The LG Optimus L5 seems, at first glance, to be a possible contender for a good mid-range, low-cost smartphone. It's loaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it's on the NFC bandwagon and it's a light, simply designed handset.

But a deeper look into the hardware specs punctures that initial sense of optimism. An 800GHz processor doesn't stand up to other mid-range phones, such as the HTC One S, that carry dual-core processors, which wastes the potential of running Android 4.0.

The screen is a paltry 320 x 480 pixels (144ppi) when cheaper handsets (here's looking at you, Nokia Lumia 610) have better pixel densities for less money. So despite a shiny fascia, the insides just don't do the job they could.

We liked

We were pleased by the fact that the LG Optimus L5 ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. We enjoyed the chance to play around with NFC-enabled kit, even if the LG version of an NFC app doesn't quite fulfill its entire potential.

We also liked the square-edged design and the light weight of the handset. And we were impressed by the good battery life, though it's not as if the processor would be draining it too quickly.

We disliked

We didn't like the constant lag that dampened use of the phone, or the way that even simple games would jerk and judder. Nor that the 800Mhz processor wasn't up to scratch.

The low pixel density ensures the screen is barely legible in direct sunlight and that watching videos means tilting the screen this way and that to find a good viewing angle.

Verdict

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Essentially the LG Optimus L5 could have been far better had LG just upped the processing power and the hardware specs a little bit. Instead it's a disappointing piece of tech, despite its potential; especially with an NFC antennae.

Overall, with its good battery life, light weight and build and 4-inch display, it could have been a good starter smartphone.

But spend a little extra money these days and you'll pick up a phone with better specs - even the Sony Xperia U has a better display, secondary camera, dual-core processor and a larger internal memory than the LG middle child that is the LG Optimus L5.