The LG Optimus G is a powerhouse of a smartphone. I’ve had the privilege of being able to use the phone for a little over a week now, and the contrast between using it and the Galaxy Nexus is astonishing. LG spared no expense in terms of features, and performance on AT&T’s 4G LTE service in the Austin Area is second to none.
During my time with the LG Optimus G, I found it easy to separate myself from my Galaxy Nexus. In fact, the only thing I missed about the Nexus was the advantages of Google Now. The camera application alone is leaps and bounds above that which vanilla Jelly Bean offers. Even though this phone shipped with Ice Cream Sandwich, the improvements made with Project Butter and other performance tweaks were completely invisible in the face of the Optimus G’s 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor which provides a smooth experience from the lighting desktop use to heavy gaming.
So, how does the LG Optimus G feel after a week of use?
The LG Optimus G is no slouch when it comes to performance. Like its sister smartphone, the Nexus 4, the Optimus G features a blazingly fast 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. That’s a long name, but the results are nothing short of impressive.
Navigating around the Optimus G was a breeze. Even compared to a Jelly Bean device, I found the Optimus G outperformed virtually any smartphone I’ve used to date. This includes the iPhone 5, which itself is an impressive combination of optimized software and high-performance hardware.
It’s hard to speak to performance without at least making a not to the decision to include LTE. I’ve actually found that Wi-Fi slows the phone down compared to the incredibly fast speeds I received during the first week of testing on AT&T LTE. Sprint typically follows suit with its own 4G LTE network. Average speeds I received around Austin were in the 20 Megabit down / 15 Megabit up range. I did see burst speeds approaching 40 Megabits of downstream, though this happened on rare occasion.
The LG Optimus G’s design is simple and elegant. The phone felt a little wide in my hands compared to the Galaxy Nexus. The the 1280×768 4.7″ True HD IPS display was big and bright, with just a tiny bit less contrast than the iPhone 5.
A power button and volume rocker sit along the outside edges of the device, along with a microUSB port which enables you to use cables you already have to charge the phone. Home, back, and options buttons are software based and laid out in a dedicate space at the bottom of the screen. Rotating the screen doesn’t change the position of these buttons.
Audio was crisp and loud, though putting someone on speakerphone with the volume turned to the max resulted in some distortion and rough tones. I found the sweet spot to be somewhere near the 60% mark for clear audio without a huge sacrifice in volume.
I’m not thrilled about the decision to make the 8 megapixel (13 megapixel on Sprint) camera flush with the back of the device. As there currently aren’t a lot of options in terms of cases, the camera feels vulnerable to rough surfaces. Still, this seems to the be the current trend among smartphone makers. A front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera sits almost invisible in the upper-right corner of the device.
Here’s a look at some basic specs.
- Processor: 1.5 GHz quad-core processor
- Battery: 2,100 mAh (10 hours talk / 13.5 days standby)
- Memory: 2 GB
- Storage: 32 GB total memory (16 GB built-in memory and 16 GB microSD card)
- Network: GSM Quad Band/UTMS Tri Band/LTE Dual Band
- Measurements: 5.15″ (H) x 2.82″ (W) x 0.33″ (D)
- Weight: 5.19 oz.
- Display: 4.7″ (768 x 1280) True HD IPS Plus display
- Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n
- NFC: Android Beam and NFC+ tag support
- Bluetooth: 4.0
If there is one thing the Optimus G has, it’s features. You won’t find many of these features on a vanilla Android installation, and it appears that LG went all out to make sure that its software enhancements provided useful enhancements for the user.
Here are some of the features available on the LG Optimus G.
- QSlide: This gives you the ability to watch a movie while doing another task. There is even a feature that enables you to allocate a specific amount of screen space to various tasks.
- QuickMemo: Taking screenshots and adding written or drawn annotations to them is possible with QuickMemo. It’s great for the professional, but brilliant for a developer making notes about specific app features and sending them on the fly.
- Android Beam: Sending information such as contact info, photos, and web pages to someone using NFC are just a few advantages to having a phone with Android Beam technology.
- LG Tag+: This feature enables you to use NFC tags to adjust how your phone works. For example, a tag in your car will shut off Wi-Fi and configure the phone’s audio to match your needs in the car.
- 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.
- Eco Mode: This feature allows you to change how your phone operates under low-battery conditions. This allows you to get the most use out of those last bits of battery life.
- Live Zooming: Want to zoom in to a specific subject while playing a video back? Live Zooming makes it possible.
- SmartShare: This feature lets you share media content wirelessly to DLNA- enabled devices.
- 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.
- Mobile Hotspot: The LG Optimus G can be used as a mobile hotspot for Wi-Fi enabled devices.
There are two built-in cameras on the LG Optimus G for AT&T. Unlike the Sprint model which features a 13 megapixel built-in camera, the one featured on AT&T’s phone only has eight. That said, I found that color depth on the 8 megapixel model to be a little better. Low-light performance is passable, though some of that purple fringing we keep hearing about on the iPhone is also present on the Optimus G in cases where a direct light is in front of the camera.
I found photos to be a little soft when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S III. The addition of HDR and panoramic modes is a welcome feature.
The front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera is made for video conferencing. It works great on Google+, and I found that it performed well in both low and bright lighting conditions. Keep in mind though that you’ll want to take stills on the more detailed back-facing camera. There was a little of a fisheye effect on the front-facing camera during a Google+ Hangout.
At a price of $200 (about $620 off-contract), this is arguably one of the better choices out there. Folks I’ve spoken with on the LG team indicate that an upcoming update to Android Jelly Bean is imminent, but were unable to provide a solid release date.
If I had to compare it to the Samsung Galaxy S III, I’d say that this phone has certainly proven to be the peppier of the two. Motion is speedy and fast, and that’s exactly what you’d expect from a newer device. While I could do without some of the bloatware (AT&T provided), this phone has a number of interesting features that make it much easier to customize than even a vanilla Android device.
Within minutes of holding the device for the first time, I was able (without instruction) to change out the icons used for my default apps, master QuickMemo, and make use of its built-in NFC. It might not be the first choice for die-hard Android enthusiasts (the Nexus 4 is almost identical to the Optimus G minus LTE and SD storage expansion), but I would consider it a strong contender for the average user.
I’m going to continue to use the LG Optimus G for at least another month. We’ll keep you updated on any news as it comes out, and stay tuned for an in-depth camera test and comparison with other leading phones in the Android market.