LG were one of the first companies to get into the low-budget Android phones segment with their Optimus One, which made quite a mark in the Android world. Now, the company has announced the successor to its Optimus One, the new LG Optimus Net. The P690 places itself as a budget Android phone as well, but is it worth a purchase? Let’s find out. 

The top consists of the tiny power button and 3.5 mm jack

Design and Build Quality

The Optimus Net looks very much like the original Optimus P500 phone. It’s got a 320×480, 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen, so the display size hasn’t changed from its predecessor. The back and the sides are quite glossy, so fingerprints will be a problem, which you’ll have to get used to. The phone does feel quite light at 122 grams, but at the same time, it looks and feels quite plasticy, which is a disappointment. The volume rocker buttons are located on the left, while the microUSB slot is housed underneath a protective flap on the right of the phone. The top consists of the tiny power button and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The rear flap is easy to remove and only the SIM card is placed under the battery, so the memory card is hot swappable. 

The build feels quite flimsy and cheap

The build feels quite flimsy and cheap

The physical button layout at the bottom has the options key on the left, followed by the home, return key and search buttons. There are two separate panels with the home and back button in one block, and the other two in the exterior block.  The center block buttons feel just fine, but the menu button feels lighter, hollower, and doesn’t have a very consistent feel to it. This complaint extends to the side volume buttons as well. LG could have done a lot better with the build quality of the Net.

Features

Interface

The Optimus Net runs on an 800MHz processor with an Adreno 200 GPU and on first impression the phone runs pretty quick. The P690 has a fluid interface and navigation through the home screen and the various menus is fast and lag-free. But the one problem the interface has, like the other LG phones, is that it’s not polished. Take for example the drop down notification bar. The icons have a very sharp and contrasting feel to them and it looks like several separate sections have been stitched together into one menu. The interface doesn’t look as appealing as the HTC Explorer we reviewed earlier. 

Homescreen interface

Homescreen interface

The Optimus Net has a similar UI to the Optimus 3D.  Long pressing on the home screen brings up a pop up window to load widgets and shortcuts. Music playback can be controlled without unlocking the screen. There’s a new Social+ integration widget that gives you the latest news feeds from your social networking accounts. We’re not big fans of the Excuse Msg feature present on the phone, which automatically sends messages to your contacts, in case you don’t pick up their call. It’s not customizable to include only local calls and in our case, the phone sent a couple of international messages on its own accord. A 3.2-inch screen more often than not makes typing a nightmare, especially in the portrait mode, but the keyboard is spaced pretty well and is easy to use. In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Optimus Net falls shorter of the Explorer in the AnTuTu application. The Net got a score of 1445, as opposed to the 2099 that the Explorer received, so that’s definitely not a good score for a phone with a better processor. 

The benchmark scores

The benchmark scores

Media

The P690 provides a pretty basic media experience. There are no equalizers or sound enhancements. In fact, the only options available in the music player are Shuffle, Repeat and Party Shuffle. Video and audio format support is pretty standard and you’ll have to download a third party app, if you want to get more out of your phone.

The audio quality via the loudspeaker is pretty loud and clear, but we didn’t receive any headphones with our review unit, so we’re reserving our comment on that. We did, however, use our standard test headphones and the audio quality is pretty decent. The bass is pretty loud and the tones sound quite clear. So, if you happen to buy this phone and it comes with a crappy pair of headphones, we'd advice you to purchase another pair of good sounding ones. 

The music player interface

The music player interface

Video playback supports DivX/Xvid codecs out of the box, so that’s quite good, but viewing videos on a screen with a 180 ppi density isn’t going to produce the best results. 

Connectivity

The Net is a quad-band phone with 3G HSDPA speeds of up to 3.6Mbps. The other connectivity options include Wi-Fi ‘n’ with hotspot creation and Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP. The phone supports DLNA, so that’s definitely a big plus for those wanting to wirelessly stream their media to other devices in the same Wi-Fi network. Navigation options include GPS with A-GPS support and Google Maps, which is just stock Android. Web browsing via the built-in browser is pretty quick and multi tasking doesn’t slow down the phone. However, the biggest drawback is that the phone’s CPU doesn’t support flash. 

The miscellaneous features

The miscellaneous features

Misc. Features

The P690 comes pre-loaded with a few applications. The first one is called the Polaris Viewer, which allows users to view documents and presentations. There’s Yahoo Finance for your market share needs along with a remote call app. This service allows LG representatives to remotely access and diagnose your device if you’re having problems with it. The last app that they’ve included is called Smartshare, which allows content sharing via DLNA. There’s 150 MB of internal memory in the phone for all your extra applications and games.

Camera customizations are pretty standard

Camera customisations are pretty standard

Camera

The Optimus Net comes with a 3.15 MP camera with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. The good part about the camera is that it’s got autofocus, but the bad part is that it doesn’t translate to better quality pictures. Also, there’ll be an odd time when colour reproduction goes for an absolute toss and you’ll have to wait a while before the colours become natural again. The phone doesn’t have an LED flash sadly, so low light shooting isn’t an option. The camera options and customisations are pretty standard with different scenes, brightness and zoom options. Video shooting is possible in VGA with a resolution of 640 x 480 at a frame rate of 24fps. Overall, the camera is average and nothing apart from ordinary. 

Camera is pretty average

Camera is pretty average

Battery Life

The phone comes with a 1500mAh battery and with a 3.2-inch screen it’s definitely going to provide a pretty good battery life. We put it through our loop tests and here are the findings. The video loop test lasted for 6 hours and 20 minutes, which is quite impressive. We put it through the customary call, video, audio and streaming tests and the phone’s battery lasted for 1.5 hours of calling, 4 hours of video and 3 hours 20 minutes of audio. That’s definitely a plus for the Optimus Net.

A worthy successor? We have our doubts

A worthy successor? We have our doubts

Verdict

The LG Optimus Net is priced at Rs.10,999. At this price, it directly competes with the HTC's new budget Android phone, the Explorer. The only advantage the Net has, on paper, is a relatively better battery life and autofocus. But, if you’ll go in terms of user experience, the interface, the build and the enhancements, then the Explorer trumps the Net hands down. Secondly, the only noticeable upgrade from the Optimus One is that the Net provides a 33 percent increase in the processor speed along with Gingerbread 2.3.4, and just that doesn’t make the phone a worthy successor. 

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