LG is hardly new to the world of Android smartphones, but it's a brand that's been put to the wayside by bigger players like Samsung, HTC and even Motorola. Looking to make a much bigger impact in the world of Android smartphones is the LG Optimus G, the company's newest flagship device and it's quite the beauty. The design is refined and the hardware is impressive, but can it really compete against the big boys? Let's find out.
Features at a Glance
The specs and features on the LG Optimus G are right near the top of the heap when it comes to current Android smartphones. It comes loaded with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, though an update to Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean is being planned.
Under the hood, we find an impressive Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.6GHz (Krait) quad core processor, accompanied by the Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The display is a 4.7-inch 1280x768 pixel True HD-IPS capacitive touchscreen and there are the standard three Android soft keys beneath that. Other features include the 32GB of internal storage, LTE capabilities, Wi-Fi, 8MP camera (13MP in some markets), front 1.3MP camera, and 2100mAh battery.
Design and Build Quality
One of the first things that struck me about the LG Optimus G was the build quality. When you hold it in your hands, it really does feel like a premium device. It appears to be all glass on the front and on the back, with a chrome-accented plastic bezel wrapping its way around the sides. This is a huge improvement over the initial experience we had with previous LG smartphones and it shows that the company has come a long way in terms of industrial design.
It is a little on the heavier side for its given size at 145 grams (the Galaxy S3 is about 131 grams by comparison), but this added heft doesn't really detract from the experience. Indeed, it adds to the sense that this is a premium device. Everything else is fairly standard with a microUSB connector on the bottom, volume rocker on the left, power on the right, and headset jack on top. It is a closed off case, though, so you're not technically supposed to remove the back cover to swap the battery, for example
LG makes use of an IPS panel on this smartphone and it's clear that this is a high quality display. Text is crisp, pictures are vibrant, and the resolution is great. However, I always felt the screen felt a little muted and washed out. Perhaps it's because I've grown accustomed to the Super AMOLED displays we see normally on Samsung products like the Galaxy Note II, and I've come to expect the almost over-saturated colors that those screens provide. By comparison, this display just doesn't "pop" the same way.
There's nothing wrong with the display on the Optimus G, but I still prefer the AMOLED technology with its deeper blacks and richer colors.
Optimus UI Optimizations
You can drag and drop your favorite shortcuts and widgets onto the various homescreens, including the ability to stack shortcuts together into custom folders that you can then name and choose a color for. You can also do these folders in the main dock area in the bottom, which is handle for grouping together all the Google default apps or your social media apps, for example.
It's a minor thing, but I also liked some of the animations that LG has included. When you tap and drag an app shortcut to remove it from your home screen, the "remove" area opens up like a little window. This way, it looks like you are literally throwing it out.
Camera and Video Quality
The eight-megapixel main shooter runs about par for the course when it comes to higher end smartphones and their cameras. The focus is reasonably fast and I was able to get good quality under a variety of conditions, both dim and well-lit, indoor and outdoor. When there is too much light, you can get some fringing on the edges and washed out areas, though, so you will want to be careful with that.
Here is an unedited sample photo I took at the shopping mall of some Christmas trees. The colors aren't super-saturated, but there is some loss of detail in certain areas. It'll certainly do the job, but there are some better smartphones out there that can take better pictures.
The video quality is much the same. I've uploaded a short sample video to YouTube if you want to take a look there. One thing I did notice is that there is a visible "focus hunting" when you move the camera around during a video, but that's to be expected.
Battery Life Concerns
When you get a fairly large IPS display, tack on high-speed 4G LTE connectivity, and run it all through a speedy quad core processor, some sacrifices have to be made. In this case, it seems to be the battery life. While there is a reasonably sized 2100mAh battery in there, I had a hard time getting the phone to last the full day under moderate use.
Between email, social media updates and a little web browsing, I was getting an average of about 12-14 hours of battery life. This reduced significantly if I started playing any games; a couple sessions of Angry Birds: Star Wars had me reaching for the wall charger in no time. A couple YouTube videos will have the same effect. Without the user-replaceable battery, this could be a concern for the power users in the audience.
4G LTE Speedtest
Of course, the 4G LTE performance is heavily dependent on your carrier and your coverage area. This particular set of tests were performed in the Greater Vancouver area on the Rogers LTE network. The speeds are quite impressive, maintaining a download speed in the 32-45Mbps range with uploads in the 7-15Mbps range. Pings averaged in the 70ms range. If you want fast, you've got it.
Quadrant Standard Benchmark
My subjective experience with the LG Optimus G was quite positive. It had no problems running any apps that I threw at it, even when I had multiple apps running in the background. Performance did not appear to be an issue and the Quadrant Standard benchmark confirms this. With an overall score of 5517, the LG Optimus G beats other flagship devices like the HTC One X. This also beats the Samsung Galaxy S III with its score of about 4900 and the Galaxy Note II with its score of about 4200.
MEGATechie Quad Core King or MEGATechie Overshadowed Lurker
Battery life issues aside, the LG Optimus G is a pretty terrific smartphone. The build quality really speaks to it being a premium device and it certainly has the horsepower to back it up. I still prefer the look of Super AMOLED, but that's a matter of personal preference as the IPS panel here is very crisp too. Camera quality is decent and the Optimus UI doesn't really get in the way of anything.
The biggest challenge for the Optimus G, realistically, is that it's being overshadowed. It's being overshadowed not only by the competition--like the massive ad campaign surrounding the Galaxy S3--but also from its brethren. The Google Nexus 4 is essentially a clone of the Optimus G and it's the phone that's going to get more attention for its "pure" Google experience and cheap unlocked price. I suppose LG won't be too upset if you buy a Nexus 4 instead of an Optimus G, but it means that this flagship phone might get quickly ignored.