A short while back, LG launched it’s new flagship, the Optimus G Pro, in India. Coming mere months after the Optimus G, which in itself was an excellent smartphone, the Pro attempts to take things to the next level. But, does it succeed? Read on for our full review.
Appearance and Display
Although LG hasn’t been using the word phablet for the Optimus G Pro, in reality, it is more of a competitor to the Samsung Note II than the Galaxy SIV. The Optimus G Pro features slimmer bezel than the Note, and as a result is slightly more compact. However, it’s still too large for one handed operation, and for a lot of users the size will definitely be a cause for concern. Thankfully, LG has attempted to make things slightly easier by placing the power and volume buttons on the side instead of on the top. There are two capacitive buttons along with a physical home button that also doubles up as the notification LED. Unlike it’s predecessor, the G Pro features a shiny all plastic body. It definitely doesn’t feel as good in the hand as the Optimus G. However, the plastic back offers quite a few advantages. The most obvious benefit is increased durability. I couldn’t muster up the courage to drop test the review unit, but the plastic back definitely increases the odds of the handset surviving a fall. The plastic back has also enabled LG to make the battery user replaceable. To LG’s credit, it has tried to infuse some character into the back cover by imprinting a Optimus G like pattern on the back which shines under light. The effect is not as spectacular as it’s in the Nexus 4; however, it still looks pretty cool.
The Optimus G Pro features a full HD (1080p) 5.5 inch IPS Plus LCD display, which boasts of a pixel density of 400 ppi. The display is quite simply spectacular. It’s crisp, vibrant, yet well balanced. LG’s display is definitely among the best, if not the best, that you’d find in the current breed of smartphones. It has extremely wide viewing angles, and is bright enough to be legible even under direct sunlight. HD videos are a joy to watch on the giant display, and made me willing to accept the inconveniences caused by the size.
Hardware and Software
The LG Optimus G Pro features a Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 chipset that houses a Quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300 processor and an Adreno 320 GPU. The top notch SoC is well complemented by 2 gigabytes of RAM. Although I didn’t get around to running any benchmarks, the phone was consistently fast. Whether I was zooming into a full-HD video, or switching between a dozen tabs in Chrome, or playing Asphalt 7, the G Pro never missed a beat. You’re unlikely to be complaining about the performance of this device for quite some time to come. The review unit I received had 16 gigs of internal storage (slightly more than 10 GB is available to the user); however, I believe that a 32 GB edition might also be released in the market. The storage can be augmented by up to 64 GB of external memory (microSD).
On the connectivity front, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Miracast, Bluetooth 4.0, MHL, and NFC are supported. It also sports an IR blaster that can be used for controlling your television. The Optimus G is an LTE enabled handset; however, this is of little benefit in India. The G Pro features a powerful 3140 mAh battery, which ensures that even with a gigantic display and a bleeding edge chipset, the handset can keep on chugging along for a full day (or more) on moderate usage on 3G. The Note II features a similar battery; however, thanks to its last-gen chipset and a lower resolution display, it will probably last a bit longer than LG.
LG doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to Android updates. It’s launching the G Pro with Android 4.2.1, even as Samsung managed to ship the Galaxy SIV with Android 4.2.2 just months after the update was released by Google. There are rumors that LG is testing Android 4.2.2 on the Optimus G Pro; however, so far there hasn’t been any official confirmation. The G Pro runs LG’s Optimus UX, and comes with the usual suit of LG specific apps. Some of the most notable software enhancements include:
QuickMemo: QuickMemo can be triggered anywhere anytime through the dedicated hardware button. It captures the current content on the screen, and allows you to annotate and draw on top of it. Notes saved through QuickMemo are sharable through email, Facebook and other networks.
QSlide: QSlide enhances multitasking by running supported apps in a windowed mode. So you can continue surfing the web while watching a movie. Qslide supported apps include the web browser, video player, Memo, Calendar, and Calculator. You can also adjust the opacity of these apps so that they don’t get in the way of your workflow.
MediaPlex: Most the fancy new features in the video player that were introduced with the Optimus 4X have been retained in the Optimus G Pro. So, you can pinch to zoom into a video, get a neat preview while seeking, and increase or decrease playback speed. All of these work flawlessly even on full HD videos, and are perhaps the best demonstration of the power of the Snapdragon 600.
Smart Screen and Smart Video: These two features are exactly the same as the Galaxy SIV’s Smart Stay. The Optimus G Pro can detect when you are looking at the phone and accordingly prevent the screen from timing out. Similarly, it can also detect when you aren’t looking at the phone and automatically pause videos. Both of these features are disabled by default, which suggests that LG isn’t too confident about their accuracy.
Quiet Time: You can pre-define a time range during which your phone will automatically go into silent mode, and disable all sounds expect that of multimedia and alarms.
There are a bunch of other neat stuff including Vu Talk, configurable notification toggle buttons, video editor, and music video creator. The SMS notification implementation is particularly cool and deserves a shout out. When you get a new message, you get a neat popup near the top-left, which lets you to immediately reply to the SMS without having to open up the Messages app.The Optimus UX doesn’t exactly go overboard with features like TouchWiz; however, it offers supports extensive customization options which will please the power users. My favourite setting is the ability to map the QuickMemo button to any custom app, including the camera app. The Optimus UX is not without issues though. LG still uses the unified volume control option, which can be frustrating. The notification menu appears a bit cluttered with the inclusion of power control widgets, QSlide apps, and a brightness control slider.
The LG Optimus G Pro sports a 13 megapixel rear-camera and a 2.1 megapixel font camera. While many of the early reviews criticized the camera quality, I found the G Pro to be an excellent snapper giving great performance both indoors and outdoors. LG has been continuously refining the Camera app over the past few generations, and as a result its a joy to use. All the usual stuff including preset scenes, exposure adjustment, white balance settings, ISO settings, panorama and HDR mode are there. Additionally, LG has thrown in manual focus, color modes, time catch shot, dual shot, and VR Panorama. Time catch shot is a nifty feature whereby the camera automatically preserves shots from moments before and after you pressed the shutter, and allows you to keep the best shot. VR Panorama is essentially Google Photo Sphere, which allows you to stitch together multiple pics to create a 360 degree view of any point. Dual shot, as the name suggests, uses the front and rear cam simultaneously to take a pic of the photographer as well as the subject. This works for both stills and videos.
The G Pro is capable of recording full HD (1080p) videos with continuous auto-focus at 30fps. HDR mode is supported; however, it yielded disappointing results for me. Due to some reason, HDR videos seem to be desaturated and devoid of details. The video player supports Live Effects that can track faces to add silly effects as you shoot the video. It can also replace the background provided the camera frame remains still.
The Optimus G Pro is a fabulous device and a worthy successor to the Optimus G, which was LG’s first truly great smartphone. It’s most obvious feature is the huge display, which is absolutely fantastic. You’ll find yourself wanting to use the phone simply because of the display. However, at the same time, the large size will also make you want to pick up an HTC One or even an Samsung Galaxy SIV. They are so much easier to hold and use that many will be willing to forgo the advantages of a large screen. Do you want a phone that can be used with one hand, or do you want a phone that can shoulder some of the responsibilities of a tablet? That’s the single biggest question you’d have to answer. If you want a phablet, and don’t plan on doing any drawing or sketching, the G Pro will serve you well. It’s a generation ahead of the Note II and is a better performer in every way. The Optimus G Pro delivers in terms of performance, display clarity, camera quality, and battery life. It’s a true winner.