The styling of the LG Optimus Black is not exactly breathtaking but the execution is flawless. The minimalist look is in no way a disadvantage – LG have ended up with a recognizable design out of nothing much really.
Viewed head on, the Black very much resembles the Optimus 2X though the earpiece is very understated. Below it is the traditional set of proximity and ambient light sensors along with a 2MP front-facing camera.
Moving on, we see the four keys below the LG Optimus Black display. The usual Menu, Home, Back and Search controls all use the capacitive touch technology. The keys are haptic-enabled (when pressed the phone vibrates lightly) but feedback goes a step further. Upon a press, the backlighting of the key you touched changes color for a second. It’s a feature we quite like.
As usual, some of the keys have extra functionality upon a long press. The Home key launches the task switcher, while a press-and-hold of the Search key triggers voice search.
Moving on to the left side of the LG Optimus Black, we find the volume rocker and the dedicated gesture button. They barely protrude from the phone’s side but are reasonably easy to locate by touch and solid to press.
The right side of the phone is completely devoid of controls – it looks like we won’t be seeing much of hardware shutter keys in the future.
Topside, there’s the 3.5mm audio jack, the microUSB port and the Power/Lock key. The microUSB port is protected by a sliding plastic lid and doubles as the charger port.
The Power/Lock key is tiny but prominent enough though accidental presses are pretty much out of the question.
The bottom side of the LG Optimus Black holds nothing of interest beside the mic pinhole.
The 5 MP camera lens is located at the back, right next to the (not quite capable) LED flash. On the up side, the LED flash is good enough as a video light. The downside is there’s not much to protect the camera lens from scratches and smudges – except that it’s slightly recessed.
Popping the battery cover open reveals the 1500 mAh battery, the SIM and microSD card slots. The microSD card slot is hot-swappable even though it’s not accessible from the outside.
The loudspeaker is placed on the sloping edge of the back but it still gets slightly muffled when you place the Optimus Black on a flat surface.
As for the 1500mAh battery, LG didn’t quote standby and call times. They are quick to brag about their NOVA display using 50% less energy than a typical LCD (and 50% less than AMOLED when displaying pure white). Maybe they’re waiting for the phone to launch officially before revealing the numbers.
The LG Optimus Black feels great in the hand. Despite the lightweight super thin body, the device feels extra solid. The curved back improves handling and the matt plastic is both pleasant to the touch and fingerprint-resistant. The Black is surprisingly light for a phone of its size – some prefer heavier phones for the feel but others would go for less weight in the pocket. Anyway, we wouldn’t say no to the rock solid build and subtle elegance of the Optimus Black.
We held in our hands the Optimus Black, the XPERIA Arc and the Galaxy S II in turn and the Optimus Black was perceptibly the smallest, though it has the smallest screen too. The other two are marginally thinner than the LG Optimus Black (though you likely won’t notice if you don’t have the them in front of you). As for build quality, the Black stands up to the competition very well.