Home Icon
lg-optimus-l9-review-07

Two cores and two days of battery life: LG’s $399 Optimus L9 reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 3:31 pm 14/12/2012

LG hasn’t been terribly active in the high-end smartphone market this year, but it has been cooking up a storm with its budget brigade of Optimus handsets, badged under the “L” series. Now it’s the end of the year, and LG has one last L-series it would like to show you, the dual-core $399 L9.

Features

Likely the last phone we’ll see from LG until 2013, the Optimus L9 looks to help start that new year with a bang, or in the case of this handset, a bang for your buck.

Starting with the screen, you’ll find a 4.7 inch screen supporting 960×540, and featuring a pixel density of 234ppi, not quite the Retina-comparable 318ppi found on LG’s other end-of-year handset, the Google-branded Nexus 4.

As is the norm for most smartphones we see, the screen is covered in Corning’s scratch-resistant glass, although the second generation of the technology makes an appearance here, with Gorilla Glass 2 included on the Optimus L9.

Inside the phone, you’ll find a dual-core 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, Google’s Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich,” and 4GB of internal storage, though there is a microSD slot in case you feel like adding more for music, photos, videos, apps, and games.

Connections include WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and microUSB, but there’s no Near-Field Communication technology included here.

The rear camera is an 8 megapixel shooter with auto-focus and LED flash, capable of grabbing 1080p Full HD video, while the front camera is a small VGA model.

Powering this handset is a 2150mAh battery, 50mAh higher than what Samsung uses in its Galaxy S3 handset.

There aren’t many buttons here to speak of either, something that is becoming all too common on Android smartphones. You’ll find a main home button sitting dead centre at the bottom of the handset, flanked on each side by soft buttons working for back (left) and menu (right). The power button sits on the right edge, while the volume rocker is on the left edge.

Ports are also equally limited, with the microUSB port on the very bottom and a 3.5mm headset jack up top.

Performance

Like taking a page from yesterday but sprucing it up to be better today, the Optimus L9 gives us LG’s spin on what can be a premium phone in the middle range.

Design wise, LG has taken the semi-professional squared off look it has been using across the L series all year and elongated it a little, keeping the plastic bodies and using a 4.7 inch LCD screen instead of the smaller ones used in the range.

In the hands, the L9 is comfortable to hold, even with the slightly softened hard angles, but they are very plasticky, although we’re appreciative of the textured back on offer for the L9, bringing to mind the feel Samsung produced with its textured back on the original Galaxy Note.

This back helps to make the entire phone instantly more gripable, something that touchscreen phones have been known to have problems with, thanks to the slick glass or plastic surface areas dominating the front and back.

For the most part, the screen is bright and colourful, and though we have some reservations about how reflective the entire thing is – we’ll get to that in a minute – it’s a nice screen for a mid-range phone, especially since it’s almost as big as the one found in premium phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X.

Using Android is a little different under LG, too with the company making some very nifty customisations of Android for the L9, including the way it looks, how modifiable it is, and the inclusion of QuickMemo.

Running on Android 4.0 or “Ice Cream Sandwich” as most of us call it, LG has included more ways to decorate and customise how it looks, including themes that change the look of your homescreen, menus, and even icons. In fact, every icon in LG’s Android overlay can be changed, replaced with a piece of graphic art – another icon – or even a photo, simply by holding down on the icon and selecting the paintbrush that will appear in the top corner of the icon after a second.

The dock can take a maximum of six shortcuts, a nice enough feature, but even the applications menu shortcut can be moved, something we’re constantly wishing for on Samsung’s smartphones.

LG has even provided more choices for clocks and calendars on the lockscreen, with six different options, catering for digital and analogue clocks, as well as some more modern interpretations.

Oh, and there is a neat ability to edit the quick settings power control available in the top drop-down for Android, which we haven’t seen in a phone prior. You can select what you want to be shown, move it around, and generally make your menu controllers show up to eleven different items, or just the few you want to quickly switching things on and off.

There’s also a “QuickMemo” function, which allows you to jump into an overlay of the screen you’re sitting on, and scribble notes on top of it. For instance, if you’re in the middle of a phone call, you can start QuickMemo, jot down a phone number, save it, and refer to it later on.

The rest of the Android functionality is pretty standard, with a reasonably large dial-pad for making phone calls, messaging, several homescreens, multiple widgets, and simple left to right swiping menu, although the colour scheme takes the opposite of Android’s typical black interface and makes it use a lighter white look, which makes a nice change.

Performance isn’t amazing for the phone, though with a $399 price for the handset, we’re hardly surprised.

Our synthetic benchmarks show the dual-core processor on offer here is a touch faster than last year’s Galaxy Nexus, but most people probably won’t notice or care that it’s not a huge leap, and for the most part, we didn’t experience any noticeable slowdowns.

Battery life on the the L9 is reasonably impressive, though, managing two days for us while we did our regular thing, including social networking, Bluetooth audio, phone calls, email, text messaging, web surfing, and so on.

You could possibly manage a little more, but two full days on a dual-core handset with regular activity is very good, and something we can’t even get from a lot of the dual-core phones we’ve played with this year.

There are a few issues with the phone, and we found the download speeds, front facing camera, and screen build to be among the weaker points of this handset.

Over on the connection side of things, we didn’t have the most fantastic download speeds. At most, we managed 10Mbps down, but generally our connection hovered around 3 to 6Mbps. Not the best connection by a long shot, and certainly not suitable if you demand the speediest web connection.

While the screen has solid colours and viewing angles, it is insanely reflective, resulting in near impossible viewing in direct sunlight, and distractions when you’re near outside light at all.

We’re also not big fans of the front-camera, managing a meagre VGA resolution of 640×480, which takes blotchy low resolution self-portraits and would only barely be usable for video conferencing or Skyping, if anyone plans to use it for that.

LG's Optimus L9 (left) sits at half the price of Samsung's Galaxy S3 (right).

Conclusion

At a hundred under $500, LG has made the L9 into a capable mid-range device, improving slightly upon a framework from the 2011 style of flagship handsets and making it priced better for today.

We’re fans of a battery that goes beyond a day, and the L9 certainly pulls that off, so if you’re looking for decent battery life, an easy to use and customisable Android experience, but don’t care too much about fast download speeds and paying for a high-end phone, we’d look here.

Price (RRP)

$399

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Great battery life; Some of LG's additions and modifications to Android are useful; Excellent price;

Product Cons

Plastic body; Download speeds aren't the greatest; Screen is insanely reflective and useless in sunlight;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

Latest reviews

  • Review: DeLonghi PrimaDonna Elite coffee machine

    DeLonghi’s latest machine may have a name deserving of people who fancy themselves over the top, but its quality speaks volumes enough that its actually deserved.
  • Review: Benq WiT LED desk lamp

    Benq may not be a brand you typically associate with lights, and we know it best for monitors, but your next work light could come from some neat R&D…
  • Review: KEF M400 headphones

    A brand synonymous with excellent audio, KEF is at it again with a pair of on-ear headphones that aim to bring audio to a compact and fashionable package. Does…
  • Review: Amazon Kindle Oasis

    Electronic books have already delivered a future where we can bring all of our books with us, but the next development will be one of super thin tablets that…
  • Review: Acoustic Research M2 (ARM2) media player

    While the phone has overtaken the conventional media player, those of us with special needs and high resolution audio are embracing a new generation of media devices, and Acoustic…
  • Review: Husqvarna 136LiHD45 Hedge Trimmer

    If a guy who rarely enters his backyard can use a hedge trimmer, it’s a winner, and that means Husqvarna’s battery powered 45cm trimmer wins the gold, ticking the…
  • A phone with a difference: LG’s G5 reviewed

    LG’s quest for the ultimate flagship phone has been all about constant evolution, and for its 2016 attempt, we’re seeing the best one yet. Is it enough to unseat…
  • Review: Telstra Tough Max

    Telstra's Tough Max isn't like your ordinary phone, because if you need something that feels like it has been made for Australia, this may well be it.
  • Review: Apple iPad Smart Keyboard for 9.7 inch iPad Pro

    One feature on the iPad Pro can only be used with style of accessory: the dock connector, and it can only talk to keyboard cases. Right now, Apple’s Smart…
  • Review: Aftershockz Bluez 2S Bone Conduction earphones

    Imagine if you never had to wear an earphone again and could just hear the music in your head. That doesn’t have have to be a dream, because the…

“How do you stop yourself from being caught out by these scam artists?”

Read More

Tell us…

Will you be installing an ad blocker on your smartphone?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

“There’s certainly no doubt that you can find a bargain, but like always, you get what you pay for.”

Read More