LG Optimus Black

The Optimus Black is a solid smartphone, but one that might get lost amongst the competition. The NOVA display is great outdoors, but many will find that it's a feature they will not often need.

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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Are you in the market for an Android smartphone? Good luck. There has never been a time that we can remember where there has been so much competition, with a multitude of new handsets all jumping up and down for your attention. The Optimus Black joins over a dozen other Android phones to launch since the beginning of the year, so does it have what it takes to catch your eye?


Physically speaking, the Black is a very eye-catching model, especially as you turn it over in your hands and find the angular battery cover on the underside. LG does a good job of disguising the stiff plastic battery cover as being something metallic, with its smooth finish and its dark charcoal colouring. Though we like the look of the raised angles on this surface, we do wish LG had smoothed and rounded the edges a little further; for us the Optimus Black is a little uncomfortable to hold with its corners digging into our fingers and palms.

Differentiating the Black from the dozens of other smartphones in the world today, LG opts for a new display technology it calls NOVA. This screen uses the same in-plane switching technology we've seen in other recent LG releases, but it adds increased brightness to the mix to improve the visibility of the display under direct sunlight. LG reports that the NOVA display shines at 700 nits, or at least 50 per cent than its nearest competitor (the iPhone 4). The result is clearly apparent outdoors on a bright day, though this won't make a huge difference when you're indoors. Given that most people will want to set their display brightness to its lowest level for battery saving, it's strange that LG didn't include an easy option for adjusting screen brightness in its customised software.

The appearance of the display is good, but it hasn't blown us away. Colours look fairly natural, but the contrast of the screen is somewhat jeopardised to achieve the brightness. Next to the Super AMOLED Plus display on the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Black's blacks look dark grey, in fact we prefer the image we get out of the LG Optimus 2X better than that of the Optimus Black.

User experience

As we mentioned when we reviewed the Optimus 2X recently, LG's modified Android user interface is a vast improvement on previous releases. The user experience is consistent across LG's range this year, so these comments hold true for the Optimus Black as much as they do for the 2X.

The LG Android workspace contains up to seven pages for widgets and shortcuts with static, customisable shortcuts bar at the bottom. When you pull down the notifications curtain you'll find quick settings buttons for connectivity options and a fixed music player fragment for quickly controlling your tunes. The apps drawer options allow you to choose when you want your apps listed in one long horizontal list, like stock Android, or in horizontally ordered pages, like the iPhone.

On the whole, the user experience works well, though it lacks the silky smooth animations we've seen from more powerful phones this year. Swiping between home screens and app pages is fine, but it can feel a little sticky at times. Scrolling speeds are fine in other apps, like the address book and Gmail.

An interesting extra to note is the inclusion of a "Gesture" button on the left-hand side of the phone. Holding down this key activates gesture-based navigation in certain parts of the phone. For example, tilting the handset to the sides while holding the key will scroll from one home screen to the next, or flick between images in the gallery. This is a pretty neat party trick, but it is terrible for accurately navigating your phone. The Gesture has a "G" written on it, which we assume stands for gimmick as much as it stands for gesture control.


LG packs a 5-megapixel camera into the Optimus Black, including a single LED flash and the standard image adjustment settings. The photos we've taken with this camera are fine for a phone, but they won't be winning any awards. Like the phone's display, the camera's image sensor leans too hard towards the white, blowing out brighter areas of our photos and washing out the colours. The auto-focus works fairly well, so your photos should be sharp, even if the colour reproduction feels wrong.

(Credit: CBSi)


Unlike its Optimus siblings, the 2X and 3D, the Optimus Black is a single-core handset with a 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3630 processor and a slightly older PowerVR SGX530 graphics unit. This combination doesn't hold back the Black too much, though you can feel the difference between using it and the dual-core Optimus 2X and Samsung's Galaxy S II, both of which have a much smoother feel throughout the user interface.

Web browsing is good on the Black; pages load as quickly as your connection will allow and it doesn't struggle too greatly with complex elements on full-size sites. The phone is compatible with Adobe Flash, so web videos will play within the pages you are viewing and web-based games will work too if the controls are set up for mobile devices.

Video playback is also good, though there is a limit to what the Optimus Black can handle. LG includes native support for DivX, XviD, WMV and MP4 files, but we found that the 1GHz processor struggled with our 720p test files. Also, while it would render our MKV test file, the results stuttered and were unwatchable. Also, there is no HDMI port to share your videos with friends on your TV. There is a Wi-Fi sharing option, however, if you have a DLNA-compatible device hooked up at home.

Battery life is one standout from our testing, even with the super-bright display. Though the Black will chew through battery at a standard rate while in use, its standby power consumption is great — discharging only a couple of percentage points overnight, for example. Against our standard usage tests, the Black would last for up to two working days and need a charge on the second night.


The Optimus Black is a solid smartphone, but one that could get lost in this increasingly noisy market. Its unique features, the NOVA display and its gesture controls are both a bit gimmicky, adding something to the smartphone experience that doesn't actually improve the experience in most common use cases. The enhanced outdoor screen visibility will appeal to some, but we'd prefer a richer image over a brighter image any day of the week.

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HarleyG Facebook

"Poor hardware, poor software"

HarleyG posted a review   

The Good:If it worked, there are some great ideas

The Bad:It doesn't work

This phone is riddled with faults, I've had to send it away twice for repairs.

As a previous user mentioned, there are crashes with dialing and texting applications. These require a hard restart. I've found known bugs where the text message option just closes itself instantly, it takes 45 seconds to dial a number (if at all) and I would consider these to be frequent errors.

At least twice a day, the operating system crashes (it did this before the initial repair which required a new motherboard, this is a software issue) - it'll freeze for 2 minutes until you're prompted with the option of 'Force close' -- this happens with 80% of apps at least once, and sometimes frequently (Even pre-installed apps)

There's an error where the power button thinks it's being frequently pressed (like say, in your pocket or bag) and it assumes you don't want to unlock it. Then, it'll loop this response and not let you unlock it at all. The only fix is to hard restart the thing and then plug it into a charger to activate a response (turning it back on doesn't work...)

Hardware-wise, I do not have any loudspeaker options. It instead opts to screech white noise instead of ringtones, music or prompts. These cause freezing unless you either tap the screen or bend the phone to get the noise out. Something is loose or broken, I look after my electronics and this means it requires a third hardware/software repair.

A call hogs the software and if you need to remove the screen saver (to, you know, hang up the call) it is often laggy and oversensitive - leading to the screensaver going on and off, and leading to frustration, as you're relying on the person you're talking to to hang up first. Thankfully there's the option to use the power button to end the call, but this option is hidden deep within the usability settings.

This is by far the worst phone I've ever had. Avoid


"Would not recommend"

Notahappycustomer posted a review   

The Good:Screen size

The Bad:See above

I have had nothing but problems with this handset. Has been replaced once and returned to Telstra twice for issues. When dialing out it will take about 45secs to dial the number. When using the text function it will not allow you to text (not always but frequently). Rating 2/10. Not happy!!


NikhilT posted a comment   

This is a great phone. Awesome touch screen and I finally found the way to root my Optimus Black


Enjoy Friends

MarkB3 Facebook

"Good solid phone at this price point"

MarkB3 posted a review   

The Good:screen, interface

The Bad:battery life

Got this about a year ago on the virgin $29 plan. Has been a great phone for the money. Only real complaint is the lack of decent battery life, but installed the free version of juice defender and this has sorted that out.


RichardW1 posted a comment   

upgraded from 2.2.2 to 2.3.4 no problems no problems at all with phone it is a nice phone i gotta charge once a day but i use it all the time i am coming from htc wildfire and it really sucks wildfire its not a smartphone but a dumb **** phone htc should be ashamed of them selfs for making it


AngeloM posted a comment   

i love this phone over htc desire!

nice phone!


AngeloM posted a comment   

very good phone! i have one and oits so amazing! i really enjoying browsing and watching videos on youtube...
i have also htc desire , but i more prefer this optimus black!





JayWwww posted a review   

The Good:nothing

The Bad:LG

Worst phone i ever bought... had to take it back for repairs... waited over a month to get it back... had to send it back for repairs cos they didnt fix it... they said "it will be back within a week" today is three weeks later... the battery ran out every day so it was VERY annoying to charge all the time. It was really slow and the Sd card slot stopped working a week after i bought it.


"Great Phone, No problems so far!"

Queely88 posted a review   

The Good:Great

The Bad:Umm nothing?

What am i doing wrong, all the reviews say that it has great battery life but mine runs out everyday! what can i do???????


trebor83 posted a comment   

If i was LG i'd be sitting by the phone waiting for the Law suite from Apple to arrive. Because that clearly looks like an iPhone and if they can sue Samsung for the Galaxy S they can sue LG for this.

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User Reviews / Comments  LG Optimus Black

  • HarleyG



    "This phone is riddled with faults, I've had to send it away twice for repairs.

    As a previous user mentioned, there are crashes with dialing and texting applications. These require a ha..."

  • Notahappycustomer



    "I have had nothing but problems with this handset. Has been replaced once and returned to Telstra twice for issues. When dialing out it will take about 45secs to dial the number. When using the tex..."

  • NikhilT


    "This is a great phone. Awesome touch screen and I finally found the way to root my Optimus Black


    Enjoy ..."

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