Yes, the LG Optimus G is the first quad-core smartphone on Sprint's network, but that's not the only thing that's impressive about this device. LG has fitted the Optimus G with a beautiful 4.7-inch display, and loads of extra features and apps. Unlike the Optimus G on AT&T, Sprint's version also comes with 32GB of internal storage and a 13-megapixel camera. Does this $199 device have it all?
If you drew a plain rectangle with tight rounded corners, you would have just drawn the LG Optimus G. The Optimus G for Sprint is similar in shape to its sister LG Optimus G device on the AT&T network, but the Sprint version is the slimmer and sleeker of the two, measuring 5.2 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches compared with 5.15 x 2.82 x 0.33 inches for AT&T. The Sprint version is also slightly lighter than AT&T's, weighing 5.1 ounces compared with AT&T's 5.2 ounces.
The power/lock button is on the upper right side of the device and the volume buttons mirror this placement on the left. The top of the phone features a 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom includes a microUSB charging port. The square-shaped camera protrudes from the Optimus G by about a millimeter. Below the camera, centered, is the LG logo in shiny silver lettering. In the bottom right corner of the back is a narrow strip, about 3 quarters of an inch, for the microphone.
The back of the Optimus G features subtle patterning, reminiscent of tight quiltwork, resting underneath a polycarbonate film. There's a slight chrome border framing the front panel of the Optimus G, bringing a streak of elegance to this otherwise plain device.
Display and Audio
The LG Optimus G has a stunning display, with vibrant colors that pop as soon as the device is turned on. The Optimus G has a 4.7-inch WXGA HD IPS Plus display with 1280 x 768 pixel resolution, which gave us plenty of detail on websites and when flipping through pictures. Viewing angles were excellent when watching a trailer for "Prometheus" on YouTube, and colors were bright and true.
ZeroGap Touch, LG's high-gloss, tempered-glass design, reduced screen glare and allowed us to view the screen even in direct sunlight. The display on the Optimus G is also bright, measuring 344 lux compared with a slightly lower score of 336 lux on the HTC EVO 4G LTE. The Samsung Galaxy S III mustered only 213 lux. The Optimus G for AT&T was slightly brighter, scoring 387 lux. The category average is 299.
Audio quality was great when we listened to Sleigh Bells' "Rill Rill," with full, round music; the sound easily filled our testing room. Unfortunately, the speaker became muffled when we rested the phone on a table or countertop.
There are three different keyboards to choose from on the Optimus G. There is a QWERTY keyboard that supports Path input, allowing users to draw a line through multiple letters to spell a word. There's also a Phone keyboard, a throwback to feature phones, and Handwriting input.
Both the phone keyboard and the QWERTY keyboard provided strong haptic feedback as we typed texts and emails.
Software and Interface
The LG Optimus G runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with an Optimus 3.0 overlay, giving this Android device a distinctive LG feel. Swiping in any direction will unlock the device, and there are four customizable quick-launch icons at the bottom of the screen. The lock screen also shows a large digital clock along with the date. Unlocking the phone produced a beautiful circular ripple effect (shades of the Galaxy S III).
There are seven home screens, providing plenty of room for apps and widgets. The home row supports up to six icons or folders that remain at the bottom of the display. Using a pinch gesture on any home screen opens the home screen editor, where pages can be added by pressing the plus button or deleted by dragging them to the top of the screen.
You can view recent apps and switch between them by long-pressing the home button. Long-pressing on the Menu button launches a Google search.
The pull-down notification area provides shortcuts to various settings and options, such as toggling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and Airplane mode. QuickMemo is also here, allowing users to draw and write notes on any screen, then immediately share the image or save it to the image gallery (much like the Galaxy S III's S-Memo). This was handy for annotating news articles and immediately emailing the images to our laptop. You can customize the order of these icons.
The LG Optimus G also includes Wise screen, which uses the front-facing camera to scan for facial features, ensuring the display doesn't power down even if you haven't touched the phone for a period of time. (If this sounds like Samsung's Smart Stay feature, it's very similar.)
Much like other recent LG phones, users can create custom icons for apps on the Optimus G using LG's images or pictures from the gallery. The Optimus G also supports app folders, which can be created by dragging icons on top of each other. When expanded, these folders resemble widgets.
Courtesy mode allows users to silence alarms or pause video by flipping the phone facedown. We could also use side-to-side tilt gestures to switch between screens when moving app icons on the home screen.
LG and Sprint have loaded the Optimus G with fair amount of apps. There's a GPS navigation app called Car Home, which makes it easy to find and navigate to local destinations and supports voice control. We searched for Best Buy by speaking to the Optimus G and Car Home used Google to find numerous nearby locations and provide driving directions. The Notebook app organizes notes into customizable notebooks, making it quick and easy to jot down notes. Users can draw or type and attach multimedia files to their notebooks, providing an extremely flexible note-taking application.
Similar to Samsung's TecTiles and Sony's SmartTags (pictured above), LG's Optimus G also supports NFC tags, which cause the phone to perform a set of actions when touched. With the LG Tags+ app, we set a profile for the "office" location that included turning on Wi-Fi, setting the phone to vibrate only, and opening the Web browser. We wrote this profile to an NFC tag and were able to launch these settings any time we tapped our phone to the tag.
Other bundled apps include Polaris Office 4.0, Google Chrome, a Calculator and Calendar app and Video Wiz.
Sprint ID allows users to select wallpaper, widgets and application bundles based on interest for easy skinning of the phone. We downloaded a ABC News bundle, and our phone was immediately set up with an ABC News wallpaper. With this theme, the ABC News and Good Morning America apps appeared our app list.
We could easily switch back to our main theme, with all our app layouts and widgets in their proper place, by going back through the Sprint ID application.
We found Sprint ID to be handy, essentially giving us a different phone for different tasks or moods. When we wanted to check news, switching to a customized theme especially for news is handy, and we could easily switch back to our old skin when we were done.
Inside the Optimus Ghere is a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor with an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. In testing, we navigated through windows and launched applications with speed and ease. Even processor-heavy tasks, like quitting out of the graphics-heavy app "Bad Piggies," resulted in no lag.
On the benchmark CPU test, the Optimus G scored a 3,565 against the average of 2,901, while the Samsung Galaxy S III (1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU) got a 4,324 and the HTC EVO 4G LTE (1.5 GHz Snapdragon MSM8960) blew them both away with a score of 5,450.
The Optimus G delivered strong graphic performance, clocking a 7,322 on the An3DBench test. The Samsung Galaxy S III notched 7,266 and the HTC EVO 4G LTE performed slightly better with a score of 7,390. The category average is 7,136.
On Quadrant, which measures CPU and graphics performance, the Sprint Optimus G scored 5,771, which beats the Galaxy S III (4,888) and HTC Evo 4G LTE (4,736).
The Optimus G comes with two browsers: a stock browser and Google Chrome. The stock browser sports controls that pop up from the bottom of the screen when you swipe upward. However, those who use Chrome on the desktop may prefer the mobile Chrome browser, as users can sign into their Google accounts and automatically sync bookmarks, tabs and browsing history.
While the Optimus G is LTE-capable, Sprint is just starting the rollout process of its 4G network. New York City is not yet supported, so we could only browse and download over a 3G connection. We saw a sad average download speed of 355 Kbps and upload speeds of 470 Kbps in New York City.
As expected, it took a lengthy 9.2 seconds to load NYTimes.com, 13.4 seconds to load ESPN.com and 13.1 seconds for Laptopmag.com.
Camera and Camcorder
The LG Optimus G has a whopping 13-megapixel camera, giving this phone a leg up over the AT&T model, which has an 8-MP shooter. The extra resolution really makes a difference. We stepped outside and took copious amounts of flower pictures, and the images were vivid and popped with color. Our favorite was shot of a purple tiger lily in the middle of a bunch of white and yellow roses surrounded by baby's breath. All the colors were rich and full and edges were clean and clear. We took the same picture with the AT&T Optimus G and the picture, while beautiful, looked faded against the Sprint Optimus G's version.
We enjoyed playing with the "Say Cheese" feature, which allows you to take a picture when a specified phrase is spoken. The magic words that activate the Optimus G's shutter are "cheese," "smile," "kimchi," "LG" and our favorite, "Whiskey." This was a fun feature, but sensitive. We turned on "Say Cheese" in our office in the middle of a few different conversations and the shutter constantly activated.
The front-facing camera has a 1.2-MP sensor. There was noticeable noise around edges, but colors were still bright and vivid.
The rear-facing camera also records HD 1280 x 720p video. We were impressed by the video quality as we recorded passing traffic along our busy block in Manhattan. We could easily make out cars and people in both the shade and the sun as they bustled past us.
The Optimus G also supports live zooming during video playback, allowing us to pinch and zoom in and out on specific areas of interest. We could also slide our finger horizontally to fast forward and rewind the recording, and swiping horizontally adjusted the video brightness.
QSlide and Dual Screen
Additionally, the Optimus G has a feature called QSlide, which allows users to set the opacity on a video so they can navigate through their phone at the same time. We were able to dim the video and perform a Google search at the same time. While this was a cool feature, we couldn't find many practical uses. This, too, only works with videos in the video library, and not with other video apps. So we couldn't dim a YouTube video and use our phone concurrently.
The Optimus G can also play video with any DLNA-compatible display while the phone performs other tasks using the Dual Screen/Dual Play feature. Both the display and phone need to be attached to the same Wi-Fi network, and then video sharing is a button-click away. We connected to a DLNA-enabled Samsung TV and within seconds began streaming video from our phone to the larger screen. Once the video was playing, we were able to continue looking at pictures and browsing the Web on the Optimus G as usual.
Calls were loud and clear on the LG Optimus G over Sprint's network as we walked down the streets of New York City. This quality extended to both the earpiece as well as the speakerphone when making calls to both land lines and other cellphones. The caller, who was on a mobile device, heard some background noise; calling a landline provided a better connection.
On the LAPTOP Battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing via 3G, the LG Optimus G's 2,100mAh battery lasted 5 hours and 44 minutes, nine minutes less than the LG Optimus G for AT&T, despite AT&T browsing over 4G LTE rather than the Sprint version's limited 3G connection. This runtime is also just under the category average of 5:59. The Samsung Galaxy S III lasted significantly longer at 7 hours and 40 minutes.
The LG Optimus G brings power and performance in a $199 package. The quad-core CPU handles some of the most demanding tasks with ease. The 4.7-inch display is stunning, and paired with a 13-MP camera, this phone is great for capturing and viewing photos and videos. LG's suite of Android customizations and features adds even more value, but for now this handset is held back by Sprint's limited 4G LTE network. The Samsung Galaxy S III lasts longer on a charge and has more polished software, but we like this phone's brighter screen and faster processor.