LG L20 Review


Active Member
LG L20 - value for money?


Mention the word smartphone and most people think of painfully expensive contracts and carrying around £500 of 'steal me please' in their pocket...and what's that? You had the audacity to answer a phone call in the rain? Warranty is void and you are stuck with a brick.

That world has steadily been changed with super cheap offerings from Nokia (soon to be Microsoft) in their Lumia range, and android based smartphones from Alcatel and Huawei. To be perfectly honest, the day after I bought the LG L20 to review it, I saw the Huawei Y330 for £34.99 factoring in the top up cost. However, this still leaves the LG L20 as the cheapest proper smartphone you can get at just £29.99 with a £10 top-up.

The design of the phone takes you back about 10 years, to where windows mobile was your main touchscreen choice. It actually looks very similar to a HTC Touch 2 that I have in a draw. That was a tough little phone, the screen got scratched so I fixed it with an industrial buffer...not something I'd like to do, or imagine you could do, to today’s crop of phablets.

It is made out of the sort of plastic you might find on a Fisherprice toy and the rounded corners and back are indicative of the same. The back is a bit textured, but I wouldn't say it makes it less likely to slip out of the hand. However, it is pretty small at 105.6 x 64.5 x 13 mm, which makes it much easier to hold than something more pricey - where truly small is hard to find. I have to say though, with something so small in length and width, that thickness makes it feel very odd in comparison to something more expensive.

The button placement is great, one unlock button on the right as you look at the screen and volume rocker on the left. I find this is the best arrangement, compared to lock button on the top or everything down one side. The bottom holds a micro usb port and the top is empty.

On the front of the device sits the comedically terrible 240x360 pixel, 3 inch screen of some technology similar to a hammer and chisel. It is truly awful in comparison to anything I've used in a long time - even Nokia’s similarly priced offerings have better viewing angles. However, that being said, it gets the job done. You can read most text clearly and there are settings for large text as well. It is a capacitive screen with multitouch and responds as you would imagine, not well. Pinch to zoom is a bit iffy in web browsing, but it works most of the time. It doesn't seem to be glass either, but it won't pick up too many scratches if you don't sling it in with your keys (after a week as a daily, it is still completely scratch free).

The screen brightness is ok, but there is not sensor to adjust it automatically. There isn't a proximity sensor either, but I'll get to that. Colours look pretty washed out and accuracy is a bit much to ask for. You can easily make out the pixels

The external speaker seems to be situated in the same place as the earpiece - or it might just be the same speak that goes a bit louder. In both normal and loud speaker calls it is actually not bad. Voices come through clear with a reasonable amount of bass and the volume doesn't distort the sound. To be honest, for twenty quid before top up, job done. It is a phone and it works.

Internals are basic, with a dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A7, 512mb of RAM and 4GB of internal storage (you get about 1.2GB to play with). It does have an SD card slot though, with support for 32GB - something that can't be said for many high end phones. A very basic Mali-400 deals with graphics.

Now let’s take a quick look back at those specs...That's better than any of the first crop of decent android phones like the desire and no-one complained then! What makes this even better is that it is pushing all this through a low resolution screen, which is much less demanding on graphics and battery. The battery in this is a 1540mAh battery, which sounds a little small but is much better in use than a 2500mAh battery in an IPS LCD phablet. I could get through a day with power usage and up to three days with normal usage. It is removable too...which is unusual for today’s phones. In my opinion inaccessible batteries are part of a throw away culture that is pretty awful, all driven by money grubbing on the part of manufacturers and contract pushers.

The phone doesn't have an accelerometer, but you can tag a rotate shortcut onto the rightmost of the capacitive buttons under the screen. There are four of these, the usual three Android ones and this extra one.

It is running Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is optimised for use with 512mb of RAM. It runs fine. There I said it. Honestly, if you can get past the low res screen and the iffy touch, it does what you'd expect. Wi-Fi has a good reach, 3g connectivity works as it should, with H+ speeds. The interface is pretty standard Android, with a scroll through apps menu and pull down notification bar with quick settings for loads of stuff from Wi-Fi to location (A-GPS) and option to run as a hotspot.

It flies through Facebook and most of your usual apps and can play most games smoothly - I have tried BADLAND, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Crossy Road and Daddy Long Legs (best game ever!!) and they all work as they should with no stutter in play. The Antutu score is 10613 for reference, which is perfectly serviceable.

The keyboard is small. In portrait mode it is almost too small to use, but there is a T9 keyboard with autocorrect, which some people will love. Using the shortcut key to rotate the screen can quickly get you to a full keyboard again which is useable in landscape.

One really nice feature is LG's Knock to awake and Knock Code to unlock. This is essentially double tap to get to the home screen from standby and double tap again to lock the device. Then you can set a more complicated lock screen combination in knocks. In use I didn't like the lock screen option, but the double tap to get to a normal slide unlock works great. Fantastic for a quick check when you are at your desk.

When you make a call the lack of proximity sensor I mentioned earlier comes into play. It puts up a screen with a slide to unlock the keypad etc... and a slide to hang up. The screen then turns off after a few seconds and you can get it back by double tapping. This is fine in use, but obviously not as simple as it would have been with a sensor in place.

The camera is a fixed focus 2mp affair with no flash that is bad. Just bad. I'm a keen photographer and am used to my SLR, so I think the Lumia 1020 is just awful, but, this is on another level of bad. If you ever watch digitalrev cheap camera challenges this is about that bad. Although, weirdly you get ISO control...which only goes up to 400. Still better than not having one. You can get a snap of a document or a place and file it off somewhere on the interwebs.

So that about wraps up what I have to say, it is useable. It isn't a beautiful slab of glass and metal. It isn't a 6 inch wonder phablet with OLED display. It is just a basic smartphone and it can do most of what phones that cost £600 do. Which is insane. Plus depreciation isn't really possible with this little money. It will still be worth 'something' in years to come. Back to what I mentioned at the start, the Huawei Y330 is £5 more and that has a better camera, bigger 400X800 screen, 1.3Ghz dual core and a few sensors. So, to sum up, this phone is for people who just want to get things done and don't care about how it looks on screen as long as you can deal with the tiny keyboard. It is also fine for a stepping stone when your 'real' phone breaks.
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