Last year, the Nexus 4 from Google and LG, which was based on the Optimus G, really set the bar for Android phones in terms of performance, build quality and price. LG had out-of-nowhere stepped up its game to a much higher level, with the Optimus G and the Nexus 4. Both the handsets met with success, with the Optimus G selling 1 million units in Korea and the supply of the Nexus 4 catching up with the demand only after 3 months of the handset being released.
Banking on the Optimus G and the Nexus 4 success, LG unveiled the Optimus G Pro earlier this year. The handset recently made its way to the Indian shores, and here is our review of the handset after using it for a week.
- 5.5-inch True Full HD IPS Plus LCD
- 1.7GHz Snapdragon S600
- Adreno 320 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16/32GB of storage space
- Accelerometer, Gyro, Proximity, Compass, GPS, GLONASS
- Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, microSD card slot, LTE, NFC, MHL, Bluetooth 4.0, IR Sensor
- 13MP at the back, 2.1MP in the front
- HDR, Dual-Shot, Panorama, VR Panorama
- 3140mAh removable battery
Part 1: Design, Hardware & Software
Part 2: Performance, Camera & Value for Money
The Optimus G Pro is more of an evolution of the Optimus G design, than a complete re-design. Gone is the fragile glass back as seen on the Optimus G/Nexus 4, and instead there is a removable plastic back. However, the glittering design as seen on the G and N4 are still very much present, even though its effect is a little sub-dued.
From the front, the handset looks like a slab of black glass, which like the Nexus 4, definitely looks futuristic. Below the mammoth 5.5-inch screen is a physical home button, adored by two capacitive (Back and menu) keys, respectively. There is also a faux-metal plastic ring running around the sides of the phone. The power button is located on the right side of the phone, with the volume keys and a dedicated shortcut key on the left. The shortcut key can be used to assign quick access to any app of your choice from the Settings menu of the phone.
A 3.5mm jack and the infrared sensor are located at the top, with the microUSB port at the bottom. There are also dual-mics located at the top and bottom of the handset for noise cancellation. The back of the G Pro can also be removed to give access to the beefy 3140mAh battery, the microSIM card slot and a microSD card slot.
The Optimus G Pro does not include a stylus, even though it packs a screen size that is as big as the Note 2, which is disappointing. A stylus does make sense on phablets, and can come in handy for sketching or taking quick notes.
The front of the Pro is dominated by a massive 5.5-inch full HD (1920*1080) IPS LCD, pushing the phone into the ‘phablet’ category. Compared to the Optimus G or the Nexus 4, which had a 4.7-inch screen, the G Pro screen is downright massive.
Apart from being big, the G Pro screen is beautiful as well. It is bright, vibrant, constrasty, and has wide-viewing angles as well. Even the black levels for an LCD are simply astounding. The touch-sensitivity of the screen is also top-notch, unlike the Nexus 4. Also, the Gorilla glass 2 on the G Pro is actually slightly raised and tapers towards the edges. This makes swiping across the screen a very blissful experience.
However, the Optimus G Pro screen is not perfect. The screen is very reflective, making it very difficult to use in bright sunlight. Another issue with the screen is the color reproduction. Compared to the screen of the HTC One, the color reproduction of the G Pro screen is way off the mark.
The Optimus G Pro runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, with LG’s own custom UI on top of it. While Android 4.2.2 did not bring many new features, it did contain numerous usability features that would have definitely made using the G Pro a better experience. For a flagship device that is shipping in 2013, there really is no reason for the Optimus G Pro to not ship with the latest version of Jelly Bean.
Anyways, LG has added tons of new features to make up for the older version of Android. Below is a small list of all the software features present on the handset -:
Customizable Quick Toggles – The G Pro allows the user to setup up to 15 quick toggles in the notification bar for quickly turning Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC etc. on or off. The position and the amount of toggles can be defined can also be customized according to the user’s liking.
QSlide Apps – Inspired from Samsung’s Multi-window feature, the Optimus G Pro comes with QSlide Apps. These apps can be used on top of another app simultaneously. For example, you can watch a video on YouTube, while using the QSlide web browser to browse the web.
While QSlide can come in handy in certain situations, the feature in itself is held back by the limited app support. There are only five QSlide apps including Calendar, Calculator, Internet, Videos and Memo. There is no way to add any third party app to this list. Also, the QSlide apps list permanently resides on the notification bar and there is no way to remove it taking up precious real screen estate.
Smart Screen – This feature makes sure that the screen does not turn off when the user is looking at the screen. This feature is a hit-or-miss at best. It works in proper lighting conditions, but utterly fails in low-light and dark conditions.
Smart Video – The video on the screen will automatically stop playing when the user is not looking at the screen. Another hit-or-miss feature.
Quick Cover – The screen will automatically turn itself on or off if you use a flip cover.
Smart Screen, Smart Video and Quick Cover are definitely Samsung Galaxy Series inspired features.
Gestures – The G Pro also comes with certain gestures like the ability to pause a video, snooze an alarm or silence a phone call by just flipping the phone.
One-handed operation – LG has included some options to make the phone easier to use with one-hand. This includes shifting the position of the dialer, the lock screen PIN and the LG keyboard to the left or right part of the screen.
Quick Button – The Optimus G Pro has a dedicated button on the left side for quick access to any app. By default, pressing the button will take a screenshot of the current screen and open the Quick Memo application so that you can quickly scribe anything on the screen.
However, you can also use this button to open the camera, and then use it as a shutter button to take pictures. A very handy feature, I must say!
Quiet Time – You can assign a specific time during which the phone will not notify or ring for any new notification. This will work for all your notifications, except for alarm and media.
File Networking – LG has included an option to directly share a folder from your phone with other devices. This is similar to the funcationality that apps like SwiFTP or AirDroid offers. You can easily and wirelessly transfer files from your Optimus G Pro to your PC and vice versa using this option.
QRemote – The Optimus G Pro includes an IR Blaster, and using the QRemote application you can use it to control any remote controlled device present in your house. This is in stark contrast to the One and the Galaxy S4, which only allow the users to control the TV using the IR blaster and nothing else.
The QRemote app also has a handy feature where it will automatically show up on your lock screen, whenever you connect the Optimus G Pro to your Home Wi-Fi network.
Miscellaneous – LG has also included lots of features in the default launcher, including a landscape mode, the ability to change the swipe animation, and the option to make the screen scroll circularly.
Even the lock screen has a very nice animation, which can be changed as well. Below is a video of the different lock screen animations in action -:
Other features that LG has packed into the Optimus G Pro include the ability to change the fonts and their size, a Power save mode with ‘Quad core control’, a Battery usage graph with an estimated remaining level depending on the 3-hour usage pattern, Aspect ratio correction for incompatible apps and SmartShare Beam.
Some of the pre-loaded apps on the phone include Quick Translator, Quick Remote, Remote Call Service, and LG Backup. Remote call service will allow users to provide an authorized LG representative to remotely control their phone and solve their issue.
Another issue with the UI on the Optimus G Pro is that is feels too busy, and cluttered sometimes. For example, there is no way to remove the QSlide apps shortcut from the notification bar, which takes up precious space. By default, your notification bar is almost always half-full.
The Settings menu is also similarly cluttered with features, some of which rarely work in day-to-day life.
UI/UX wise, don’t expect LG’s UI to match up with Sense or even stock Android. At best, it is just a slight step up from Samsung’s TouchWIZ UI, which is nothing to be proud of.
While LG has loaded the phone with tons of software features, they have not optimized it properly, thereby affecting performance. The handset is not really slow or laggy in any way, but it is not exactly smooth. Opening and swiping between the dialer tabs takes considerable amount of time, and the animations throughout the UI are not exactly smooth as well.
At this point of time, there really is no excuse for an Android phone to lag with a quad-core CPU and a beefy GPU. Before you jump on to the conclusion that Android and lag are synonymous to each other, the blame here lies squarely on LG here. The HTC One packs the same specifications as the Optimus G Pro, and yet there is not a sign of lag on the handset.
I won’t bother with the benchmarks here, since the device will score right at the top with the One, S4 and others. It is the real-world usage experience that is truly disappointing and my biggest gripe with the phone.
The Optimus G Pro uses a 13MP camera sensor at its back, aided by an LED Flash. Apart from recording videos at full HD (1080p) resolution, the handset also has stereo recording with WDR recording, Live Effect and Dual-recording. Another feature that LG has copied from the Galaxy S4 is dual recording that allow the user to record videos from the front and back camera simultaneously.
The UI of the Camera app is easy to use, and is customizable as well. The user can specify the shortcuts he wants quick access to, and hide the rest. There are also a plethora of features and modes like Audio Zoom that amplifies sound when digital zoom is used, Effects, Time Catch Shot that takes several pictures before the shutter button is pressed, intelligent Auto and more.
LG has also included VR Panorama, which is the company’s take on Photosphere as included by Google in Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
Performance wise, the 13MP sensor on the G Pro is like any typical mobile camera module. In good lighting conditions, the camera can take some decent shots. However, when you zoom in, you will see that quite a bit of detail is lost from the images and they appear jagged.
In low-light and night mode, the camera performance of the Optimus G Pro is terrible. Even for indoor shots, the images have plenty of noise and look grainy. Using night mode does not help matters much as well. With every OEM now focusing on improving the low-light camera performance of their handset, LG should also step-up their game instead of just pushing for a higher resolution camera module.
Below are some sample images:
When you have a 5.5-inch screen and a quad-core processor, a beefy battery is required to make sure the device lasts through the day. Thankfully, LG has not skimmed on this and has blessed the Pro with a 3140mAh removable Lithium-Ion battery.
The 3140mAh does not disappoint and can easily last you 24-hours on a single charge under moderate to heavy usage. For me, the phone lasted around 24 hours on 3G, with around 4.5 hours of screen-on time. If you mainly use Wi-Fi in your day-to-day life, you can easily get 2 days of battery life on moderate usage from the G Pro.
However, when compared to its direct competitor – Galaxy Note 2 – the Optimus G Pro definitely falls short. The Note 2 even with all its bloat and higher-power consumption screen can definitely outlast the G Pro in battery life department.
There wasn’t any performance lag or heating issue with the phone. Check out video review below or watch on YouTube
The phone comes with Dolby support and speakers are ok if not very loud. Check out the demo on YouTube if you cant see it below.
The Optimus G Pro is a decent phablet, but it does not stand a chance against the Note 2, even with its updated internals. The Note 2 clearly is the phablet king, and the Optimus G Pro fails to dethrone it. However, if you are looking for a phablet but don’t want the Note 2 since its old or too common, the G Pro should be your next obvious choice. The G Pro packs all the goodies that the Note 2 and the Galaxy S4 pack, except for the S-Pen and Air-View gesture.
My biggest issue with the Optimus G Pro is that it is the jack of all trades, but master of none. The device has a decent display, powerful internals, a 13MP sensor, a 3140mAh battery, but it falters in every aspect. The display is barely eligible in sunlight, the device lags even with a quad-core processor, and the 13MP sensor fails in low-light.
At its current price point of Rs. 37,000, I will be hard-pressed to recommend the Optimus G Pro to anyone. However, if LG can drop the price down by a level, the device can be a much better competitor to the likes of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.