LG Optimus G Review: A Speedy Smartphone With a Spacious Screen
AT&T and Sprint each released a version of the Optimus G, and both editions boast truly impressive hardware. But it falls short of the iPhone and Galaxy for different reasons. Still, give the Optimus a look. It's a decent choice.
The Optimus G won't win awards for innovative design -- it looks like your standard, boring black slab. That said, it's one good-looking slab. Made of premium materials, all lines and angles are sleek and thin. The back is made of a material LG calls "crystal reflection," which vacillates between plain black and a pattern, depending on the angle, to catch the eye. I thought it was a nice touch, but if you prefer low-key than flash, you won't like it. Regardless, it's a nifty trick, but it attracts fingerprints. Still, I suppose a smudgy crystal reflection is more interesting than a plain back coated in smears.
AT&T's version is a smidge wider and thicker than Sprint's model -- to accommodate for a microSD and micro-SIM slots. The AT&T's model has a chrome rail for softer angles, while Sprint took off any brand-specific logos. Overall, there are few cosmetic differences, but both models are completely sealed, you can't remove the battery.
The 4.7-inch display is top-notch. The 1,280-by-768 pixel resolution, meanwhile, delivers exceptionally sharp definition -- fonts look crisp and colors are true to life. I was really impressed by the deepness of the blacks. But the best part? The impressive clarity is retained at a range of viewing angles. That's because LG uses technology it calls "Zerogap Touch," which "pushes" the screen to the edge. What does that mean? Well, the display looks like it's fading seamlessly into the frame. It's one of the best displays out there. I can't think of a better display -- perhaps besides the One X. Oh, but there's one flaw: the aspect ratio is slightly off-kilter, but it's not very noticeable. Overall, it's a worthy rival to the iPhone, and better than the Galaxy S3.
Whether you buy from AT&T or Sprint, the Optimus G has a strong camera -- but they're not equal. I expected Sprint's 13-megapixel lens to be noticeably better than AT&T's 8-megapixels, but that wasn't the case -- photos I took looked around the same in terms of quality. So I'm not sure what the where Sprint's extra pixels went. Regardless, both sets of pictures are sharp and colors are accurate. There's not much to complain about in bright environments, but I'm a bit disappointed by how it handled dim-lighting -- the quality begins to suffer as above average noise creeps in. AT&T's version has a recessed LED flash, so it's not as effective. Meanwhile, Sprint's sensor is mounted.
The hardware differs, but the interface is the same. It comes with standard high-end features like HDR and panorama, and you get a few fun functions like "Cheese Shutter," which snaps a photo when it hears those fateful words. I found out it also works when you say "kimchi," a nod to its Korean origins. You can also play around with "Time Catch" mode, which actually starts taking rapid-fire shots before you press the shutter, and then collects them in succession.
The Optimus G runs on ICS rather than Jelly Bean, but LG promises to push out an update. The company kept the software clean, without adding much of an overlay, but icons look a bit childish compared to the vanilla version. LG added one nice feature: Live Zoom. Ever wish you could see what that item was in the corner of a video? Now you can. Live Zoom lets you enlarge parts of videos as you watch them. LG also includes its "QuickNote" app. It's nice if you want to scrawl a note and you can't find a pen.
There's also a feature, called "QSlide," to use apps while a video is playing in the background. Think of it as picture-in-picture. When you watch movies, for example, tap the icon on the top right to pull up a transparent layer. I can't say it's the easiest thing to use, but it comes in handy if you don't want to stop the video to send a text. Personally, though, I find it easier to just switch tasks, finish what I have to, and go back.
You can immediately tell the difference between AT&T and Sprint versions from the software. How? Both carriers meddled with the software to the point where you'd think they were entirely different devices. For instance, AT&T's settings are arranged as tabs, while Sprint's are listed. But overall, AT&T's interface is much more annoying: 11 un-installable apps aggressively promote AT&T useless services. Sprint's software, frankly, looks much nicer with less bloatware.
Both versions run on a blazing 1.5-gigahertz quad-core chip. Wow. I was blown away by the unparalleled speed. Everything runs like butter, and it's one of the highlights. Even though it runs on ICS, I wouldn't blame you if you thought it was Jelly Bean, because the processor makes everything look cutting-edge. It comes with a 2,100 mAh battery, which kept me powered throughout the day -- on par with the Galaxy S3. It's non-removable, though. Sprint's comes with a microSD slot, as I mentioned earlier, and both versions have 32-gigabytes of memory. That's more than enough for most.
Overall, the Optimus G is one of LG's best smartphones to date. If you're going to buy one, I'd recommend the Sprint version over AT&T's due to the software. But either one is a solid choice. ♦
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Better Than the Galaxy S3
LG's Optimus G is a great phone! It lives up to everything it claims to be -- and more. First, the build materials are better than most phones out there. The touch display is large -- I was a bit worried about the size before but you get used to it -- and the buttons are easy to reach. The sides flat, rather than rounded, for an edgier feel. Some people may find it a turn off, but I like it. You have to curl your fingers around to hold it, but it tends to have a slightly smaller size because of it. Still, if you have smaller hands, you might want to check it out in person -- it can be rather large.
The back looks like plastic, which might be a drawback, but it keeps it lightweight. It's not as light as the Galaxy S3, but it feel like it's better made as well. You don't notice it when you look at it, but touching it makes a difference.
The screen is made from Gorilla Glass, so it can take the everyday wear and tear. There's also a nice chrome trim around the display. The color and sharpness is great. I actually prefer the brightness turned down a third of the way. You won't have any issues viewing it outdoors -- even in direct sunlight, it works well.
The quad-core chip is absolutely blazing. Wow. I watch streaming video from Netflix and there's no lag or delay in sight. When you load apps, they literally instantaneous. There are no problems here.
I'm very satisfied with the Optimus. After considering the Galaxy S3 and the Optimus G, I'm glad I chose the latter.
The battery life is mediocre. I'll get around a day's use out of a charge, which is about normal for a smartphone these days. I'm an average user -- I make a few calls, check e-mail, browse the Web, etc. Your power drain may vary.
The vibrate is a little weak. Sometimes if I'm walking with the phone in my pants pocket, I won't feel it. I'll notice it when I'm sitting down, but it's something to note. The lack of an expansion slot is a bit of a minus too. You get 32-gigabytes, which is enough for most, so it's not that bad.Was this review helpful to you?
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