If you have dropped your phone down the toilet on a particularly drunken night out and are looking for a reasonably priced stand in until your expensive 24-month contract is up, then the LG K8 could be the phone for you.
In terms of performance, it’s no slouch. Many other phones in this price bracket are sluggish and unresponsive, but with the K8 we had no such problems. It’s also very well designed for a budget phone. If you are planning to give this to a teenager, there’s little worry that their friends will laugh at them when they whip it out on the school bus.
However, there are a couple of caveats. Battery life is only middling, as is video quality and it doesn’t have the latest version of Android (Nougat). What did you expect for this price?
LG won’t be winning any awards for groundbreaking design but, to be fair, that’s not what they were trying to do. Instead, with the K8 they have made a modern looking phone that is pleasing to the eye in an unassuming sort of way. It won’t draw gasps like the iPhone 7 or Samsung S8, but they are not asking the same price. Frankly, we think this is the best designed budget smartphone out there and we haven’t come across anything sub-£200 that looks so snazzy
It feels great to hold. The corners are rounded, the screen is 5-inch (so you can comfortably operate it with one hand), the back has a textured surface that provides plenty of grip and it’s not too weighty.
A design quirk of the K8 is the position of the volume and power buttons – both are round the back just under the camera. At first, we thought this was done for manufacturing reasons, but when using the phone it became clear some thought had gone into this and after a day we became converts to this arrangement. There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the back (somehow they managed to bundle one in on such a cheap phone).
There are inevitable drawbacks at this price point though. The removable back cover can feel a bit flimsy (reminiscent of the early Samsung Galaxy models) and the black edge around the screen could definitely be smaller.
The K8 is powered by Qualcomm’s MediaTek processor that reaches 1.3GHz. This isn’t going to give you the power or battery life efficiency of their top of the range Snapdragon chip, but it does a very competent job. In everyday use, we didn’t find any noticeable lag when swiping.
The K8 took simple and moderate games (we tested 2048 and Archery King) in its stride. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas proved more of a challenge, and we had to contend with some juddering and the app shut down before we had completed the first mission.
Web browsing was no issue, nor was using the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps. So for standard use, we give it the thumbs up.
The 720p display is reasonably sharp and we were quite impressed with the resolution. Yes, holding it next to an iPhone 7 we could see that colours are less true to the original image and it doesn’t handle shadow and light anywhere nearly as well as the market leaders, but for this price range it does a competent job colour-wise.
A big drawback of this phone is its meagre storage capacity. You get just 8GB – but 4.6GB is taken up by the operating system and in-built apps. There is a microSD card slot, which gives you the option to add more storage for a cheap price (you can now pick these up for a fiver). However, the phone won’t treat this as internal memory, which means that while you can use the card to store your photos and music, you can’t use it to store app installations. Generally, this won’t be problematic unless you are planning to install more than 20 apps.
The battery life is pretty good (2,125mAh capacity for those who want to get technical). It will easily last all day so long as you’re not hammering it with constant calls or playing games for more than a couple of hours.
The quality of photos and video footage is not great, but it’s not awful either. We were pleasantly surprised, when shooting in the day, by the rear-facing camera. However, as the light levels got lower there was an obvious drop off in camera quality and the pictures became a bit blurry. The autofocus function was also a bit hit and miss.
The front facing camera is basic, but adequate for a quick selfie.
Currently, the K8 only comes with Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow). There isn’t any official information about an update to the latest version of Android, Nougat. We would say the chances of this happening are about 50/50 at the moment. However, Marshmallow is still a feature-packed operating system, with Nougat being more of an evolution rather than adding essential new functionality.
The speakers on this phone are a little quiet, which might be a problem for those of you who are prone to falling into a deep sleep and missing your morning alarm.