If you were fond of the Optimus V's specs and commitment-free plan, but prefer a tactile keyboard to go with your flying fingers, the V's second iteration, the LG Optimus Slider, may be worth considering. Other than the keyboard and a slightly faster processor, however, it isn't that much different from the V. It still boasts the same 3.2-inch touch screen and 3.2-megapixel camera as before, though it's priced at $179.99.
The bulky LG Optimus Slider measures 4.53 inches tall by 2.32 inches wide by 0.58 inch thick. And at 5.11 ounces, it's a heavyweight. I could stuff into the back pocket of my jeans, but it was a snug fit.
On the left side are a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port with a small cover. Up top are a sleep/power button and the 3.5mm headphone jack. To the left is a shortcut camera button that'll open the camera app when the display is on and the phone is unlocked.
The back side is made out of plastic that has a smooth, black matte coating. I like this material since it lends the handset a more luxurious feel. In the center is the 3.2-megapixel camera with no accompanying flash. To the right of the lens are three small slits for the speakerphone output. Using a small indentation on the bottom of the device, you can pry the backing off to expose the 1,500mAh battery.
Slide the handset open to show the four-row QWERTY slide-out keyboard. It lights up when in use, and although the spaces between the keys are minimal, the keys are generously sized. They're easy to press, and each button bubbles slightly above the surface, which makes typing much easier. The keyboard includes four navigational arrows, a shortcut button for emoticons, and also a ".com" button for typing in Web sites. The sliding mechanism for the keyboard is sturdy and snappy.
The 3.2-inch HVGA touch screen has a 320x480-pixel resolution, with a pixel density of 180ppi, so don't expect rich graphics. Menu icons and text rendered crisply, but more complex videos, photos, and images appeared grainy and pixelated. And even though colors weren't "muted" per se, they weren't as vibrant or as rich as I've seen them in other no-contract devices (like Boost Mobile's LG Marquee, for example). Fortunately, the screen is responsive to the touch, and pressing on icons, swiping through home pages, and pinch zooming was a breeze.
Below the display are the four usual navigation buttons (home, menu, back, and search) that also rise above the surface for easy pressing.
The LG Optimus Slider runs on an 800MHz processor. Though it's not as zippy as the dual-core LG Connect 4G, simple tasks like switching from landscape to portrait mode, opening the camera app, or zooming in on photos ran smoothly.
The phone runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and is preloaded with some Google apps such as the Play store, Maps with Navigation, Gmail, Talk, YouTube, and Places. Others, like Google Search, Books, Messenger, and Plus aren't included.
The handset is equipped with Mobile ID, located at the third icon in the home screen's dock. With ID, you can customize your five home screen pages with certain preselected apps, widgets, and other items, depending on which ID profile you choose.
For example, if you select the MTV package, you'll get apps and widgets pertaining to the music news channel. You can also choose a Green package, which includes tools to help you lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Just note that deleting a Mobile ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded -- you'll have to remove those apps manually. I don't like that Mobile ID is so integral to the phone. You can't remove the function from the home screen's dashboard, so the only choice you have is just to ignore it. Right now, there are six available packs online.
For commutation, the Slider is equipped with several basic task management applications, like a clock with alarm features, a calculator, Bluetooth 3.0, a calendar, text messaging (with Swype), and a voice dialer.
One extra goodie is ThinkFree Office. This app's sticker price is $8.70 at the Play store; it's a mobile office suite that lets you access word documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, and more.
The 3.2-megapixel camera comes with a few editing features including a 4x digital zoom; five white-balance modes (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, and cloudy); geotagging; four focus options (auto, normal, macro, and off); five photo sizes (ranging from 3-megapixels to QVGA); three photo qualities (superfine, fine, and normal), seven color effects (none, mono, sepia, negative, aqua, sketch, mono-negative); and five ISO choices (ranging from 100 to 800).
The video recorder has similar offerings, such as the same color effects and white-balance options. There is no zooming or autofocus, but there are four different shooting modes (high, low, MMS for sending videos, and a YouTube mode for posting videos).
I tested the LG Optimus Slider in San Francisco; Virgin Mobile phones run on Sprint's network. Though signal quality was perfectly adequate, sound quality was less than stellar. I didn't experience any dropped calls, extraneous buzzing, or audio clipping in and out, but voices sounded really muffled. At times, it was hard to make out what my friends were saying because audio blended together, and I had to ask them to repeat themselves. Even at max volume, it was difficult to make out certain words. Callers, however, said they could hear me. Though I didn't sound crystal clear, I was understood perfectly well.
The output speakerphone quality performed better than the in-ear speakers. Calls still sounded stifled, but music videos and dialogue played loudly. However, there were times when songs or dialogue sounded too harsh or sharp, but it was easy to understand nonetheless.
Listen now: LG Optimus Slider call quality sample
The 3.2-megapixel camera's photo quality was understandably mediocre. With such low megapixels, photos taken indoors looked grainy and dull. Colors bled together and the edges of objects did not look refined. Taking photos in an outdoor setting with plenty of natural light improved photo quality. Colors were a bit more vivid, though not as rich as in real life, and objects were in better focus with defined outlines.
Video quality was also subpar. Feedback lagged behind my moving of the camera. Objects were extremely blurry, even if I panned the camera as slowly as I could. White balancing also took some time to adjust -- people's skin color would be wonky (sometimes even orange) under certain lighting. After a few seconds, the color tones would finally correct. There was a low and subtle buzzing sound that I heard when listening to my recordings as well.
The dual-band (850, 1900) Slider runs on Sprint's EV-DO technology and clocked in some solid times for a 3G device. Loading the CNET mobile site, for example, took an average of 18 seconds, while loading our full site took a minute and 7 seconds. The New York Times full site took slightly shorter on average, clocking in at 48 seconds, and its mobile site took a mere 10 seconds to load. Ookla's Speedtest 2.99MB app, which took 2 minutes and 13 seconds to load, showed me an average of 0.29Mbps down and 0.72Mbps up.
During our battery drain tests, the handset lasted 6.9 hours. Anecdotally, the device had poor battery life. After spending about an hour surfing the Web, talking with my friends, and watching videos, the handset would easily lose a battery notch. And when inactive but powered on overnight, the battery would still drain. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.48W/kg.
The LG Optimus Slider has a few things going for it. Its data connection is strong and for a no-contract phone (where bloatware seems to be forever apparent), it's refreshing to see a lack of useless preloaded apps. I was hoping for more improvements over its predecessor, however, especially with the camera.
But, even though the device Slider has a comfortable keyboard, I don't like the fact that everything else is so generously sized. The build is too bulky, especially when compared with the LG Rumor Reflex. Although smaller, the Reflex has a nicely sized keyboard as well, is on a no-contract network (Boost), and it's cheaper to boot.