The Optimus G will be the first commercial and global smartphone to offer the Snapdragon S4 Pro (APQ8064) processor with a Quad-Core Krait CPU, LTE supported capabilities, and the newest generation Adreno 320 GPU. With help from LG Display, the Optimus G sports a beautiful 4.7-inch WXGA True HD IPS+ Display with 320ppi high pixel density (1280×768 pixels) and Stripe RGB IPS Panel with 15:9 aspect ratio.
The Optimus G is a pivotal device for the Korean manufacturer, especially in the US, where rival Samsung is massively popular and LG’s success has been hampered by a series of forgettable products (hello, Intuition) and a lackluster track record for software updates. It’s so critical that LG even invited us to spend some quality time with the Optimus G at the launch event in Seoul last month. In the US, LG’s partnering with Sprint and AT&T and there’s strong evidence that Google’s upcoming Nexus will be based on the Optimus G. So, does the company’s latest powerhouse measure up to the competition? How different are the US versions from the Korean model? Does LG finally have a winning formula with the Optimus G? Find out in our review after the break.
At 5.2 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide by 0.33 inch thick, Sprint’s Optimus G comes in slightly narrower, taller, and thinner than AT&T’s model (which measures 5.01 inches by 2.8 inches by 0.37 inch). Its 5.12-ounce heft makes it solid, and also a tad lighter than AT&T’s as well.
The handset comes in black and white, and has a familiar square slate design. The corners are ever so slightly rounded, but the edges of the phone face drop in steep, noticeable cliffs. The left and right spines then slope more gently into the back, creating a more comfortable handhold than if you grip the phone by its face. While pleasant-looking and functional, it certainly isn’t pushing boundaries, defining your personality, or wowing you with standout machining. In fact, it reminds us of the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S II.
Like other jumbo phones, the Optimus G can’t be squeezed into smaller pockets, and this is not a device to use one-handed. However, tossing it into a bag or larger back pocket works just fine. We were able to tote it around in a stretchy back pocket. It didn’t look very attractive protruding from the material, but ambulation was possible.
LG calls its 4.7-inch Optimus G’s screen a True HD IPS+ display; that translates to a 1,280×768-pixel resolution (WXGA). The Optimus G’s 15:9 aspect ratio is a little off the 16:9 standard, but that hasn’t bothered us so far. Pixel density comes in at 320ppi. For reference, the Nokia Lumia 920 has 332ppi, the iPhone 5 has 326ppi, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a 306 pixel-per-inch density.
LG provided us with three Optimus G review units: an unlocked white handset with the 13-megapixel camera for Korea’s Olleh LTE network, Sprint’s almost identical black version and AT&T’s bespoke model with the 8-megapixel shooter. Unlike Samsung’s curved, pebble-like, “inspired by nature” theme, the Optimus G inherits LG’s chiseled, angular, slab-like design language. The details are more subtle than with the Optimus 4X HD — it’s more of a simple and elegant tribute to past Chocolate and Prada phones. While Sprint’s version shares the same appearance and dimensions as the Korean model (the reference, if you will), AT&T’s handset is 2.8mm (0.11 inches) wider and 1mm (0.04 inches) shorter. Thickness is uniform at 8.45mm (0.33 inches) and weight varies between 145g (5.11oz) and 147g (5.19oz). Regardless of which Optimus G you handle, build quality is superb — it’s like holding on to a solid block of technology. AT&T’s phone feels slightly too wide, but the other two are extremely comfortable in hand, thanks to subtly curved edges where the sides meet the back.
In front, all three devices feature a beautiful 4.7-inch True HD IPS PLUS panel fitted under an edge-to-edge sheet of Gorilla Glass 2. The earpiece is flanked by sensors on the left and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the right. The Sprint and Korean versions also include an RGB notification light next to the earpiece (it’s been relocated to the power / lock key on AT&T’s model). You’ll find three capacitive buttons below the screen (Back, Home and Menu) which are only visible when backlit. Interestingly, the bezel surrounding the display is black even on the white Korean model. There’s no branding in front other than LG’s silver logo up top and centered. Around the back, the Optimus G is covered by another sheet of what appears to be glass incorporating a pattern that’s only visible at certain angles. This glossy finish, which LG calls “Crystal Reflection”, is a veritable fingerprint magnet, especially on the black versions (Sprint and AT&T). It’s interrupted only by the camera lens above the single LED flash in the top-left and a vertical slit hiding the mono speaker in the bottom-right. LG’s silver logo returns along with carrier branding, except on Sprint’s unit which is pleasantly free of network labels. There’s no way to remove the back cover — the Optimus G’s sealed 2,100mAh Li-polymer battery is rated for 800 charge cycles (vs. the usual 400-600).
The most obvious difference between the three handsets is also our biggest design gripe. The Optimus G is available with either a choice of 8-megapixel or 13-megapixel shooters. Sprint follows the same recipe as the Korean model with the 13 MP camera sensor mounted in a protruding square pod and the LED flash embedded in the back. On AT&T’s version, it’s the reverse: the 8 MP module is located under the glass surface and the LED flash is recessed in its own divot. This inconsistency is annoying — it makes AT&T’s phone less visually appealing than the other two. We understand that the eight and 13-megapixel modules have different thicknesses, but LG could have used a similar square pod to house both cameras and simplified its assembly process while maintaining a cohesive design across models.
This inconsistency is annoying — it makes AT&T’s phone less visually appealing than the other two.
Each device sports identical controls and ports: a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and secondary microphone on top; the power / lock key on the right; a micro-USB / MHL connector, primary microphone and two screws at the bottom; and the volume rocker on the left. While Sprint’s Optimus G is devoid of any extra openings, the Korean version includes a micro-SIM tray on the left side below the volume rocker and AT&T’s model puts a flap in the same location covering both micro-SIM and microSD card slots. Our Korean unit also rocks a retractable T-DMB antenna in the top-left corner for that extra bit of street cred. Beyond the wider body and lower resolution camera, AT&T’s handset deviates further with a completely different edge design. Where the Sprint and Korean versions have mostly flat sides with two handsome silver rings — one along the edge of the front glass and the other a quarter of the way down the side — AT&T’s model features curved edges with a dark chrome finish on the left and right along with textured flat sides at the top and bottom. As mentioned above, the notification light on AT&T’s Optimus G is located around the power / lock key (instead of living next to the earpiece in front).
Camera and video
A 13-megapixel camera, you say? We were skeptical when we first heard about it, too. Of the handful of very high-resolution smartphone cameras we’ve tested, few live up to expectations. Nokia’s 808 PureView’s 41-megapixel camera was one exception, but HTC’s Titan II disappointed.
In many cases, Sprint’s Optimus G’s full-resolution images did pack in more information than AT&T’s 8-megapixel Optimus G. The same photo take on Sprint’s Optimus looked sharper and richer in many test photos; yet in others, AT&T’s photos looked sharper too, and more alive. Some of that may have to do with the higher-contrast we saw from AT&T’s camera module — many images were noticeably more saturated, but also less natural compared to the real-world subject.
The Optimus G is a performance beast. Subjectively, it never skips a beat — everything is snappy and fluid, with no lag or delays. Despite launching with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.4, to be exact), it feels quicker than our Galaxy Nexus and on par with our Galaxy Note II, both running Jelly Bean. This is a testament to LG’s UI optimizations, Qualcomm’s engineering chops or both. In our benchmarks, the Optimus G slots right between our reigning champions — the global Galaxy S III (ICS) and the Galaxy Note II (Jelly Bean) — for most tests, while handily beating both with the best Quadrant score we’ve ever recorded for a handset (7,628) and barely lagging behind in AnTuTu (11,284). The results are similar across all three versions, with the Sprint model falling a smidgen behind the other two. It will be interesting to see how much these numbers improve once the Optimus G is updated to Android 4.1.
Battery life on Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon S4 devices is usually fantastic, and we’re happy to report this trend continues with the quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro-equipped Optimus G. While all three versions have the same sealed 2,100mAh Li-polymer battery, we focused our attention on AT&T’s model since it’s the only one with an active LTE connection. Our standard battery rundown test involves setting the brightness and volume to half, using 4G in a 75 percent or better signal area, enabling GPS and WiFi (not connected) and disabling Bluetooth while looping a video from a full charge until the battery is drained. AT&T’s Optimus G ran for eight hours and 43 minutes; Sprint’s lasted seven hours and 53 minutes on 3G (LTE off); and our Korean phone kept going for eight hours and 40 minutes on 2G (LTE and HSPA+ disabled). In our moderate battery usage test, which consists of using a handset lightly from a full charge until it shuts down — emailing, texting, checking social networks, making a few brief calls, taking some pictures, etc. — all three review units went on for almost 20 hours. As such, we’re pretty sure most people will have no problems using the Optimus G for an entire day. Heavy users can use “Eco Mode,” a setting which extends battery life by dynamically switching between quad- and dual-core operation.
It is fair to say that the LG Optimus G is an excellent smartphone. When compared to the Samsung Galaxy S3, the current leading device in the high-end Android smartphones market (in terms of popularity), it delivers a state-of-the-art product design in an ultra-thin body with a better build quality than its rival.
It is also a winner on the performance side, keep in mind that its quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC (vs dual-core Snapdragon S4 for the Samsung Galaxy S3) with its faster GPU (adreno 320 vs. Adreno 225 for the S3) produce better results across all benchmarks than the S3. It delivers speed and fluidity for gaming across all applications.
LG is one of the best display manufacturer in the world, and its 4.7” True HD IPS Plus with the ZeroGap technology is totally awesome to look at. It provides an excellent user experience for watching videos or photos.
And kudos to LG for significantly improving its camera application, both on the hardware and the software sides. I found the Time Catch Shot feature ultimately cool and… useful.
Last but not least, we do appreciate the “intuitive cross tasking” concept that brought cool user interface features such as the QSlide function that allow to watch video and write emails or browse the internet simultaneously.
LG Optimus G Specs
• Network: AT&T / Sprint / Unlocked
• OS: Android 4.0
• CPU: 1.5-GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor
• Screen: 4.7-inch 1,280 x 768 pixel HD IPS PLUS (318 PPI)
• RAM: 2GB
• Storage: 16GB + up to more via 64GB microSD
• Camera: 8MP (AT&T) or 13MP (Sprint) / 1.3MP front
• Battery: 2,100 mAh Li-Ion
• Price: $200 with contract