LG’s Optimus Black is a fantastic Android phone that has it all: good looks, solid feature set and a price that’s not going to burn holes in your bank account. It’s a mid-end phone that looks, feels and performs like a flagship smartphone. It’s not perfect though, and only a not-so small detail keeps me from recommending it to everyone. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The Optimus Black has a very clean exterior design and shuns physical buttons like the plague. Aside from the requisite power button that rests on the top of the device and the volume rocker and G key (more on this later) on the left side, every input key is of the touch sensitive variety.
The charging/USB slot sits on top (which you can close when not in use), along with the 3.5mm jack. One of the main features of the Optimus Black that LG has been touting is the NOVA display that’s on it – a 700 nit, 4-inch IPS deal that has a resolution of 480×800 pixels. If you don’t speak fluent geek, IPS stands for in-plane switching technology; a kind of LCD tech that allows for better colors overall and greatly reduces color distortion and contrast loss when viewed at an angle. The high nit rating also means that the Optimus Black is still readable even under direct sunlight, something AMOLED screens and the like usually can’t do.
The Optimus Black is a dainty little thing, clocking in at 122x64x9.2mm. The back of the device has angled surfaces on both sides, with a single speaker near the bottom of the device. The overall weight of the Optimus Black is about 109g, which to be honest is a bit too light for me. While the Optimus Black has excellent construction all around with nary a creak to be found, the mostly plastic construction plus its light weight makes it feel a bit cheaper than it actually is. Of course, your mileage may vary, and I know there are a lot of people that see this as a plus.
That’s not the only hardware trick it has on its sleeves – the Optimus Black also carries a 1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor and PowerVR SGX530 GPU, which means it has enough horses under the hood to handle moderately intense number crunching and graphics work. Imaging is done by way of a 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 resolution camera with LED flash. There’s also a secondary camera located on the front of the device.
On paper, the Optimus Black looks like the ideal smartphone for power users. Well, not exactly. Unlike recently released smartphones, the Optimus Black uses Android 2.2 Froyo as its OS, not the newer 2.3 Gingerbread version. This might have been forgivable omission four months ago, but not in the current market where even entry level devices sport Gingerbread from the get-go. There might still be hope though, as LG might push an OTA (over the air) update for it, though there’s no word of that happening as of yet.
To its credit, the Android build that ships with the Optimus Black is extremely stable, and I didn’t experience any major software crash while using it. And while the processor included in the Optimus Black isn’t a dual-core affair like its bigger sibling the Optimus 2X, it was still able to keep up with all the apps I installed in the device.
The G key stands for Gesture key, and in theory it allows you to utilize the accelerometer on the device to switch screens and quickly access the camera by tilting the phone and shaking it twice, respectively. While the switch functionality worked well, the camera wouldn’t turn on no matter how much I shook the device.
As usual, I installed Android benchmark tool AnTuTu to be able to gauge the number crunching abilities of the Optimus Black. Unsurprisingly, AnTuTu gave back a figure of 2576, which according to AnTuTu, was a score slightly below the HTC Desire HD and above the Nexus One.
Battery life is pretty good, and unlike some of the phones I reviewed before, the Optimus Black was able to survive more than a day away from the socket. Calls also came in loud and clear, with no distortion whatsoever.
So is the LG-P970 Optimus Black worth a purchase? Despite the limitations brought on by its slightly dated OS, the Optimus Black still brings a lot of features to the table. It’s certainly worthy of the Php 19,900 price tag attached to it.
NOVA display is bright and readable even under the sun
Easy to use and operate
Light and thin
Runs on Android 2.2
While somewhat hobbled by an older version of Android, the LG-P970 Optimus Black is still worth a look if you’re in the market for a mid-end smartphone.
1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor, PowerVR SGX530 GPU, TI OMAP 3630 chipset
4-inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 480×800 pixels
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100