With so many Android devices available, we have to admit feeling a little overwhelmed whenever another Android device makes its way into our labs. Take the LG Optimus GT540 as an example. The company's second Android phone is just one of many Android devices that have reached our market, some of which are armed with features that heavily outclass the Optimus. But for every feature, there's an associated cost, and the Optimus does well to put things into balance.
The Optimus has a little hint of metal along its exterior, but it is mostly plastic. The curved edges along the top and bottom of the device provides the otherwise dull design some added variety. Its physical buttons are a mixed bag, from either flat out hard to access like its side buttons, to propped up and well-spaced home and call/end buttons. Besides its 3-inch resistive touch screen, the Optimus uses a touch sensitive panel for its menu and back buttons.
Herein lies the biggest issue with the Optimus - the lack of responsiveness for both the screen and the panel. Ample pressure needs to be applied onto the menu and back buttons to get any decent response. The 3-inch touch screen gave us just as much grief, and was especially prominent when we tried to pull down the notifications page. You have to be very precise and tap on that small bar to bring the notification page down. In short, usability is questionable for the Optimus.
Within this Android 1.6 device, there are a few modifications by LG to the user interface and features. This is mostly seen on its LG Home interface, which gives you seven pages for apps and widget placement. These extra pages do come in handy to populate a few specific social networking sites (SNS) widgets from LG. This is a nice touch, especially with the different SNS widgets that displays your direct messages from Twitter or Facebook, updates from your friends on these sites and an update widget for you to post the latest news.
Onwards to its multimedia features, the Optimus supports DivX video formats, which brings more options for your video playback. The only downside you might see here is the 3.0-inch LCD screen, which though sufficient for viewing purposes, is just not as spectacular as devices such as the HTC Desire's 3.7-inch AMOLED screen or the Super AMOLED 4.0-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S. Audio playback didn't hold any unexpected surprises, with the usual average sound quality produced through the device's 3.5mm audio port.
While we were struggling with the touch screen, we have to admit that screen transitions were smooth and swift. We had no problems loading apps quickly. Loaded on the Optimus are connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HSDPA that supports download speeds of 7.2Mbps. The latter is a feature commonly found on mid-range to higher-end smartphones, both of which aren't exactly what the Optimus is trying to lay claim as.
But its entry level status becomes obvious with its 3-megapixel camera and the lack of an LED flash for low-lighting conditions. Images turned out fuzzy around the edges, and we do detect distinct noise across the whole picture. Colors, on the other hand, had a good balance across the various hues. A similar user interface with a virtual jog dial is used to change the camera settings. Likewise, the touch screen tended to give us some trouble, and we had to scroll through various settings before we reached ones we wanted to alter.
Powering the Optimus for an extended period of slightly a day and a half is a 1500mAh battery, which is a common sight for devices with larger screens and faster processors. This is good, given that we did a fair share of calls and internet activities that are a huge drain on the battery.
As we mentioned, the LG Optimus GT540 aims to attract both the budget and fashion conscious group. With its S$418 price tag and an appealing exterior to go with it, we have to say it managed to fulfill its primary goal. The one and only deal breaker, and perhaps the most pertinent issue that holds us back, is the lack of responsiveness on its resistive touch screen.