LG Optimus 4X HD Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

The LG Optimus 4X HD can brag to be the first phone announced with a quad-core chipset, although the HTC One X beat it as first to market. LG has loaded the full monty with it - a quad-core processor, large “True HD” display fit in a fairly compact for it body, and the latest Android version out of the box. 

As if top of the line specs were not enough, it also addresses some complaints we have with some new flagships, namely their closed nature. LG's finest has a removable battery, microSD card slot and a plain regular SIM card slot - that combination you can’t find in any of this season’s flagships.

Will these merits be enough for the LG Optimus 4X HD to stand against its formidable opponents like the Galaxy S III or the One X? Read on our review to find out...

In the Box:

  • Wall Charger
  • NFC Tags
  • microUSB cable
  • In-ear headphones
  • Warranty and information leaflets


Design:

The LG Optimus 4X HD lies pretty well in the hand for a slab with a 4.7” screen, thanks to the very narrow side bezel, and the compact chassis. In fact, it is as thin and light as the polycarbonate HTC One X with the same size screen, but is shorter and less wide, making it more suited for one-hand operation. The same goes if we size the Optimus 4X HD with the Galaxy S III, which is only marginally thinner, but much taller and wider.



You can compare the LG Optimus 4X HD with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Such a compact design is a commendable achievement on LG’s part, especially considering that the 4X HD has a slot that will take your existing regular SIM card, and you can easily expand its memory via microSD, or swap the battery with a recharged one if needed.


It doesn’t look as slick as the competing One X or the Galaxy S III at first glance, because of the plain rectangular shape, but it does have two chrome-like side trims, which infuse some excitement in the design, and make it easier to grab and pick up from the table.

The patterned back cover has slightly tapered edges, making the phone comfy to hold. Moreover, the sides are also patterned with prism shapes, helping your grip, and the corners are slightly “bumped”, bringing a bit of an understated elegance to the whole exterior. Yet when you look at the front, without the futuristic capacitive keys underneath the screen lit up, the Optimus 4X HD is simply a rectangular slab


The lock/power key at the top is easy to feel and press, but the thin volume rocker on the left in the chassis color takes some getting used to, for the sake of looking stylish. There is no protective flap or sliding lid over the MHL port at the bottom, taking one extra movement out from the procedure of plugging a cable in.



Display:

LG makes some of the best mobile screens around, and the 4.7-incher on the Optimus 4X HD is no exception. It is an IPS-LCD HD display with 1280x720 pixels of resolution, good viewing angles and eye-pleasing colors. Outside visibility is above average, too, if you rev up brightness to the max when battling direct sunlight.

Unfortunately automatic brightness only works from the percentage you’ve put it on in Settings up/down a preset range, so if you start from 0% it won’t go all the way up under direct sunlight, or if you set it at 50%, the screen will still be too bright when it’s dark around - hopefully LG will fix that with an update.

It is also a “True HD” display, as LG categorizes its high-def screens with a regular RGB pixel matrix arrangement, to set them apart from the PenTile AMOLED displays Samsung uses. With 313ppi pixel density, text appears crisp and HD media is a joy to watch.

LG Optimus 4X HD 360-Degrees View:





Interface and Functionality:

LG Optimus UI is the name of the company’s Android interface overlay, and with Ice Cream Sandwich it comes in its 3.0 iteration. Thankfully, Optimus UI 3.0 hasn’t gutted the simple functionality of the Android Ice Cream Sandwich interface much, just replaced the stock icons with LG iconography to make the UI stand out, and added a few widgets of its own. Speaking of widgets, that Yahoo-branded weather one LG puts by default hasn’t received any design update, and it still as crude and rectangular as ever, taking points off the interface appearance. That’s a minor quibble, though, you can always get a slicker one, or replace the default launcher altogether with something prettier. More annoying is the lack of arrangement settings for the icons in the main menu. If you are used to arrange your icons in a scrollable, instead of paginated view, tough luck. If you want to arrange them alphabetically or by most used, no joy as well, you get to do it manually. The only option present is to condense the icon size so 30 instead of 20 of them fit on one screen. Oh well, you have to hit the Play Store again for a different launcher.

Yet you can now unlock the phone by dragging anywhere on the display, and the phone will show the underlying homescreen in the meantime. The four shortcuts at the bottom of the lock screen can be customized as well to take you into any app you please after unlocking.


Android 4.0 comes with a nice on-screen keyboard, but in this phone LG has somehow made it even better. It has put the brakes on the overzealous stock text prediction and has crammed the suggestions line a bit, so as you are not utterly annoyed when typing. Moreover, since the phone is narrow enough, one-handed typing is easier than on most other big-screen Androids.


There are a couple of new features that are worth mentioning, like Quick Memo, which has a toggle in the notification bar, and allows you to quickly doodle a note with your finger anywhere on the current screen, or on a portion of it you specify, and save it for reference, or leave your scribbles right there as crude reminders.
There are a lot of other media playback and camera feature enhancements, too, which will be paid special attention to in the next sections of the review. Overall LG Optimus 3.0 UI doesn’t muddle the stock Android ICS interface much, yet stacks a number of new features that make life with your phone easier.


Processor and memory:


Four cores humming along at 1.5GHz and a fifth “companion” core that kicks in for the mundane tasks like standby, music playback or interface navigation - you guessed it, it’s the 4-Plus-1 architecture of NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 processor.

The chip powers LG Optimus 4X HD pretty well, there is no lagging or hiccups, plus you get to play the specially optimized for this silicon games from Tegra Zone, a few of which like Shadowgun come preinstalled. The handset sports the usual 1GB of RAM, and is loaded with 12GB of user-accessible internal memory (16GB total), plus a microSD slot for storage expansion, which takes card up to 64GB in size.


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
LG Optimus 4X HD37421118452
Samsung Galaxy S III 53351201658,6
HTC One X48481102447,4


Internet and connectivity:

The browser on the LG Optimus 4X HD is very smooth, with no hiccups while pinching, scrolling, tapping or panning around. Needless to say, it also supports Adobe Flash, so you can rest assured the full Internet experience will be upon you.

LG has introduced a pull up menu at the bottom, which allows you to zoom in and out by holding the center key and tilting the phone back and forth - an interesting to try gesture, but too skippy to be used on a regular basis.


As far as connectivity goes, the handset is loaded with 21Mbps HSDPA radio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, FM Radio, DLNA managed by the Smart Share app, and even NFC chip in the back cover, which takes a good use of LG’s Smart Tags, three of which - Car, Sleep and Office - are included in the box.



Camera:

An 8MP BSI sensor is the minimum we’ve come to expect from flagship phones these days, and that’s exactly what’s provided on the LG Optimus 4X HD, no more, no less. Apart from the usual zero shutter lag, continuous shot and panorama modes that come with ICS, the interface has a few more twists up its sleeve.

There is an HDR mode, which does a decent job combining a few different exposures to come up with the best picture in tricky lighting situations. Another new mode is Time Machine, which precaptures frames before you actually press the button, so you won’t miss an important moment with your kid, pet or at a sports event because you were too slow with the shutter button. Both after Time Machine, and after Continuous Shot modes, you are presented with the option to choose which photo is a keeper, and ditch the rest.

And the last addition in the camera department is the ability to make video frames or funny face effects like “Big Mouth” or “Squeeze”, and taunt your buddies with them during the next binge drinking game night session.

Other than those, it is the same Optimus UI camera interface we are used to since times immemorial, with a fairly limited amount of scene modes, color effects and adjustments.

The pictures themselves turn out decent for the most part, with colors a tad on the saturated side, a pretty good amount of detail and acceptable levels of sharpness and contrast. The focus is what’s finicky, though, both in pictures and in videos, so you find yourself tapping on the object of interest to get a good lock more often than you should.


Moreover, once you get the lock, the phone sometimes decides to change the exposure mid-flight, so you are forced to take two or three shots before you get satisfactory results. It is especially hard to get a good macro, since there is no dedicated mode, and you have to keep tapping until the background gets blurred for the sake of the nearby object, then pray the exposure doesn't get botched.

Indoor shots came out clear enough, without funky white balance issues or excessive noise even as we dimmed the lighting. The LED flash could be stronger, as it didn't illuminate well from the three feet distance used.


The focus loss that sometimes plagues the photos is also evident while capturing video, and blurs it for a split second every now and then. The 1080p footage is otherwise sharp and detailed, with vivid colors and smooth 30fps capture.

LG Optimus 4X HD Sample Video:



LG Optimus 4X HD Indoor Sample Video:



Overall, the camera module is not much of an advancement in terms of hardware before the LG Optimus LTE, for example, if at all, but the new Android ICS and LG’s additional camera features make it work well, save for the fiddly focus.

Multimedia:

There is a Media app that combines your photos, music and videos in a central hub with pretty interface for easier access. Music playback is aided by the Dolby Mobile sound mode which can kick in when you put a pair of headsets on. The music player is almost stock, categorizing songs by artists, albums and playlists, and offering a few audio modes when the headset is plugged in. The loudspeaker is of average strength and output quality, sounding a bit flat.



Video playback is a very strong feature on the LG Optimus 4X HD. Not only it plays everything you throw at it out of the box, including DivX/Xvid and MKV files up to 1080p resolution, but the player is also pimped up with the new Media Plex features. You can zoom in the video during playback and pull a tab that allows you to run video in the clip thumbnails listed on the side, while you run the main video full screen. There is also a fast forward slider, and frame previews that pop up when you work the progress slider back and forth. Coupled with the True HD IPS display, video playback with this player is one of the more enjoyable experiences you can get on a mobile device.





Call quality and battery:

The dual noise-canceling mics on the LG Optimus 4X HD did a good job taking out the ambient fluff while we were talking, and the other party said they could hear us loud and clear enough. On our end the sound in the earpiece was just average - neither very strong, nor overly clean, with a bit of an echo, but we could tell the speaker’s voice and didn’t have trouble hearing them fine two notches below maximum volume.

A new SiO+ technology has been used for the battery, says LG, and the change occurred after the handset was announced. This allowed the capacious 2150mAh juicer to pack more lithium ions in less space, making for the compact body it’s in. The battery is quoted for the way above average 11 hours of talk time in 3G mode.

In our daily grind with the handset we did notice that the screen seems to consume much less energy than the 4.5” HD one on the Optimus LTE, for example, but power consumption in standby is pretty significant with Tegra 3, compared to the Snapdragons. Thus despite the large battery you won’t be able to squeeze more than a day and change with power use.

Conclusion:

The LG Optimus 4X HD is undoubtedly the best Android smartphone that the company has produced to date. It covers the geeky ground with a quad-core Tegra 3 chip, large and vivid HD display and the latest Android 4.0 out of the box.

The design is simple and pleasant, with a few welcome twists that make the phone a looker from the prism-shaped sides and easier to grip. The handset is more compact than its main rivals this Android season, despite being crammed with the same high-end innards, making it easier to operate with one hand. The only complaints are its preset screen brightness management and the funky camera focus, so hopefully these will be addressed with the first software update.

The new LG Optimus 3.0 UI is an improvement over its predecessor with a number of new features like Quick Memo and a very functional lock screen. Video playback is vastly improved with the new Media Plex features like live video zoom, and the camera module has been given new abilities like the Time Machine precapture. Nothing groundbreaking, but coupled with the light and quick ICS, the UI overlay feels sufficiently enhanced.

Whether or not LG’s best Android effort to date succeeds will be the market’s decision, as it stand against some pretty hefty opposition. The HTC One X has very similar components, but more stylish unibody design, yet all is for the sake of expandability, as it has a sealed battery compartment and no memory card slot.

The Samsung Galaxy S III also sports powerful silicon, but is with a more distinctive design and a slightly larger Super AMOLED HD display, not to mention the better camera. Yet the LG Optimus 4X HD offers the most flexibility out of the three flagships in this price range with its regular SIM slot, removable battery and expandable memory, so if that’s your thing it’s an easy pick.

Software version: IML74K

LG Optimus 4X HD Video Review:

Video Thumbnail



Pros

  • Most compact of the Android flagships
  • Carrying regular SIM and microSD slots, plus a removable battery
  • Handy new features like Quick Memo (note taking), Media Plex (video playback) and Time Machine (frame precapture)

Cons

  • Fiddly camera focus
  • Automatic brightness adjustment only works from a preset baseline

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

8.4
10 Reviews

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