Huge display with wide viewing angles; Strong performance; Fantastic multitasking software; Helpful camera features
Lacks stylus, despite its note-taking software; Cameras struggle in low light; Relatively small keyboard ; TV remote software lacks program guide
The LG Optimus G Pro boasts a mammoth 5.5-inch screen and a bevy of innovative apps.
A phablet with big ambitions, LG's Optimus G Pro combines an impressive 5.5-inch 1080p display and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with an impressive set of proprietary applications. With strong productivity features that let you run several apps on top of each other and a suite of helpful camera apps, this phone's software is even more attractive than its powerful components. Is this the right big-screen phone for you?
Note: We conducted this review using a Korean version of the LG Optimus G Pro, which was not optimized for use on U.S. networks. We'll review the product again when the Optimus G Pro launches on U.S. carriers later this year.
DesignSamsung Galaxy S4, the LG Optimus G has a shiny plastic body that's highly functional, but won't win any design awards. Available in black or white, the sides of the Optimus G Pro are adorned with chrome accents, while the back has a subtle, yet attractive checkerboard pattern.
Measuring 5.8 x 3 x 0.37 inches and 6.2 ounces, the 5.5-inch Optimus G Pro is one of the larger phones on the market, dwarfing the 4.7-inch, 5-ounce HTC One and the 4.8-inch, 4.7-ounce Galaxy S III. The Samsung Galaxy Note II is taller and wider (5.9 x 3.2 x 0.37 inches) and weighs a bit more at 6.4 ounces.HTC One. Nevertheless, we had to stretch our thumb to reach all corners of the screen when using the device one-handed.
Like Samsung's Galaxy phones, a capacitive back button, a hard clickable home button and a capacitive menu button sit beneath the display. Annoyingly, the two capacitive buttons on our white unit were completely invisible when not lit, though you can set them to remain lit as long as the phone is awake. The hardware home button felt stiff to us, and we don't like that it's recessed. However, this button offers a neat special effect: a ring of light around it that blinks different colors to alert you to different things (example: blinking green means you have a notification).
Pressing the menu button opens a list of settings instead of the layers (aka task switching button) that Google and Motorola use on their Android devices. To get a list of open tasks, we had to hold down the home button. Unfortunately, there's no way to get to Google Now using the navigation buttons; you have to tap the Google search widget on the home screen.
Display and Audio
When we played a 1080p trailer for "The Avengers" on both the HTC One and the Optimus G Pro, hues such as the red in Black Widow's hair or the blue in Captain America's uniform seemed colder and less vibrant. Because it fits the same amount of pixels in a smaller space, the images also seemed a bit sharper on the One's 4.7-inch screen.
While it won't replace your stereo, sound coming from the Optimus G Pro's rear-mounted speaker was loud enough to fill a small room. When we played a classical music piece that came bundled with the device, sound was fairly accurate but flat. However, when we tried listening to the guitar-laden "Holy Diver," sounds were harsh but not tinnier than most.
Software and Interface
Independently of the theme, you can also choose a system from one of eight system fonts. Though LG's SmartGothic was the default on our phone, we prefer Roboto font, which is the typeface Google uses in stock Android.
Like most Android phones, the Optimus G Pro has a series of shortcut icons at the bottom of each of its seven desktops. These are configurable, of course, but on our review unit they defaulted to contacts, the Web browser, SMS messaging, a video editor named Video Wiz and the apps menu.
The apps menu has some unique options in its settings menu, which allow you to choose between small and large icons, to change the wallpaper behind the icons and to sort by download date or alphabetically. You can search your list of installed apps from the menu.
We particularly enjoyed looking up information in the floating browser window while answering emails below and writing notes on our to-do list in another window. We also enjoyed playing a video on top of the screen while we performed other tasks below. Many third-party apps in the Google Play store can provide you with floating browsers, calculators or video players, but QSlide apps are more attractive and functional and have the transparency feature.
Samsung's Multi Window feature doesn't offer transparency, either, but you have more apps to choose from when it comes to running two on screen at the same time. The Sprint version of the Note II, for instance, includes 11 apps for Multi Window versus seven for QSlide. Plus, Samsung's feature integrates with third-party apps, like Polaris Office, Gmail and Google Talk.
The second row of icons in the notification drawer consists of shortcuts to LG's seven QSlide apps, while a third row has a brightness slider and checkbox to toggle automatic brightness. We particularly appreciated the slider, because it displays the exact brightness percentage (example: 47 percent) where many other phones just show a bar. If enabled, a small music widget appears below the brightness slider with an album cover, progress bar and play/pause, forward and back buttons. Below that, you'll find any notifications from your apps.
You can also enable overlay mode, which keeps your drawing floating as a layer on top of the screen as you perform other tasks. So if you really want to remind yourself to "call mom," you can leave that scribbled on top of everything else until you're done.
However, in our brief testing, QTranslator was not perfect. First, we had to choose which language we were translating from, a problem if you don't know whether the menu in front of you is Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified or something else. Second, we had to wait a couple of seconds as we hovered over each word and QTranslator pulled a translation down from the cloud. The app makes available offline dictionaries, which can speed up translation time and include accuracy, but you need to buy these; they were around 3,500 wan (around $3 U.S.) on our Korean review unit.
QTranslator's online translations, which come from Google Translate's database, were highly accurate. When we scanned a Chinese language flash card with some words and phrases on it, the app translated three out of four phrases correctly.
On Quadrant, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall CPU performance, the LG Optimus G Pro scored a strong mark of 12,075, well above the 3,674 category average, the Galaxy Note II's mark of 5,763 and the Galaxy S III's score of 5,159. However, the HTC One, which has the same CPU, scored just a little higher, at 12,426.
The Optimus G Pro scored a solid 7,556 on the graphics-oriented An3DBench test, much better than the 7,111 smartphone category average and the Samsung Galaxy S III (7,272). However, the HTC One managed a stronger 7,724, as did the Galaxy Note II (7,707).
The 2-MP front-facing camera captured sharp, detailed images of our face in bright light but washed out our features in dark rooms or with a light source behind us.
When shooting pics of a toddler, we found Time Machine mode particularly useful, because our subject had usually turned his face away and stopped doing something cute by the time we hit the shutter button. Even so, we were able to get images of his smiling face among the five possible "missing moments" the program displayed. Unfortunately, once you take your next picture you lose the opportunity to retrieve missed moments from the previous shot.
Unlike some competitors that provide a ton of filters, LG offers only a few simple options such as sepia, negative image and monochrome. A feature called Beauty Shot supposedly smoothes out skin on pictures of people, but we didn't notice much of a difference when using it.
Panorama VR mode allows you to capture more than just a straight horizontal band of images, as you can take pictures both above and below your original position. Though it took much longer to snap all those angles, an image we took of a rooftop stitched together really well, with just a couple of points where the railing on the roof didn't quite match up.
When it comes to video, the 13-MP camera is no slouch, capturing smooth, sharp images in a variety of situations, from a city street with cars running down it at midday to a baby pushing his own stroller in sunlight. When we shot a video of the same baby playing in his crib in a dark room, the image had some noise. However, when we enabled WDR recording mode, the image became much brighter and cleaner.
LG's highly touted Dual Recording mode allows you to shoot videos of both the front and back cameras at the same time, with one of the two sides appearing in a small box overlayed on top of the main video. Unfortunately, we found that most of the time, the image of our face was covered in shadow. Whether we were standing on a roof filming the street below or teasing an infant in a sunny room, our visage was dark even when the content from the main camera was bright and colorful. Unlike Samsung's dual-camera feature, on the Optimus G Pro you can only record video, not stills.
Once you've recorded videos, LG provides a couple of compelling apps to help you edit them. The tersely named Video Editor allows you to cut videos, stitch them together, add soundtracks or even overlay text.
We then chose a transition style from among six types, ranging from "no effects" to "spotlight," which shines a light on your content, or "scrapbook," which makes your video appear on the pages of a scrapbook that's turning between scenes. Within a couple of minutes, we had a fun little video of a baby crawling around with a set of frequent transition effects -- the app decides when and where to place the transitions -- and background music. We could preview the clip right away, but exporting to the gallery took about 3 minutes.
Built into the back of the Optimus G Pro is an NFC chip that can be used with Wi-Fi Direct and Android Beam to transfer data from one device to another. However, it wouldn't work with an LG wireless-charging pad.
Battery Life and Call Quality
While riding on AT&T's 3G network, our LG Optimus G Pro's 3,140 mAh battery lasted a respectable 6 hours and 49 minutes, comfortably above the 6 hour and 5-minute smartphone category average and about on par with the HTC One's time of 6:45 minutes.
However, our LG Optimus Pro review unit was optimized for Korean carrier SK Telecom, so it's hard to tell whether the actual endurance will be better or worse when we test a handset that's been made specifically for an American carrier with 4G LTE. Call quality on AT&T's network was crystal clear when we dialed a friend on a landline.
Those who want a smaller handset might want to consider the HTC One, which has a better screen, more premium design and takes brighter photos. However, the One lacks the Optimus G Pro's removable battery and exciting suite of custom apps. Shoppers should also consider the upcoming 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 (which packs even more into a one-hand-friendly design) or wait to see what the Galaxy Note 3 has in store. However, if you want a big-screen phone with plenty of performance and great productivity features, the LG Optimus G Pro should be near the top of your list.
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|Phone Display Size||5.5|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.1.2|
|Processor Family||Qualcomm Snapdragon 600|
|Memory Expansion Type||micsroSD/SDHC|
|Front Camera Resolution||2MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|