Not all phones feel the need to pack in the most powerful processor or boast about their gigantic, pixel-packed screens. Some are perfectly happy to chug along steadily with modest specs, and sport an equally modest price.
The LG Optimus L5 II is just such a phone. It has a 4-inch display that packs a 480x800-pixel resolution, a single-core 1GHz processor and runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It's available now for £150 on pay as you go.
Should I buy the LG Optimus L5 II?
If you're browsing our reviews, looking for the best smart phone money can buy, move along to the Galaxy S4 or HTC One. This isn't the phone for you. If you're after a more modestly priced mobile that let's you tackle the essential social networking then keep reading.
The L5 II's 4-inch display is much crisper than its awful little brother's, which makes any task that bit nicer. It has the same processor though, which while competent, won't wow you with speed. It has a good battery too, meaning it won't conk out after sending a few tweets.
It's not the most luscious of mobiles admittedly, and its mere 2GB of usable storage will force you to only download the most basic apps. Games like N.O.V.A 3 are too big to fit and you can't install apps to an external card -- that's just for your media.
If you're taking your first tentative steps into the smart phone world, the L5 II is a fair choice to consider. Alternatively, take a look at the Nokia Lumia 520. It has a great screen and its Windows Phone 8 software is slick, user-friendly and there's a whole heap of Nokia extras thrown in.
Design and build quality
LG has done away with the plastic, dimpled back panel of last year's L5, replacing it instead with a fake brushed-metal casing. It's the same effect LG is using on the smaller L3 II. Squint really hard from a distance and it might pass for real metal, but really it's not fooling anyone.
The larger screen, smaller bezel and slightly shinier edging makes the L5 look like a marginally more expensive phone than the cheap-as-chips L3. It's not going to turn any heads if you pull it out in a posh rooftop cocktail bar, but it probably won't get you forcibly ejected from the premises either.
Like the L3, the physical home button on the front has a glowing edge that pulsates and changes colour to indicate various notifications. A calendar alert will make it glow blue, while an alarm notification will cause it pulse different colours. It's brighter than the L3's LED, making it easier to see in normal light. The L3's subdued light made it practically redundant as an alert system.
The L5 is 117mm long, 62mm wide and 9mm thick. It offers more screen real estate than the tiddly L3, but doesn't stretch your palms out like the humongous Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It's a good compromise of screen to body size, making it well suited to those of you looking to take your first steps in the smart phone world.
You'll find a power button, volume rocker, Micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack around the sides. There's also an extra button on the left. By default, it launches a note taking app, but you can customise it to launch any app or service you want.
While it doesn't feel anything like as sturdy as the metal HTC One, it doesn't feel like it's about to fall apart either. The chassis doesn't offer any unpleasant creaking and the buttons around the edge all give a satisfying click. The screen held up fine in my time with the phone, but it's not made from toughened Gorilla Glass like more premium phones, so I worry that it will be susceptible to scratches from keys and coins over time.
The L5 II comes with a tiny 4GB of built in storage, of which only 2GB is available for your apps and games. There is an SD card slot, but Jelly Bean doesn't allow you to install apps on an external card. You'll want to make sure you have all your photos, videos and music saved to an SD card to save as much room as possible for apps.
The 4-inch screen has an 800x480-pixel resolution which is a satisfying increase over the 320x480-pixels you'd find on the older L5. It's also a meaty boost over the awful 320x240-pixels of the L3 II's screen.
That resolution boost really is noticeable. Icons are considerably sharper on the L5's screen and small text on Web pages is perfectly readable. It loses its shine when you put it side by side with the Full HD majesty of the HTC One, but that phone is of course hundreds of pounds more expensive. For the cash, the L5 II's screen is fine.
It's bright too, and reasonably vivid. It'll certainly do a decent job of displaying your Facebook feed and will easily turn its hands to showing off YouTube's finest. If you really want to enjoy the splendour of streaming HD video from Netflix, you might want to splash slightly more cash on a 720p phone, but it'll at least do the job for a few episodes of Arrested Development.
Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
The L5 II comes loaded with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which is the most recent version but one of Google's mobile operating system. Budget blowers often tend to opt for older versions of software, so it's good to see an up-to-date offering on board.
You'll get three homescreens to put down widgets and apps, with any apps you don't want cluttering up your home being stashed in an iOS-style grid. Three apps remain static along the bottom of the phone to provide quick access to essential tasks. It's fairly easy to navigate and LG has thrown in a couple of tricks to keep it fresh.
For one, you can change the animation used when you swipe between different homescreens. There are various different animations to choose from, or you could just opt for the default. More elaborate animations will tax the processor more, so if you find it struggling once you fill it up with widgets, try a more basic transition to see if it helps.
You'll find the Quick Memo feature from the L3 II on this phone as well. Hit the physical button on the left (or the icon in the pull-down notifications bar, if you reassigned that button) and you're able to scrawl notes over whatever's on your screen. You're then able to move around Android with the writing still on top. It's unlikely to ever be a key feature, but you might find it handy for jotting down a number in an emergency.
LG's Safety Care service could be useful addition if you have vulnerable, elderly relatives. You can have the phone automatically send a text to a set contact, containing an alert, along with the location of the phone if someone uses it to dial an emergency number. An alert can also be sent if the phone hasn't been used for a set period of time.
The phone is powered by a single-core 1GHz processor, with 512MB of RAM. While that's an improvement over the 800MHz of last year's L5, it's disappointing not to see LG push for dual-core processing at this price. The Nokia Lumia 520 boasts a dual-core chip and costs £100 on pay as you go.
Navigating around the Android interface was acceptable, but it did seem a little laggy at times. Swiping around the homescreens and opening menus was sometimes stuttery, and returning home after being in an app required a pause before everything loaded up again. Once you fill the phone up with apps and widgets hogging background processing power, you can expect it to become a bit more sluggish still.
It gave an uninspiring, but acceptable 564 on the Geekbench benchmark test. I've seen a lot better scores, but for the money it's not bad. It didn't struggle much playing Riptide GP, but the more graphically demanding Shadowgun: Killzone was quite laggy at times.
If you're after super-charged speed for demanding apps, games and video editing, you'll want to look at the Samsung Galaxy S4. The L5 II will cope fine with Web browsing, social networking and more basic mobile games though.
Tucked into that fake metal back is a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. I took it for a spin and found the results to be adequate for the price. The image was well exposed, but it suffered from an overall lack of clarity and image noise in the more shadowy areas.
That's pretty much what you should expect at this kind of level though. Phones like the Galaxy S4 and Nokia Lumia 920 have astounding sensors that give results to rival dedicated compact digital cameras -- but naturally, they come with considerably higher price tags. You're unlikely to win any photography awards with the L5 II, but posting images of your food to Facebook is certainly within your grasp.
The camera lets you tweak a few settings, and provides panorama and burst shot modes too. A weird addition is the ability to activate the shutter by saying "Cheese," Smile," "LG" or "Kimchi." In theory, it helps you take Myspace-style self portraits without having to reach your finger around to hit the screen. It worked fairly well in my test, but I doubt it would be anywhere near as effective if you used it somewhere busy or noisy.
The L5 II's battery is a 1,700mAh affair, which is fairly capacious. LG quotes around nine hours of talk time from a single charge, which I'd say is roughly on the money. If you're reasonably careful about what you do with the phone, you shouldn't struggle to get a full day of use out of it.
Keep the screen brightness down and avoid doing anything too taxing -- streaming video over 3G for example -- and you'll get better life. You'll need to give it a charge each night, as with all smart phones, but if you're sensible, you shouldn't need to make a quick dash to a plug at lunch.
With its decent screen, good battery life and affordable price, the LG L5 II is a decent option for smart phone newbies, or just the more budget-minded among you. It's not the flashiest phone around by any means, and its processor performance is far from impressive. It offers a fair all-round experience though and doesn't ask too much for it in return.