When it comes to low-cost, 8-inch tablets, you should expect some compromises on performance and battery life. So the $199 LG G Pad F 8.0 doesn't have a high bar to hit, but sadly, it still falls short. The tablet does offer AT&T's 4G LTE, which can come in handy if you don't mind the $10 monthly fee (added to existing data plans), and it sports a full-size USB port. However, the G Pad F 8.0's drawbacks make it a tough sell at any price, especially when competitors offer more for less.
The LG G Pad F 8.0 isn't winning any beauty contests. It's just too chunky and boring, but that's to be expected at this price.
Its 8-inch display is surrounded by a traditional, rectangular black bezel. Just off-center to the left, the 2-MP camera sits above the display when in portrait mode.
What design excitement there is happens along the outer fringe. The right and left edge slightly curve into the silvery backside, which is home to the 5-MP camera. Along the top right edge, you'll find the volume rocker and power button, while a flap on the top left edge covers slots for the SIM card and a 128GB micro SD card.
The top edge is home to a flap that hides a full-size USB port and the headphone jack, and the micro USB power port sits on the bottom, next to a slot for the slimmest stylus I've ever seen.
Considering LG includes its QuickMemo+ app only for use with the stylus, I was a little confused at the latter's reason for being. It's too thin and short to feel comfortable using. Plus, if you angle your hand too much, the tiny nub won't register on the screen.
At 8.3 x 4.9 x 0.35 inches, the G Pad F 8.0 is on a par with its small competitors, such as the $149 Amazon Fire HD 8 (8.4 x 5 x 0.3 inches), the $199 Asus ZenPad S 8 (8 x 5.3 x 0.26 inches) and the $119 Lenovo Tab 2 A8 (8.27 x 4.9 x 0.4 inches). The 12.31-ounce LG is about 1.5 ounces heavier than the others in its class, though.
The low, 1280 x 800-pixel resolution on the 8-inch LG G Pad F 8.0 matches what you'll find on the Fire HD 8 and the Tab 2 A8, but both of those cost less. The ZenPad S 8 packs in a much crisper 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution for the same price as the G Pad F.
Just looking at the app icons on the screen, all the edges seemed a little fuzzy. But an HD trailer for Assassin's Creed was certainly passable, and not just because of Michael Fassbender's chiseled features. There was some fuzziness on the wing tips of an eagle as it soared above a city, and some of the staffs and spears appeared jagged in the fighting scenes. But zooming into Fassbender's eyes, you can clearly make out bloodshot vessels and individual eyelashes.
Reproducing 79.4 percent of the sRGB color gamut, the G Pad F 8.0 shows fewer colors than the average slate (99.4 percent), as well as its direct competitors. The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 and the ZenPad S 8 showed 92 percent, while the Fire HD 8 managed 82 percent.
The G Pad F isn't particularly bright, either. We measured 331 nits of brightness with our light meter, which is below the 361 tablet average, as well as the Fire HD 9 (403) and the Tab 2 A8 (368). The ZenPad S (299) was dimmer than the LG, however.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of sound put out by the two tiny slits on the back of the G Pad F, which pass for speakers. They more than filled the testing lab in my office. However, at full volume I heard tons of distortion as I listened to Stevie Nicks sing Crystal. The guitar string plucks tugged at my heart strings with full clarity, when at medium volume. At that same level, the instruments and bass in War by Edwin Starr became a muddled mess that lacked definition. Also, when I laid the tablet flat on a table, the audio got muffled.
Operating System & Apps
The LG loads the G Pad F 8.0 with Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is a generation behind the current operating system. The manufacturer does very little to alter the stock UI, except for a minor effect of turning the page when you flip from one home screen to another. Any person who has used Android in the past will have no trouble navigating the tablet.
I did appreciate the split-screen view option that is activated by its own dedicated touch button that's always at the bottom of the screen. That feature made it super-easy to put a Chrome window on top of a YouTube video.
The Google Play store comes preloaded, as does Google Chrome. But LG and AT&T add a bunch of proprietary apps as well, and most of them aren't useless. For instance, LG phone owners will be able to connect to the G Pad F through the QPair app, which sends notifications from one device to the other. QuickRemote makes it simple to turn your tablet into a TV remote via a tiny infrared sensor on the top edge. AT&T Family Map sends alerts when kids get home or shows their current location on a map.
However, LG's own browser and default mail app are totally skippable. In fact, when I tried to connect my Gmail account to the Mail app, Google blocked it as an unsafe program that wasn't up to "current security standards."
LG's G Pad F 8.0 features a quad-core 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with 1GB of RAM. The less expensive Lenovo Tab 2 A8 and Amazon Fire HD 8 have slightly higher-clocked, but not more powerful, 1.5-GHz quad-core MediaTek CPUs with 1GB of RAM. The Asus ZenPad S 8 uses a 1.3-GHz Intel Atom Z3580 chip.
The touch screen was generally responsive, and flipping between two home screens was quick and easy. But, when switching between open apps I saw a noticeable delay of a second or so. It took about 3 seconds to open the Camera app. On a couple of occasions the entire tablet froze, prompting me to restart. That sluggishness showed in the synthetic benchmarks we ran as well.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall performance, the G Pad F 8.0's score of 993 is pathetic compared with its competitors and the 2,784 tablet average. The Fire HD 8 scored 1,518, while the Tab 2 A8 scored 1,781. The Asus was the most impressive, with a score of 2,858.
On the 3DMark graphics performance test, the LG also performed terribly, with a score of 3,735. The Fire HD 8 (10,159), the Tab 2 A8 (4,959) and the ZenPad S 8 (13,041) all fared better.
It took the LG tablet 13 minutes to transcode an HD video to 480p resolution in the VidTrim app. That's almost 5 minutes longer than the 8:19 category average, and slower than the Tab 2 A8 (9:33) and the ZenPad S 8 (6:46).
I had no trouble staying connected anywhere with the AT&T SIM running on 4G LTE. In fact, I found it more responsive than when switching between the various Wi-Fi networks I tried it on.
The 5-MP rear camera oddly features no flash, but it took some decent shots of a colorful tree.
The leaves were well defined and the color representation looked accurate.
The 2-MP front camera was not as good. My hair was sharply defined in a selfie of me in bright sunlight, but my necklace blended into my skin tone and my face looked splotchy.
I did like that a couple of LG's proprietary camera features, including one that lets you take photos with a voice command. I must have sounded like a crazy person saying "whisky" over and over, but it was just so cool that it made the camera snap a pic. (You can also say other things, such as cheese or kimchi, but those aren't nearly as fun.) You can also set a three-second timer to give yourself time to get that perfect duck face for your next selfie.
LG put a 4,200-mAh battery inside the LG G Pad F 8.0, which AT&T claims should last 9 hours and 30 minutes on a charge. On our battery life test (continuous web surfing at 66 percent brightness) over the carrier's 4G LTE network, the tablet lasted 7:11.
The tablet was unable to run the battery test over Wi-Fi because it has some power-saver settings that can't be disabled, causing it to automatically dim the screen.
You can get the LG G Pad F 8.0 from AT&T or T-Mobile. Our review unit came from AT&T, where you can purchase it with no contract for $199. Or you can pay $10 per month for 20 months, plus a $20 activation fee. T-Mobile offers it for $239 at full retail, but will give you a G Pad F when you buy a phone.
As a free add-on to a purchase, the LG G Pad F 8.0 might be a fine thing to give to your toddler, or to use as a backup device for its always-on 4G LTE connection. But as a $199 8-inch tablet, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The $199 Asus ZenPad S 8 is more powerful and offers a better display, while the Amazon Fire HD 8 lasts longer on a charge and offers a more color- accurate screen, for $50 less. LG's tablet falls short of its competitors in almost every way.