LG Optimus F7 review: Excellent Android 4.1 handset for under $100

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LG Optimus F7 (Boost Mobile) call quality sample

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Because the carrier's 4G LTE network is unavailable in our area, I experienced the U.S. Cellular's 3G network. Even when compared with other 3G networks, speeds were glacial. In general, sites took several seconds (even more than a minute at times) to fully appear. The phone loaded CNET's mobile site in 21 seconds and our desktop site in a minute and 57 seconds. The New York Times' mobile site took about 22 seconds and its full site in a minute 17 seconds. ESPN's mobile site took 24 seconds, and its full site loaded in 41 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.21Mbps down and 0.47Mbps up. I was especially disappointed, however, with how long the F7 took to download the 32.41MB game of Temple Run 2. You're going to have to be a patient soul with this one, since it took a whopping 31 minutes and 42 seconds to download the game.

Though our Boost unit indicated that it was connected to Sprint's 4G network, speeds were inconsistent and unstable. I had to switch to 3G in order to get reliable data speeds. Save for the New York Times desktop site, speeds were much faster on this model than on U.S. Cellular's. The phone loaded CNET's mobile and desktop site in 16 seconds and 47 seconds, respectively. The New York Times' mobile site took about 11 seconds and, oddly, the full site took 45 seconds. ESPN's mobile site loaded in 10 seconds, and its full site finished in 25 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.31Mbps down and 0.67Mbps up. The handset downloaded Temple Run 2 in an average of 12 minutes.

Performance: LG Optimus F7 (U.S. Cellular/Boost)
Average 3G download speed 0.21Mpbs/0.31Mpbs
Average 3G upload speed 0.47Mbps/0.67Mpbs
App download (Temple Run 2) 32.41MB in 31 minutes and 42 seconds/12 minutes
CNET mobile site load 21 seconds/16 seconds
CNET desktop site load 1 minute and 57 seconds/47 seconds
Boot time 32.71 seconds/--
Camera boot time 2.51 seconds/--

The device is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. Although it's not as lightning-quick as quad-core CPUs of high-end handsets, it's still swift. All your simple daily tasks will be carried out without any trouble, like switching from portrait to landscape mode, launching the camera (which on average took 2.51 seconds), and returning to your home screen page. During my time playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP, the app didn't unexpectedly quit or stutter, and I saw smooth frame rates throughout gameplay. On average, it takes 32.71 seconds to turn off and restart the camera.

During our battery drain test for video playback, the 2,540mAh battery lasted an impressive 8.83 hours. It has a reported talk-time of 13 hours and a standby time of 12.5 days. Anecdotally, it had a solid battery life. It can easily last a full workday, under mild usage and full screen brightness, without a charge. And a 10- to 15-minute conversation drained the battery just 1 percent. According to the FCC, the handset has a digital SAR rating of 0.78W/kg. For the Boost model, it's 0.74W/kg.

As great as the Optimus F7 is, if you're looking to switch to U.S. Cellular, the carrier currently has a promotion on the Samsung Galaxy S4 that is frankly too tempting to pass up. The new customer discount (or "activation bonus") places the GS4 at the same $100 sweet spot as the F7, making it the best deal (and the best Android phone) to grab.

However, for existing U.S. Cellular customers that are on the budget, do consider the Optimus F7. If you get the carrier's 4G LTE coverage, this an excellent device for its price range. Not only does it perform reliably, it's also newer, bigger, and packs a better camera than the LG Splendor. (The Motorola Electrify M is also the same price, but we haven't had a chance to review it).

True, it's not as delicious as the GS4, which will cost twice as much for you, but you'll get a dependable phone and some extra dough in your wallet.

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