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LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS) review: LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS)

LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS)

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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.

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4 min read

A little more than a year ago, MetroPCS released its first-ever Android smartphone, the LG Optimus M. Though its plastic build made it less glamorous-looking than its counterparts from different networks, the M was competitively priced and did not require a contract.

LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS)
6.7

LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS)

The Good

The <b>LG Optimus M+</b>'s design has an attractive look, with its convex edges and slim build. Outdoor photo quality and speakerphone output quality are both decent.

The Bad

The Optimus M+'s data connection is inordinately slow and spotty. Call quality is disappointing.

The Bottom Line

The design and specs of the affordable LG Optimus M+ surpass its predecessor's, but its data connection is poor even for MetroPCS.

Fast-forward to now, and boy, do these carriers done grow up so fast. MetroPCS has offered numerous Android handsets since then and it's currently selling 10. One of which is a revamped version of the debut Android device itself, aptly called the LG Optimus M+.

Although the M+ is still marketed as an inexpensive device, it has a bigger screen this time around, and slightly better specs. It also lost some weight, sporting a thinner redesign. Though not as historically meaningful as its predecessor, the M+ still carries on the tradition of being a solid, entry-level phone.

Design


The LG Optimus M+ went through a welcome redesign from its predecessor. At 0.39 inch thick, it's noticeably thinner than before and I'm fond of the new details, like the sharper corners, the tapered sides, and the convex top and bottom. It measures 4.48 inches long and 2.47 inches wide, and it weighs 4.23 ounces. I like that it feels slightly wide in the hand, which makes it easier to hold.

On the left side is a volume rocker. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and the sleep/power button. In between these features is the Micro-USB port, which can be covered with a neat, tiny sliding door.

A 5-megapixel camera is located on the back, next to its LED flash. On the right hand corner is an output speaker. Although I liked many design elements of the handset, the texturized plastic backing feels cheap. Once you pry it off you can see the 1,300mAh battery and microSD card slot that holds cards with capacities up to 32GB.


The textured plastic backing on the LG Optimus M+ feels flimsy.

The M+ has a 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen display. Like the original M, it has a 320x480-pixel resolution, but it sports more colors -- 262,000 hues instead of 65,000. Photos and video graphics were vivid and rich (especially when the screen brightness was cranked all the way up), but the resolution is disappointing. Although menu icons were crisp, more complex images looked grainy and streaky. On the upside, the display was responsive to my touch when I selected icons, swiped through menus and transitioned to the homescreen.

Below the display are the four usual navigation buttons that light up when in use: menu, home, back, and search.

Features
The LG Optimus M+ runs on a slightly zippier (800MHz) processor. It's not as fast as the dual-core LG Connect 4G, but I didn't notice any lagging when performing simple tasks like switching from landscape to portrait mode, opening the camera app, or zooming in on photos and Web pages.

The phone ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and is preloaded with all the apps you'd expect from Google, such as the Play Store, Google Maps with Navigation, Search, Books, Messenger, Gmail, Talk, YouTube, Plus, and Places.

Also included are MetroPCS's own brand of maps and apps for mail, and browsing the Web. M Studio stores media files like ringtones, MetroPCS Easy Wi-Fi is a Wi-Fi hotspot app, Metro411 searches and locates for nearby businesses and restaurants; MyExtras is an entertainment and media app; and myMetro lets you check your account balance and plan.

There also are three Yahoo-branded apps: Sportacular (sports news), Yahoo Movies, and the oh-so accredited Yahoo! Answers. Meow.

In addition, the Optimus M+ is equipped with several basic task management applications, like a clock with alarm features, a calculator, Bluetooth, a calendar, text messaging (with Swype) a voice recorder, and a news and weather app. Uncommon apps include IM and Social, which consolidates all your social networking portals; the mobile media suite known as Pocket Express; and the mobile office suite known as Polaris Office.

The handset also comes preloaded with Rhapsody's music subscription service. For an extra $10 a month, on top of a $50-a-month unlimited talk, text, data, and e-mail plan, you can search and download thousands of albums and artists on major U.S. record labels. Despite the fact that you can't play songs offline unless you add it onto a playlist, the service is pretty neat and more intuitive compared to other music services. Its UI is intuitive, songs downloaded without any hiccups and played continuously.

The 5-megapixel camera comes with a few editing features including a flash, a digital zoom, an exposure meter, six scene modes (auto, portrait, landscape, sports, night, and sunset), five image options, four ISO choices (ranging from 400 to 100), five white balance modes (auto, incandescent, sunny, fluorescent, and cloudy), five color effects (none, mono, negative, sepia, and aqua), and a timer that can go off in 3, 5, or 10 seconds.

The video recorder has similar offerings, such as a digital zoom, a continuous flash, and the same white balance, exposure, and color effects. There are also two shooting modes (one for normal recording and one for sending videos over MMS), three video sizes (VGA, QVGA, and QCIF), three quality options (super fine, fine, and normal), and audio muting.

The LG Optimus M+: Refreshingly redesigned (photos)

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Performance
I tested LG Optimus M+ in San Francisco using MetroPCS' services. Signal quality was decent, but sound quality was mediocre. Although I didn't experience any dropped calls, extraneous buzzing, or audio clipping in and out, voices sounded muffled. Even at the maximum volume, my friends sounded like they were talking under a thin sheet. Friends told me the same thing -- even though I could be understood perfectly well, the audio didn't sound so refined.

The output speakerphone quality, however, is pretty decent. Although calls still sounded stifled, music videos played loudly and clearly. Even a recording of a crackling campfire sounded crisp to the ear.

Listen now: LG Optimus M+ call quality sample

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As for the 5-megapixel camera, photo quality was fine under natural, bright lighting conditions. Pictures taken outdoor were clear and colors were accurate. When lighting conditions lowered, the photos understandably didn't turn out as well. While still satisfactory, images were grainier and colors were dulled and bled together.


In this outdoor shot, you can see the details in the plants and the different shades of green.


In this sunny indoor shot, the lamp is washed out and the blue chairs aren’t as vibrant as they are in real life.


In our standard studio shot, images were especially grainy and there is a dark hue around the edges.

Video quality was perfectly decent. Because there is no focusing feature, extremely bright or dark colors weren't easy distinguishable. Audio was picked up well, however, and while I recorded, I noticed that the feedback didn't lag behind my moving of the camera.

The M+ operates on MetroPCS's EV-DO network, but data speeds were unusually slow and spotty, even for MetroPCS 3G standards. Our CNET mobile site took an average of 33 seconds, while our full site took anywhere from 2 to 7 minutes. The New York Times' full site took 1 minute, 34 seconds, and the mobile site clocked in at 15 seconds on average. Installing the speed test app Ookla (2.99MB) took a whopping 6 minutes and 4 seconds and showed me an average of 0.06Mbps down and 0.03Mbps up.

MetroPCS' network isn't the most robust, and a few of general speed tests show that. Although it occasionally runs on EV-DO 3G technology, most of the time the device went down to 1X. Loading the CNET mobile site, for example, took an average of 20 seconds, while loading our full site took 2 minutes and 35 seconds. The New York Times' full site took slightly shorter on average, clocking in at 2 minutes and 16 seconds, and its mobile site took 19 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took a minute and 4 seconds, and its full site loaded in a minute and a half. Ookla showed me an average of 0.09Mbps down and 0.05Mbps up.

During our battery drain tests, the handset lasted 6.2 hours. Anecdotally, the device had a respectable battery life. After spending half the day trudging through the Web, talking with my friends, and watching videos, the handset would only lose about a quarter of its battery life. When the screen is on maximum brightness, though, the battery drains considerably faster. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.11W/kg.

Conclusion
The LG Optimus M+ is a solid update from last year's model. I welcome the new, thinner build, and the slightly boosted specs help the device remain "mid- to entry-level" in this competitive market. I also liked the snappiness of the handset, and the camera quality.

However, not everything is without its flaws. The slow network can be a real drag, even when considering that it's a 3G and not 4G device. Plus, the call quality could be better. If you're interested, the handset is available online at MetroPCS for $129.99.

But, if you can save or have a hundred or so bucks more to spare, you can easily get the LG Connect 4G from MetroPCS instead. That has a dual-core processor and, as the name implies, is a 4G device. And in today's world where speed is king, that extra oomph can be worth it.


LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS)
6.7

LG Optimus M+ (MetroPCS)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6
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