** Updated on 7th July 2011 **
The article has been updated with performance benchmarks conducted on a retail unit, thus updating the earlier preview to a final review with ratings given for the LG Optimus Black.
What is the LG Optimus Black? One thing's for sure, it has no relation to the iconic leader of the Transformers' heroic Autobots. The Optimus Black represents the company's continued focus on design excellence. While first impressions do count, what lies beneath, i.e. the hardware and software, still matters greatly to the consumer. As such, the Optimus Black also adds a few bells and whistles to its repertoire.
First seen in our CES 2011 roundup, what we've had in our labs for sometime was the pre-production unit of the Optimus Black. As such in our initial preview article, we reserved our comments for its performance to a later date when the retail unit was ready for review. Finally after the busy June period when all the major launches subsided, we managed to find some quality time to review the LG Optimus Black in detail. To start off, we'll take a quick look at the concept behind its design, and what you can expect from the features of the Optimus Black.
Looking purely at the exterior, the Optimus Black takes on a minimalistic approach to its design. Other than the LG branding placed prominently at the top, you won't find anymore markings across its chassis. Once it's awakened from its standby mode, its four main icons for home, menu, back and search will be lit up and presented below its 4-inch display.
Along the borders, the inconspicuous buttons can be challenging to locate, given how it's fully flushed to the body. That said, we had to fumble around the edges to locate the volume buttons. Right below the volume buttons, we spotted an unfamiliar button, which was later revealed to be its gesture button. We'll be explaining more of its function in the following features page. Surprisingly, we found no camera button on the device, which means you'll have to rely on the touch screen interface to activate, focus and shoot with its 8-megapixel camera.
The crown of the Optimus Black is occupied by the power button, a 3.5mm audio port and a slider cover that protects the microUSB port. Of these three, we favored the slider cover for its practicality, joining the Samsung Galaxy S as one of the rare few devices that adopts such a design concept. Its power button, however, did give us quite a headache to depress with its flushed design.
Officially, the Optimus Black's profile measures in at 9.2mm. Upon closer inspection, the thickness isn't uniform across the device, with a tapered edge along the borders. This does give the impression that the Optimus Black is thinner along the edges, which measures at 6mm according to LG. Its weight, or the lack of it, was one of the first few aspects we noticed when we held the Optimus Black in our hands. Not expecting the feather light weight that comes with it, we handled the Optimus Black with care, hoping it won't crumble in our grip. Its body encased mostly in plastic, felt flimsy and cheap overall. This is a far cry from LG's previous smartphones, such as the LG Optimus 7 that combines a fine mixture of glass, plastic and metal to create a premium feel to the device.