Green, eco-friendly, and price conscious, the LG Optimus is certainly a budget phone - But is it for you?
When I found out I'd get to do the LG Optimus Elite review, I was happy, to say the least. Most folks write these phones off as bottom-feeders, budget phone lowbies that have no place in our elitist, Android society. To those folks, I must say, I disagree.
For starters, this guy is pretty eco-friendly. More than 50 percent of its plastic case is made with recycled plastic, and in a society of excess and waste, that's commendable right off the bat. It's small, light, and inexpensive. And let me tell you, it's made for somebody.
Enough soapboxing for now. There's a review to be written (and subsequently read), so join us after the break to see how the latest phone to don the Optimus moniker handles.
Small, lightweight, and pocket-friendly. Made out of recycled plastic, so it's eco-friendly, too. Battery will last all day and then some. NFC is included (as is Google Wallet).
Gingerbread, again. (C'mon, LG.) Single-core processor is slow, even with vanilla Android. Speaker isn't loud enough. Swiping between screens can stutter. You're locking yourself into antiquated hardware for two years.
The LG Optimus Elite certainly continues the trend of affordable Android devices that the Optimus S introduced. Unfortunately, unless it gets some extreme developer support (like it's predecessor), this phone is destined to sit at the bottom of the clearance rack, while all the newer, faster, less environmentally friendly phones get all bought up.
The hardware on the LG Optimus Elite, from a design perspective, isn't terrible. It's a pretty small phone (with a mere 3.5-inch display), a rubbery plastic battery cover, and smooth metal everywhere else. It's a simple, workable design, but the Optimus Elite certainly won't be winning any design awards.
Diving right in, the front of the device is what commands the most attention, and rightly so. The screen is up there, and with a size like 3.5-inches, you're going to get an appropriately low resolution at 320x480. Yes, it's low, even compared to some first-generation Android devices. You can chalk it up to one of the reasons this phone is so inexpensive. (Really though, it doesn't help that the display boasts a meager 160 DPI.)
There's no front-facing camera to speak of (what did you expect?), but suspiciously and disappointingly absent is an ambient light sensor, so your screen won't be adjusting its brightness accordingly at all.
The capacitive buttons down bottom are silver (a welcome contrast against the black they rest against) and light up brightly when touched. Still, the silver is easy enough to notice even when they're dark, so you won't be hard pressed to touch the button you're after.
Off in bezel land, the top bezel is packing most of the action. Up there you've got both your power button and your 3.5mm headphone jack, but no pinhole microphone to speak of. Other than that, there's nothing worth mentioning. The right bezel (like the LG Viper 4G LTE) is completely barren.
I don't know why LG doesn't put anything on the right bezels of their phones. Maybe their lead designer has something against right bezels. Maybe, years ago, he was hurt badly by a right bezel and refuses to honor them with any ports or buttons. The world may never know.
On the opposite bezel (see: left), you've got the volume rocker. It's plastic, and unlike most other volume rockers I'm seeing these days, has a clear indentation in the middle separating the two halves. (The rocker is still one single piece of plastic, though.) It's also conveniently labeled the two halves with a + and - sign, respectively, for those times when you just can't tell up from down.
The bottom bezel has the all-important microUSB charging port and and pinhole microphone. (Explains why it wasn't on the top bezel, now.) It's also worth pointing out that the microUSB port also doubles as the slit where you'd normally pop off the battery cover. This battery cover is a bit tougher to get off than most, but once you get a good handle on the cover, it'll come off.
Moving right along onto the back, you've got a plastic, rubberized, textured battery cover. It actually does give more grip if you place it on a slanted surface, but don't expect it to be your final solution. Towards the top of the back is the 5MP camera, along with flash. (Hey, at least we crammed a flash on this thing, right?)
The LG Optimus Elite comes with a 1520mAh battery, which for something this small, will go at least a day, easily. The screen is small, there's no 4G radios to suck down juice, so this battery really performs. The microSD card slot is above the battery, so you don't need to battery pull to swap cards out. (Hooray!)
The Optimus Elite is powered by a paltry 800MHz single-core processor, has 512MB or RAM, and 1GB of internal storage. To get around the storage limitation, the microSD card slot accepts cards up to 32GB in size, but still, 1GB is awfully small these days, so if you plan on loading up even a few albums, expect to be at capacity soon.
Call quality isn't an issue for the LG Optimus Elite. The earpiece is loud enough and the microphones do their job. Is it super incredible wowza quality? Nah, but it's not supposed to be, and looking at it just as a phone, it delivers.
Let's be blunt here: phones shipping with Gingerbread, regardless of it being 2.3.7, at this point in time are becoming a frustration. That being said, let's be perfectly honest with ourselves, too. There's no way we could expect Ice Cream Sandwich to run on this phone's hardware, so Gingerbread it is.
Like every other phone I use that has vanilla Gingerbread on it, there's not much to say. It's clean, it has minimal Sprint bloatware on it, and it's still out-of-date. What sort of kills the experience of a vanilla Gingerbread experience for me is that it isn't perfectly smooth, and it totally should be. There's not enough visual flourish or eye candy to drag down the experience, and that sort of sullies using the device in the first place.
LG Optimus Elite Battery life
Something LG Optimus Elite owners can celebrate is the phone's excellent battery life. You've got (proportionally) a large battery paired with a small, not-too-bright display, and 3G radios. That's it. Even with heavy use, you're going to have to work at wearing the battery down, but in the world of swapping out batteries and carrying extra chargers, a battery that won't die is a good problem to have.
Probably one of the most impressive pieces of hardware in the LG Optimus Elite is the 5MP shooter. Sure, it's incredibly basic, takes 480p video, and is essentially as no-frills as you can get, but it's 5MP on a super low-end budget device. (It could have just as easily been 3MP.)
Pictures takes pretty quickly, but in low light situations, the flash has a tendency to yellow the image. (This is evident when comparing the two pictures of a sleepy kitty.) Without the flash, the camera still does alright in low light, but this time has much more accurate color rendering.
Still, if you're not incredibly still, without great light, your picture will come out either blurry or just lacking sharpness, and that's something that not even the flash will fix for you.
Below is a gallery of images taken using the camera on the LG Optimus Elite. You can download a zipped file of all of the images at full size here.
LG Optimus Elite Wrap-up
The LG Optimus Elite is a tough sell. At $29.99 on contract, it certainly won't break the bank now, but you're getting what you're paying for. Mostly underwhelming hardware, a stuttery experience, and an antiquated version of Android all make the Optimus Elite an unattractive option.
If the Optimus Elite can get the same kind of developer love the Optimus S got, well, that'll certainly extend the life of this phone, but with the internals it's packing, there's no amount of recycled bottle caps that'll make purchasing this phone worth it.
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