LG Optimus G Review

LG Optimus G HeroIn recent years, I’ve noticed Android OEMs seem to rise and fall in North America. I can remember the days when it seemed like everyone I ran into on the streets had a Motorola Android device. Eventually, Motorola’s popularity faded a bit and HTC devices were popping up all around me, they eventually fell also. Now, Samsung has risen and every where I look I see Galaxy devices.

LG’s situation is a bit different. LG has been a Android OEM for ages. In fact, the very first Android smartphone I ever owned was an LG Optimus GT540. That ran Android 1.6, otherwise know as Donut. So LG has been with Android since the beginning, but I never noticed a time when LG was really popular in North America. They’ve always been around, and I’ve occasionally ran into people with LG smartphones, but they’ve never seemed to become as big as Motorola, HTC or Samsung. LG seems to have been on more of a flat path instead of the ups and downs other Android OEMs have experienced.

With the release of the Optimus G and the LG made Google Nexus 4, I’m finally starting to see LG’s popularity rise around me. A lot of people are talking about LG these days. The Optimus G has already sold over 1 million units in the short time it’s been available, and it’s brother, the Nexus 4 has been sold out for weeks with a long list of highly anxious buyers. There is no denying that LG’s popularity is rising at the moment.

But a few questions remain – Is the Optimus G a good phone? Is it deserving of the hype? Should I buy one?

I have been using the LG Optimus G for the last few months, and will now share my opinion of LG’s latest, flagship device. Read on for the full review.

Design:

LG Optimus G Home Screen

Based on first impressions alone, the LG Optimus G’s design is a bit boring. There isn’t much about it that really stands out. From a distance, it looks like just another, large, glossy black slab. On closer inspection, you’ll notice one unique design choice. The rear of the Optimus G is made of a Kevlar or carbon-fiber like material that is tucked under a sheet of Gorilla glass. This creates a nice effect that looks great. The phone measures 5.15″(H) x 2.82″(W) x 0.33″, and weights in at 5.11 ounces. 

What the Optimus G lacks in flashiness, it makes up for with incredibly build quality. This is a very sturdy feeling device. No parts of it flex or creek. I suspect that the front and rear layers of Gorilla glass help make it feel so solid. Speaking of the glass, it is surprisingly resistant to scratching. I’ve used the Optimus G for months now, without a case or screen protector and my demo unit is completely scratch-free and still looks brand new.

 

LG Optimus G FrontGoing around the device, we see that the front of the LG Optimus G is pretty much nothing but screen. The screen itself measures 4.7 inches diagonally and is framed with a small bezel. Directly above the screen is the earpiece, a LG Logo and the 1.3 Megapixel front facing camera.

 

LG Optimus G Android ButtonsThree capacitive buttons run along the bottom of the LG Optimus G. These buttons are for Back, Home and Menu, in that order and from left to right. Like other Android devices with this type of buttons, they light up and dim automatically depending on your settings and what you’re doing with the device. LG was thoughtful enough to add a settings menu to allow you to adjust how long the buttons stay on.

 

LG Optimus G CameraThe rear of the LG Optimus G features an 8 megapixel camera that is capable of capturing 1080p high definition videos and shooting still images with a default resolution of 3264 x 2448. Located directly below the camera lens is a single LED flash that is adequately bright.

 

LG Optimus G Rear SpeakerA bit further down on the rear, we find the Optimus G’s main speaker. It sounds great, however, it’s location can present problems with muffled audio if you lay the phone on a flat surface while watching videos or listening to music.

 

LG Optimus G volume controlThe volume controls are located on the left side. Nothing fancy, but I will say that I like the Optimus G’s volume rocker more than what the LG Intuition has. The keys on the G are easier to locate and feel better to use.

LG Optimus G SIM CardDirectly below the volume rocker, we find a cover for the Micro SIM as well as the Micro SD card. If you look closely at the picture above, you may notice there is something in the SD card slot. That’s because the LG Optimus G includes a 16Gb Micro SD card, giving my AT&T demo unit 32Gb worth of storage out of the box. Not too shabby, but the SD card slot will support up to 64Gb cards if you happen to require more space.

 

LG Optimus G Power ButtonThe opposite side of the LG Optimus G is completely bare with the exception of the power/screen lock button. This button has a bunch of fancy tricks. First and foremost, it turns your phone on and off and it will turn the screen off, but it also acts as the phone’s notification LED. New alerts will cause the ring around the button to flash a pleasant red glow. It also lights up when the Optimus G is charging.

Performance:

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I’ve had the opportunity to use several devices from LG over the years. They’ve all been mid to low-end devices when it comes to hardware. Not necessarily bad devices, just not top of the line, and perhaps a little forgettable. The Optimus G is different. It is a very powerful beast of a smartphone that exudes high-end goodness and leaves a lasting impression. The Optimus G and it’s younger brother, the Nexus 4 have replaced the Samsung Galaxy S3 as the most powerful smartphones I’ve ever used.

Between the dual layers of glass resides a 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor along with 2 full gigabytes worth of RAM and a Adreno 320 GPU. This combination provides the Optimus G with more than enough power to handle any task you can think to throw at. Honestly speaking, this phone is FAST. Tasks like navigating menus, launching apps, browsing the internet and playing graphically intensive video games are handled with ease. I couldn’t figure out how to make the Optimus G lag or stutter, and I tried on several occasions.

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Benchmarking software indicates that the Optimus G is without question one of the best performing Android devices currently available. I don’t know how much trust we can place in these tests, but they all rank the Optimus G very highly.

Screen:

LG Optimus G Extreme Viewing Angle

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the LG Optimus G is it’s large and beautiful display.  LG did a fantastic job with the display on the Optimus G. It measureless 4.7 inches diagonally, which makes it plenty big without becoming difficult to manage.

The Optimus G is the first phone to feature LG’s Zerogap Touch technology. Zerogap enables the display to be thinner by placing the True HD IPS+ panel closer to your finger tips.  This allows the Optimus G to offer a clearer and brighter image while using less power. The screen itself has a resolution of 1280×768 pixels, that results in a pixel density of nearly 320 PPI.

Explaining the tech and listing a bunch of numbers doesn’t explain just how good this screen is. I recommend stopping by your carrier store and checking it out for yourself. It truly is one of the clearest, brightest and sharpest displays I’ve ever used. Even in bright sunlight, this display looks great and the viewing angles are simply fantastic.

I honestly didn’t think it was possible to have a display on a phone that looks so good in so many different situations. Look at the photo above for an example. That is the Optimus G in direct, bright sunlight and viewed from a ridiculous angle. My camera doesn’t capture the results of that test as well as the human eye will, but it gives you an idea of how great this display is in even the worst conditions.

Software:

LG Optimus G ICS

As far as the software goes, the LG Optimus G runs Android 4.0.4, which is a let down to be honest. LG has told me that a Jelly Bean update for the Optimus G is coming soon, but we don’t know an exact release date yet.

We all know about Ice Cream Sandwich by now, so I’m not going to waste room talking about it here. Instead, I’ll focus on all of the software changes and enhancements LG has made to Android. And believe me, there are a lot of them to go over.

Each Android OEM modifies their devices with a custom skin that runs on top of Google’s vanilla operating system. These OEM modifications aren’t created equal. In some cases, they can add to the usefulness of a Android smartphone and create a better user experience. In others, the OEM skin can create lag, negatively effect how the device handles multitasking, or just plan look ugly or childish. Thankfully, LG’s latest Optimus user interface is very good overall.

In my opinion, Optimus UI looks great. The icons are each customized with a fun and colorful look and the 3D effect of the scrolling animations is unique. Another big reason why I liked LG’s user interface was something that I wish more Android devices have. Android Smartphone are usually stuck in portrait mode only for the home screen. Not so with the Optimus G. The LG Optimus G has a fully usable landscape home screens and I love it.

LG Optimus G Landscape

Everything behaves how it should while in landscape mode. Icons and widgets are automatically and appropriately re-sized to allow everything to fit on the screen. And the scroll animations still work and look equally impressive no matter which screen orientation you’re in.

Portrait only home screens have always bugged me. I do a lot of web browsing, typing and video watching on my phones. Those two tasks work better for me while the device is sideways. Only problem – if I need to switch to a different app to do something, I hit home and then have to flip the phone back over, find the icon or widget, do what I needed to do and then go back to what I was doing and flip the phone back over again. It gets kind of old flipping the phone over repeatedly and I never understood why more Android OEMs don’t just give us the option. So I love the fact that LG brought this functionality to the Optimus G without requiring users to download a third party launcher. Actually, in a way, the Optimus UI feels and acts like a really well done third party launcher that users would want installed on their device anyway.

Another nice feature of Optimus UI is its ability to allow you to customize icons.  Users can change any icon on their home screen to anything they want, which guarantees that you won’t have to look at an ugly icon if you don’t want too.

LG Optimus G Custom Icons  LG Optimus G Custom Icons 2  LG Optimus G Custom Icons 3

To set a custom icon on the Optimus G, you simply tap and hold any icon that’s currently on your home screen. Once the icon lifts from the home screen, release your finger and a little paint brush will appear on a corner of the selected icon. Click the paint brush and you’ll be presented with a bunch of preloaded custom icons and the option to create new ones.

In the example below, I’ve changed a bunch of the preloaded app icons to frowny faces. That not only shows how useful the ability to change application icons can be, but also demonstrates just how much preloaded bloatware ships with this device.

LG Optimus G Bloatware

AT&T felt it was appropriate to smoother the Optimus G with a healthy helping of preloaded, non-removable, applications. The vast majority of which you’ll never use. Most of the apps are fully installed on the device and a few are just launchers for you to download the full app from Google Play. It is my one major gripe about this otherwise fantastic device. BUT this a problem you’ll find with nearly every Android device on the market. So I’m really not faulting LG or the Optimus G here, just pointing it out.

The latest version of Optimus UI includes several other features that can help make life easier for users. For example, LG’s Wise Screen software will keep the display on while you’re looking at it. LG Tag + allows you to instantly apply predetermined settings to the Optimus G using NFC tags. Multitasking video watchers will love LG QSlide, while note takers will appreciate the convenience of LG’s QuickMemo, which allows you to easily capture, edit and share screen shots. There is also LG’s Quiet Time that works like a “do not disturb” mode.  With it, you can set certain times of the day that the Optimus G will be quiet.  Overall, I love the modifications LG has made to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Battery:

The LG Optimus G is powered by a non removable, 2100 mAh battery. I am a big fan of user replaceable batteries. I love having the option of keeping spare, charged batteries with me. I even have one phone that never gets plugged in. I have 4 batteries and 2 external chargers for keeping them charged. When that phone’s battery gets low, I simply pop in a freshly charged one and continue using it. So to be honest, I was really dreading the idea of going back to being tied to a charger frequently during my days of using the Optimus G for this review.

Surprisingly, that never happened. I’ve been using my review unit for a few months now, and during all of that time, I’ve never had a day where it needed plugged in before I went to bed.  It easily lasted from the time I woke up till the time I went to sleep each and every day that I’ve had it. And when I did plug it in – it still had plenty of battery life remaining.

The only exception to this is on nights that I deliberately left it unplugged to see how long it took to completely drain and recharge the battery. In my tests, the longest the battery lasted with light use was for 54 hours and 28 minutes. Taking the battery from 0 to 100 percent took just over two hours.

My normal usage includes six email accounts with push, lots of internet browsing, YouTube videos and hours of listening to Google Music or Pandora. All told, each day I had 2 to 3 hours of screen on time and still had no problems making it a full day per charge.

I imagine that the vast majority of people will be very satisfied with the Optimus G’s battery life. BUT if for some reason you’re not, LG has included a Eco mode, that helps make the battery last longer. I personally never needed to use this mode full time. But I did have the phone set to switch to Eco mode once it had reach 30% remaining battery life. Eco mode appears to make a difference, but to be honest, I was happy enough with the battery life as is that I sorda forgot to extensively test it’s power saving features.

Call Quality & Data:

LG sent me the AT&T version of the Optimus G. The phone is also available on Sprint’s network, but I haven’t used that version. I was impressed with AT&T’s service while using the Optimus G. I didn’t have a single dropped call and never encountered an area where I couldn’t place or receive calls. Call quality was satisfactory, not the best sounding phone I’ve ever used, but it wasn’t noticeable bad either. Voices sounded fine on my end and I didn’t have anyone complain about how I sounded. Overall, it works perfectly fine as a phone.

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I was also happy with AT&T’s data, I rarely used Wi-Fi on the Optimus G yet I never had a problem using data when I needed it.

Camera:

AT&T’s version of the Optimus G is equipped with an 8-megapixel rear facing camera. Sprint’s version has a 13-megapixel shooter. I’m not sure how much of a difference the extra megapixels make, but I am happy with the camera on my AT&T review unit.  Both versions of the phone are capable of capturing 1080p HD videos. As far as phone cameras go, it’s pretty good. Not enough to replace your DSLR, but no phone camera is yet in my opinion.

LG has included a bunch of options and features with their camera app, including a panoramic mode, high dynamic range (HDR) mode and the standard scene modes (portrait, landscape, normal, sunset, night and sports).  LG also included their exclusive Cheese Shutter feature. With it, you’ll be able to capture images by saying one of five predetermined words. And as the name would suggest, “cheese” is one of the words. The others include smile, LG, whisky and kimchi. I usually stuck with pressing the shutter button, but the feature does work as advertise and might be fun to experiment with.

Below you’ll find images taken with the AT&T LG Optimus G-

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Conclusion:

LG Optimus G Android Guts

This review process was a bit different from all of the other reviews I’ve done in the past. Usually, I have a demo unit for a few weeks before posting my thoughts and returning the device. But LG was kind enough to give me a unique opportunity with the Optimus G. LG first approached the website about having us review the Optimus G way back in October. It arrived in the beginning of November and I’ve used it everyday since and I still have it on my desk right now as I’m writing this. It has been my second phone for months now, so I’ve really gotten to know the Optimus G.

Using the Optimus G these last few months has been a pleasure and all of the time I’ve spent with the phone makes me feel very confident in recommending it. The Optimus G offers industry-leading power, a large and beautiful display, innovative and useful software features, a great camera and all day battery life. It even makes good phone calls. Bottom line – If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, I strongly urge you to at least give the LG Optimus G a look before making a purchase. Its surprisingly good.

The LG Optimus G is available from AT&T or Sprint for $99 – $199.99 with a new 2-year agreement.