The LG Optimus G Pro is a fantastic phone in almost every way. It’s too big for some users, but if you’re into heft, you should try out the G Pro before you go with the Note 2.
(8 out of 10)
- Attractive, comfortable design
- Big, beautiful full 1080p screen
- Best in class performance
- Viewing angles aren’t as wide as we’d like
- QButton gets in the way more than it helps
LG still has something to prove. Korean rival Samsung has surpassed it, but LG isn’t taking the loss lightly. With the Optimus G, it targeted the Galaxy S3 and with the Optimus G Pro, it’s taking on Samsung’s other darling: the giant Galaxy Note 2. The Optimus G Pro has the same size display as the Samsung’s phablet, but is it better?
With the G Pro, LG has managed to squeeze itself into a narrower frame than the Note 2, giving the impression that the G Pro isn’t as big as those other ridiculously big phones. We always appreciate it when phone makers find a way to shave a few millimeters off, especially at this size. Make no mistake: the G Pro isn’t going to convert people who think 5.5 inches is just too big for a phone. But it could give those of you waiting for the perfect moment to jump on this boat a great excuse to do so.
(The version of the G Pro we use for this review is the model that will be released in Korea. We don’t expect many fundamental changes between this and what will eventually come to the U.S. and Europe.)
Look and Feel
If you hide the labels, it’s easy to mistake the LG Optimus G Pro for a Galaxy Note 2 at first glance. They have very similar design language, right down to the oblong Home button on the bottom flanked by capacitive Back and Menu buttons. The G Pro has plenty of distinctive design elements as well – elements that are emerging as LG signatures.
We spent too much time working around the QButton than working with it.
LG is clearly learning how to design good, hold-able phones. The last 5-inch phone the company released in the U.S. (the LG Intuition, aka the Optimus Vu) was, frankly, a ridiculous rectangular slab. This new device is comfortable to hold in one hand even if your hands aren’t mythically large. The G Pro also has softer corners than the original Optimus G and the edges aren’t just rounded but tapered in a way that makes finding and pressing the buttons easy.
The G Pro is 4.4mm narrower than the Note 2, which makes a bigger difference than you’d think. The extra slimness comes from making the bezel smaller and results in a phone that’s a little easier to wrap your hand around. It also feels more like a normal phone when held up to the ear. However, this does alter the balance a bit, making the G Pro more prone to tipping when holding on the bottom, which you have to do when typing.
We also love the aesthetic touches: the thin chrome strip around the edge that widens on the top and bottom; LEDs ring the Home button and serve as the notification light; a holographic pattern graces the back and reminds us of the Nexus 4 and original Optimus G. Since the back is plastic instead of glass, it won’t go sliding off slick surfaces either. It’s removable to give access to the battery, SIM card, and microSD card slots.
Alongside the volume toggle and power button is one extra: the QButton. Sitting on the upper left edge above volume, it’s easy to mistake this for the Power button at first (and we did this a few times until we got used to it) since it’s the same size. This button activates the QMemo app by default, allowing users to write a memo on screen or take a screenshot, but you can customize it to do many things, including act as a shutter button. The placement is a little awkward. Even after we stopped mistaking it for the power button, we accidentally hit it a bunch, especially when using the camera. We spent too much time working around the QButton than working with it.
One design element that won’t be in the U.S. version is the telescoping antenna tucked into the upper right corner. We wish it was, though! There’s nothing like pulling an antenna out of your phone. Classic.
Screen and Sound
The 5.5-inch screen is undoubtedly the star of this show. Lovers of the big screen will appreciate the pixel-dense 1080p resolution, rich colors, and deep blacks. It’s a great canvas for the eye candy-filled interface as well as videos and games. Small text is crisp, even at low magnification.
At full brightness, whites are brighter than the Galaxy Note 2, but this makes colors in photos look a bit washed out. The brightness also means good sunlight visibility.
The one disappointment in the screen is that the viewing angles aren’t as wide as we’d expect from an IPS display. You have to hold the screen at pretty extreme angles to see very noticeable color distortion and darkening, but it’s possible. When playing games that require tilting (like Temple Run 2) the screen clarity goes down a bit when skirting to the left or right to collect coins.
Aside from that, watching video on the G Pro is a great experience. The single speaker on the rear actually pumps decent volume. And since the chrome ring around the camera lens lifts the back up, placing the G Pro on a hard surface doesn’t muffle the sound. Audio quality is decent for a phone. Not too tinny and somewhat rounded. It’s good enough for mainlining YouTube videos, even with some background noise.
Operating System and Apps
The Optimus G pro runs Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean with a custom skin (interface) on top. We’ve mentioned before how this approach reminds us of Samsung and HTC and several of the UI elements remind us of Samsung’s phones specifically. Overall, LG’s user interface is getting better with every new phone. Those of you who prefer an interface closer to stock Android probably won’t like what you see.
LG’s skin can appear overloaded and crowded instead of easier to use.
Unfortunately, LG’s skin can appear overloaded and crowded instead of easier to use. For instance, in the Notification drawer, there’s a line of quick toggles on top for turning radios off/on and launch apps – a good thing. Then below that is another set of icons to launch QSlide apps – apps that float above whatever screen you’re on for easy multitasking. Below that is a brightness adjustment bar. Then you finally get to the actual notifications. LG is trying to do a lot here, and some of these apps and features are innovative and interesting. But it needs to find a way to show them that doesn’t feel overly busy.
Some parts of the interface are gorgeous. In particular, the unlock screen bubble that grows as you swipe your finger and the many animations for swiping between homescreens are pleasing. There’s not much here that really screams LG, though.
A few apps and features stand out and feel fresh. The QButton on the left side launches QMemo by default. This app allows you to scribble on top of whatever’s on screen and call up that scribble later or save it as part of a screenshot or a note of its own. It’s possible to make the scribble semi-transparent and continue using the phone normally. There aren’t very many use cases we could think of for this feature. It has potential and is worth having even for select scenarios.
The QSlide apps, which float on top of other apps (similar to the Pop-Up Browser on Galaxy phones), operate on a similar principle. You can add an event to your calendar, do a quick calculation, jot or type a fast memo, even bring up a small browser window, all without leaving the app you’re working in. And if you need to do something in the app but don’t want to close the QSlide window, you can make it semi-transparent while you interact with the app behind it. That’s something Samsung’s similar apps don’t do.
As much as the G Pro is like the Galaxy Note 2, it does not come with a stylus. Nothing wrong with that, but it makes us wonder why there are so many places for pen input. You can write on screen in the memo apps with your finger, but the results aren’t often great. And the keyboard includes a handwriting recognition mode. Again, fingers make great pens. And even when we used a capacitive stylus the results were only a little better.
The normal keyboard is similar to what we’ve seen on previous Optimus phones and we still like it a lot. It’s even easier to pull off accurate thumb typing on this large a screen, and speed typers might not even need to flip to landscape. If you do, you can choose either a keyboard that stretches across or a split one so you don’t have to reach as far. A ton of options await you in Settings, including the ability to do Swype-like sliding and SwiftKey-like word predictions. We don’t approve of needing to long-press to access the comma key or how small the space bar is in portrait mode. Otherwise, this is a great on-screen keyboard.
Specs and Performance
This spring we expect to see a lot of smartphones with super powerful specs and the Optimus G Pro is among the early leaders. Inside the Korean model there’s a 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor backed by 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory. It is capable of LTE speeds (we couldn’t test them on our review unit) and includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS. You can expand the memory via a microSD card slot. There’s only one other port: a Micro USB on the bottom.
A smartphone that can run games at nearly 60fps with a full HD display is impressive
With the processor clocked that high, you’d expect really good performance. The G Pro delivers. On the Quadrant benchmark test it scored 11,780. That may be the best score we’ve seen for an Android device, phone or tablet. The LG Optimus G got 6,200, the Galaxy Note 2 around 6,000, and the HTC Droid DNA about 8,100. Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, but in our hands-on experience bears it out.
When swiping around in the interface we noted smooth framerates in the animations. Plus, the G Pro is responsive, smooth, and fast when opening and using apps. We bumped up the graphics level to Best in Temple Run 2 to see how well it played. Not only did we get a richer graphics experience, it in no way affected the game’s performance. We jumped and slid with no problems. In the GL Benchmark Egypt Classic test for graphics, the HTC Droid DNA got about 58 frames per second. A smartphone that can run games at nearly 60fps with a full HD display is impressive.
We used the G Pro with a T-Mobile SIM card and were only able to connect to the carrier’s 3G network, so we couldn’t test the phone’s LTE prowess. We did make calls and go reports of no or very little static and a clear voice from our end.
A 13-megapixel camera sits on back of the G Pro alongside a flash. You may not end up needing it much since the camera performs well in low light situations. The camera app is full of settings aimed at helping you improve shots, including HDR (High Dynamic Range). Most people will just turn on the Intelligent Auto, since it’s easiest, and let the camera figure out the best settings, which it does without much difficulty. Auto focus is also pretty fast, and the shutter responds quickly, though not as fast as the HTC One X+ and the most recent Nexus phones.
Photo quality is good enough for sharing on social media. They’re not as sharp as we’d like and contain a lot of noise, even in good light. It’s another example of how more megapixels doesn’t mean a better camera.
The 2.1 megapixel camera on the front has a wide-angle lens and thus you can fit more people in the frame for self-portraits. It’s a decent shooter. More importantly, it works well in video chats. Our Google+ hangout friends reported that colors and skin tones are accurate and the video quality was only a little fuzzy.
The Optimus G Pro has a 3140mAh inside, about the same as the Galaxy Note 2. You need a big battery to support such a large, high-resolution display. This one is up to the task, but didn’t last us an entire day with heavy use. We used a T-Mobile SIM card but also spent long stretches of time on Wi-Fi. After 9 hours of playing games, watching YouTube videos, taking lots of photos, web surfing, and normal off/on use, the G Pro teetered at 15 percent battery. It lasted an hour more beyond that with much lighter use. We left the screen brightness at 60 percent during this time and didn’t turn on any power saving measures.
This points to the G Pro having decent battery life, though heavy users may want to take advantage of power cords if you typically go for 12 hours or more between normal charging. Also, the balance between power and consumption may be better in U.S. versions after carrier-specific testing.
A few years ago, LG phones weren’t all that desirable. And though it’s still chasing major rival Samsung in many ways, the Optimus G Pro is a major step forward. It’s well designed, comfortable, speedy, and boasts a fantastic display. The software and apps aren’t perfect, but even there we see aspects worth praising. The LG Optimus G Pro is a fantastic phone in almost every way. It’s too big for some users, but if you’re into heft, you should try out the G Pro before you go with the Note 2. Samsung probably isn’t scared of the G Pro, but maybe it should be.
We can’t wait to see what this phone will look like when it finally gets to America and, more importantly, how much it will cost.
By K. T. Bradford, DigitalTrends
- Features : Touchscreen, Front-Facing Camera, High Resolution Camera, 4G
- Release Date : Not yet released in the US
- Release Price : Not yet released in the US
- Operating System : Android
- Launch OS version : 4.1
- Carrier :
- 4G (LTE/HSPA+) : Yes
- 3G (HSPDA/CDMA) : Yes
- Edge/2G (GSM/GPRS) : Yes
- Bluetooth version : 4.0
- Wi-Fi : Yes
- Mobile Hotspot Tethering : No
- NFC support : Yes
- Height : 5.91″
- Width : 3″
- Thickness : .37″
- Weight : 5.64 oz
- Color : White, Black
- Keyboard type : Touchscreen only
- Screen size :
- Resolution : 1080p
- Technology : HD-IPS LCD
- PPI : 401
- Touchscreen type : Capacitive
- Multitouch : Yes
- CPU : Qualcomm
- Brand : Snapdragon 600
- CPU speed : 1.7 GHz
- Number of cores : 4
- System memory : 2 GB RAM
- Internal : 32 GB
- Removable Storage (included) : No
- Max. Removable Storage : 64 GB
- External Type : microSD
- Front camera recording resolution : 1080p
- Rear camera recording resolution : 1080p
- Front camera photo resolution : 2.1 megapixels
- Rear camera photo resolution : 13 megapixels
- Flash : LED
- Headphone Connection : 3.5mm
- Charging connection : microUSB
- Sensors : Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
- Talk Time : Not provided
- Standby Time : Not provided
- Battery Capacity : 3140 mAh
- Battery Technology : Lithium Polymer
- Removable : Yes