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Friday, 2 November 2012

LG Optimus G review: Grand Slam

Introduction (Our Rating- 8/10)

Designed to a flagship standard and powered by the latest in handheld computing, the Optimus G cannot hope for a warm welcome from rivals but is due every bit of their respect. LG is not asking for it - it's getting ready to earn it.
Early on this season, LG was looked upon to put the missing piece in the Android quad-core puzzle. It delivered that alright with the Optimus 4X HD, but were far from done. Their Optimus G completes what's nothing short of a grand slam, and does so with a flourish.
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LG Optimus G official pictures
The Optimus G is the first phone to market globally with an S4 Pro chipset. Four Krait cores and next-gen Adreno 320 graphics are getting a scary snap out of Snapdragon. Kraits have better per-core performance and have demonstrated it in numerous benchmark tests. And having four of them in one place is a promise of a major speed boost.
But there's more than sheer horsepower to a true flagship and LG have given the design, display and camera their best too. You can safely say the Optimus G has every piece of top-notch technology currently available. The 13MP camera is a first for LG and the screen boasts some impressive credentials as well.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • 3G with HSPA; LTE
  • 4.7" 16M-color WXGA True HD IPS Plus (768 x 1280 pixels) capacitive touchscreen, Gorilla Glass
  • Android OS v4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, planned upgrade to 4.1 Jelly Bean, LG Optimus UI 3.0
  • Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU, 2 GB RAM, Adreno 320 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset
  • 13 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and geotagging, image stabilization, Time catch shot, smart shutter
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound
  • 1.3 MP front-facing camera, 720p video recording
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 32GB of built-in storage
  • MHL-enabled microUSB port, USB host support
  • Bluetooth v4.0
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • Voice dialing
  • Two app overlay mode for multi-tasking (Q Slide)
  • Independent content output through MHL (Dual Screen Dual Play)
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic

Main disadvantages

  • No microSD card slot
  • No Jelly Bean at launch
  • Mediocre sunlight legibility
  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • 13MP camera hardly any better than competitors' 8MP units
There is little LG could've done better, apart from pushing ahead with Jelly Bean perhaps. The non-expandable storage is a slight disappointment but if that's the price to pay for the beautifully slim body, we'd take it.
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LG Optimus G live pictures
Having already gotten a feel for the Optimus G, we cannot wait to take it out for a proper spin. There's plenty to test and explore, so let's get busy.
The new processor architecture is matched on the outside by a bold and assertive, though not exactly brand new, design. There're novelties in screen and battery technology, as well as imaging and media. But the first things on our list are, as usual, the design and build. So, who's up for a ride?



LG Optimus G review: Grand Slam

GSMArena team, 22 October 2012.
Tags: LG, Android, Touch UI

Display

The LG Optimus LG features a 4.7" True HD-IPS+ LCD screen of 768 x 1280 resolution and 470 nits of brightness. The so-called borderless design is trying to minimize the bezel but doesn't get rid of it completely. There's just enough to let you comfortably hold the phone without worrying that your palm of fingers will touch the screen.
LG Optimus G Review
The Optimus G display
LG uses a screen technology called Zerogap touch - basically a laminated screen so there's no air between the screen layers (which causes glare) and it uses in-cell touch technology. The top layer is Gorilla glass for protection.

We snapped a shot of the display under a microscope and here's what the RGB matrix of the Optimus G looks like.
LG Optimus G Review
LG Optimus G display matrix
The viewing angles are good thanks to the IPS+ tech, but not without some color shift and contrast loss.
When we put the LG Optimus G side by side with the Galaxy S III and Optimus 4X HD it was clear that the Optimus 4X HD is inferior but the Optimus G has quite decent contrast for a non-AMOLED unit and actually has more accurate color rendering than the over-saturated AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S III. Overall, the image quality is nothing short of impressive.

Handling

The LG Optimus G is about the same size as the other Android flagships but does well to set itself apart with its bold and assertive styling. It may not have as good handling as the Galaxy S III, but it comes very close and generally feels pretty comfortable in the hand. The build quality is rock solid.
The magnificent screen up front and the excellent handling for a device this size, make the Optimus G a pleasure to use. It may come a few points short of a perfect score for looks, but it still feels like a proper flagship - now let's see if it behaves like one.
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The Optimus G held in hand


LG gallery is great gallery

The LG Optimus G uses its own custom gallery which is like the stock ICS one but with some added tweaks here and there. It automatically locates images and videos no matter where they are stored on the phone. By default, images are sorted by albums, but you can sort by location or time as well.
The different sets are tiled neatly across the screen. You can expand or shrink individual albums using a pinch to zoom gesture, making the elements of the grid of photos either really huge or very tiny.
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The Gallery can be sorted by albums, location or time
Once selected, you can view an image close up by pinch zooming or double tapping on the desired area. There is a sliding gallery along the bottom which allows you to quickly browse other images in the album. On the top there are three shortcuts for quickly sharing, editing or deleting the selected photo.
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Viewing an image
The Share feature offers quick sharing via Email, Google+, Picasa, Memo, MMS, SmartShare, Social+ or Bluetooth.
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Gallery options
There are plenty of editing options available, ranging from photo effects to cropping and rotation to red eye removal.
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Editing an image
The Gallery app displays images in full resolution. Zooming and panning involves no lag whatsoever on the Optimus G.

A music player to like

The music player on the LG Optimus G has seen some changes over what we saw on the Optimus 4X HD. The interface is completely revamped and is now easier to use with various tweaks that ease navigation.
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The music player
The Now playing interface places a big album art image in the center with controls above and below it. Swiping the album art left or right is the easiest way to skip songs back and forth. The interface now has a metallic look to it instead of the dark grey theme of old.
A press and hold on the album art will bring up a search menu, if you need to look up the title, artist or the album. After that you can pick where to search - your music collection, YouTube or a general Internet search. Flipping the device to landscape mode while on the Now playing screen squeezes in a list of other songs by the same artist.
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The Now Playing screen • The Search feature • Equalizers
There are equalizer presets, which become available when you plug in a pair of headphones.
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Audio settings
When you're playing a song it also gets displayed in the notification area, where you can pause and change tracks.
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Music controls in the notification area

The video player goes beyond... the video player

The video player on the Optimus G has a fairly simple interface, giving you just a grid of all the videos on the device. There's an alphabet scroll to help users locate videos faster but that's about it. You can, of course, play videos from the Gallery if you prefer its folder-centric organization. For each video you've started, the thumbnail gets a tiny clock icon, which shows how far into the video you've gone in.
The interface during playback is nothing overcomplicated either, yet it's quite powerful - in fact the video player was the focal point of most of the custom features developed for the LG Optimus G.
The live preview while viewing a video is gone, sadly. It was a YouTube-esque pop up preview of the video above the scrubber.
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The video player
To get the basics out of the way, the available controls during playback include a scrubber for jumping to various parts of the video along with the standard play/pause and skip buttons. There's a Dolby Mobile toggle as well. LG have implemented MX Player-like controls too - a swipe left or right will move the video forward or backwards, while a swipe up or down will influence brightness.
One of the new additions is a Video Speed control (you can set values from 0.5x up to 2x). There's a lock button too, which hides all controls for pure full-screen viewing. Another new feature in the video player is Live Zooming. You can zoom in (with a pinch) during actual playback and we mean some serious zoom length, not just a quick resize or fit to screen.
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The video player options
The LG Optimus G handled everything we threw at it - DivX, XviD, MKV and MP4/MOV up to, and including, 1080p resolution. The AC3 audio codec (among lots of others) is supported, so you don't have to worry about the sound either. There are no limitations for the bitrate, file size, etc.
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Swiping up and down
Subtitles (both Latin and non-Latin) are supported with settings for font, color, font and size. You can toggle subtitles on and off, but there's no option to manually point to a subtitle file, so the subtitle filename has to match the video filename.
LG took Samsung's pop-up play feature a whole lot further with Q Slide. A dedicated virtual button takes the video from the player to the UI - anywhere in the UI. In portrait mode the video is a thumbnail, which is dead-locked at the top of the screen, while in landscape it takes up the whole display. The unique feature here is the slider, which directly controls the opacity of the video layer.
This way the underlying user interface can be more or less visible.
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Q Slide a video to use the phone while watching

Audio output is nicely clean, if somewhat quiet

The LG Optimus 4X HD audio output was pretty disappointing, but the company has obviously learned its lesson and here comes the LG Optimus G with some of the cleanest output we have seen.
The below average volume levels aside, the Optimus G results came out excellent in the first part of our test. When connected to an active external amplifier, the smartphone produces excellently clean output with no weak points whatsoever.
Even more impressively, stereo crosstalk is the only area of its performance to suffer noticeably when we plugged in a pair of headphones. On that occasion the LG Optimus G produced one of the cleanest outputs we have seen. The volume levels don’t drop like on most of the Optimus G rivals, either, so they can qualify as average on this occasion.

13 megapixel camera

The LG Optimus G comes with a 13 megapixel camera, capable of producing still shots with a resolution of 4208 x 3120 pixels. There is a single LED flash, but as usual it won't be of much help in most low-light situations.
We found the camera user interface, which consists of two bars of shortcuts to be quite convenient. At the right you get the usual still camera/camcorder switch, the virtual shutter key and the gallery shortcut, which lets you quickly preview your recently captured images.
If using the onscreen shutter isn't your cup of tea, you can use the volume rocker to snap a photo. It lacks the half press to focus functionality, but then again, so does the virtual control.
Alternatively, you can capture shots using only your voice. There's a dedicated entry in the settings to activate the voice shutter and once you have done so, you can use one of five words to trigger it. "Cheese" and "Smile" were to be expected, but "LG", "Kimchi" and "Whisky" work too.
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LG Optimus G camera interface
The left bar of the camera interface holds five shortcuts, four of which you can customize to your liking. The last one is the extended settings menu, which holds the option to edit the bar, along with the options that didn't make it to the bar.
The Optimus G camera interface lets you set the resolution, ISO, white balance, focus mode (auto, face-tracking), shot mode (normal, continuous shot, panorama or HDR), geo-tagging on/off, preset scenes, color effects and brightness.
There's also a cool time machine option, which allows the Optimus G to capture shots before you have pressed the shutter key. This comes in handy for those cases when the action is too quick and you are worried you might miss the moment.
In terms of image quality, the Optimus G is doing well, without being overly impressive. The produced photos have accurate colors, but the overly aggresive noise reduction wipes off most of the fine detail.
Here are a few shots we've taken with the LG Optimus G.
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LG Optimus G 13 MP camera samples
We've also done a few macro samples with the Optimus G. The smartphone's camera can focus from pretty close range, allowing to go really close to the subject.
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LG Optimus G macro samples

Photo quality comparison

The LG Optimus G joins the long list of tested devices in our photo comparison tool. Unfortunately the higher resolution didn't really give the Optimus G an edge against the Galaxy S III and the One X. The three did almost identically well on the ISO chart and while the Optimus G did have a slight advantage on the second chart it was the worst of the three in the third one. The page of the tool has information on how to use it.
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LG Optimus G in our Photo Compare Tool

There's 1080p video recording, too

The LG Optimus G camera is capable of shooting 1080p videos at 30fps. The camcorder shares its interface with the still camera, but offers fewer settings.
You can adjust the exposure and the white balance, add a color effect or toggle audio recording. The video recording resolution can also be lowered to 720p, 480p or even as low as QCIF if you need to conserve space.
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LG Optimus G camcorder UI
There is still no way to change the focus mode - it's always set to continuous, but unlike the Optimus 4X HD, the Optimus G has no issues with that. Given that LG already addressed the issue on its former flagship with a firmware update, the lack of problems here is hardly a surprise.
The option to capture still shots while recording video is present here as well, though its implementation isn't as good as we hoped. Instead of capturing full-res still (or at least ones cropped to match the 16:9 aspect of the video), the Optimus G does 1920 x 1080 shots, which renders the feature pretty useless. After all you already have such images as frames in your videos, so having them as separate images is hardly giving you much extra.
The quality of the videos is good overall, but their dynamic range is rather limited and the resolved detail isn't all that impressive. You might want to keep the exposure compensation to -0.3 or -0.7EV in scenes where wider dynamic range is required to prevent the highlights from clipping.

Final words

Safe to say, LG has done it - all the right pieces are put together in what's a good-looking and powerful smartphone. And unlike the Optimus 4X HD, the Optimus G isn't trailing behind the competition. This time LG is ahead of the pack.
The powerful S4 Pro chipset will make sure that you get as smooth a smartphone ride as you can possibly find. We are not just talking benchmark scores and bragging rights here - the LG Optimus G really moves around at the speed of your thought.
The screen is quite impressive too even though, depending on your preferences, it might come just short of the best around. And the camera delivers quite decently. As long as the relatively high--resolution 13MP sensor doesn't lead you to expect miracles, you should be quite happy with it.
The only thing about the LG Optimus G that raises doubt is the stubborn insistence, bordering on a pathological obsession, to match whatever it is that Samsung has - from the hyperglaze finish to the Nature UX. It leaves a cheap impression and betrays an inferiority complex. When you have the most powerful smartphone, ripples and bubbles on the lockscreen are irrelevant. And by the way, LG's Q Slide is better than Samsung's Pop-up Play.
The choice of finish won't be everyone's cup of tea but that was the case with the Galaxy S III too. Sure, LG had their reasons for going with plastic and glass, but then again so did HTC for the ONE X and Nokia for the Lumia 800 and they managed better than the Koreans.
That's just nit-picking though - the Optimus G isn't a smartphone that we would mind carrying around. The gorgeous screen is where all the attention will be focused anyway, and the loading times are so short, you won't have much time to waste.
And yet, we hope that LG realizes that putting together a great package only ticks off the first item on the to-do list. There's no escaping the fact that Samsung has already delivered Jelly Bean to the Galaxy S III and the Optimus G is still stuck on Ice Cream Sandwich. The Optimus UX may have managed to catch up with Nature UX, but a flagship can't be excused for not running the latest version of the platform available.
The drama surrounding the Optimus 2X ICS update dealt a severe blow on LG's reputation, and the fact that the Optimus 4X HD is still on the JB waiting list doesn't help either. LG should take extra care not to mess this one up or it would completely use the faith of the tech-savvy users who, when buying a flagship product, would like to be treated to the latest and greatest software.
It's crucial for LG to deliver the update before the holiday shopping spree and unlock the Optimus G's full (market) potential. With Google's event fast approaching this October, there's a good chance that come Christmas, Ice Cream Sandwich will be succeeded twice. At that point, LG should have at least delivered one update and committed to the other.
But let's not look too far in the future and see what the Optimus G is up against if you are in the market for a smartphone right now. Currently pre-orders for the smartphone are going at about €599 and that will probably be as much as the handset will cost at launch. We expect it to settle at about €499 a couple of weeks later at which point the fight between it and the Galaxy S III should boil down to value-adding software features or personal design tastes.
We'll be comparing the LG Optimus G and the Galaxy S III in more detail in a dedicated article later on, but here goes the short version. The Optimus G has more pixels and, thanks to its full RGB matrix, a slightly sharper screen, but it lacks the natural contrast of the Galaxy S III AMOLED. Still, the LG flagship has its rival handily beat in terms of performance. On the other hand, the Galaxy S III has Jelly Bean already, so this may be as close a call as it gets.
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
The HTC One X recently got a slight update in the face of HTC One X+. The two Tegra 3-powered smartphones can't match the LG smartphone in terms of performance, but can still offer more than reasonable speed and are more attractively priced. Couple that with a slightly better design (particularly on the One X+) and an equally good screen and it might be worth the trade-off.
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HTC One X • HTC One X+
At the end of the day, geeks who are looking for the ultimate performance have little choice, but to opt for the LG Optimus G. As smartphones learn more and more tricks, two things get increasingly important - computing power and screen (both in terms of real estate and image quality) and LG has nailed them both.
LG has finally has a flagship to be proud of and one that's an OS update away from being the Android smartphone others have to work hard to match.



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