REVIEW: LG Optimus G, the Google Nexus 4's cousin

LG Optimus G

The LG Optimus G at a glance:

  • Price: P26,990
  • Qualcomm MDM9615 chipset
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Krait CPU
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 4.7-inch True HD-IPS+ display with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 (768 x 1,280 resolution; 318ppi pixel density)
  • 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
  • 1.3-megapixel front camera
  • 2,100mAh lithium polymer battery
  • Dimensions: 131.9 x 68.9 x 8.5mm
  • 145 grams
  • Bluetooth; WiFi; 3G/4G LTE; NFC; Miracast support
  • Android Jelly Bean (version 4.1.2)

Released in foreign markets as early as November 2012, the LG Optimus G has long been on our "want list." And why not? It's a feature-packed superphone with a seemingly nice display. Better still, it has second-gen Gorilla Glass on the front and back panels; a 13-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor; and the quad-core muscle mostly responsible for the Google Nexus 4's snappy all-around performance.

>>READ: Leaked Nexus 5 smartphone details suggest Nikon technology to feature

After months of waiting and watching other devices go from "announced" to "available," the LG Optimus G has finally hit Philippine retailers for P26,990.

So how does it stack up against today's heavy hitters? Is it actually worth the long, excruciating wait, or will this be a case of "too little, too late" for the Seoul-based electronics manufacturer? We'll tackle these questions, and more, in our full review of the smartphone.

Hardware

Even the briefest encounter with the LG Optimus G says this much: The company took pains to craft arguably the most exquisite piece of LG-branded handset you can buy. The effort pays off because the device is a looker from all angles.

LG Optimus G
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Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom | Photo By Ramon Lopez/Alora Uy Guerrero / TechLokal.com
Wed, Apr 24, 2013 2:00 AM SGT
For starters, the Optimus G's front and back are made mostly made from Gorilla Glass to shield both sides from bumps and drops. It also features a stainless-steel trim which spans its entire circumference and adds to its upmarket appeal. Not that it needs it, though; in the right light and angle, this LG's main attraction is hard to miss.

Flipping the phone over reveals a reflective backplate covered by scratch-resistant glass, as we've mentioned earlier. Beneath that glass covering is a holographic checkerboard pattern that shimmers as light bounces off the flat rear surface. And while it's barely noticeable on most occasions, it does give the device a more future-forward aesthetic. Plus, it sets the LG Optimus G apart from the rest of the ever-growing Android population.

Compared to the Nexus 4, which is curvier, more round than rectangular, this smartphone adopts a bar-shaped form factor. Its edges are tapered to provide a more comfortable hand-holding experience. It helps that the device is fairly thin at 8.5mm and tips the scales at a mere 145 grams.

Our only gripe, as far as the hardware is concerned, is that the backlighting on the phone's capacitive navigation buttons completely disappears when not in use. The lack of even the slightest marking at the bottom of the screen is all the more frustrating, especially as you "wake" your phone from sleep and there's barely any light around you.

Now, we're all for having cleaner phone designs, but between style and function, we'd pick the latter in a heartbeat. 

Software

Most of Android overlays are lightly skinned rehashes that bring nothing new to the table. Thankfully, LG's Jelly Bean-based user interface is an entirely refreshing exception to the Android norm, leaving us compelled to shine the spotlight on it.

>>SEE ALSO: LG integrating eye-tracking technology into its 2013 phones

Basically, almost every aspect of Android has been redesigned on the LG Optimus G. From the colorful set of default icons and the app drawer to how icons stretch when you scroll all the way to the rightmost or leftmost home screen, LG has left its mark on this model. A very handsome mark at that.

Then there's the simple things: toggles that look like mini switches; the profuse use of bright colors and white backgrounds; the cool unlock animation, which shows your home screen in a growing bubble as you swipe across the display. This is not to mention the inclusion of the self-explanatory Quick Translator app and QSlide, LG's take on windowed multi-tasking.

As much as we love the consistency and polish of vanilla Jelly Bean, we're liking the Optimus G's user interface more, and we strongly believe that it is by far the best-looking iteration of Android we've ever come across.

LG Optimus G screenshot
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Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom | Photo By Ramon Lopez/Alora Uy Guerrero / TechLokal.com
Wed, Apr 24, 2013 2:00 AM SGT

Display
LG has long been making strides in the flat-screen TV business, and it shows in the Optimus G. The company has rightfully made a conscious effort to squeeze a retina-pleasing panel into this effort.

Even the phone's cover glass itself is newsworthy. That's because the Optimus G makes use of a high-gloss, tempered glass design, also referred to as Zerogap Touch tech, in which the sensor film is
directly printed onto the cover glass
. That eliminates the inherent air gaps between the two components.

On paper, that should result to thinner, more responsive screen with sharp viewing angles and minimal reflectionand to varying extents, the claim holds true with the LG Optimus G.

The image quality showcased here is definitely among the brightest we've seen on any handset, although eye tests reveal that Zerogap Touch doesn't necessarily equate to a more responsive Android Jelly Bean experience. We likewise see no difference in response times when running apps and flipping through home screens.

Much to its credit, though, photos, videos, and websites appear visibly clearer and warmer on the Optimus G than on most LCD panels. It's damage-resistant, too, thanks to the protection offered by a coating of second-gen Gorilla Glass.

The True HD-IPS+ enhanced LCD screen is relatively wide at 4.7 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 768 x 1280 pixels. That high-def resolution translates to an impressive density of 318ppi. In other words, despite having a more expansive screen real estate, the Optimus G generates pixel-dense-enough visuals to keep up with the Apple iPhone, which has a ppi of 326.

Specs and performance
Like the current toast of the Nexus line, the LG-made Google Nexus 4, the LG Optimus G shines with a drool-worthy set of specs. Inside, the device sees Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro with quad-core Krait CPUs operating at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and Adreno 320 graphics. The phone also houses a non-removable 2,100mAh lithium-polymer battery.

There's no microSD expansion, but that likely won't be an issue for casual users, as the 32GB of onboard storage is likely enough to hold most photo albums and digital multimedia libraries.

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You'll find the typical serving of WiFi and HSPA+ radios here. Bluetooth and NFC are on deck as well, along with support for Miracast, a peer-to-peer wireless-screencast standard that acts much like Apple's AirPlay, except it's for non-Apple devices. It is also LTE-enabled. We're told that this LG works fine on Smart Communications' LTE network.

The choice of components here easily makes it the most powerful LG handset on offer in the Philippines, and true to its flagship nature, this Korean tour de force is extremely snappy. This is a very fast device, and we certainly can say with confidence that its performance is comparable to Android's heaviest hitters.

It barely ever hesitates or lags when responding to our touches. Multi-tasking also feels smooth; app freezes are hard to come by. We reckon this has a lot to do with the smartphone's large amount of RAM.

Gaming is likewise a strong point for the LG Optimus G. It doesn't skip a beat when putting graphically demanding gamessuch as Shadowgun: Deadzone, Real Racing 3, and Dungeon Hunter 4through their paces. Visuals are of the highest quality, and frame rates are consistently high. That said, the device won't break a sweat playing the Temple Runs and Candy Crushes of Google's Play store.

We’ve tested the LG Optimus G on AnTuTu Benchmark and a few other benchmarking suites. Below are the scores for each test:

  • AnTuTu Benchmark: 13,937
  • Quadrant Standard: 6,143
  • Vellamo: 1,145 (for HTML 5); 530 (for Metal)
  • NenaMark 2: 58.6fps

Battery life is yet another highlight of the smartphone's performance. With its combination of a sizable lithium-polymer cell and a Krait processor that slowly sips battery juice, the LG Optimus G is able to manage a day and a half of uptime after testing it for several days in multiple situations.

When tested using our anecdotal video-rundown test, which entails playing a 1080p video on loop with the screen at half brightness and WiFi radio and background sync working, this Optimus was up for 7 hours and 12 minutes before the battery finally died.

 

LG Optimus G sample photo
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Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom | Photo By Ramon Lopez/Alora Uy Guerrero / TechLokal.com
Wed, Apr 24, 2013 3:00 AM SGT

Camera
LG made sure to bring its A game with this offering and decided to stick two sensors that have a high megapixel count into the Optimus G. There are two cameras mounted on the device: a 13-megapixel backside-illuminated, rear-facing sensor accompanied by LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel front sensor capable of video calling and recording 720p footage at 30fps.

Both are well-suited for casual photography and self-portraits; either one won't likely disappoint you when it comes to shooting anything under the sun. Photos taken with the main cam, for instance, are sharp and vivid with a relatively low amount of noise.

Low-light performance is acceptable, although understandably, a greater degree of noise is visible on images captured in poor lighting. It also seems that shots taken with the flash on tend to wash some of the color out. Nevertheless, we're pleased to report that colors appear the way they're supposed to look, for the most part.

Moving on, the rear camera's focusing system does a respectable job of automatically detecting subjects and quickly closing in on them. Shutter speeds, however, seem to vary, mostly depending on available light and the precision of the focusing system.

As expected, the LG Optimus G comes with a laundry list of effects, filters, and shooting modes you can use to add a hint of drama to your photos. There's also a panorama mode for stitching together multiple shots to create one wide panoramic strip, as well as LG's so-called Time Catch Shot, which allows the main camera to snap pictures before and after you've pressed the shutter key. That way, you're more likely to get the money shot in one take. 

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Verdict
As you can tell, the LG Optimus G belongs to a rare group of Androids; it's a genuine dreamboat that ticks most boxes on our smartphone wish list. In fact, if it were released last December, we'd be more than willing to declare it the must-buy high-ender of 2012.

That's really a shame because fast-forward to this year, and we're seeing more handsets with bigger, sharper displays and higher horsepower become available locally. That said, the downpour of refreshed flagship offerings may continue to rain on the Optimus G's parade, but the phone still holds its own against the best in the business. Heck, it can even take advantage of Smart's LTE network.

All things considered, we'll go out on a limb in saying this LG is still worth a long, hard look, especially considering that it is priced at P26,990, which is a few thousand pesos lower than the competition. And if indeed this is the last hurrah for premium handsets of its kindquad core with a 720p displaythen we're inclined to give LG a hypothetical standing ovation for getting a lot of things right in this near-perfect effort.

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