Windows Phone 7 smartphones like the LG Optimus 7 are hard to tell apart. The differences are in media tweaks like extra camera capabilities and the design and build. At a glance, the LG Optimus 7 doesn’t have many in the way of stand out features: no ramped up hardware, for instance. Can it still stand out? Read on through for our full LG Optimus 7 review and find out.
All Windows Phone 7 devices look remarkably similar, but the minor details that set the LG Optimus 7 aside are the buttons. The three dedicated hardware buttons are full clickable buttons, which gives a nice physicality to the phone that rivals lack. The Windows Phone 7 home screen button is set in relief for the rest of the device too, which is a nice touch, and good for orientation when faffing around with your phone whilst legging it to the bus stop.
Windows Phone 7
The main selling point of Windows Phone 7 is the “glance and go” aspect, supposedly brought by the Windows Phone 7 live tiles. After having some dedicated time with the LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone 7, we can assure you that there is no more glancing than with any other operating system. Its strength lies in the syncing and integration.
But first, the tiles. The live information conveyed by the live tiles is disappointingly barely more than with an Android or iPhone. The messaging tile does not display any text from a message, or the sender but flags up when you have a new message. The only bit of extra information it gives is a sad face when a message has failed to send. Pin a person to your home screen and you aren’t told when they update, there’s just some dinky animations, as there is with the Xbox tile. The Twitter app is not a live tile.
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The People hub brings together your contacts book, Facebook contacts and email contacts, and syncing simply involves entering account information, and the LG Optimus 7 pulls it all together quickly and easily. Text messages go into a different hub though, into threaded conversations.
The lack of glance and go is exacerbated by the choice of font sizes and lack of customisaiton. It’s more squint than glance. For example, the text on the people hub, in a very pleasing font it might be, is all wrongly sized. The People title is massive, and the name of the person is slightly smaller, with the actual update, in a font equivalent to a font size 9 or smaller.
On top of this, it’s not in black or white (depending on whether you’re in a light theme or dark theme), it’s in a slightly softer grey, making it even more difficult to read. You’re generally more bothered about seeing what’s been said than who has said it. Think about it: you never say “Dave updated his status”, you say “Dave said let’s meet in the pub later”. On the other hand, the People hub is very easy, quick and simple to sync with your accounts, although it lacks the crucial Twitter integration, which is available as a slightly unsatisfactory separate free app in the marketplace.
On the plus side, the LG Optimus 7 does posses a bespoke media streaming app, Play To, for DLNA juggling of video, music and whatnot. That’s more than any other Windows Phone 7 handset sports right now, but we can’t say it’s a truly killer feature when you can do the same quite happily with an iPhone or Android handset already.
Camera and Video
The LG Optimus 7 has, like many other Windows Phone 7 smartphones, a five megapixel camera, as dictated by the Microsoft minimum hardware requirements, and 720p HD video support. However, the LG is a lesson in how megapixel count as a standalone spec, means practically nothing. The autofocus is terrible, and the colours are washed out and grey, with the flash next to useless. The video quality is poor, and is not sharp or bright. As smartphone cameras go, this is pretty poor, and the video also lacks sharing features, so you can’t post a video to YouTube, or send it via email (although you can with photos). Watch us make some tea in washy colours below:
The Windows Phone 7 UI is very good looking, although the transitional flourishes that make it look so good are also a bit of an imposition on the performance of the LG Optimus 7. Clicking to the lock screen when in an app, and clicking back in is slow, with a couple of seconds wait for the app to resume.
The main bugbear with Windows Phone 7 is the lack of customisability with the size of tiles and fonts. This wouldn’t be a problem if things weren’t so inappropriately sized. The live tiles are too big, meaning that if you had say, 20 apps (not a large number for those with Android smartphones or iPhones), there’d be a long clunky list to scroll down, and if you pinned them all to your home screen, your home screen would end up as long as your arm. We downloaded five apps, and already had almost three full screens worth of tiles to scroll through.
However, despite all this the battery lasted a good day and a half of average usage, and could stretch to two days so long as you’re not using the LG Optimus 7 too intensively.
In the context of LG phones the LG Optimus 7 is a good LG smartphone, simply because the restrictions of Windows Phone 7 stop LG from making the terrible UI mistakes it so often inflicts on its customers. Windows Phone 7 does offer a new sort of operating system, with menus laid out differently, although it does not give you that claimed glance and go experience, and because of the transitions make Windows Phone 7 slower by at least half a second at doing everything. It is definitely a good looking operating system, and the LG Optimus 7 feels lovely to hold, and the clickable buttons are a boon. But the camera is pitiful in even slightly lowlight, and the video appears to crank down the lighting in whatever you’re filming. Compared to a delicious HTC HD7 or Samsung Omnia 7, or the cheap and cheery HTC 7 Trophy we wouldn’t look twice at this, unless you really need its media streaming skills.