LG may have dominated the TV space, but when it comes to phones, they seem to be content having a laid back approach, be it with releasing new models or simply releasing timely updates. Updating your handsets to Gingerbread, right when everyone else is busy getting ICS, isn’t exactly something you would brag about. After the Optimus 2X and the Optimus 3D, the company haven’t launched a ‘game-changing’ phone, so to speak. There was the Optimus Black, which we liked, but sadly, it failed to generate much buzz. As high-end phones start dropping in price, the sub-Rs.20,000 price bracket is suddenly very active, with many options to choose from. Seeing how the Black failed to take off, LG has sent in re-inforcements in the form of the new, Optimus Sol E730.

Black as night!

Black as night!

At first glance, one would mistake this to be a replacement for the Optimus Black, but it’s not. In fact, it’s a downgrade of the old phone, but weirdly, priced at almost the same, which does not make any sense. It’s also competing directly with the Sony Ericsson Neo V, as they are similar in terms of pricing and specs. But which one’s better? Let’s find out.

 

On Video: LG Optimus Sol E730

Design and Build

The phone looks very similar to the Optimus Black and the dimensions also line up pretty closely. It’s as if LG built the chassis for a 4-inch screen and then at the very last minute decided to fit in a 3.8-inch display, instead. The all-plastic body feels sturdy, but we just hate the full glossy finish. Calling it a ‘fingerprint magnet’ is a bit of an understatement. At 110g, it is very light and slim as well at 9.8mm in depth. On the top, we have the power/sleep button, along with the micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The volume toggle switch is over to the left, but the buttons are a bit too small for our taste. Around the back, we just have a camera, speaker grill and the LG logo.

No flash is a bit of a bummer

No flash is a bit of a bummer

The screen itself, is a 3.8-inch Ultra AMOLED screen, with a resolution of 800 x 480. We also get Corning’s Gorilla Glass for a scratch-free surface. While this is all good, there is quite a large gap around the display, especially at the bottom between the display and the capacitive buttons. This could have been avoided by making the phone a bit smaller in the first place. There’s also text written above the capacitive buttons, which don’t light up and can barely be seen, making it redundant. Looks like LG got a bit sloppy designing this phone, as it doesn't seem like they thought this through properly. Also, the front-facing camera doesn’t line-up exactly in the centre of the cut-out.

Features

Interface

The Optimus Sol comes preloaded with Android 2.3.4, along with LG’s Optimus UI 2.0 running on top. It’s the same one we saw on the Optimus Black and the Optimus 3D. We’re afraid, the colours on the Ultra AMOLED screen are a bit over the top and LG’s custom UI itself is very colourful, which can make your eyes bleed at full brightness. Here’s where we ran into yet another snag. The ambient light sensor didn’t work on our unit (which was a brand new one!). The build of our ROM was GRJ22 and there weren’t any OTA updates available as well. Hopefully, LG patch this issue (if it is one), soon. Speaking of fixes, the delay between pressing the power button to wake up the phone and the display actually switching on is too long, and if the phone slows down, it takes even longer.

A similar interface

A similar interface

The overall feel of the UI is far from quick and fluid. Even with the stock apps, browsing through the menus and home screen feel jerky and unresponsive, which is quite surprising, since the Optimus Sol shares the same Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon SoC, as the Sony Ericsson Neo V and the latter was a real joy to use. We also noticed ghosting and trialing issues at certain brightness levels, especially in the menus or when you scroll light coloured text on a black background. They are both clocked at the same speed as well at 1GHz and pack in the same Adreno 205 GPU.

The E730, however, does have more onboard storage (1GB) and comes bundled with a 2GB microSD card. Other than the standard set of apps and settings, we also have gestures, which let you use the motion control to mute alarms, by flipping the phone over, etc. Overall, we found that the interface and ease of use is about standard, it’s better than stock Gingerbread, but certainly not as good as Sony Ericsson’s or HTC’s interface. In AnTuTu, we recorded a score of 2872 and Linpack saw a single thread score of 42MFLOPS and multi-thread of 36.4MFLOPS.

Media

The stock player does a pretty decent job playing back your MP3s and the bundled headset is not too bad, either. Lacking a bit in the lower and mid-range departments, the headset makes up for it by offering good sound isolation from ambient noise. The player does not have any sound enhancement options, so if you like tweaking the sound, then you might want to look at other free alternatives in the Martketplace. You also get a lock screen widget to switch tracks easily. FM Radio is also present.

Good media playback

Good media playback

The stock video player supports DivX and Xvid videos as well, along with MP4. However, not every AVI file played properly through the stock player. In fact, 720p playback was a little iffy. It’s a bit better through a third party player. Thanks to the Ultra AMOLED, videos are sharp and clear with very good colours, although a tiny bit oversaturated at times. The black levels are quite simply among the best, as is the case with all AMOLED displays. The viewing angles are also really good with barely any shift in the colour tone.

Connectivity

The E730 supports quad-band GSM frequencies, but not the entire 3G spectrum. It only supports two spectrums here, 900 and 2100, as opposed to the Neo V, which supports UMTS 850 and 1900 as well, which means you’ll be able to use 3G in countries, like the U.S., but not with the Sol. For connectivity, we have USB 2.0, but mass storage is only available, if you have a memory card installed. We also have Wi-Fi ‘n’, along with Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA. You can use the latter to stream content from the phone to another DLNA compatible device.

Does a decent job

Does a decent job

The stock browser is decent for occasionally browsing the web, but if you use it regularly, then you might want to get something, like Opera Mobile. The stock keyboard offers good feedback and is responsive. Along with predictive text, there’s a ‘User Dictionary’ option, but unfortunately your custom words aren’t automatically stored, and you have to enter them manually. Overall, it’s not the best custom keyboard out there. We wish LG would have at least left the stock keyboard or added Swype.

Plenty of useful misc. apps

Plenty of useful misc. apps

Other than the stock apps, we also have Wi-Fi Cast, which we only found to work between two LG phones with the same app. It’s an app for sharing images, videos through Wi-Fi Direct.

Misc. Apps

Apps that come bundled with the phone, include Facebook, Google+, Google+ Messenger, Navigation, Latitude, Polaris Office, Richnote, SmartShare for DLNA, SmartWorld, which is LG’s own mini app store.

Camera

The 5MP auto-focus snapper ditches the LED flash for reasons unknown, so far; indoor shots aren’t as good without proper lighting. You get Face Tracking, Panorama, Burst mode, colour effect, white balance, ISO, and geo-tagging, as some of the options. The images have slightly muted colours and the level of detail captured is strictly average. Macro shots are captured well, but the same cannot be said for the Panorama mode.

Nothing special about the interface

Nothing special about the interface

The camera captures five shots, as you sweep from either left to right, up to down or vice versa. The stitching of the images isn’t done too well, though and the camera drops the megapixel count to VGA, in this mode. Touch to focus is present as well. The front camera is only VGA, so the frame rate is choppy for video calls.

Macros come out well

Macros come out well

The camera records in 720p at 30fps and the frame rate remains pretty solid throughout, as long as there is sufficient light in the room. A nice addition is continuous auto-focus during recording, which makes up to for the lack of tap to focus in this mode. Overall, the camera quality is just about average, not stand out in any way. We wished LG had left the flash, as it was present on the Optimus Black – so why remove it?

Battery Life

The 1500mAh battery on the Sol performs admirably, as it delivered a commendable 8hrs and 40min in our video drain tests. Our loop tests also showed a similar result, as the Sol lasted for 7hrs and 12min. The smaller screen and the fact that it’s AMOLED helps as well, just make sure to use a dark wallpaper, since brighter images are more power hungry in such screens.

Verdict

I think we’ve established by now that the LG Sol E730 isn’t that great a phone, as it seems on paper and it’s a crying shame really, as I was really hoping that it would be good. Well, at least it’s cheap, right? Not exactly. The Optimus Sol E730 is priced at Rs.18,050, which is exactly the same as the Sony Ericsson Neo V, which as we’ve established already, is a much better handset. If the Sol would drop in price to Rs.15,000, then we could think of recommending it, despite some of its shortcomings. The LG Sol is sleek, lightweight, has a good display (although the colours are overpowering at high brightness), good connectivity options and more onboard storage for apps. However, if you are going to be spending 18K, then you’re much better off with the Neo V.

Publish date: February 22, 2012 12:30 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:39 pm

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