The Optimus GT540 is LG's latest Android smart phone. Unlike the InTouch Max GW620, the company's previous Android offering, this model doesn't have a physical keyboard, instead relying totally on its touchscreen. You can pick it up for free on a £15-per-month, 2-year contract. Alternatively, you can grab it for £150 on a pay as you go deal, or about £210 SIM-free.
The Optimus may not be a top-end device, but you wouldn't know by looking at it. Slightly less wide than the iPhone 4, it fits snugly in your hand, and the brushed-metal effect on the battery cover and sides of the handset give it a pleasingly high-end look. The phone feels solid too, and the layout of the buttons is good, although different to that of most Android handsets. The search button is mounted on the side, for example.
Unfortunately, the premium feel doesn't carry over to the touchscreen. The Optimus uses a resistive, rather than capacitive, touchscreen. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, resistive displays aren't as sensitive to touch input as capacitive screens, and, secondly, they don't support multi-touch.
The Optimus' 76mm (3-inch) display is fairly sensitive, but it's not as precise as the capacitive screens on the Samsung Monte or iPhone. Also, due to the lack of multi-touch capability, you have to use the on-screen zoom bar to zoom in when using the Web browser or Google Maps. That just doesn't feel as intuitive as pinching your fingers together or stretching them apart to zoom in or out. That said, the screen is fairly bright, so it's easy to look at outdoors, and its 320x480-pixel resolution ensures that text and icons look crisp and sharp.
The Optimus runs version 1.6 of Android, rather than version 2.1, which you'll find on handsets like the HTC Desire. This means the Optimus lacks the new user-interface enhancements, native support for Exchange email and the updated browser. But you still get access to features like the Android Market, for downloading new apps, and turn-by-turn navigation instructions in Google Maps. LG has also customised the standard Android 1.6 interface, raising the total number of home screens to seven. The company's added permanent shortcuts to the dialler and messaging application too, as well as some of its own home-screen widgets.
The phone is built around a 600MHz Qualcomm processor, helped along by 256MB of RAM. That's not the fastest configuration for running Android, but it gets the job done without too much dawdling around. There's some slowdown when running a few apps in the background but, for the most part, the phone feels quite responsive. Its connectivity is good too, as the Optimus supports both HSDPA and Wi-Fi for fast Web browsing, as well as Bluetooth and GPS.
The Optimus puts in an above-average multimedia performance. There's a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the handset that pumps out crisp and full-bodied sound from the standard Android music player. You also get an on-board FM tuner, so you can check out the football scores or catch up with Radio 1.
While the 3-megapixel camera isn't exactly advanced, it does a good job of capturing natural colours outdoors. It also supports face detection. The snapper lacks a flash, though, so you need to have plenty of light in the room if you want to get good results indoors. Otherwise, pictures look very dark and grainy.
We also like the fact that the Optimus will happily play standard-definition Xvid and DivX video files in AVI format, without forcing you to re-encode them at a different resolution or into a different video container.
There's plenty to like about the LG Optimus GT540, including its sleek design and multimedia features. But it fails to really impress, due to its relatively dated version of Android and its resistive touchscreen.
Edited by Charles Kloet