Dressed in a sleek black shell LG’s Optimus Black exudes poise and quite a bit of sex appeal. Taking its cue from big brother, the Optimus 2X, this lower end variant just could do better. After putting it to the test, here’s what I have to say.
It’s a good looking piece of hardware no doubt, but far from sturdy. A light drop (unintentional I assure you) from a height of about 3 feet, actually chipped off a part of the bezel, but leaving the Gorilla Glass display unscathed. The phone is not designed to be a rugged handset so I wasn’t required to throw it around – the drop was accidental. Aside from the slight chip, the Optimus Black still looked pretty good with its 4-inch NOVA display, which is an IPS (In-plane Switching) capacitive touchscreen display keeping colors as true and images as sharp as possible. It sports a 480 x 800 pixel resolution with 16 million colors. I found the legibility to be quite high even in direct sunlight and comfortable to view in pitch darkness with the ambient light sensor on.
Slick but slightly flimsy
At just 9.2mm in depth and weighing in at just 109g the Optimus Black is easily one of the slimmest and lightest Android phones around. A Gesture button is located on the left side of the handset just under the volume rocker, while the 3.5mm handsfree port, micro USB connector (neatly hidden by a slide back panel) and power/screen lock key are placed on top. A secondary 2 megapixel camera is located in front for video calling or taking your own picture when you feel like it. What I was unable to activate or find for that matter was an indicator LED for missed calls or unread messages for when the handset is in sleep mode.
'G' stands for Gestures
A hot-swap microSD card slot is located under the rear panel. The Optimus Black supports up to 32 GB via this external source but also comes with 2 GB of internal memory of which 1 GB can be used for apps and other data.
Features and Performance
The Optimus Black is equipped with a 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor and comes unfortunately with Android 2.2 aka FroYo out of the box. This is probably the biggest disappointment with the handset. LG has also loaded the device with their Optimus UI 2.0. Along with the UI, gesture controls like flip-to-silence, double tapping the sides to change tracks and images and shaking the handset in sleep mode to activate the camera, do enhance the overall functionality of the handset. What is a bit of a flaw in this system is one has to first get the handset off sleep mode then keep the “G” button (on the side) pressed and then shake the handset to switch on the camera. It’s a bit too much work. Like the Galaxy S II, you can press and hold an icon/widget on the hone screen and tilt the handset to move the background desktops for placement. Unlike the Optimus 2X, I found the Black’s overall UI handling to be quite fluid and comfortable to use.
Easy to manage menu set up
The UI allows you to create sections so you can categorize your apps. The sections can also be “folded” up to view others but it doesn’t stay that way requiring you to scroll down to view what’s below. Not really an issue either ways but quite handy nonetheless. You can also switch to a page or listing view if you prefer. One annoying little gltch I feel I should mention is that initially when the auto-rotate setting was active, the orientation would easily swithc to landscape but the handset had to be shaken to swicth back to portrait. I had to reset the handset a couple of times for it to start functioning properly. If any of you Optimus Black users out there are facing the same issue, please do let me know.
We also ran a set of tests to try and get an idea of how well the phone's various sub-systems performed. To get an idea of the performance of Flash memory interface, we used J Disk Benchmark. We ran the test on the SD card with a 50MB data set. We recorded read speeds of 3.68MB/s and write speeds of 3.23MB/s. This might not seem like a lot but it's certainly fast enough not to be a bottleneck for apps installed on your SD card as well as any kind of media on it.
J Disk Benchmark Results
We also used Linpack which would test the processing power of the phone. The Optimus Black scored a total of 16.18 MFLOPS. The performance based on synthetic scores isn't anywhere close to some of the dual-core processor phones to have released in the market. Then again, the Optimus Black isn't priced in the same league.
I loved the audio output that the handset was able to deliver. Music playback is crisp when it comes to the higher frequencies and there’s a resounding bass line that keeps it all in balance. The EQ presets are helpful and with the added boost of Dolby Surround, the stereo comes alive. With regards to video playback, the Optimus Black was able to easily playback 720p video files coded in both DivX or XviD formats. The colors stand out and the black levels looked quite impressive. The FM radio also performed well enough although there was static when travelling by train.