Hands on: LG Leon review

Mid-range or middle of the road

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Our Early Verdict

The LG Leon comes with some nice features you sometimes see in higher end phones, such as NFC and the latest Android 5.0, though there's no 4G and it does look a little cheap.

For

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Responsive screen
  • Metallic finish looks alright
  • Gesture control works well

Against

  • Could be overpriced
  • Still looks cheap
  • No microSD slot

The LG Leon is part of the new spread of mid-range smartphones that the Korean company has announced, and I got to try it out at MWC 2015.

Not only is the LG Leon a mid-range handset, but it sits firmly in the middle of the new collection of handsets, so you could say it's in the middle of the middle, which isn't an enviable place to be: neither cheap enough to explain some of the lacking features, nor expensive enough to benefit from a few extra bells and whistles.

LG Leon

The LG Leon sits just after the LG Joy at the bottom of the range, with the LG Spirit and LG Magna above it. Although it has been already released in the US, LG hasn't confirmed when we'll be seeing it in Europe and Australia, though an LG representative told me they are aiming to release it in the next two quarters (about six month's time in normal language). There's no news on price either.

LG Leon

The LG Leon features a 4.5-inch wide VGA display with a pixel density of 220ppi, along with a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 5MP camera, VGA front camera and a 1900 mAh removable battery.

Storage space is limited to 8GB, and when I say limited I mean it as there's no way to expand this slight capacity via microSD. This means if you're going to want to take lots of photos, store music and watch movies, you're going to find that 8GB capacity filling up pretty quickly.

We've often complained that 16GB of storage is too paltry for today's smartphones due to the amount of apps, photos and media we store on our devices and 8GB is even worse, especially when you consider that there's no way to boost the space. A microSD slot would at least give us a bit of flexibility, but alas it is not to be.

On the bottom of the handset resides the micro USB port for moving files one and off the LG Leon, as well as charging it. Due to the limited storage I have a feeling you'll be using this port often to free up some space.

LG Leon

LG's aim with the LG Leon is to bring a premium feel to an affordable handset, and to do this it has a plastic back with a metallic finish that comes in five different colours: blue, black, white, gold and silver. Though made of plastic, the body does look nice, and also feels pretty robust.

LG Leon

Both the power button and the volume controls are also located on the back, just below the camera. This is quite a canny decision, as it is much more comfortable to reach with a finger when holding the phone, rather than the side or the top. The buttons are slightly recessed, which helps prevent accidentally pressing them.

Placing these buttons on the back frees up the sides and top edges of the device, giving them a nice smooth feel. The design would be even more impressive if it was a bit thinner, as the 10.9mm thickness leaves the LG Leon feeling (and looking) pretty chunky.

With the 4.5-inch screen the LG Leon's dimensions are 129.9 x 64.9 x 10.9mm, leading to a small and compact handset. Although the body is relatively small, while holding the LG Leon I attempted to stretch my fingers to the top of the handset where the power button usually resides. They reached, but it was far less comfortable than finding the button on the back of the handset, so I applaud LG's decision for placing them there.

LG Leon

As I mentioned earlier the microUSB port is located at the centre of the bottom edge of the LG Leon, and the top end houses the headphone jack, all pretty much standard fare.

LG Leon

The VGA screen isn't going to blow any minds, but Android 5.0 (which comes preinstalled) looks fine and responds well to touch commands. LG has removed layers between the screen and the touch sensor in a bid to make the screen more responsive, and it works well with menus gliding smoothly underneath my finger. It also helps make the bezel around the phone smaller, for a more premium look.

LG Leon

The LG Leon, like the other devices just announced by LG, is selfie stick friendly, with voice and gesture commands that can be used to take photos. While the voice recognition didn't work, I'm inclined to give it a pass due to the loud environment I tried it in. Gesture control worked very well: all I needed to do was open my hand, then close it into a fist. A three-second countdown then appears, letting you ready your shot.

Thankfully selfie sticks are relatively rare, for the moment at least, but I don't blame LG for latching on to the craze, and the gesture control also works well for taking standard group shots as well. I'm looking forward to trying out the voice control in a quieter environment later, where I only need to say "cheese" or "LG" to take the shot. Apparently you smile when you say "LG", hence it's inclusion, though it may just be LG employees who smile when uttering the brand name.

LG Leon

We're seeing an increasing number of affordable and budget smartphones include 4G LTE connectivity, such as the Moto G, so it's disappointing to report that the LG Leon sticks with 3G. Although the cellular connection is a bit behind the times, LG has included the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi connection, so if you want to wirelessly stream content to and from the LG Leon, you're good to go.

However with the lack of storage space I can't imagine many people wanting to stream from the LG Leon. NFC (Near Field Communication) is another usually premium feature that can be found on the LG Leon.

Final verdict

I'm not too convinced that LG has achieved the "affordable premium" goal it has been aiming for with the LG Leon, as it is still an unmistakeably budget blower. There are some nice features you'd find in more expensive devices, such as NFC and the gesture control, and Android 5.0 is a nice touch, though LG seems to have drawn the line at including 4G, as this is a 3G-only handset. However price is essential when weighing up this smartphone, and LG needs to judge this perfectly. At the moment we don't know what the price will be, so let's hope LG chooses something sensible.

  • Check out the rest of our MWC 2015 coverage

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.