In all the hullabaloo surrounding the launch of flagships boasting of the latest and greatest technology, it can be easy to forget about devices like the Galaxy Ace and the Xperia Tipo. However, it’s these low-margin bargain devices that have helped Android zoom ahead of the iPhone. In fact, according to Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report all of the top nine handsets used by Opera Mini users were priced under Rs. 10,000 (about $165). LG’s new entrant in the budget smartphone category is the LG Optimus L3 II Dual E435. After using it for a week, here’s my quick review.
Appearance and Display
The Optimus L3 II won’t win awards for its design; however, it definitely doesn’t look bad. Like most other second generation L-series devices, the latest iteration of the L3 has dropped the bold rectangular design and gone back to the traditional rounded edges. The phone is small, but solidly built and feels wonderful to hold. The plastic body feels well-constructed and doesn’t creak, while the buttons offer good feedback. My biggest complaint with the body is that the front buttons aren’t backlit. This makes them difficult to spot in the dark.
The 3.2’’ display is small by today’s standards, but considering the price, you can’t really complain about the size. However, what’s shocking is the resolution. Thanks to a meagre resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, even the tiny display can manage only a 125 ppi pixel density. This is far lower than that of similarly priced Sony Xperia Tipo Dual (180 ppi) and Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos (165 ppi). As a result, everything on the screen appears pixelated. Reading small text is nothing short of a nightmare on this display. The viewing angles and outdoor visibility are pretty decent; however, none of the other positives can make up for the horrific resolution. The L3 II has the worst display that I’ve seen in an Android phone so far.
Hardware and Software
The LG Optimus L3 II is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225A Snapdragon chipset which comes with a 1 GHz processor and Adreno 200 GPU. It has 512 MB RAM, and 4 GB of internal memory. Quite obviously, you can’t expect the L3 II to be able to run all of the games and apps; however, it is capable enough to tackle the likes of Temple Run and Cut the Ropes satisfactorily. In fact, as far as CPU power is concerned, the L3 II is ahead of the Ace Duos and Tipo. The lower resolution further reduces the computing load on its chipset. There were a couple of seconds of wait while opening apps or switching between tasks, but I didn’t encounter significant freeze ups. General operation is reasonably smooth, and LG’s budget smartphone feels a lot more responsive than its competitors like Tipo.
As far as the hardware is concerned, the best thing about the L3 II is its battery. The L3 II 1540 mAh battery, which is quite a bit more powerful than the one found in the Galaxy Ace. Thanks to the tiny screen and the low-end single core processor, the battery isn’t really pushed too hard. As a result, even with reasonable amount of usage on 3G you should be able to make it through the day without requiring a recharge. This is significantly better than what most flagships have managed to offer.
The L3 II Dual packs a 3.15 megapixel rear camera capable of snapping images at 2048×1536 pixels and recording VGA resolution videos at 30 fps. The picture quality is exactly what you would expect. It’s good enough for Facebook and Instagram updates, but not something you’d be happy carrying on a vacation. The absence of even an LED flash means that the camera is useless in low light scenarios. The Camera app offers five different preset scenes and supports white balance, ISO, and exposure adjustment.
As the name suggests the L3 II is a dual SIM phone. It has a dedicated button, which allows you to toggle between two SIM cards. The switching happens quite quickly without requiring a reboot. However, you cannot use two SIMs at once.
On the software front, LG has launched the L3 II Dual with Android v4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), which is once again better than its closest competitors. Like all LG smartphones, the new L3 also comes with the Optimus UX. However, the only fancy feature that has made it into the L3 II is Quick Memo. QuickMemo is a sharable, system-wide notebook where you can jot down stuff quickly or annotate and comment on documents. Almost all of the other goodies that we saw in the flagship Optimus G have been dropped. Thankfully, even the stripped down Optimus UX has lots of configuration options and nifty tricks up its sleeve. You can change themes, use any of the half a dozen preloaded screen swipe effects, enable Quiet time, edit the lock screen shortcuts and more.
Budgets phones are all about compromises. It’s often difficult to pick the best phone in this category, as the best really depends on the user. The LG Optimus L3 II has its fair share of flaws, as does all of its competitors. The L3 II Dual costs just Rs. 7,500 and LG has had to make plenty of trade-offs to get there. The real question is can you live with the decisions LG has made? The L3 has a horrible display; however, the same low resolution display probably helps in boosting its performance. The L3 has a newer version of Android than most phones in its class, and feels smoother than many of the other low end devices that I’ve used. If performance is important to you and you are willing to overlook the display, the LG II Dual might be a good fit for you. However, if you are looking for a decent display, you need to look elsewhere. Similarly, if you want a decent camera, the old Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830 with a LED flash might be a better buy. Alternatively, if Android isn’t a must for you, you can even take a look at the Lumia 520. It doesn’t have as many apps as the Android smartphones; however, offers a better camera and significantly better performance.