With a 4.5-inch qHD Gorilla Glass 2 display and long battery life, the LG Optimus L9 is sure to get some attention, as will its $79.99 price. Add to that some clever interface tweaks and apps, and this T-Mobile Android smartphone seems like a great deal. Find out why the L9 is one of the better smartphone bargains.
The back of the device curves in at the edges, and the black plastic backing has a subtle texture that's pleasing to the touch. The 5-megapixel camera is located in the center of the top of the back of this device, with a smaller square flash below. Underneath is the LG logo and the speaker is a horizontal strip, about three quarters of an inch wide, in the bottom left.
On the left side of the Optimus L9 are the volume control buttons and on the right is the power/lock button. The only thing on the top of the device is a 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom side holds the microUSB port.
The Optimus L9 measures 5.2 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches and fit comfortably into our pants pocket. Weighing 4.3 ounces, the L9 is lighter and thinner than the Galaxy Blaze 4G (5 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches, 5 ounces). This is a pretty sleek handset given the budget price.
The back cover of the device is easily removable, allowing access to the battery, the SIM card and a microSD card slot. The latter is practically a must with the L9, as the phone only has 4 GB of internal storage. The Optimus L9 supports microSD cards up to 32GB.
Display and Audio
The display was brighter than average, measuring 367 lux against the category average of 300 lux. The HTC One S, however, outshone the L9, measuring 451 lux. The Samsung Galaxy S III couldn't hold a candle to this device, maxing out at 249 lux.
Audio performance on the Optimus L9 left us wanting. The max volume just barely filled our testing room when we played Queen's "Having a Good Time," and high notes were tinny and low notes fell flat. In addition, due to the the speaker placement, the sound is muffled when the phone is placed on a surface display-up.
All keyboards, except for the handwriting keyboard, provided strong haptic feedback, making typing a natural experience.
Software and User Interface
The L9 supports up to seven home screens, which can be added, removed and arranged by a zoom-out pinch on the home screen. You can easily group apps into folders by a long-press and drag, and folders can be customized to display as one of 10 different colors. The home row supports up to six icons or folders, allowing for quick access to most-used applications.
Pull down on the status bar to access QuickMemo, settings for options such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and screen rotation lock. There's also a list of app and system alerts and notifications.
SmartShare allows users to send photos, videos and audio to any DLNA-capable display. FileShare is a utility that lets you share multimedia files and documents with other LG devices through direct Wi-Fi connection. We connected our Optimus L9 to an LG Optimus G and were able to send large image files between the devices in mere seconds. It took around a minute, however, for the two devices to discover each other to establish the initial connection.
Included from T-Mobile is Game Base, T-Mobile TV, which allows users to watch live TV for a monthly fee, and T-Mobile Name ID, a caller ID service that costs $3.99 per month.
The LG Optimus L9 is powered by a dual-core 1-GHz TI Cortex A9 Processor with 1GB of RAM running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Our real-world testing showed zippy performance; there was no lag when navigating through home screens and opening applications. We tried "Bad Piggies" and gameplay was smooth.
The Optimus L9 returned a score of 2,835 on the CPU Benchmark, almost on a par with the average of 2,881. The $99 Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G (1.5-GHz Qualcomm S3, 1GB RAM) notched 2,576.
The pricier Samsung Galaxy S III, with a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 and 2GB of RAM, scored 4,536 on the same test. The HTC One S, also powered by a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 and 1GB of RAM scored 4,994.3.
The graphics performance on the L9 was better, with the device scoring 7,067 on the An3DBench benchmark test. That's just above the category average of 6,954 and the Galaxy Blaze 4G (7,017). The Samsung Galaxy S III scored 7,272 and the HTC One S registered 7,314.
4G and Web Browsing
T-Mobile's HSPA+42 network provides fast 4G download and upload speeds, but it's still not as fast of AT&T's 4G LTE network. We were able to load NYTimes.com in 5.6 seconds and CNN.com in 4.9 seconds. The desktop version of our site, laptopmag.com, loaded in 6.3 seconds.
We ran the Speedtest.net test on the streets of Manhattan and averaged 5.7 Mbps downloads and 1.6 Mbps uploads over T-Mobile's 4G network. 4G LTE phones are about three times as fast.
LG includes the Voice shutter feature, which allows users to snap the camera by saying the phrase "cheese." This worked as advertised, and was handy for avoiding camera-shake when pressing the shutter button or tapping the screen.
We were impressed by the 1080p HD footage captured by the L9's camcorder. Video of passing traffic was smooth and images were clear. However, the camera took a few seconds to adjust to the light changes when we moved out of the shade of the buildings.]
The 1.3 MP front-facing camera captured images with noticeable noise, and colors looked washed out. Our plaid shirt lacked anyy pop.
Voice calls came through clear as we called both landlines and other mobile phones, in both Arizona and New York. Volume in the earpiece as well as the speakerphone was sufficiently loud. People on the other end of calls said they had no problem making out our voice.
When LG says that the Optimus L9 has a "long-lasting 2,150 mAh battery," they're not kidding around. We ran the LAPTOP battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G, and the L9 lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes. That runtime is better than the Blaze 4G (7:11 and well above the smartphone average (5:51).
This endurance also surpassed the HTC One S, which lasted only 5:26 and the S III (6:43).
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.0|
|Networks||850 MHz;900 MHz;1800 MHz;1900 MHz;UMTS: Band I (2100);UMTS: Band IV (1700/2100);UMTS: Band V (850)|
|CPU||1-GHz TI Cortex A9|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Display (main)||4.5-inch IPS LCD (540 x 960)|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 3.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.3MP|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Audio formats supported||WMA|
|Audio formats supported||WAV|
|Audio formats supported||MP3|
|Audio formats supported||AAC+|
|Video formats supported||3GP|
|Video formats supported||3G2|
|Video formats supported||WMV|
|Video formats supported||MP4|
|Video formats supported||Divx|
|Photo formats supported||JPEG|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||5.19 x 2.69 x 0.36 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|