What is the LG Optimus L3 II E430

Android handsets don't come much smaller than the LG Optimus L3 II. It stands just 102mm tall so it will go hardly noticed in your pocket or bag. It's cheap too, as you can buy it from O2 on Pay As You Go for a shade under £80, but does this mobile's compact size hamper its usability?

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LG Optimus L3 II E430 - Design

High-end mobiles like the Xperia Z and Galaxy S4 may be growing ever larger in size, but LG is going in the other direction with the L3 II. It's one of the smallest Android mobiles we've seen in quite some time. This is mainly due to the fact that it uses a very small 3.2inch display allowing LG to squeeze it's height down to just over 10cm, but it's not much narrower than a lot of it's larger screened rivals as it measures 6cm wide.

From the front at least, the _phone_ doesn’t look much different to the original Optimus L3 that LG introduced last year. It's got the same piano black finish on the bezel around the screen and the elongated home button that sits beneath the display. However, the home button can now light up with different colours to notify you of stuff such as missed calls and new emails or text messages, which is a neat touch.

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The two buttons that lie to either side only light up when you touch them, which is a tad annoying when you're using the _phone_ in the dark, but once touched they do at least stay illuminated for a couple of seconds.

LG has also dumped the corrugated feel of the plastic back on the original L3 and instead replaced it with a brushed metal effect on this update, although it's still made from plastic rather than metal. It looks better than the old finish, but it feels quite slippery to the touch and highlights the overall plastiky feel of the phone.

LG Optimus L3 II E430 - Screen

While the L3 II is likely to win some fans due to its small size, its tiny 3.2inch screen is also likely to put a lot of people off, especially as it has an extremely low resolution of 240x320 pixels.

The low resolution means text looks a bit hazy and indistinct and web browsing is compromised because you often can’t read headlines on new websites when you're in the standard zoomed out, full page view that most sites default to when you first land on them. You also have to do a lot of scrolling and zooming on websites just to be able to read columns of text – something that starts to try your patience after a while.

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The screen's viewing angels aren’t great either as the display darkens a fair bit when you twist the phone left or right in your hand or tilt it up and down. On the plus side it is reasonably bright and doesn't wash out when you’re using it outdoors. However, like the Optimus L5 II it doesn't have a light sensor, so it can't automatically adjust screen brightness. Instead you have to manually adjust it using a slider found in the notifications tab.

LG Optimus L3 II E430 - Interface and Usability

When it comes to the processor LG has used a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon chip, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given this mobile's low price point. It's not particularly quick as its benchmarks show. It managed to reach just 37.409Mflops in the Linpack test and scored a relative lowly 388 in Geekbench 2. It wasn't much cop for 3D gaming either as it only reached 3.9fps in GFXbenchmark, although it didn’t fully complete the test.

Benchmarks only tell part of the story, however, as the L3 II certainly doesn't feel massively sluggish when you're using it. This is partly due to the fact that it runs the Jelly Bean version of Android, which is much more responsive to user input than the older Ice Cream Sandwich release.  In fact, the L3 II responds pretty rapidly to taps on the screen or zooming gestures in the Photo Gallery and Google Maps apps. It performs fine with less intensive 3D games too, such as Temple Run 2, as well as multimedia apps like Youtube or social networking ones such as Facebook. You will notice some slow down when you've got lots of apps open and are trying to quickly jump between them, or when the web browser is struggling to render more graphically rich websites.

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LG has made a few changes to the standard Android user interface. For example, to unlock the phone you tap on the screen and drag a circle that gradually increases in size to reveal the homescreen beneath. There are also shortcuts on the lockscreen for directly launching into stuff like the camera app and dialler.

The notification tab includes quick switches for mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS amongst other features, while the app drawer has tabs for Apps, Downloads and Widgets with icons for those laid out across sideways scrolling pages in a 4x4 grid. Handily you can also uninstall apps by ticking on the settings button in the app drawer and then tapping the 'X' next to the top of the icons, much as you do on the iPhone.

On the whole, it's all pretty straight forward and easy to use, but there's nothing radically different here to what you get on other manufacturer's Android phones.

LG Optimus L3 II E430 - Contacts, Browser and Calling

There are few surprises with the L3 II's contacts book, as it's pretty much identical to what you'll find on other Android Jelly Bean phones. Contact cards can contain all the usually information such as telephone number, email address and home address, as well as a photo. You can assign different ring tones to different callers and it's easy to sync contacts with online services like Gmail and Outlook.com. The contacts book also has a favourites tab that it handily automatically fills with the people that you contact most often.

Call quality is merely so-so. At lower volume levels the earpiece sounds pretty crisp, but if you crank up the volume much past half way it starts to distort and it's particularly bad at full volume and makes callers difficult to understand.

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The L3 II has Google's Chrome browser onboard, which is a plus as it's pretty speedy, easy to use and has a nice, neat interface for jumping between different open tabs. Due to the lowly single-core processor this phone is a fair bit slower at rendering richer websites, such as the BBC's standard desktop sites, than most mid-range handsets, but it's not a deal breaker. In the Browsermark benchmark it scored 746 while it completed Sunspider in 2304.5ms, neither of which are particularly good results.

What is more annoying, though, is that its small, low resolution screen means you have to do a lot of zooming and resizing to actually read most sites, and even then text looks quite blurry and indistinct.

LG Optimus L3 II E430 – Camera

On the camera front, the L3 is pretty basic. It lacks a front facing camera so you can’t use it for video calling in apps like Skype or Google Talk. The rear facing camera isn't particularly amazing. It's only got a 3.0megapixel resolution and doesn't have autofocus. However, the camera app does have a cool voice activation features. Tap this and then say one of five trigger words – including cheese, smile or kimchi – and it'll automatically fire off the shutter. It works very well indeed and is quite a handy feature to have, especially for selfies or snaps with groups of friends.

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Pictures are good enough for uploading to social networking sites, but their failings become very obvious when you transfer them for viewing on a computer. Colours tend to look a bit washed out, even for shots taken n sunnier days and detail levels are best described as smudgy. It's quite poor when working in low light too and doesn't have an LED flash to help it along, so expect photos from gigs or dingy pubs to come out looking very dark and noisy.

LG Optimus L3 II E430 – Apps and Multimedia

LG is pushing its Quick Memo app on the L3 II.  Although there isn’t a dedicated hardware button for launching this app as there is on the higher-end Optimus L5 II, a shortcut button for it does sit in the Notifications tab. You can unpin the shortcut from here so it floats on top of your homescreens or open apps.

With Quick Memo you can write on the screen in long hand with your finger and then save the result as an image file. However, although it's useful on the L5 II, it's less useful here simply because the L3 II's screen is so small you can hardly fit any writing on it, even if you try writing with your fingernail rather than a finger tip.

LG has also pre-loaded the Polaris Viewer 4 app on the handset, which lets you open and view Microsoft office files. However, it doesn't let you edit them. For that you'll have to shell out for the full version of Polaris.

LG's music playing app is fairly basic and doesn't include stuff like EQ settings. However, it does have a shuffle play mode as well as a handy sleep timer if you like to doze off at night while listening to tunes. 

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The video player supports a reasonably wide selection of video formats including MP4, Xvid and MKV files, and you can adjust the brightness level just by sliding up the screen, while sliding across the screen fast forwards and rewinds the video. The player can’t handle multichannel soundtracks, though, so you'll probably be better off using something like the free Dice player instead.

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LG Optimus L3 II E430 - Battery Life and Connectivity

LG Optimus L3 comes packing a 1,540mAh battery. As the phone relies on a fairly slow processor and has such a small screen, that's a pretty generously sized battery pack. It's no surprise then to find that it's actually a very good performer when it comes to battery life. With the screen brightness set to its mid level we found we could usually get around a day and a half out of it before it needed to be topped up with juice.

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The LG Optimus L3 II only has the basics in terms of connectivity. It lacks 4G and doesn’t have the NFC support that you get on the company's L5 II model, although given the price that's not exactly a surprise. However, it does have 3G onboard and as you'd expect, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are supported too.

Verdict

We like the fact that the LG Optimus L3 is small and pocketable and comes with an affordable price tag. It also has good battery life and a neat voice activated camera shutter feature. However, the tiny, low-resolution screen makes web browsing a bit of a chore, it's camera isn't great and call quality could be better too.

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Colours tend to look subdues and focus isn’t sharp.

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The camera doesn’t do a very good job of capturing fine detail.

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Shots taken in low light suffer a lot from noise, even when you select the Night shooting mode.