The LG Optimus Black Review: Gorgeous and Dirt Cheap

The Optimus Black's Three Views

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Looking for a slim, sexy smartphone but don’t want to pay through the nose? Check out the LG Optimus Black: it’s slim, black and iPhone attractive. And because it’s last year’s model, it can be had for around $200 without a plan. Let’s play The Good, The Bad, The Verdict and see what else it has to offer besides experience and a cheap price tag.

The Good

Looks: Let’s be honest. They matter. The LG Optimus Black is sleek and understated.  The glass runs edge to edge over a super-slim 0.36-inch frame. To appeal to aesthetics oriented smartphone lovers, LG designed it with the clean lines of an iPhone but with the big 4-inch screen of an Android. Pull this sophisticated phone out of your pocket and no one will have any idea you only paid $200 for it.

The Display: It’s got a 400×800 IPS panel which means great color contrast and sharpness that retains its integrity in bright sunlight and at wider viewing angles than most. And thanks to NOVA technology and great reflow tech, web text is extra sharp even when double-tap zooming in and out. You won’t find this kind of quality in most other handsets selling at this price.

The Display in Action

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The Processor: To call this a “good” feature may be overselling it a bit. The LG Optimus Black runs on a single-core 1GHz processor. It won’t blow your mind, but it will run the OS, apps and internet (via Wi-Fi, 3G HSDPA and Bluetooth) cleanly with little to no stuttering.

That’s really all most of us need our phones to do. But if you have dreams of HD video and Xbox-quality gaming in mind, you may want to save up for a phone with a faster processor.

Gestures: Sometimes, it’s the little things. LG’s user interface comes with gesture controls for most apps. You can flip the phone over to send calls to voicemail or pause videos and tap the side of the phone to scroll horizontally through galleries and home pages and other fun stuff. It’s one of the few perks on the phone but we think it’s pretty neat.

The Camera: At 5MP, the LG Optimus Black’s Camera is on par with the iPhone 4’s. It takes great pictures with true to life colors. And there are tons of options including a manual setting that lets you change the White Balance and ISO. But it does struggle in some areas: night shots are noisy, some of the focus settings struggle and low-light colors can appear a little washed out and the 720p video struggles to focus. But all in all it’s a great camera, especially at this discounted price.

The Bad

The OS: The LG Optimus Black comes out of the box with Froyo (super-old Android 2.2) Gingerbread updates are available but that’s all you’re ever going to get. LG is not releasing Jelly Bean or even Ice Cream Sandwich for this second-tier phone. If you were looking forward to Face Unlock, voice control or any of the other cool smartphone add ons that newer Android versions enjoy, you’re better off with a newer handset.

The Slim Optimus Black

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The Verdict

Buying old can be a great strategy. The LG Optimus Black’s experience knocks about $200 off of its sticker price. And it has aged so well we could find very little to complain about. Its not a top performer by any means, but it does its job well and looks good while doing it.