Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
LG Optimus F5 Android phone
The LG Optimus F5 is a mid-range 4G handset with a competitive price tag
- Good design
- 4G connectivity
- Excellent value for money
- Very slippery finish
- No ambient light sensor
- Battery life a little underwhelming
The LG Optimus F5 is a mid-range 4G handset with a hugely competitive price tag. It provides plenty of bang for your buck thanks to a pleasing design, reasonable performance, and largely intuitive software.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
4G smartphones are mostly restricted to high-end handsets in Australia. LG is aiming to change this with the Optimus F5, a mid-range 4G handset that comes with a hugely competitive price tag. It provides plenty of bang for your buck thanks to a pleasing design, reasonable performance, and largely intuitive software.
A shiny, slippery, white slab
The plastic construction doesn't feel cheap or flimsy.
The LG Optimus F5 is about the same size as Apple's iPhone 5, though it has a larger 4.3in screen. At 9.3mm, it's much thicker than the iPhone 5 and therefore less appealing from a visual perspective. However, the Optimus F5 is hardly a thick phone and we like the faux-chrome trim that surrounds the edges on both the front and the back. The plastic construction doesn't feel cheap or flimsy, either, and there are no rattles or moving parts, even when force is applied to the case.
The glossy, plastic back is very slippery.
The Optimus F5's curved edges and rounded corners make it comfortable to hold but the glossy, plastic back is one of the slipperiest we've ever encountered. If you're not careful, the device will easily fall out of your hands, so a grippy case would be a wise investment. The 3D-looking cube pattern imprinted into the Optimus F5's back cover is attractive and definitely adds a touch of class to the handset.
You'll find the Optimus F5's ports and buttons in all the usual places, though the design seems to favour left-handed users. There's a power/lock screen button on the right side, a volume rocker on the left, and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. Most should find the keys comfortable to press when holding the phone single-handedly, though the button placement means it can be a little awkward if you're right-handed. Below the screen are three capacitive shortcut keys for back, home and menu. They work well and are very responsive.
The button placement means it can be a little awkward if you're right-handed.
The back cover of the Optimus F5 is removable. Underneath you'll find a microSD card slot that allows you to expand the 8GB of internal memory, and a micro-SIM card slot. There's two small slits on the back of the case that house the speaker. It's reasonably loud but lacks bass and sounds tinny during music playback.
The Optimus F5 has a 4.3in IPS screen with a qHD resolution of 960x540. It's a very good screen considering the price with notable viewing angles and good colour reproduction. However, text is obviously not as crisp or clear as more expensive smartphones, so this can become an issue when reading or browsing the Web. Disappointingly, there's no ambient light sensor so the screen brightness can't be automatically adjusted.
LG's take on Jelly Bean
We aren't a fan of the overall look and feel of the UI, which is rather cartoon-like.
The Optimus F5 runs the 4.1 Jelly Bean version of Google's Android operating system but the software has been skinned with LG's UI overlay. We aren't a fan of the overall look and feel of the UI, however, which is rather cartoon-like. Whether you agree really comes down to personal taste.
The Optimus F5 borrows some features first seen on the flagship Optimus G smartphone. The highlight of these features, or at least the one that LG has made the most noise about, is a QuickMemo function that allows users to write notes on the screen using their finger. However, it's really less useful on the Optimus F5 given its much smaller screen.
QSlide is really not ideal on a phone with this sized screen.
The same applies to LG's QSlide function, which enables users to open three "pop-up" apps at a time. We're not sure just how many people are desperate for such a feature, and it's really not ideal on a phone with this sized screen. LG also includes a QuickTranslator app that can translate sentences and phrases using the camera to scan text. It's very hit and miss, however, and worked erratically during our tests.
There are definitely some more useful inclusions. Swipe down the notification bar on the Optimus F5 and you'll get quick access to up to 12 completely customisable toggles called quick settings. You can add and edit a range of toggles here including QuickMemo, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, sound profiles and auto-screen rotate. It's a nifty inclusion and definitely adds value to the standard notification pull down.
The Optimus F5 offers solid, but not outstanding performance.
The lock screen on the Optimus F5 is also worth mentioning. When you put your finger on the screen to swipe and unlock it, a circle appears and gradually gets larger as you swipe. The circle is translucent and reveals the screen you're swiping into. It doesn't add any real functionality but it looks impressive. You can choose one of three different clock widgets or two calendar widgets to display on the lock screen, and you can swipe open into four customisable apps.
The Optimus F5 offers solid, but not outstanding performance. It's responsive enough for most basic tasks, but loading times for graphically intense games and some other apps are noticeably a little slower than the best smartphones on the market. Given its price and market position, however, performance is not an issue and the 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB is enough to ensure a positive user experience.
Average camera, battery life
The LG Optimus F5 has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera for video calls. The rear camera takes good enough photos for the odd happy snap, but not anything more. It suffers from excess image noise and the lack of an LED flash means photos in low light simply aren't possible.
The camera app is a nice touch for a phone in this price range.
The Optimus F5's camera app is a nice touch for a phone in this price range, however. It has a wealth of settings to weak including the ability to adjust white balance and aperture. There's also some extra features including 'Time catch shot', which captures three photos before and one after you press the shutter button for a total of five photos. There's also 'beauty shot', which aims to brighten and smooth facial skin, and 'cheese shutter', which captures photos using a voice trigger. The latter works with one of five pre-programmed words: "cheese", "smile", "whisky", "kimchi" or "LG", but like most voice features, it is very hit and miss.
While the Optimus F5 is 4G capable on the 1800MHz network used by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, users planning to buy it outright and use a Telstra SIM will be disappointed. The device only supports the 900MHz and 2100MHz 3G networks and not Telstra's 850MHz Next G network. While this makes sense given LG is selling the phone through Optus and Virgin Mobile, it's still worth noting.
The LG Optimus F5 has a removable, 2150mAh battery but we found battery life a little underwhelming. In most instances, the Optimus F5 ran out of juice well before the end of the day, so you'll be definitely be charging it every night. Give the smaller screen size, we expected slightly better results.
The LG Optimus F5 is available now through Optus and Virgin Mobile stores and online in black and white models. It is available for $299 through Optus prepaid and for $0 upfront on the $35 Optus Plan over 24 months, or through Virgin Mobile for $0 on the $29 Big Plan.
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