Hands-On With The Optimus L9, LG’s Most Recent Mid-Range Mobile

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LG has been getting plenty of attention these days because of some recent carrier announcements (case in point: Sprint announced it would carry the LG Mach and Optimus G), but that’s not all of the LG hardware here at MobileCon 2012. T-Mobile recently outed a new LG device of its own — the decidedly mid-range Optimus L9 — and I spent a few moments getting to know it a little better.

As is usually the case with LG hardware, the L9 is light and plasticky, but it just manages to avoid crossing over into chintzy territory thanks in part to its solid construction (there were no telltale creaks to be heard when apply pressure to it) and the lightly textured finish on the device’s rear. Sure, it’s far cry from the sort of solid construction that companies like HTC are known for, but it certainly makes for a pocketable portable.

That said, there are a few curious touches here. Most notable is that when looked at dead-on, the L9 bears more than a passing resemblance to a Samsung device because of what sits below the 4.5-inch qHD display — an elongated home button and the Android soft keys that flank it.

I didn’t have a chance to load up any of my favorite benchmarking tools (the T-Mobile guy was watching us pretty intently), but there weren’t instances of visual lag or stutter as I bounded from menu to menu and app to app. That’s due in large part to the dual-core 1GHz processor and the 1GB of RAM lurking inside the L9′s slim chassis, which is probably enough horsepower to handle most daily tasks with aplomb, but I’ll have to hold off on issuing final judgment for now.

Save for the particular flavor of carrier bloatware loaded onto the L9, the software is awfully similar to the version I spotted when playing with LG’s Mach earlier today. To provide a quick recap, LG’s customer Android overlay doesn’t seem quite as offensive as it has in days past. It feels lighter and less obtrusive, an approach it seems that more and more Android-device OEMs have decided to adopt recently.

The end result is a device that in some ways thoughtfully manages to augment Android with some neat additional features without slowing it to a crawl. That said, T-Mobile seems to have sunk its claws into the device more so than Sprint did with its LG hardware. The L9 packs just a few more preloaded apps and a persistent notification indicating your account details (minutes used, texts sent, etc.).

In many ways, I feel the same way about the L9 as I do about the Mach. It’s a perfectly serviceable device with its share of nice flourishes, but it just doesn’t stand out very much. Maybe that’s just me being a jaded tech blogger, but it seems to me that T-Mobile will need to play hardball with the L9′s price tag. Naturally, that’s exactly what they plan to do. T-Mobile’s on-site staff wouldn’t budge when it came to the prospect of talking pricing, but one of them referred to the L9 as a “great entry-level smartphone.” In other words, it should be nice and cheap whenever the carrier finally decides to launch it.