LG Optimus G (AT&T & Sprint) Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Try as hard as they can, but LG has been unable to make some movement in the always-competitive high-end market – to no surprise of course, they’ve been in an endless rut of some kind. In the past, we’ve seen devices like the LG Optimus 2X, Optimus 4X HD, and Prada 3.0, which on paper seemed like respectable offerings, but lacked the X-factor to truly keep them in good company with some of the more notable and grand smartphones out there. Rather than coming to market with a device that’s just catching up to the competition, the Korean based company is forging ahead by making some waves in bringing to market the world’s first smartphone to feature a quad-core processor and 4G LTE connectivity – the LG Optimus G.

Needless to say, it’s the marriage we’ve been patiently waiting for since quad-core smartphones started making waves earlier this year. Aiming to becoming its flagship for the foreseeable future, the LG Optimus G will soon grace the lineups of AT&T and Sprint respectively – albeit, there are some differences between the two models. Regardless of that, the core foundation is intact thanks to their combination of featuring a mighty 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset with 2GB of RAM, and of course, the always-lovable 4G LTE connectivity.

Considering that both AT&T and Sprint will be selling this bad boy for the usual golden price of $199.99 with a 2-year contract, it’s sure to capture some attention from hardened smartphone fanatics out there. Ultimately though, it’s going to need more than a high-end specs sheet to win over consumers, because as we all know, that’s only the answer to half of the equation. Timing is also on its side as well, since it’s hitting the scene slightly ahead of its competition, but it has only a short time to make an endearing mark.

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty Information Guide

Design:

Although they share the same name, the designs of the two models are slightly different – with the Sprint variant being more faithful to the international version. To no surprise, the design of the LG Optimus G follows in form to what we’ve seen with the LG Optimus 4X HD and Prada 3.0 from before. Sure, we would’ve liked to see an overhaul with its looks, but nonetheless, it’s the design DNA that’s increasingly becoming standard practice for LG’s premier devices, so we’re accepting of it.

In all honesty, it’s appreciable on some levels thanks to its sturdy construction and more premium choice of materials. Before, we’ve been harsh towards the cheapish nature of LG’s devices, but with this, it exudes some sophistication due to its subtle chrome accents, star screws lining its bottom edge, slick feel, and “Crystal Reflection” rear casing. With the latter, it coughs up a neat effect that changes the pattern depending on the angle we’re holding it, which is nice but nothing that’s regarded as an instant attention grabber over other things. When it comes to size, it’s not hiding its wide figure at all, which makes for some difficulty using with one hand (just as any other phone with a large screen), but it’s still light in weight and svelte in frame to keep it in the same level as other contemporary smartphones out there.


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

As we’ve mentioned already, there are differences between the designs of the two versions. Looking at the AT&T model, it’s sporting more rounded corners around its trim – while employing a cleaner looking plastic textured surface on its top and bottom edges. Conversely, the Sprint model has a slick chrome bezel trim outlining its frame. On one hand, we adore the slick feel exhibited by the two devices, but they’re notorious for getting dirtied by smudges and fingerprints very easily. Overall, it’s a predictable looking smartphone that lacks the polarizing designs of some of its highly-esteemed colleagues, but it’s still appreciable for its more premium look and feel over LG’s previous offerings.

The LG Optimus G is sporting three buttons below its display. Thankfully, they’re all spaced far away from one another to minimize accidental presses. Perched in their usual locations, the narrow earpiece and front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera are found above the display – with the latter having the ability to shoot video in 720p.



Strange to say, there’s more of a pronounced feel and responsiveness attached to the physical power button and volume control on Sprint’s model. However, we do like that the power button on the AT&T version doubles as its notification light as well, as it has a subtle red glow outlining the button – whereas, it’s in close proximity to the front-facing camera on the Sprint LG Optimus G. As for the commonalities found around their trims, they include the 3.5mm headset jack, microphone, noise-cancellation mic, and microUSB port. For those wondering, the microUSB port also offers video-out with the aid of an optional MHL adapter. We’ll talk more on its specific functionality a bit later on in the review.


Another distinguishable difference between the two, is that the AT&T variant is sporting a lower count 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash that’s flush to the surrounding surface. In contrast, Sprint’s model is packing the same 13-megapixel monster with flash found with the international version – and just like it, the lens is jutting out slightly. With their closed designs, there’s no access to their internal 2,100 mAh batteries, but with the LG Optimus G for AT&T, it features microSIM and microSD slots on its left side.





Display:

In this day and age, we’re bombarded by many smartphones packing extraordinarily large displays, which seems to be the trend with today’s premier smartphones. Rightfully so, that’s what we find here yet again with the LG Optimus G! Going with the notion of bigger is better, the handset is packing along a 4.7-inch WXGA 1280 x 768 HD IPS Plus display that interestingly enough, wins in many aspects – in size, detail, clarity, and outdoor visibility.


For starters, there’s a ton of sharp detail found everywhere, as its pixel density of 320 ppi, which employs the more favorable RGB sub-pixel layout, enables us to watch videos and browse the web with full fidelity thanks to its superb details. Secondly, unlike some other rivaling display technologies, its IPS based display produces colors that are far more natural in tone than others – though, we do notice just a subtle hint of distortion at extreme angles, but it’s never to the point distracting. Lastly, we have to hand it to LG for delivering optimal quality with outdoor visibility, since we’re able to perfectly view the display in the full view of the sun. Also being a noteworthy item to mention, the Optimus G is LG’s first smartphone to feature “Zerogap Touch” technology, which simply combines the LCD panel with the glass and eliminates the air gap usually found there, to make it appear closer to the surface.



LG Optimus G Sprint 360-degrees View:



LG Optimus G AT&T 360-degrees View:





Interface:

The Optimus G is running on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, which kind of disappointed us. We hope the Jelly Bean upgrade will come soon! LG’s previous efforts with its Optimus UI has never really won us over, especially more when the competition, namely Samsung and HTC, has proven to us that their offerings are more comprehensive in terms of functionality and practicality, but there’s a nice change of pace found this time around. Well, before we get into the nitty and gritty surrounding it, in terms of the overall look and feel of the custom Android experience, it’s still a bit too cartoony. Indeed, we surely appreciate the cool transition effects littered throughout the UI, such as the various ones when moving between each homescreen pane, which does sprinkle some much-needed eye candy, but it simply doesn’t add enough substance to steer it away from the cartoony side of things.


Visually speaking, it’s not one of its strong points, but rather, we appreciate the finer customizations found with it – like the availability of different themes/animations, the useful access to various connection functions from within the notifications panel, and the ability to use custom images with select icons that are placed on the homescreen. Looking at the app panel, however, there’s nothing out of the ordinary as LG resorts to employing the typical grid-like format.


Interestingly enough, LG’s latest custom UI brings forth some new items that show some substantial growth over its previous outings, which is mainly attributed to the beefy processor it’s packing under the hood. Therefore, let’s take a look at them!

Qslide:

Out of all the new features with the custom Android experience, the QSlide function stands out the most for its sheer ability to show off the processing prowess of the LG Optimus G. Specifically, it’s LG’s take on video multi-tasking with the handset, since we’re able to watch a video and do something else entirely – like browsing the web, reading emails, or simply composing a text. Essentially, the video continues to play, while a slider comes up that enables us to adjust its transparency on the fly. Honestly, it’s more of a distraction than anything else, seeing that our attention is never placed on a single task at hand – whether it’s the video or something else. It is not as practical alternative to Samsung’s Pop up play feature.



Live Zooming:

Again, to further show off its effortless performance, the Live Zooming feature with the custom experience allows us to zoom into a video as it’s playing by executing the appropriate pinch gestures. Therefore, if you want to see something in the video more closely, this will prove to be a useful thing – though, it’s best situated for 1080p video to minimize the loss of detail with lower quality stuff.



Screen Zooming:

Likewise, the Screen Zooming features offers the same functionality as Live Zooming, but it’s mainly reserved for the Gallery and Messaging apps. In the Gallery, we can pinch zoom to see more or less content on the display. Meanwhile, as we’re typing up a text, we can also execute pinch gestures to increase/decrease the size of the text on the fly. Sure it’s a neat feature, although it’s not something we find ourselves using a lot.



Dual Screen/Dual Play:


Connecting the handset to a high-def TV wirelessly or with an MHL adapter, we can use its Dual Screen/Dual Play feature to run two things simultaneously. For example, we can play a 1080p video on the big screen – while using the handset to do other things, like browsing the web or typing up an email. Additionally, it’s a great tool for presentations since it can play a slideshow on a TV, with us being able to read notes off the handset.

QuickMemo:

This specific feature isn’t particularly new, seeing that we’ve seen it already on other devices like the LG Intuition and Escape. More of a jotting function than anything else, we either press the QuickMemo icon in the notifications panel or simultaneously press the both volume buttons together, to take a screenshot of whatever we’re doing. From here, we’re given tools to doodle over the screenshot.



Wise Screen:

Similar to what we’ve seen already on the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Wise Screen feature merely keeps the display on as the front-facing camera is able to make out a face.

Bloatware: 

So those are some of the cool new features found with both versions of the LG Optimus G, but there are still some differences between the two. Specifically, the AT&T model is littered from head-to-toe with a bunch of bloatware, which is comprised mostly by AT&T’s usual fanfare of branded apps. Conversely, Sprint’s variant is employing the carrier’s familiar Sprint ID packs, which basically provides us with some additional personalization to the interface.


Overall, the new custom Android experience is undoubtedly the biggest undertaking by LG thus far! However, as much as we appreciate its deeper set of features, it doesn’t quite leap over the competition, and instead, it merely emulates some of the features we’ve seen in play already.



Functionality:

Diving deeper into the LG Optimus G’s core organizer apps, it’s noticeably obvious that they didn’t spend too much time trying to differentiating them. To be honest, it’s merely a rehash of what we’ve seen already with recent devices from the Korean maker. Consequently, their functions and presentations are not much of a surprise to us.


With the QuickMemo function, it’s combined with an overlay mode that allows us to quickly jot down notes while on a phone call. Pressing on the overlay icon from within the QuickMemo app, we can quickly write down something without forcing ourselves out of the Dialer.


When it comes to sending emails, there’s nothing out of the ordinary with the process on the LG Optimus G, even more when we’re greeted to the typical, yet comprehensive features found with the Gmail experience. However, if you opt to use the standard email app, it supports the Screen Zooming feature with the UI – enabling us to “zoom” into our listing of emails. Somewhat of an inconsistency, the feature isn’t supported by the Gmail app.


Blessed with a substantial amount of real estate, typing up stuff with its on-screen keyboards is a painless and effortless process. With Sprint’s version, we’re only given the LG keyboard – while AT&T’s version is supplemented with the usual ICS keyboard. Using the former, its layout is spacious enough and it’s responsive enough to keep up with our rate of input. Alternatively, LG’s keyboard boasts some Swype like movements as another way to input text.




Processor and Memory:

Part of the reason why there’s a lot of talk surrounding the LG Optimus G, it’s all due to the shiny new quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor that’s ticking away inside of its svelte body, which is further supplemented by the 2GB of RAM it’s packing along as well. If fast is all that you care about, you won’t be disappointed by the performance of the LG Optimus G, since it embodies everything that means to be a speed demon. To merely state that it’s fast is an understatement, especially when it’s unrivaled by anything else at the moment. From the onset, its performance screams at a feverish rate since it’s capable of moving swiftly and eloquently between its homescreen panes – even with its nifty 3D-like transition effects in play. And to put it mildly, the benchmark scores put up by it are just jaw dropping to say the least!


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
LG Optimus G AT&T76691124560,1
LG Optimus G Sprint66811121460
Samsung Galaxy S III 53351201658,6
HTC One X48481102447,4


Between the two versions, the AT&T model benefits from the usefulness of a microSD card slot. In fact, it’s occupied by a 16GB card out of the box, which interestingly enough supplements the handset’s 16GB internal tally. Oppositely, the Sprint version doesn’t offer expandable memory, but instead, it’s blessed with a nice 32GB capacity.

Internet and Connectivity:

Hardly a surprise, the web browsing experience is naturally an excellent one – attributed to its display’s large size, high resolution, and processor’s fluid performance. However, it’s just the culmination of everything working in essence to define the wonderful experience. Between the two browsers on board, the stock Android one or Chrome, you can expect nothing short of a majestic experience.


Aside from the notion that one’s CDMA based, and the other being a GSM one, with both offering speedy 4G LTE connectivity from their respective networks, the two handsets share many commonalities with their connectivity features. To be more exact, they’re packing along aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot functionality, and NFC.



Camera:

Seasoned photography fanatics will undoubtedly be glad to see the trove of new features found with the Optimus G's camera. Without a doubt, it offers a compelling list of manual setting and shooting modes to keep anyone busy trying to adapt for the best shooting conditions. As a matter of fact, the notable listing includes continuous shot, panorama, cheese shutter, and time catch shot.

Since the smartphone lacks a physical shutter key, we can resort to using the cheese shutter feature to snap a shot by simply uttering the word “cheese” – or as an alternative, “smile”, “whisky”, “kimchi”, or “LG”. Sure, it might sound cheesy, but there are times it’s very useful. In addition, another cool feature is time catch shot, which allows us to capture the missing moment before pressing on the shutter. From the looks of it, all it does is basically snap photos silently until we press the shutter, and from there, we have the option of reviewing the shots taken prior to us snapping it.


Even though it’s armed to the roof with an eclectic mix of useful shooting modes, we have to admit, we’re disappointed by the results put out by the LG Optimus G – both the 8-megapixel and 13-megapixel cameras of each respective versions. Sure, the Sprint variant might have the upper hand when it comes to the megapixel count, but as we’ve seen countless times, more megapixels doesn’t necessarily equate to better results. And in fact, both are nearly identical to one another.

Looking at the overall picture, it sure might look pleasant and whatnot, but its quality begins to crumble apart as we take a meticulous peek into the results. As far as details go, the 13MP camera of the Sprint Optimus G performs more or less on par with the competition (8MP phones included). Sure, there is some benefit in having a larger image, but overall, the quality itself isn't significantly higher. Plus, at times, the fine details that appear front and center in the image don't seem to have the sharpness one would expect from them. The 8MP shooter of the AT&T Optimus G doesn't have that problem, with its pictures being visibly oversharpened. We're OK with that most of the time, though it starts to make a negative impression when one's observing details in the background, which appear artificially sharp. Obviously, you cannot sharpen something that isn't there in the first place. In terms of color reproduction, we do notice a bit more saturation happening over on the AT&T version – whereas the Sprint model has a more neutral stance.


Indoors under heavy artificial lighting, colors appear to become washed out and drained from any natural tones. Furthermore, it’s pretty much dreadful with low lighting conditions, as its quality is further diminished by its soft details, graininess, and inability to cast proper exposure. Adding insult to injury, the flash doesn’t come on prior to snapping the shot to adjust its focus – resulting in out-of-focus shots when in dark environment. Well, at least the flash’s potency is able to extend well beyond 7 feet.


Ouch! It certainly doesn’t help when the results fare worse with the LG Optimus G’s 1080p video recording. Not aiding its cause in the very bit, it’s almost unimaginable to know its results are considered high definition. First and foremost, details are extremely muddy looking – especially things that are far in the background. Secondly, there’s a fair amount of artifacting occurring as we’re quickly moving. Oh yeah, did we mention that you can forget about using it in low lighting situations? Aside from the very clear audio recording of the Sprint Optimus G, and smooth 30 frames per second capture rate, everything else is sub-par for a high-end smartphone.

LG Optimus G (Sprint) Sample Video:



LG Optimus G (AT&T) Sample Video:



LG Optimus G (Sprint) Night time Sample Video:



LG Optimus G (AT&T) Night time Sample Video:




Multimedia:


As we mentioned with the gallery, there’s nothing too out of character with it, aside from the screen zooming feature. Besides the usual sharing options and miniscule editing functions, it’s pretty much you’re straightforward gallery.


You’d think that LG would’ve added some pizazz to the handset’s music player, but that’s sadly not the case here. Rather, LG resorts to employing a very boring looking music player. Still, there’s the Google Play Music app as an alternative option, which sports the more likable presentation. With its strong volume output, its quality sounds a tad bit on the sharp side – with a little bit of strain attached to it as well.


Already, we’ve raved about the gorgeous display on the LG Optimus G, so it doesn’t surprise us to find it excelling in the video watching experience. Having support for a wide variety of codecs out of the box, the handset barely shows any strain with our test video that’s encoded in DivX 1920 x 1080 resolution. Of course, it has all the required elements to make the experience a fantastic one – like its smooth playback, natural colors, and large display.


As we’re pointed out, there are some cool features found with the mirrored experience. Upon connecting it to a high-definition television, the handset automatically launches the LG media app, which provides us access to the usual suspects – like our videos, pictures, and music. Exiting from it, though, provides us with the always-useful mirrored experience.

Software:

As much as we would’ve like to see some kind of quick and easy wireless sharing function, much like the S-Beam feature on Samsung’s devices, the LG Optimus G can still accomplish the same thing using its FileShare app. Actually, it relies on Wi-Fi Direct to share multimedia content like photos, videos, images, and documents. Without question, it’s not as streamlined as the S-Beam function, but nevertheless, it accomplishes nearly the same tasks in the end.

Using the LG Tag+ app, it allows us to modify the settings of various NFC tags. In addition to the preloaded options out of the box, we can extend its function by concocting our very own actions using the app. Specifically, there is an extensive list of options available to allow us to have complete control of what each NFC tag is programmed to do.


Beyond those two specific apps, there isn’t anything else noteworthy enough to make it distinctive to the LG Optimus G.



Call Quality:

Starting with the Sprint version, its calling quality is a mixed bag. Even though its earpiece is strong and loud enough to make voices audible, there’s a bit of hollowness with voices. Unfortunately though, our callers mention having a hard time comprehending our voice on their end of the line, as it sounds rather muffled in tone. Switching to the speakerphone, its volume is good, but there’s a small amount of squeakiness heard at the highest volume. AT&T’s version fare better with its overall quality, since voices on both ends of the line are clear and distinct in tone – though, the same squeakiness persists with its speakerphone.

During our time using both devices, we didn’t experience any dramatic shifts in signal strength, nor any dropped calls in the greater Philadelphia area. Interestingly, the AT&T version maintains a signal strength of -73 dBm in high coverage areas – while the Sprint version is at the -95 dBm mark in medium coverage spots.


Battery:


Carrying along a 2,100 mAh battery, it’s undeniable that it’s not as beefy as compared to some other offerings, but regardless of that, it’s able to provide us with an average battery life. Relying on HSPA+ connections with the AT&T version and old-school 3G EV-DO connections on the Sprint variant, we’re able to handsomely edge out a single day of normal usage on a fully charged battery. By the end of the day, we find it at the 30-percent mark. However, when it comes to 4G LTE connectivity, you can expect the results to diminish substantially. Even though we didn’t get a chance to try it out, the LG Optimus G also offers an Eco Mode that optimizes the CPU control to extend the battery life.

Conclusion:

For the first time in a long time, it’s quite possible that LG’s fortunes might turn around for the better thanks to the LG Optimus G, especially when it’s packing that dreamy combination of a mighty quad-core processor and 4G LTE connectivity. To sweeten the pot even more, both AT&T and Sprint intend to sell this beauty for $199.99 with a 2-year contract – thus, presenting it as an admirable option for those looking to get a premier smartphone.

On paper, there’s a lot to like about this muscle-filled handset, as its performance is just excellent, but it’s missing out on being a balanced performer in all aspects to firmly woo us over. Sure, it’s one fast acting device and boasts one snazzy looking display, but it misses the mark in taking photos/video and call quality. And even though we appreciate LG’s efforts in enhancing its custom UI, which is easily its best offering to date, it doesn’t completely trump what its rivals have to offer. To tell you the truth, as much as we like to acknowledge the new features with the experience, we find a handful of them to not be as practical in actual every day usage.

For a moment, the LG Optimus G is going to be the strongest kid in town, with a quad-core CPU, 4G LTE connectivity, 2 GB of RAM and what not. However, as we all know, its exclusivity is going to be short lived, as there are already a handful of smartphones waiting in the bushes that’ll feature the same lovely hardware goodies – and possibly more! Gee golly Optimus G! LG surely has a viable competitor with this one, but it remains to be seen if it'll be strong enough to successfully compete with the top offerings by Samsung and HTC.

Software version of the review unit:
Android Version: 4.0.4
Build Number: IMM76L
Kernel Version: 3.0.21


LG Optimus G Video Review:

Video Thumbnail



Pros

  • Super fast processor
  • Solid feeling handset
  • Great outdoor visibility with its great display
  • More functionality with the Android experience

Cons

  • Poor results from its camera
  • Not excellent call quality
  • Cartoony looking UI

PhoneArena Rating:

9.0

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