When we talk about phablets, the first name that comes to mind is Samsung’s all conquering Galaxy Note line of products. With good reason too, because Samsung changed the game and made it fashionable for a consumer to own a product that had a display in excess of 5-inches. Others have tried to break in to the market, but have fallen flat on their faces. LG tried last year with its quirky ‘Vu’ but it was easily outclassed. This time around, on the back of the heels of solid offerings like the Nexus 4 and Optimus G, LG has launched the Optimus G Pro, which offers a wildly superior feature set than the Galaxy Note II. This time around it is even offering the product before Samsung could launch the successor to the Galaxy Note II. But can LG make it big this time? Read on to find out more.
Like most phablets, the Optimus G Pro is an unwieldy large device. At 5.5-inches it has a screen that matches the Galaxy Note II in size, but also manages to surpass it by a massive margin in terms of resolution as it has a 1080p resolution. Make no mistake; the massive screen will stand out more than anything else.
On the industrial design side, LG has made a much nicer feeling upmarket product than the Galaxy Note II. While plastic is again being used, but we can say that the plastic just does not have the glossy slime of Samsung product. There is a pattern on the back that gives the Optimus G Pro a distinctive look. From the sides, the phone has a more understated black rim that does not seek attention like the faux chrome on Samsung’s products. Overall, while the product may not win any accolades for its design or build, we have to say that the hardware is just a lot more nicer than anything Samsung has come up with in recent times. One has to give LG props for that.
The Optimus G Pro may be a large device, but for a phablet it’s pretty thin at 9.4mm. Even in terms of weight it weighs 172 grams. In comparison phones like the Nokia Lumia 920 weigh much more.
Below the display one also finds the typical three-pronged Android control cluster. So there’s a Samsung like main home key, a menu button on the right and a back key on the left. Above the magnificent screen one will also find the 2.1-megapixel front camera and a suite of sensors. The top end of the phone houses the 3.5mm jack and the IR blaster and a microphone.
The left edge is home to the volume rockers and a dedicated button for taking screenshots. While the idea of a dedicated screenshot button seems novel, those who are not used to it, will often mistake the screenshot button for volume rockers.
The right houses the power button and the bottom end is home to the microUSB slot and the primary mic. On the back there is a 13-megapixel camera flanked but a speaker and flash. The LG branding is also quite prominently highlighted. Underneath the back panel one will find a massive 3,140-mAh battery, a microSD card slot and a microUSB slot.
As one might expect, with a device of this caliber, one is getting the top-of-the-line hardware. The Optimus G Pro matches the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 spec for spec. It has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU clocked at 1.7GHz, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory. On the front, it has a glorious 5.5-inch IPS display that has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels converting to 400 pixels per inch.
One simply cannot discern the individual pixels with the human eye and the colours look supremely natural unlike the saturated AMOLED panels found on Samsung’s phones. The viewing angles are great, and one could only say that the display on the HTC One had probably deeper blacks and was more pixel dense. Most people will not notice the difference.
There’s also a massive battery and a 13-megapixel camera in the back, which is sort of becoming a standard resolution for flagship smartphone for 2013. In terms of specs, one has to admit, LG is offering the best available.
Notably, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note II, it does not come with a stylus like apparatus, which could make things difficult for the product considering people have grown to like the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note and the large size of the screen exists partially to justify the use of the stylus.
Like the Optimus G, the Optimus G Pro is currently stuck on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This is rather unfortunate considering we now have Android 4.3 out in the wild. Apart from the older version of Android we find the Roboto like ethos of the LG Optimus UI.
A few months ago when we reviewed the LG Optimus G we noted that we liked the direction LG was going with its Android interface. The LG Optimus G Pro basically is identical to the Optimus G, with the exception of a few applications.
We get all the QSlide applications that essentially are applets. These include video, web browser, memo, calendar, and calculator. There is a wonderful QuickRemote app, which allows the user to control the IR blaster. We are frankly in love with the IR functionality on the Optimus G Pro, which we believe to be vastly superior to solutions found on the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z. This largely because QuickWatch supports Tata Sky in India by default and one does not need to ‘game’ the system by predicting the manufacturer of the set top box and also we were even able to control our LG air conditioner using the phone itself. Other than this we were easily able to control the TV and also our home theater system using the app.
Users can also have a multiview like multitasking on the Optimus G Pro and the in our testing the device remained pretty responsive.
Other apps that LG preloads are safety care, smart share and even a translation app called quick translate. Quick translate is actually quite similar to S-Translate on the Galaxy S4. LG has also built a backup tool of its own into the smartphone.
Right off the bat, one expects the Optimus G Pro to be a scorching performer. As mentioned above it packs in class leading specs, with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU, Adreno 320 GPU 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. While navigating the user interface we faced no stutters or jitters and everything was silky smooth. The phone managed to multitask stupendously well and at time we had more than 20 apps open and we rarely felt, the phone was pushing its limits. Everything just worked fine and there was a certain iOS like smoothness to the UI, which we one rarely encounters with an Android smartphone save for the Nexus 4, which ironically was also made by LG.
In terms of gaming we tested games like Riptide GP and Dead Trigger and graphics were vastly better than the Optimus 4X HD from last year and were on par with the Optimus G from earlier this year. The stock web browser was a delight to use and in our opinion proved to be better than Chrome in terms of pure performance and smoothness of transitions and animations. Scrolling was buttery smooth and the same held true for pinch-to-zoom gestures.
Actually we believe that now flagship Android smartphones are packed with so much technology to the hilt that it is not a question of the OS being optimized; it’s more of a case of the hardware just bulldozing its way through any slowdowns through sheer brute force.
The camera on Optimus G Pro is actually quite brilliant in normal lighting conditions and reproduces true colors. In particular, macro shots look very detailed. In more dimly lit conditions the 13-megapixel camera looses out on sharpness by a great deal. In fact, the camera on the Micromax Canvas 4 manages to beat it at times in these circumstances. In pure low-light conditions the camera cannot match the iPhone 5 or the Nokia Lumia 920 or the HTC One, but it has a very tempered flash that allows for some very usable shots that don’t overexpose the image.
The camera app also allows for a number of granular controls for various settings like ISO, metering, exposure and also a manual focus option, which is a little quirky to use via the touch screen but can be a powerful tool. Quality of videos shot from the camera remained impressive, but we still prefer the iPhone 5 and the HTC One in terms of quality and stabilization.
The battery life on the product did not set the house on fire, but we easily managed to coast through a day, but unlike the Galaxy Note II, this would not last for in excess of 36 hours. In our usage we made around 2 hours of phone calls, bit of social networking, some photography, lots of email, streaming music via Play Music and a bit of gaming. Mostly the phone would be on 3G connectivity and we would consistently clock between 25 to 27 hours. There was not even a single day when the phone died within 24 hours, which was commendable.
Call quality remained solid and we faced no major hiccups in that regard. Of course, it was still a notch below some Nokia phones we have tested in the past, but the quality was not bad on the whole.
If one can live with the massive 5.5-inch screen minus the S-Pen, then the LG Optimus G Pro remains a compelling option. It offers smoother performance than the Samsung Galaxy S4, with a similar feature set and costs a good deal lesser at Rs 38,970. It also packs in a solid camera, a great IR blaster and stunning 5.5-inch display, but its form factor remains a hindrance for most. Adding to its woes is the presence of the svelte Lenovo K900 that is powered by Intel’s CloverTrail CPU and costs a good deal lesser. Additionally, we have the shadow of the Samsung Galaxy Note III shrouding its chances as it could launch within a month.
Still, if you don’t mind the 5.5-inch size, it’s hard not to recommend the Optimus G Pro because it actually ticks all the right boxes.
Photographs: Sahil Mohan Gupta