LG Optimus G (AT&T) Review

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Pros: Fast 4G LTE speed; Powerful graphics and performance; Bright, vivid display can be viewed outdoors; Slick interface, with useful features; Camera delivers beautiful photos and fast shutter-speed

Cons: Boring design; Below-average battery life

Verdict: The LG Optimus G offers a beautiful, 4.7-inch display, lots of innovative features and fast AT&T 4G LTE speed.

The Optimus G isn't just the first phone on AT&T to feature a quad-core processor. It's also LG's first legitimate competitor against the Samsung Galaxy S III, the iPhone 5 and other premium smartphones. LG additionally packs this 4.7-inch device with a slew of innovative features focused on performing a number of tasks simultaneously. Throw in AT&T's smoking-fast 4G LTE speed and an eye-popping HD display, and you've got a lean, mean multitasking machine. Read on to discover why the Optimus G is the best device the company has ever made.

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Design

For better or worse, one look at the boxy shape of the Optimus G and you know it's an LG. The handset's rear panel features the shiny, geometric pattern that's become synonymous with the brand. The high-gloss factor plays up the pattern as it's held up to a light source, but was quickly marred by our fingerprints. The surface is also slippier than we'd like.

An 8-megapixel camera sits in the left-hand corner, lined by a thin band of chrome. An LED flash sits directly beneath, while a chrome AT&T logo is located in the center. A slim, lone speaker resides in the bottom right corner.

A large, 4.7-inch display holds court in the front of the device, encased by a black bezel. Capacitive touch buttons (Back, Home and Menu) sit along the bottom, with a chrome LG logo at the top. A 1.3 megapixel camera sits in the top right corner.

The sides of the phone are wrapped in dark gray chrome, while the top and bottom are lined in black, ridged plastic. A small power button is on the right, flashing bright red as the phone charges. The left side of the Optimus G holds the volume rocker and a long port cover that conceals slots for a microSD and SIM card. A microUSB slot can be found along the device's bottom edge, with a headphone jack located on top.

We could fit the 5.15 x 2.82 x 0.33-inch device snuggly in our pants pocket. The 5.2-ounce Optimus G is slightly thicker and heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S III (5.4 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, 4.7 ounces), but feels a little more solid. The Sprint version of the Optimus G is a bit lighter (5.1 ounces) and noticeably narrower (5.19 x 2.71 x .33 inches). The Sprint Optimus G lacks a microSD Card slot, but it comes with 32GB of storage.

Display and Audio

The Optimus G's 4.7-inch, 1280 x 768p display is a wonder to behold. Colors on the True HD IPS Plus display were deep and luxurious. During the high-definition "Samsara" trailer, the arctic-blue sky accentuated the accidental beauty of a gnarled tree, blackened with age. Our eyes were drawn to the Tibetan monks' bright red robes juxtaposed against a prison yard of convicts dressed in accusatory neon orange. Viewing angles were nice and wide, too.

Thanks to LG's ZeroGap Touch -- a high-gloss, tempered-glass design -- we were able to view the display outdoors in direct sunlight. In terms of brightness, the Optimus G impresses, notching 387 lux on our light meter. That was more than enough to outshine the 299 lux Android phone category average and the 210 lux score of the Galaxy S III.

The Optimus G's sole speaker delivered audio loud enough to fill our small test room. However, it lacked depth and clarity. As we listened to the "I Don't Like" remix, the bass was non-existent. The gritty track sounded flat, and rappers Pusha T and Kanye West's vocals suffered greatly as a result.

Keyboard

LG features a trio of keyboards. First, there's the QWERTY keyboard, which has the trace technology usually found on LG's ShapeWriter keyboard. The Phone-keyboard configuration takes us back to times long past when flip phones were still in vogue. LG also included the Handwriting keyboard, for those of us who would rather scrawl off a quick note.

Both the QWERTY and Phone keyboard delivered strong haptic feedback as we typed out texts and emails.

Software and User Interface

The LG Optimus G runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with the Optimus 3.0 overlay. Similar to the LG Intuition and LG Escape, swiping in any direction will unlock the phone. We absolutely loved the ripple effect accented by the rose petals floating serenely on the surface. Swiping one of the four icons along the bottom of the screen (Phone, Messaging, Browser and Camera) will automatically launch that app.

The lock screen features a large, easy-to-read digital clock with the date located just below. Another cool touch is the Iris-Out transition when you press the power button to turn off the screen. Similar to an old-school cartoon, the screen turns to black with an ever-shrinking circle, reminiscent of a closing camera iris.

LG includes three home screens that are ripe for customization via apps and widgets. You can add more screens by making a pinch gesture and then tapping the + icon, though it wasn't immediately apparent how to do this. Long-pressing a screen summons a split-screen where we could quickly drag and drop apps and widgets on the home screen of our choosing.

Five omnipresent apps (Phone, Messaging, Apps, Browser and Camera) sit below a sliding white bar that illustrates home-screen navigation. You can swap out these apps with a quick drag and drop.

Long-pressing the Home button cues up Recent Apps. From there, long-pressing an app calls up a smaller menu that allows users to check out the app's info or remove it from the list. A long-press of the Menu button brings up Google Search.

The notification area includes several shortcuts for various options, including toggling Wi-Fi, Vibrate, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS. You can also activate QuickMemo from here, which lets you scribble on the screen and share that image (more on that below). LG even lets you edit the order of these settings, and add and remove options. We added screen brightness and put it second on the list after QuickMemo.

Wise Screen , a new addition to LG, works just like Samsung's SmartStay feature. The function disables display timeout by scanning your face to detect whether or not you're looking at the screen. In a head-to-head comparison, we found the two devices were evenly matched. However, the S III was a little faster in detecting our faces.

Similar to recent LG phones, Optimus G users can create custom icons for apps, using LG's list of images or photos from the gallery. We could also create folders by dragging app icons on top of one another, which is a great way to conserve space. Folders can also be expanded to resemble widgets.

We also came across a few functions controlled by gestures, including flipping the device to mute calls, stop alarms and pause videos. The Optimus G also features tilt mechanics that enabled us to move apps from one screen to the next. We simply held down the app and tilted the phone in the direction we wished to move the app.

In the videos app, we used pinch to zoom in and out of features. Swiping to the right displays a large timestamp and progresses the video, while a left swipe rewinds. An upwards swipe increases brightness, and a downwards swipe decreases it.

Apps

The Optimus G is loaded with carrier-branded software. Some apps are more helpful than others. People experiencing difficulty using the phone can use AT&T DeviceHelp for quick usage-tips. AT&T Messages helps users streamline communications by aggregating voicemail, email and texts into one stream. The Locker gives users 5GB of free space to store images and videos. Other AT&T apps include FamilyMap, Navigator, Code Scanner, LiveTV, Smart Wi-Fi and My AT&T.

On the LG side, there's NotePad, which comes in handy for jotting down a quick note or two. We also like having the ability to attach images, audio and location to our notes, maximizing their usefulness. NFC fans will get a kick out of LG Tag+. Using LG's custom tags, users can create a set of rules to follow and commands to perform when two phones are touched together.

QuickMemo lets you draw notes on screenshots and share them with friends. For example, we found an image of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick losing control of the ball during a crucial play, and sent it to a few diehard Eagles fans. It was most satisfying.

Third-party apps include Polaris Office 4.0, Twitter, YPMobile, Google Chrome, Amazon Kindle and YouTube.

Performance

As the first phone on AT&T's roster with a quad-core processor, we expected big things. The LG Optimus G and its 1.5-GHz quad-core Qualcomm S4 Pro processor with 2GB of RAM delivered on most fronts. We zipped through the homescreens quickly, and most apps took less than a second to launch. Lag did creep in at times, however, such as when returning to the home screen from "Bad Piggies."

The Optimus G delivered a top-notch score of 5,706 on the Benchmark CPU test. That's double the 2,835 Android phone category average. It was also enough to blow the Samsung Galaxy S III (1.5-GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU) and the Samsung Galaxy Note II's (1.6-GHz quad-core Exynos CPU) scores of 4,786 and 4,643 out of the water.

We also saw a strong showing in terms of graphics. Despite having 4 apps running in the background, "Bad Piggies" played smoothly. On An3DBench, the Optimus G scored 7,350 to top the 7,157 category average. The Galaxy S III notched 7,272. When we ran Quadrant, which measures CPU, I/O and graphics performance, the Optimus G scored 7,316 to shatter the 2,986 average. The Note II and the S III delivered 5,763 and 5,159 scores, respectively.

4G LTE and Web Browsing

The standard browser on the Optimus G features AT&T's Browser Bar, which you can display by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. It consists of two pages, the first displaying buttons to recommend pages on Facebook, tweet links and share via email or text messaging. There's even a button to launch a mini-Facebook browser. The second page launches Yahoo!-affiliated news such as Sports, Entertainment and Popular articles.

As AT&T's stable of 4G LTE phones steadily grows, we continue to be impressed with the network's speeds. On Speednet.net, the LG Optimus G averaged a download rate of 25.8 Mbps and a zippy upload speed of 9.4 Mbps.

Surfing the web on the Optimus G was nice and swift. The phone loaded the mobile versions of CNN.com, NYTimes.com and ESPN.com in 2.4, 2.7 and 4.5 seconds. Loading the desktop version of Laptopmag.com took a mere 6.5 seconds.

Camera

Crisp blue skies, vivid shots of sunflowers and detailed, pockmarked streets were some of the shots we captured with the Optimus G's 8-megapixel camera. Images also popped with color. One of our favorite photos was a single, orange flower set against a sea of dark-green leaves. Delicate striations along the flower's petals were nice and clear, as were the soft yellow and deep red of the plant's interior.

The 1.3 megapixel, front-facing camera delivered deep and rich color as well, evidenced by our bright-red coat in our photos.

LG included a "Say Cheese" feature with the Optimus G, which automatically snaps a picture when the phrase is uttered. The feature also works with several other phrases (Smile, Whisky, Kimchi and LG) for shutterbugs who want to shake things up.

We were impressed with the rear-facing camera's 1080p video. Despite an overcast day, we still saw bright blues, glossy blacks and opulent yellows in passing traffic. As we watched the playback on our desktop, we could easily read text from a sign across the street and on passing buses.

Live Zoom

Have you ever shot a video and wished you could zoom in on a specific portion? Now you can, thanks to LG's Live Zoom feature. We simply pinched to zoom in and out. While we were zoomed in, we used our finger to maneuver around the rest of the video. Unfortunately, the video became increasingly blurry as we zoomed in.

Q Slide

The Optimus G introduces a cool, new way to multitask called Q Slide. It enables users to watch videos on their smartphones, while simultaneously using other applications. But it works differently than Samsung's Pop Up Video.

After launching a video, we tapped the Q Slide icon, which displayed a small slider. As we moved the slider to the left, the video became more transparent, enabling us to see our homescreen and launch apps, such as the browser. We restored the video's opacity by moving the slider all the way to the right. Unfortunately, the feature doesn't apply to videos downloaded via the Google Play store.

Dual Screen/Dual Play

Building on the multitasking theme, LG has enhanced its media-sharing experience. Dual Screen/Dual Play on the Optimus G enables users to share video with DNLA-compatible displays while performing other tasks. After making sure both devices were on the same Wi-Fi network, we selected the video we wished to share. It began playing on our 46-inch Samsung Series 8000 Smart TV after a 3-4 second wait. From there, we browsed the web as the video continued to play on the TV.

Overall, we really like the feature; it's a viable way for people to share business presentations.

Call Quality

We enjoyed loud, clear audio during our test calls to both landlines and mobile phones in New York and New Jersey. However, we did experience a few instances of fade-out during calls to mobile phones. The Optimus G's speakerphone was nice and loud, though our callers reported some echoing.

Battery Life

During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing via 4G LTE on 40 percent brightness), the LG Optimus G's 2100 mAh Li-polymer battery lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes. That's 7 minutes short of the 6-hour Android phone average. The Samsung Galaxy S III lasted a bit longer, at 6:28, but it also has a dimmer screen.

Verdict

The $199 LG Optimus G is a powerhouse packaged in an unassuming shell. The quad-core CPU can easily handle the most demanding games without breaking a sweat, and enables multitasking features like Q Slide for watching videos even while you use other apps. The 4.7-inch display is gorgeous (and brighter than the S III), and the camera can compete with any Android phone on the market. However, the amount of AT&T software will be a turn-off to some, and Optimus 3.0 doesn't feel quite as polished or intuitive as Samsung's TouchWiz treatment. Overall, though, the Optimus G is a top-notch Android phone.

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Author Bio
Sherri L. Smith
Sherri L. Smith,
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.
Sherri L. Smith, on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Carrier AT&T
Form Factor Candybar Touchscreen
Operating System Android 4.0
Networks 3G, UMTS, 4G HSPA+, 4G LTE
Data GSM/GPRS/EDGE
CPU 1.5-GHz quad-core Qualcomm MDM9215M APQ8064 with Adreno 320 GPU
RAM 2GB
Internal Memory 16GB
Memory Expansion Type microSD Card
Display (main) 4.7 inches
Display (secondary)
Bluetooth Type 4.0 + BLE
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Front Camera Resolution 1.3MP
Camera Resolution 8 MP
Audio formats supported eAAC+
Audio formats supported AMR-NB
Audio formats supported AMR WB
Audio formats supported AAC+
Audio formats supported AAC
Audio formats supported MP3
Audio formats supported EVRC
Talk / Standby Time Up to 10 hours/Up to 13.5 days
Ports microUSB
Ports 3.5mm headphone
Size 5.15 x 2.82 x 0.33 inches
Weight 5.19 ounces
SAR Rating (Head)
SAR Rating (Body)
Company Website http://www.lg.com