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LG Optimus G Hands-On: Brilliant Screen, Quad-Core, Unique Multitasking Features

Not content to let Samsung rule the Android roost, today LG showed off the Optimus G, a 4.7-inch super phone that's the first handset to use Qualcomm's 1.5-GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU. But, as we saw during a brief hands-on and demo this morning, the Optimus G is more than just the sum of its powerful parts, which include 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 13-MP camera. This LTE screamer packs a slew of impressive innovations on top of Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, including the ability to overlay videos on top of your work, draw notes on top of anything and view different content on the phone screen than the TV it streams to.

In our brief hands-on with the LG Optimus G this morning, we were able to navigate around the phone's UI, stare at its brilliant 470-nit screen and use its QSlide, QuickMemo (aka QMemo) and Time Catch Shot features. The first thing we noticed as we picked up the phone is that it has three capacitive buttons below the screen so no real estate is wasted on virtual buttons like those on the Galaxy Nexus or the Droid RAZR M. The Optimus G's 1280 x 768 Super IPS+ screen seemed extremely sharp and bright, but at first glance, colors didn't seem as rich as on AMOLED screens we've used. 

The white plastic casing on the LG Optimus G's chassis won't embarrass you in public, but it doesn't provide a particularly compelling or unique design aesthetic. Though all the demo units at our press event were white, we hear that the phone is also available in black. At 5.1 ounces and .33 inches thick, the phone felt pretty light in our hand, considering its large screen size.

Like most of its competitors, the Optimus G runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with a unique LG skin on top of it. We didn't get a chance to fully dissect all the differences between LG's skin and stock Android, but the icons and wallpaper were all custom and a slide-down drawer at the top of the screen provided several options including volume control, toggling Eco mode, enabling NFC and activating LG's QMemo.

We were particularly impressed with QMemo, a feature that allows you to write notes on top of any screen. After hitting the QMemo button, we were able to scribble a phone number on the home screen and then hit a button to make it stay as an overlay on top of the screen as we navigated around the operating sytem. Then, when we entered the phone dialer, we had the phone number staring us in the face and could dial it. Of course, we also had the option to simply save or share our QMemos rather than leaving them on top of our work.

The Optimus G's video player has its own overlay feature called QSlide, which allows you to display your clip at the top of the screen while you use other apps. When we launched a video of  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island in the player and tapped the QSlide button, the phone transported us to our desktop with the video playing over the top third of the screen. We were particularly impressed with the opacity slider that let us make the video more or less transparent so we could see a web page or notes application behind it. In its press release, LG says that QSlide should allow you to multitasking with other apps besides the video player, but we didn't see any demos of other apps appearing on top of the screen.

The Optimus G's 13-MP camera is supposed to compete with  the best phone shooters on the market, providing superior low-light shots with great noise reduction. Though we weren't able to put the camera through its paces, we did try out a feature called Time Catch Shot which takes a quick burst of 5 photos and then lets you choose the best one.  While we appreciated the ability to choose between 5 images, both HTC and Samsung provide similar features on their high-end phones with HTC's One Series handsets capturing a lot more photos in its burst.

LG reps also demonstrated several Optimus G features that we didn't have time to try out ourselves. We were particularly with Dual Screen Dual Play, which allows you to show different content on an external screen than you see on the device's own display. A rep even showed how he could control a PowerPoint presentation on the Optimus G's screen while showing just the slides themselves on the big screen. 

The demo techs also showed how users can live zoom in on videos to focus on particular objects or people. In LG's press release the company also lists a number of key features that we didn't see in action, including the voice activated "Cheese Shutter" mode where users can take self portraits by setting the phone down and saying an action word like "cheese" or "smile." Application Link is supposed to launch a list of applications right after you turn off your alarm in the morning and Icon Personalizer lets you change your icon images. 

There's no word yet on pricing or availability though LG says the Optimus G will arrive in the U.S. sometime in Q4. The company officially unveiled the product for the first time at an event in Korea earlier this week.