The Optimus G from LG is a curious blend of design and clever engineering which changed the way I think about Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The Optimus G sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, LTE capability, and a 4.7-inch True HD IPS display. While it certainly packs a punch in the specs sheet, does the LG Optimus G have what it takes to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S III or Nexus 4?
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to use the AT&T version of the Optimus G for the past week. During that time, I tested a number of features that are exclusive to LG. To my surprise, much of the so-called OEM bloatware is actually quite useful. Unfortunately, there are also a few carrier-specific points that left me a little less than satisfied.
How does the LG Optimus G stack up? Here’s my breakdown.
The LG Optimus G is a sleek device. Free of the overly-rounded corners found in many of Samsung’s product offerings, the Optimus G has a distinctly rectangular shape with subtle tapering along the edges. It’s surprisingly comfortable in my hand, though I found it to be a bit too wide for smaller hands.
The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 2, an extremely strong and popular solution to protecting the sensitive screen elements. It appears that another sheet of Gorilla Glass covers the back of the device, protecting and enhancing a graphite-colored diamond pattern, the 8-megapixel (13 on the Sprint version) camera and LED flash.
The battery is not user replaceable, a detraction from typical Android smartphone design. This echos the design decisions made with the Nexus 4 (also a device by LG). With an included 2,100mAh Li-polymer battery rated for 800 charge cycles, there is plenty of charge to get someone through a day of normal use, though I wouldn’t recommend traveling without taking a microUSB cable and/or wall charger with you.
Here’s a look at some of the internal specs.
- Processor: 1.5 GHz Quad-Core Processor
- Network: GSM Quad Band/UTMS Tri Band/LTE Dual Band
- Measurements: 5.15″ (H) x 2.82″ x 0.33″ (D)
- Weight: 5.19 oz
- Screen: 4.7″ (768 x 1280) True HD IPS Plus Display
- Battery: 2,100mAh (10 hours talk / 13.5 days standby)
- Storage: 32GB total memory (16GB built in memory and 16GB microSD card)
- Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n / Bluetooth 4.0 / NFC
- Camera: 8.0 Megapixel HD Rear-Facing / 1.3 Megapixel Front-Facing
As you can see from the photo above, the 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera on the AT&T version of the LG Optimus G is actually quite good. I notice a little purple fringing in poor lighting conditions where light sources are located in front of the camera, but for the most part the camera responds quite well. The LG Optimus G requires the flash more frequnetly than either the Samsung Galaxy S III or Galaxy Nexus I tested in the past. In daylight conditions, the camera is every bit as crisp and clear as any other 8 megapixel camera I’ve tested on a smartphone to date.
Photo details come out a little soft in interior lighting conditions, though noise performance is actually quite good. The Optimus G might not be the best camera out there, but it certainly isn’t the worst.
Prior to trying out the LG Optimus G, my experience with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has been largely hit and miss. Dropped frames, poor software optimization, and stutter are a constant problem with many Android devices (and/or associated software) in that version of the OS. To my surprise, the Snapdragon processor appears to be powerful enough to make these issues a problem of the past. I’ve put this phone through the ringer with hardly a dropped frame. It’s quick, snappy, and extremely responsive.
When I compared the Optimus G to my Galaxy Nexus, the difference in performance was night and day. Despite having the benefit of Project Butter (an initiative by Google to improve Android performance), the Galaxy Nexus feels like an old snail by comparison.
One point I wasn’t terribly happy about was the integrated AT&T phone setup option. Basically, you would enter any email and social information you wished to have set up on the phone through the AT&T website, and it would be ready for you as soon as you finished linking the phone to your service. I wasn’t immediately aware that you could skip this step and set everything up yourself. Configuration via AT&T might be a benefit for new users, but it appears to be an unnecessary step added by the carrier.
LG made significant improvements to the user experience. There are a number of features found on LG’s platform you won’t see anywhere else. Many of these adjustments fill in the gaps between Android Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich nicely. Even without the benefit of Google Now, the user software experience is well balanced and friendly to even the newcomer to the world of Android.
Here’s a look at some of the software features available on the LG Optimus G.
- QuickMemo: This feature makes it easy to take a screenshot and add drawn or written notes to emphasize points detailed in the capture.
- QSlide: Want to watch a movie while sending text messages? You can with this feature.
- Android Beam: This is an excellent way to share media and information between Android devices.
- LG Tag+: Want to touch your phone to an NFC tag and have options turned off or on depending on your location? This feature helps you do just that.
- SmartShare: This feature lets you share media content wirelessly to DLNA- enabled devices.
- Wise Ringtone: Tired of missing a call because you couldn’t hear your phone over the ambient noise? This feature boosts the volume when (and where) it’s needed.
- Mobile Hotspot: The LG Optimus G can be used as a mobile hotspot for Wi-Fi enabled devices.
- Eco Mode: When your phone dips below a certain battery percentage, you can have it change the way it uses the processor, turn off various processes, and dim the screen to save power.
- Live Zooming: Want to zoom in to a specific subject while playing a video back? Live Zooming makes it possible.
- USB and Bluetooth Tethering: While not available on all of AT&T’s data plans, it will allow you to tether with your laptop where this is supported.
Many of the software features included in the LG Optimus G are geared towards the average user. You don’t need to be an Android power user to find and utilize these features.
I’ve spoken with members of the LG team and confirmed that Jelly Bean will eventually make its way to the Optimus G, but for now there is no date set for release. Despite this potential shortcoming, the LG Optimus G is undoubtedly going to be one of the top Android phones to beat heading into 2013.