capsule review

LG Optimus T: Android on a Budget

At a Glance
  • LG Electronics Optimus T

    PCWorld Rating

Budget buyers, rejoice: LG has made Android affordable with its new Optimus T handset on T-Mobile ($30 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a new two-year contract; price as of November 20, 2010). But how much bang are you getting for your buck? Considering its disappointing media capabilities, lower-end processor, and subpar call quality, I'd say not much.

High-Quality Look and Feel

The LG Optimus T feels like a high-quality phone. The physical keys all have the right amount of clickiness to them; the screen, although plastic, does a good job emulating the feel of the glass screen that we find on many other Android devices. The curves of the Optimus T made it comfortable to hold for long periods of time, and the phone never felt bulky in my pocket when I walked around. At 4.5 ounces, the Optimus T is a bit heavier than it looks, but that weight only seems to add to the overall quality of the phone.

The design reminds me somewhat of the Google Nexus One. The 3.2-inch, 320-by-480-pixel capacitive touchscreen takes up most of the face. On the back is a 3.2-megapixel camera (sans flash, but more on that later), and on the right spine is the volume rocker. Under the screen, you have four physical buttons: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. As I mentioned earlier, the buttons are easy to press, and quite responsive. At the top of the device, you'll find the usual 3.5mm audio jack and power button; on the bottom is the micro-USB port. The phone comes in black, titanium, or burgundy.

Android 2.2 With an LG Twist

The LG Optimus T runs Android 2.2 ("Froyo"), with a few additions and modifications courtesy of LG and T-Mobile. Instead of the usual five home screens that stock Froyo phones have, up to seven are at your disposal here. You'll encounter some other slight tweaks in the interface, too: The dock at the bottom swaps out the Web browser for the messaging application (which I believe is more widely used), while the notification bar allows you to toggle different settings such as GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the like.

With 2.2 you have the capability to create a mobile hotspot and tether your phone to share your 3G network with other devices, but doing so might cost you extra depending on your data plan. One thing to note is that although the Optimus T runs Android 2.2, it does not support Flash, which some reviewers attribute to the handset's slower processor.

The phone is also equipped with an FM radio and, thanks to a recent over-the-air update, Wi-Fi calling capabilities. A few game demos are preinstalled, as is the T-Mobile App pack--essentially a repackaging of the Android Market for users new to the Android platform. TeleNav and ThinkFree Office are bundled, too.

One added feature that I found interesting is DriveSmart. The DriveSmart app helps reduce distractions while you're driving by silencing your notifications or forwarding them to a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth headset. DriveSmart also allows you to set automatic replies for both text messages and calls, telling people that you are currently driving and will get back to them as soon as you can. You can upgrade the application to DriveSmart Pro, which will turn itself on when it detects that you are going a certain speed.

The Optimus T comes with Swype preinstalled, which I would recommend over the occasionally slow and inaccurate stock Android keyboard.

Performance

The battery life is hard to beat; I managed to get almost two whole days on one charge while researching the Optimus T for this review. With only a 600MHz processor, the phone produces some lag while flipping through screens, and some apps (like Angry Birds or Pandora) may take a while to load fully. Strangely enough, in my tests the phone never really slowed down even with widgets on all the screens and a live wallpaper running in the background.

Downloading applications on the Optimus T is simple and pain-free. When you download an application, it goes to the 'Downloads' section of your app drawer. You can create new sections and move your apps freely between them. The phone has only 170MB of internal storage, but it comes with a 2GB MicroSD card that you can upgrade to gain up to 32GB of added storage.

I was unimpressed with the call quality. I found the earpiece to be too quiet by default, and I had to raise the volume all the way up to hear calls properly. My contacts said that I came through fine but sounded a bit muffled. The Optimus T does an average job of filtering background noise; calls I made at a busy shopping mall kept out all but the loudest sounds. Calls conducted over Wi-Fi still use plan minutes, and quality will vary network to network. On my personal home network, my calls were interlaced with random bursts of static that ranged from mild to severe.

Multimedia

The Optimus T runs the stock Android media player, which lacks advanced playback options. The radio tuner works nicely, but you will need to have your headphones plugged in to use it. Music sounded clear, although the speaker on the phone lacks bass capabilities. LG includes a pair of headphones with the Optimus T, but you will most likely want to replace those with your own pair.

The camera--offering only 3.2 megapixels and limited controls--was disappointing. Colors were dull, and the camera seemed to have trouble focusing when multiple objects were in the frame. Since it has no flash, I would not recommend using the camera in low lighting, as images come out rather dark. You can adjust ISO and white balance, but in my tests that didn't seem to help. The video camera was just as bad--artifacts plagued the frame, and audio sounded far away. Games played okay, but text appeared jagged due to the low resolution of the screen.

Conclusion

The LG Optimus T is a bare-bones Android device available for a reasonable price. Along with the Motorola Defy and the T-Mobile Comet, the Optimus T makes Android affordable to a slew of new users. If you're looking for basic Android functions on T-Mobile but you don't want to spend a lot, the LG Optimus T will be a perfect fit. For anyone else, I recommend skipping this phone and upgrading to the excellent MyTouch 4G instead.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Optimus T for T-Mobile is incredibly affordable, but you get what you pay for-- the multimedia features are lackluster.

    Pros

    • Affordable Android 2.2 device
    • Good battery life

    Cons

    • Poor multimedia capabilities
    • Calls over Wi-Fi were full of static
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