LG L90 Dual review: Could shake up mid-range segment with its solid feature set

Price

19,000

Tech2 Rating

7.5

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By Roydon Cerejo /  07 May 2014 , 16:13:43

LG hasn’t exactly been ‘Mr Popular’ in the mainstream smartphone segment. While some of their recent budget offerings might have sold well, they didn’t really have anything that was memorable. The L90 however packs in enough substance to jump out of the crowd. In a price bracket which doesn’t really have anything terribly exciting at the moment, the L90 has a strong chance to shine. We got the dual-SIM version of the L90, which retails for a couple of hundred more than the single-SIM version. Let’s see if it can shine in this price point.

Design and Build

The L90 Dual is not particularly striking in any respect. It sports a simple candy bar form factor and makes no fuss about the fact that it’s a budget offering. We quite like this simplistic approach, even more since there’s no ugly chrome trimming anywhere in sight. This is the oldest trick in the book which OEMs use to bling up their phone. The black variant has a full matte body. The sides has a dual tone finish while the rear cover gets a roughened texture. This gives you good grip and makes it very easy to keep clean.

Excellent fit and finish of the plastics
Excellent fit and finish of the plastics

We appreciate the attention to detail as well like the little concentric circles on the buttons and the overall nice fit and finish of the plastics. The L90 Dual looks polished and sturdy and feels really good to hold.

The capacitive buttons are missing backlighting
The capacitive buttons don’t have backlighting

Along with the usual set of buttons, LG also throws in their IR blaster which is used in conjunction with the Q Remote app. The buttons have good tactile feedback and are ergonomically placed. Unfortunately, the capacitive buttons are not backlit, which is a problem in the dark. The icons do feature a reflective chrome lining, which makes it easier to spot in daylight but not at night.

The rear cover has a very good finish
The rear cover has a very good finish

A couple of other features that are sorely missed are the ambient light sensor and a notification LED. There’s simply no excuse to omit these two features when you’re paying this much. The rear mono speaker is not very loud for media but is enough for alerts.

Underneath the hood
Underneath the hood

Underneath the cover, are the two SIM slots and a microSD card slots. The L90 Dual accepts regular sized SIM cards and not micro-SIMs. Overall, we quite like the understated looks of the L90. It’s built well and the fit and finish of the plastics is very good. The omission of the ambient light sensor and notification LED are the only pain points so far.

Features

The L90 Dual sports a 4.7-inch IPS display but with a rather low resolution of 960 x 540. While this is not a deal breaker in the real world, we wonder what stopped LG from using a HD display instead, especially when the cheaper Moto G sports one. Thankfully, the colours and viewing angles are pretty good for a mainstream phone although it lacks a bit of sharpness. We also found the sensitivity to be a bit off at times.

The Optimus 3.0 UI
The Optimus 3.0 UI

The Optimus 3.0 user interface masks the shortcomings of the low pixel count very well. Icons and text are devoid of any pixilation and the overall experience is very fluid. A bit of lag rears its ugly head intermittently but nothing that will detract you from the overall pleasant Android experience. The L90 also gets some of the cool tricks from its elder siblings and well as some brand new ones.

An admiral performer in benchmarks
An admiral performer in benchmarks

Plug and Pop gives you a contextual menu when you plug in your earphones or the charging cable. Capture Plus lets you save an entire webpage or portions of it quite easily. We also have Smart Screen and Smart Video which perform their respective actions as soon as you look away. There are a whole bunch of gestures as well for calls. Last but not least, we also have Quick Memo and QSlide apps which make a reappearance.

The most interesting of the lot however is Knock Code and Clip Tray. The former is a type of security lock which lets you unlock your phone by tapping on portions of the display. It’s a slightly longer process for unlocking but works well every time.

Clip Tray is easily our favourite thus far. Rather than only remembering the last image or text you’ve copied in the clipboard, Clip Tray saves everything in memory so you can directly paste content in a message or mail that you might have used weeks ago. Clip Tray even shows you all your media that you might have copied in the past so you paste multiple content directly without having to manually do it one at a time. This is  an extremely handy feature which we hope to see other OEMs use as well.

Some of the nifty additions
Some of the nifty additions

Coming to the hardware, the L90 is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset which we’ve seen in the Motorola Moto G, Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 and even in the upcoming Nokia Lumia 630. The quad-core chip chugs along at 1.2GHz and there’s 1GB of RAM for company. With no apps running in the background, there’s roughly 390MB RAM free. This is also one of the few budget phones that isn’t a Motorola to come with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out-of-the-box. The phone doesn’t really lag all that much, except intermittently. But that’s the case with all Android phones. It does pretty well in benchmarks as well.

Media

Media playback is very good through a god pair of IEMs. The robust music player offers multiple way of sorting your music and there’s even EQ pre-sets for boosting audio. Out of the 8GB of internal memory, there’s 3.8GB free for the user. You can expand this further up to 32GB.

The music player is pretty robust
The music player is pretty robust

Video playback is pretty solid as well. 1080p files playback just fine, as does most popular video formats and codecs.

Connectivity

The LG L90 is a tri-band 3G and quad-band 2G device. Dual standby is also present for both SIM cards. The L90 has good audio reception through the earpiece and we didn’t face any issue with calls during our week’s usage. Other features includes Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v4.0 and GLONASS. Sadly, USB OTG is not supported as our test Sandisk Dual USB drive wasn’t detected.

Some of the productivity apps
Some of the productivity apps

LG throws in a bunch of their pre-installed apps as well like LG Backup, File Manager, Voice Recorder, Quick Remote, LG World app store and RemoteCall service.

Camera

The primary camera is an 8MP shooter with auto-focus while in the front, we have to settle with just a VGA one. We also get LED flash and extra features like cheese shutter. Some of the shooting modes include panorama, burst mode, time catch shot and sports mode.

An outdoor shot
An outdoor shot
Indoor shots are usually quite noisy
Indoor shots are usually quite noisy

Despite the healthy resolution, the 8MP sensor is not very good at capturing accurate colours and detail. We also noticed plenty of noise creeping in when the lighting was anything but optimum. Full HD recording is present but once again, the quality is not very good. Overall, the camera is a bit of a disappointment.

Battery life

The 2540mAh battery manages to keep the phone alone for an entire day, well almost. The power saver mode helps a bit but you won’t get much more out of it as your usage will be limited. After completing our 8-hour loop test, we had about 14 percent battery to spare.

Verdict and Price in India

Leaving the MRP aside, the LG L90 Dual can be bought online and in most retail stores for as low as Rs 16,500. Its closest competition here is the Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo, although calling it competition would be a bit of a stretch. As it so happens, the L90 Dual doesn’t really have any strong competition if you compare its feature set with other offerings in this segment. It actually makes a very strong case, despite some of its shortcomings; we would recommend this phone if your budget permits.

We didn’t like the fact that it doesn’t have an ambient light sensor or a notification LED, while the camera is average at best and battery life is strictly OK. Beyond this however, it’s a value for money handset which features the latest version of Android, has a great feature set (IR blaster, Clip Tray) and is powerful enough to run most of the current apps and games with ease.


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