Categories: Cellphones

LG P970 Optimus Black Review

Published on May 29th, 2011 | by sylv3rblade

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I was excited when I first heard that LG’s new midrange android phone, the LG P970 Optimus Black was coming to the Philippines. LG failed me when I tried to procure the device as they’re currently having the Optimus Sale and touting the Dual Core Optimus 2x instead of the unit I wanted which, if the timeline of the sale is to be followed, will be first available today. I got one off the gray market in less than 3 hours… (heh).

What attracted me to the Optimus Black was the screen (ok, the body first, the screen next).  It features LG’s new display technology called the NOVA display, claiming that it’s brighter than Super AMOLED which Samsung currently uses on it’s high-end smartphones while consuming less power.  Looking that the Optimus Black with the screen turned off, it’s easy to see where it got it’s namesake.

The P970 is black all throughout (or a darkish grey overtone if you’re really fickle about it) and sports a no-nonsense look of simplicity.  From the shot below, all you can make out from the face of the unit with the screen turned off is the capacitive buttons, the LG logo up top isn’t even clearly visible.

Note: notice the slight marring on the screen of the picture?  Yeah, LG stuck a really cheap screen protector on this one.  The scar happened when I accidentally rubbed my keys on it.  The screen itself is not scratched but the protector is flimsy at best that I’m considering to install an Invisible Shield on it… like TODAY.

Of course when you turn the screen on that’s when the beauty of this phone flies:

This is at 70% brightness.  I’ll update the picture with another one with full brightness in a bit so you better wait up for that.

Blacks are much crisper, colors are more accurate and the display is simply brighter overall.  Now, of course that’s just a subjective review on my part.  If you want a more technical look, you may want to checkout GSMarena’s look into the NOVA display.

Outside of the Optimus Black

LG’s decision to use aluminum for the back of the P970 presents both pros and cons.  In terms of pros, the finish looks stylish, no-nonsense and very, very attractive.  The downside?  It’s a fingerprint magnet :(.  The finish also isn’t scratch proof, something that’s apparent in 2-3 days of owning the device.  Luckily, LG sells the back of these phones by order but you do have to wait awhile for a replacement.

The capacitive buttons work well and are sensitive enough to be responsible and even get pressed when the phone is in your pocket :/.

The overall design of the Optimus Black makes it a delight for the eyes.  First off it’s THAT thin.  Here’s the phone compared to my SHB-9000 headphones.  Up top, that’s the Power/Unlock switch on the left and the microUSB adapter in the middle.  On the right there’s a 3.5 mm jack and a small mic for noise cancelling.  Judging from how it fares with everyday use, it’s doesn’t compare to what highend phones give you but it is “good enough” considering the Optimus Black’s price.

Here’s another comparison with my headphones. Slim isn’t it?

Notice the G button on the side?  That’s for gestures built in to the phone.  You can’t customize it right now (except for turning individual gestures on and off) and most of them only works with the pre-installed applications so that’s a bit of a downer.

Inside of the Optimus Black

The P970 is powered by a Texas Instrument OMAP 3630 processor clocked at 1GHz.  Compared to the A8 Cortex (or even the A9) Snapdragon processor that most of the current phones use, it performs a bit slower in terms of crunching numbers (ergo the Black is more of a looker than a performer).  Still, at 1GHz coupled with 512 MB RAM, the P970 is no slouch either.  If you have the default LG launcher, you WILL experience a bit of lag with turning screens and over all response time (with regards to the homescreen only) so I really recommend installing a 3rd Party Home App like LauncherPro or ADW launcher.. unless of course LG’s default widgets appeal to you.

The Optimus Black has 1GB for it’s internal storage and ships with a 2GB microSD for free.

Here’s the full spec list of the LG P970 Optimus Black:

LG P970 Optimus Black Specifications

Name : LG P970 Optimus Black
Processor : TI OMAP 3630 1GHz processor
Network : 2G GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, 3G HSDPA 900 / 1700 / 2100
Dimension : 122 x 64 x 9.2 mm
Weight : 109 g
Screen : IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 480 x 800 pixels, 4.0 inches, Accelerometer
sensor for UI auto-rotate, Proximity sensor for auto turn-off, Touch-sensitive controls, Optimus UI 2.0, Gesture UI 2.0
Camera : 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, Autofocus, LED flash, Geo-tagging, Face and smile detection,
Video 720p@30fps, Secondary camera (VGA)
Connectivity : 3G HSDPA 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA 5.76 Mbps, EDGE, GPRS, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi
Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP, EDR, MicroUSB v2.0, 3.5 mm audio jack
Memory : 1 GB internal, 512 MB RAM, MicroSD up to 32 GB external
Battery : Li-Ion 1500 mAh
Other features : Android OS v2.2 (Froyo) – upgradable to v2.3
SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM, HTML browser, GPS with A-GPS support, Java (via Java MIDP emulator), SNS, – Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google TalkGames, Digital compass, Document viewer, Organizer, Voice memo / dial / commands, Predictive text input, Alarm, Calculator, Calendar

Audio player (MP3 / WAV / WMA / eAAC+), Video player (MP4 / DivX / Xvid / H.264 / H.263 / WMV), Video recorder, MP3 & WAV ringtones, Stereo FM radio with RDS

Price : SRP Php 19,900

Taking pics with the Optimus Black

The Optimus black is equipped with dual cameras, a VGA front-facing camera for video calls and a 5 MegaPixel with single LED flash on the back.  In terms of image quality, the 5MP camera performs much like any other camera phone in the market: acceptable image quality in bright conditions. Here’s a sample image from my phone (no post processing involved here except the resize, click the full image to see the original):

Not bad huh?  My dessert still looks tasty.

The camera has an autofocus motor but in low-light, it ends up hunting quite a bit.  As for video,  I haven’t tried using it since it saves them in 3GP :(.

Nitpicks
I found two annoying bugs during my first few days of handling the Optimus Black one being the wonky Bluetooth driver and the other was it forgetting my time and date settings. The first one I can live with seeing (although having my SHB-9000 bluetooth headset sync better with my year old Spica without experiencing random disconnections was a bit saddening :() as it’s a new phone and drivers are still in active development but the second one is a bit disconcerting. Basically if you turn off your phone, it forgets your current timezone (not the actual time and date but it’s annoying).

Luckily, the problem was merely my outdated firmware. Turns out that currently, there are several software versions of the LG Optimus Black:

  • LG-P970-V09f
  • LG-P970-V09g – what mine shipped with
  • LG-P970-V10a – is the current public release

LG-P970-V10a is the latest firmware update available for the Optimus Black and is pre-installed on units sold after May 17th (that’s the day I got my unit) :). So if your phone’s version is below that, be sure to upgrade immediately using LG’s software updater.

Verdict

Is it a good phone?  The current competition for the Optimus Black are the Samsung Galaxy SL,  HTC Desire S and Sony’s Xperia Arc.  Here’s a run down of pros and cons for each device compared to the Optimus Black:

Phone Pros Cons
Samsung Galaxy SL Just Php 17,000 Basically a rebranded Galaxy S equipped with SuperLCD instead of Super AMOLED
Better default experience (TouchWiz is a tad more mature)
HTC Desire S Better processor Specs: Less RAM, smaller screen
Android 2.3 Priced above Php 25k
Xperia Arc Better design, Priced above Php 27k
PSN integration
Android 2.3
Additional Hardware controls for gameplay

Do you have comments or questions about the Optimus Black?  Post them in the comments.

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12 Responses to LG P970 Optimus Black Review

  1. renor says:

    how’s the battery life goin? im really rooting for this phone but im really worried about the battery life it offers.

    • sylv3rblade says:

      So far so good. I get about 8 hrs in terms of battery life of heavy usage (3G, bluetooth GPS on, browsing, games, etc with music in the background) and get about 10-20 hours for moderate usage.

  2. chris hoole says:

    how do you get the internet to work without the wifi mine isnt working unless i have the wifi on please help
    #

    • sylv3rblade says:

      You probably have set the data setting to wifi only. Go to Settings > Wireless > Mobile Network and enable the option Data Enabled

  3. jhoravi says:

    How about the 4 capacitive key at the bottom? Did you experience a moment where you have to tap the Home key twice before it responds? That’s my issue with phones with capacitive keys. There must be a reason why GalaxyS is designed to have hardware Home key.

    • sylv3rblade says:

      So far I haven’t experienced that problem with capacitive keys. I’m guessing it’s a problem with the launcher / home app that you’re using.

  4. pradeep says:

    bought it 3days back…. liked the mobile… but cant seem to connect to te wifi network… did everything possible but in vain…and can this model play video ringtones??

  5. Anthony says:

    help my computer crashed and i just restored it. problem is that the new windows will not connect with my p970 through bluetooth. usb is fine i got all the drivers through lg mobile update program but has not resolved the bluetooth problem. also can you direct me to the other launchers? thanks

  6. Mexanoe says:

    I’d like to know if you have rooted your LG. Also if the gingerbread update is already available. I heard that this Optimus Black works better when it’s rooted.

    How about your gaming experience, the sound quality and the video quality? I was rooting for the Sony Ericsson Arc (P22,700) but suddenly having second thoughts. I was thinking of LG Optimus Black 970 (P17,500) or LG Optimus 2X (P24,00 ~ expensive!) or probably just the Cherry Mobile Magnum HD (P13,999~ whoah! cheeaaappp!!! well…not so but with the reviews I have read it’s worth it and it has an update to gingerbread))

    Well, basically all I wanted with my phone is to read my ebooks without being caught in the work place. If I purchase a iPad or Galaxy Tab, I will be busted. Also some games like plants vs zombies and just multimedia (mp3/music video). With this in mind, what do you recommend I choose?

    Thanks! *_~

    • sylv3rblade says:

      Hi Mexanoe.

      Yep, I have rooted and installed a custom ROM called Nova on my OB. You can get the details on what Nova is as well as how to root here. I would agree that the P970 works better rooted (because you;ll have access to Titanium Backup, Bloat Freezer etc) but it would be better of with a custom ROM. Currently Nova is the only ROM in active development for the OB and we’ve confirmed that a port CyanogenMod is going to be under development in awhile so the it’s going to be exciting in the months ahead.

      The 2X is good if you got it via the sale as despite it’s issue, it’s a great high-end phone. As a bonus, the P990 has several active custom ROM teams including CyanogenMod. Compared to the Black, the 2X has everything better save for the screen, the Nova screen will make or break your purchase ;).

      As for the official gingerbread release, LG has confirmed that we’ll be getting that in October.

      For the recommendation, if money is not an issue, I would recommend the 2X over the Xperia Arc. Sony is notoriously bad at keeping phones updated (the X10 series had it bad). In terms of specs, the Xperia Arc is a bit better as it has a faster processor and Gingerbread preinstalled. For the black, it’s best selling point would be the screen and the form factor as the black is definitely a better looking phone than the 2x and a lot simpler to look at than Arc.

  7. Jel says:

    hi, ito ba yung lg optimus black? some sites says its got a 2mp front cam. or is it really just a vga one?

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