LG doesn’t pitch the F5 as a superphone. Instead, it’s meant to be a 4G-capable smartphone for those on a tight budget, and in that respect at least, it delivers.
LG Optimus F5: On the plus side
You might think that a $299 4G smartphone would be an ugly little critter. After all, in the normal course of things, snappy design costs money. LG’s Optimus F5 bucks that trend, if only a little, with a design that…
With a design that…
Look, I’m going to just come out and say it. This phone, with its white plastic finish over a 4.3″ display screen looks like an iPhone, only cheaper. You’re not going to mistake it outright for an iPhone, so LG probably won’t have a visit from Apple’s lawyers any time soon, but at the same time, there’s some pretty obvious shared design DNA at play here. That’s no bad thing for a budget phone, where often you’re left with a terrible looking plastic brick.
Onboard storage is limited at 8GB — again, par for the course for an inexpensive phone — and you’re really only looking at around 4GB of that being available, but it’s microSD capable, so you can at least boost the basic storage that way.
It’s running Android 4.1.2 on a 1.2Ghz Dual-Core processor with 1GB of RAM. Not stunning by modern standards, but quite fair considering that would have been stunning only a year or so ago — and again, this is a play for the budget market. That’s a combination that helps it to a Geekbench score of 1579, which is around what you’d expect. It also translates into a mostly smooth experience in terms of applications. LG’s Android UI is pretty unobtrusive, and that’s a good thing.
The included 2150mAh battery is also a good thing, and solid enough for a day’s running, if only just.
LG Optimus F5: On the minus side
So what’s the catch? You’re stuck looking at a 4.3 inch 960×540 pixel IPS screen, which is quite ordinary. It’s not terrible — again, not terrible for the price — but put it up against anything with a good screen and you’ll quickly spot the pixel differences.
LG’s included apps are on the quirky side, but that’s not the same thing as being useful. QuickMemo lets you scribble notes on the screen, because a finger-scribbled note on a 4.3 inch screen is something that.. somebody was dying for? Not me, by any stretch. Equally, QSlide allows for theoretical multi-tasking by allowing multiple instance panes of specific applications to float around the screen, but the practical usage models for these is terribly limited due to the small screen size of the F5.
The Optimus F5 is LTE 1800Mhz capable, making it one of the cheaper 4G phone options on the local market, but there’s a catch here. It’s 4G LTE 1800MHz, but when you drop down to 3G networks, it’s an HSDPA 900/1900/2100MHz device. Why does that matter? Because only Optus’ network runs on the 900Mhz frequency, meaning if you purchased the F5 outright, you’d be on Optus, Virgin, or the many Optus resellers for the life of the phone. I have tested it with an 850Mhz Telstra SIM, and at least on my review sample it worked, which suggests that a fully prepaid phone isn’t locked, but unless you’re under the 4G cloud all the time, it’ll drop back to GSM speeds for any Telstra or Vodafone customer.
You don’t get a particularly good camera in a $299 smartphone, and the results you’ll get out of the F5’s 5 megapixel camera are only ever going to be ordinary at best. To put this into some context, I snapped a quick shot of a flower with the F5:
And then with the admittedly much more expensive Samsung Galaxy S4:
They’re both slightly cropped, but I think you get the point.
It’s only compounded in low light. Here’s a quick shot of the MechaGodzilla who lurks under my desk taken with the F5:
And again with the Galaxy S4:
Neither camera covers itself with glory here, but if you’re a late night snapper, the F5’s mediocre optics will disappoint you.
LG Optimus F5: Pricing
LG Optimus F5: Alex’s Verdict
$299 outright isn’t a great deal of money to spend on a smartphone; you can go much cheaper, but the quality dives off a cliff onto some rocks and splatters its limited brains all over the shoreline if you do so. On that score, the F5 is good value for money if your needs are moderate, but you’ve got to take its limitations — and especially the fact that you’re looking at a phone that’s only ever going to run fast in 4G zones or on Optus’ own network — before laying down your dollars.