The LG Optimus L5 II is the middle smartphone from the new budget LG L II series, which was announced at the start of the year at Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, the curtain-raiser for new smartphones every year.
With a 4in screen, lightweight plastic-enclosed construction and just 4GB of storage, the LG Optimus L5 II phone is very much on the budget side of Android smartphones. But don’t underestimate it just yet...
The LG L5 II’s 4inch screen packs in a 800 x 480 resolution at 233 pixels per inch – so while it might be small, it is at least sharp. Under the hood the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system it uses runs quite smoothly, with a 1GHz dual-core processor powering all actions.
Elsewhere a 4GB storage capacity with only 512MB of RAM may sound paltry – but as with the HTC 8S there’s a microSD card slot under the back panel, so you can add up to 32GB of extra storage. You can carry quite a sizeable music and video library in that space.
While it doesn’t carry 4G connectivity some of its Android siblings, the LG does have wi-fi, 3G, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity at your disposal.
Build quality does leave a little to be desired. This LG Optimus is a lightweight handset at just 103g, with the plastic casing making it feel even lighter and even rather flimsy. The volume and power buttons aren’t as well-finished as we’d like; we prefer the smoother finish of the HTC 8S, not to mention the LG-built Google Nexus 4.
Turn it on and the screen comes to life with the familiar Android interface, along with some neat little extras: the home button’s LED glows with different colours to indicate alerts, notifications or alarms; and there’s also an additional ‘Quick Button’ on the left edge of the phone, to which you can assign an app for quick access.
The L5 II has four themes to choose from: Optimus, Biz, Cozywall or Marshmallow. You can also change the animation effect when swiping across the home screen panels; when you’re used to the simple carousel effect on most Android smartphones, it’s quite cool to change the effect, even if it’s quite subtle.
While we’re in the settings, it’s also worth mentioning that you can change the function of the micro-USB connector to use it as a charging port only, or to use it to sync and transfer media files, to transfer camera photos, or to use the phone as a USB tethering device (but not all at once) – it’s a nice feature that you don’t see too often on smartphones.
There’s no front-facing camera on on this LG Optimus L5 II phone , but the rear 5MP camera (which can also take 30fps video) is decent.
Picture quality is fine, looking well-balanced and detailed enough for this level. It doesn’t have the sharpness or clarity of flagship phones, but its zoom quality is commendable.
The camera app has some extra settings too, such as a panorama mode and continuous shooting (which takes six quick snaps in succession), as well as offering the ability to change the image size and add colour effects.
You can use also use voice control – saying the words ‘cheese’, ‘LG’, or the more amusing ‘whiskey’ – to capture an image.
Video and sound
As a music- and video-playing machine, the LG has its ups and downs. Stream an episode of MasterChef on the free BBC iPlayer app, and the LG’s overall character is tonally neutral, albeit with a slightly cooler palette than the iPhone 5.
The LG is light on pixels in comparison, but it does have cleaner white levels than the HTC 8S and BlackBerry Z10.
Black levels don’t go too deep, though, which makes the picture look slightly washed out at times, and it lacks that extra depth of subtle shading and sharp detail to garner too much excitement.
The HTC 8S wins when it comes to screen quality, with the LG coming second and the BlackBerry Z10 bringing up the rear with its slightly too-warm colour treatment.
These characteristics are also apparent when browsing the web, or using social media apps – while the white levels are bright and clean, the black text is thin with not-so-crisp edges.
Things get more uplifting when it comes to music - play Mr Big’s To Be With You and the LG has decent weight, sounding punchy and fun. It’s not the last word in detail, though, lacking crispness to edges of notes.
The earphones supplied in the box have an inline mic and basic controls; we’d swap them for a pair of Award-winning Beyerdynamic DTX 101iE in-ears (£65) for a more dynamic sound. All in all, the LG Optimus L5 II isn’t too bad a music mobile for such a cheap smartphone.
And that’s what it comes down to. The budget price means it’s not a premium handset that’ll challenge the Apple, HTC, Samsung or Sony flagship smartphones.
This LG does do a good job as an entry-level smartphone offering a good first experience, though. With the advantages of an Android OS, easy to use interface and decent media performance, the LG Optimus L5 II is a rather good deal.
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Review published 09.07.2013