conscious

Looking for a smartphone deal? The Optimus F6 is a great midtier phone that sports a 5-megapixel camera and a dual-core processor.

Lynn_La2.jpg
Lynn La
Lynn_La2.jpg
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.

6 min read

The LG Optimus F6 may not be a powerhouse of a device compared with some other top-tier handsets, but it's still a reliable phone that will satisfy users looking for a simple device on a budget.

LG_Optimus_F6_35826209-9656.jpg
7.3

LG Optimus F6

The Good

The <b>LG Optimus F6</b> has clear call quality, a decent 5-megapixel shooter, and a bright, responsive screen.

The Bad

4G LTE data speeds were erratic at times on T-Mobile, and because the handset's equipped with Android 4.1.2, it runs a slightly dated OS.

The Bottom Line

Competitively priced and stocked with respectable hardware specs, the LG Optimus F6 is a worthy buy for prepaid customers who are big on value.

Reasonably priced at $288 on T-Mobile, or $199 on MetroPCS, the F6 is equipped with a swift dual-core processor, a bright 4.5-inch screen, and a 5-megapixel camera that's sure to make casual shutterbugs happy. It also comes with a handful of software UI features from LG that are useful and easy to use.

If you're looking for a midrange Android handset and you're a prepaid customer on either of these two carriers, consider the F6. Just be aware, however, that it doesn't run the most recent Android version. Judging by our data tests, 4G LTE connectivity on T-Mobile can also be inconsistent.

Editors' note: This review was updated on December 10, 2013, to include analysis of the MetroPCS version of the LG Optimus F6.

Design
The Optimus F6 is compact, measuring 5.03 inches tall, 2.59 inches wide, and 0.40 inch thick. It's easily maneuverable with one hand and with its sloping edges and smooth plastic build, it's comfortable to hold. At 4.44 ounces, it's also fairly lightweight, and you can easily throw it in a small bag or your back jeans pocket.

On the left edge sits a volume rocker and a shortcut key to launch QuickMemo (more on that later). Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the right is a sleep/power button. Finally, the bottom edge houses a Micro-USB port for charging.

LG Optimus F6 (Riptide GP)
The F6 is a compact handset that's comfortable to hold. Josh Miller/CNET

The battery door is adorned with a tile pattern that grows denser near the bottom of the device. The design is subtle, and you can only make it out clearly when the handset is somewhere well lit, like outside in the sun. I like this stylish pattern, and it's a unique accent that sets the phone apart from the other midrange slabs floating around in the market.

On the back you'll find a 5-megapixel camera and LED flash and two small slits for the speaker. When you remove the battery door, you can access the microSD card slot (it accepts cards of capacities of up to 32GB), and the 2,460mAh battery.

The 4.5-inch qHD IPS display has a 960x540-pixel resolution. Though it's important to keep in mind that the F6 is a midtier device, compared with a higher-end phone like the LG G2 (which has a 1080p screen), the F6's display isn't the sharpest. I can see some slight aliasing around icons and texts and color gradients do not transition as smoothly. However, the screen is bright, it displays colors accurately (especially when viewing a single white swatch), and it's responsive to the touch.

Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel camera and below is a physical home key that's flanked by two hot keys (for back and menu) that light up in white. If you long-press the home key, you can call up recent apps (and quit them as well), access Google Now, and open up the Task Manager in your phone.

The LG Optimus F6 is a contract-free bargain (pictures)

See all photos

Software features
The handset features Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and while it'd be nice to see it running a more recent version of the OS, you'll still get your usual collection of Google apps: Chrome, Gmail, Search, Plus, Maps, access to the Play store's Books, Magazines, Movies & TV, and Music portals, Talk, and YouTube.

T-Mobile loaded a conservative number of its apps in as well. You'll get T-Mobile My Account, which gives you information about your phone and data plan; a trial subscription to the caller ID service Name ID; and apps that help set up your visual voice mail and mobile hot spot. Lastly, the media streaming service T-Mobile TV offers a 30-day trial to channels like Fox News and ESPN.

Meanwhile, the MetroPCS model included its 4G hot-spot app; an app store portal; a privacy app called Metro Block-it; and Metro411, which searches for and locates nearby businesses and restaurants. The carrier also preloaded its visual voice mail feature; the MetroMusic streaming music and ringtone service; a phone number look-up and screening service called MetroPCS Screen-it; and a news app called MetroZone. Finally, there's MyMetro, which lets you check your account balance and plan.

LG Optimus F6 (screenshots)
The multitasking QSlide function (left) and the collaboration tool VuTalk. Lynn La/CNET

LG's Optimus 3.0 user interface comes with a few signature software features. These include the option to customize app icons (with two different themes), and QSlide, a multitasking function that enables you to view and resize apps (like the browser and calculator) while using other apps or viewing the home screen.

VuTalk lets you create annotations on documents and photos on your device while sharing it in real time with another VuTalk-enabled handset through either a network or Wi-Fi connection. There's also LG's signature note-taking app, QuickMemo, which lets you jot down quick notes or sketches directly over images onscreen. As mentioned before, you can quickly launch this app with the shortcut button on the smartphone's left edge.

LG Optimus F6 (QuickMemo button)
To open LG's note-taking app, QuickMemo, press the shortcut key on Optimus F6's left edge. Josh Miller/CNET

Basic apps include native browser and e-mail clients, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions, a memo pad, a weather app, a dictionary, a to-do list, a voice recorder, a voice dialer, and voice search.

Other goodies include two file-sharing apps (SmartShare and FileShare), the Polaris Viewer 4 mobile office suite, a language translation app, and Lookout Security, which backs up data and scans apps and files for malware.

Additional features include 4GB of internal storage, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0.

Camera and video
Photo quality on the 5-megapixel camera was great. Especially in amply lit environments, images were sharp with well-defined edges and showed adequate color accuracy. Of course, with dimmer lighting comes more digital noise, but in general, pictures were in focus and clear. In addition, the camera operated fast, with the shutter refreshing for the next photo quickly and I didn't see any lag between my moving of the camera and the feedback I saw in the viewfinder.

Both the 5-megapixel camera and the front-facing camera offer five white balance options, a brightness meter (from -2 to +2), four color effects, a timer, geo-tagging, and a voice shutter function that lets you operate the shutter by saying certain words like "cheese" and "whiskey" (don't ask me why). The two cameras also have a "Portrait+" function (previously known as Beauty Shot) that lets you adjust the brightness and blurriness of an image.

However, only the 5-megapixel camera features digital zoom, three focuses that include face tracking, five shooting modes (which include panoramic and HDR), and seven scene modes. It also has five ISO options, the ability to save photos in three sizes (ranging from 1,280x960 to 2,560x1,920 pixels), and Time Catch, which lets you choose and save the best shot before the shutter was pressed. The front-facing camera, meanwhile, has only two image sizes (1,280x720 or 1,280x960), two scene modes (normal and night), and a mirror-image option that saves a vertically flipped version of your photo.

LG OPtimus F6 (indoor)
In this indoor photo, you can see a notable amount of digital noise. Lynn La/CNET

LG Optimus F6 (outdoor)
In this outdoor shot, cars, buildings, and people all look sharp with well-defined edges. Lynn La/CNET

LG OPtimus F6 (SSI)
In our standard studio setup, objects look a bit blurry and the flash casts a patch of blue against the white background. Josh Miller/CNET

Video quality was similarly satisfactory. When I recording in 1080p HD, both still and moving objects remained sharp and clear. The camera would refocus for lighting quickly, and colors looked true-to-life. Though nearby audio picked up well, I could hear some rustling background noise when it came to shooting outside. It wasn't overly distracting, but it was noticeable.

Video-recording options consist of the same digital zoom, flash, brightness meter, geotagging, color effects, and white balances. You can also choose from five 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.

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 or flash, and there are four video sizes, ranging from MMS to 720p HD.

Performance
I tested the Optimus F6 (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) in our San Francisco offices on both carriers, and call quality was reliable -- none of my calls dropped, audio didn't clip in and out, and during times of absolute silence I didn't hear any extraneous noises or buzzing. Volume range was also adequate, though on speaker, I felt that maximum volume could have been a bit louder. In addition, voices did come off a tad tinny on speaker, though it wasn't overly distracting or bothersome.

LG Optimus F6 (T-Mobile) call quality sample

Listen now:

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LG Optimus F6 (MetroPCS) call quality sample

Listen now:

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T-Mobile's 4G LTE data connection was good, but not the fastest we've seen on other networks like Verizon. Most notably, there were times when the phone would clock in glacially slow data times only to speed up after a restart and then show fast speeds the next. On average, however, it loaded CNET's, The New York Times', and ESPN's mobile sites all around 6 seconds. Desktop sites loaded in 13, 16, and 9 seconds, respectively. To download the (then 35.01MB) game Temple Run 2, the device sometimes took as long as 10 minutes and could take as short as 2 minutes the next time. After several trials, however, I calculated that it took about 6 minutes and 27 seconds on average. The Ookla speed-test app showed me an average of 12.42Mbps down and 9.22Mbps up.

In general, MetroPCS clocked in LTE data speeds that were on par with T-Mobile's. Sites and apps also loaded steadily and consistently. Unlike T-Mobile, there weren't huge deltas between the slowest and fastest times measured. Once again, all three mobile sites loaded in about 6 seconds. Desktop sites for CNET, The New York Times, and ESPN loaded in 13, 15, and 8 seconds, respectively. Downloading Temple Run 2 (which has now increased up to 37.61MB in size) took much shorter, at only 42 seconds. Finally, Ookla showed an average of 13.6Mbps down and 5.74MBps up.

T-Mobile MetroPCS
Average 4G LTE download speed (Mpbs) 12.42 13.6
Average 4G LTE upload speed (Mpbs) 9.22 5.74
Downloading Temple Run 2 6 minutes, 27 seconds (35.01MB) 42 seconds (37.61MB)
CNET mobile site load (seconds) 6 7
CNET desktop site load (seconds) 13 13
Restart time (seconds) 35 36
Camera boot time (seconds) 2.19 2.32

The device runs on a zippy 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Qualcomm. In general, simple but necessary tasks were executed with no problems. For example, opening up the app drawer, quitting back to the home page, and switching from landscape to portrait mode (and vice versa), were all done smoothly within a sufficient amount of time. Furthermore, while playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP, I experienced no stalling or unexpected force quitting with the app. True, frame rates weren't as high as you see on higher-end handsets, but all in all, gameplay was smooth. Though what carrier you have plays no role on the processing speeds of a phone, on average, it took the T-Mobile model 35 seconds to power off and restart the phone, and 2.19 seconds to launch the camera. The MetroPCS version took 36 and 2.32 seconds for both these tasks.

During our battery drain test, the 2,460mAh battery lasted 11.07 hours for continuous video playback. It has a reported talk time of 8 hours and a standby time of 20 days. Anecdotally, I noticed that with minimal to medium usage, it could last a workday without a charge. Understandably, however, turning the screen brightness on max does significantly drain the battery, and by the end of the evening, I received a usage warning that my battery was down to 15 percent. According to FCC radiation standards, the handset has a digital SAR rating of 0.98W/kg for both carrier models.

Conclusion
With its $288 full retail price on T-Mobile, it's hard to beat the LG Optimus F6 in terms of value. True, the carrier does have better phones (like the $442 Galaxy S III, Samsung's flagship handset from a year ago), but you have to be willing to give up more dough.

And while the F6 doesn't run the most recent OS on the Android market, it's a reliable candidate to consider for phones under $300. The T-Mobile myTouch Q, for example, is $48 cheaper, but it lacks LTE, has a laggy processor, and a poor camera. Likewise, though the Nokia Lumia 521 is a fantastic $126 value, you do "get what you pay for" in terms of its low-resolution screen and lack of a camera flash.

Likewise on MetroPCS, the F6 is one of the best devices you can get on the carrier for $200. It has a bigger screen than the $149 F3 and $129 Samsung Galaxy Exhibit. Furthermore, though the L9is $50 cheaper, you'll get a shorter battery capacity as well (nearly three fewer hours of video playback according to our tests!). Indeed, when it comes to the F6, users can get themselves a great Android smartphone without breaking the bank.

LG_Optimus_F6_35826209-9656.jpg
7.3

LG Optimus F6

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7
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