LG’s Optimus G could possibly be a new ray of hope for the South Korean smartphone maker. The company hasn’t had many ground-breaking successes in the past but all that could change with its new flagship phone. Our initial impressions were good and the phone certainly looked promising. After playing with it for over a week, here’s our final verdict on the Optimus G.

Design and build
You’ll either love or hate the blocky design LG has chosen. If you liked the Galaxy S II, then you’ll probably like the Optimus G as well. The chrome trim running along the edge gives it presence and the handset will grab eyeballs whenever you whip it out of your pocket. The glossy finish isn’t just limited to the screen, as the rest of the chassis also gets the same treatment. While this looks nice on display in a store, it’s not very practical. Fingerprints and smudges are a nightmare and you’ll find yourself constantly cleaning the phone. The display can get really smudgy to a point where it becomes difficult to use in sunlight. There’s not a lot of grip on the sides either, which makes the Optimus G very slippery.

Looks classy

Looks classy

The power and volume rocker are placed on the sides and are easy to reach. There’s only one slot for the microSIM card on the side. There’s no option to expand the storage and the back is completely sealed off. LG has used a similar pattern on the back as the Nexus 4 along with a protective glass coating. Here, we also have a 13MP camera and a single LED flash. Overall, we quite liked the design of the phone as compared to its previous offerings, but the same cannot be said about the build quality. The display is well-protected thanks to Gorilla Glass, but the plastic chassis is very vulnerable and gets damaged very easily even with small drops.

The body is very fragile and is prone to scuffs and dents

The body is very fragile and is prone to scuffs and dents

We accidentally dropped the handset from waist height just twice and the edges chipped off very easily. There were also many scuff marks around the phone and the chrome trim had many dents in it as well. If this can happen after just a week of regular use, it’s scary to think what will happen after a year. We can still gloss over scuff marks due to impact as that’s unavoidable, but bits of the phone chipping off this easily is simply unacceptable.  This is not the first time we’ve had this problem with an LG phone. The Optimus Black nearly disintegrated in front of us during the course of our review.

Features
Interface
The Optimus G comes with 4.1.2 Jelly Bean out-of-the-box along with a re-vamped Optimus UI v3.0. The new user interface is a lot more gown-up and not as colourful as it used to be. The interface is extremely quick and peppy and there isn’t even a slight hint of lag while using it, so kudos to LG on that. The three capacitive buttons work well and the screen is very sensitive to touch. The phone is powered by Qualcomm’s potent APQ8064 SoC, which packs in four Krait CPUs running at 1.5GHz each. This is complemented by Adreno 320 graphics and 2GB of RAM. LG also adds an Eco mode option in settings to dynamically optimise the use of the CPU. There’s also an additional Power Saver mode that kicks in at 30 percent battery and is further customisable.

The updated Optimus UI

The updated Optimus UI

The display is a 4.7-inch True HD-IPS+ variety which produces sharp and accurate colours along with very good viewing angles. We also found the sunlight legibility to be very good. In order to set your flagship handset apart from the competition, you need something more than just an impressive spec list and LG has done exactly that. Baked into the new Optimus UI are two new features called QuickMemo and QSlide. These two features are best showcased in the hands-on video, so be sure to watch that. In a nutshell, QuickMemo lets you scribble notes on any screen by simply pressing the volume up and down keys together. After that, you can either save or send the screen grab or continue using the phone while your writing remains as an overlay. This is pretty impressive and is a first we’ve come across. Next, we have QSlide, which takes Samsung’s split screen mode a notch above.

Does well in benchmarks

Does well in benchmarks

You can open up to two apps simultaneously as floating windows and if you need to use the menu, instead of closing the apps, you simply increase the transparency, which automatically puts them in the background. This is a very cool feature and shows that LG is really making good use of the four cores as there’s no hint of lag at all while doing this. 

Media
The new brushed metal theme for the media player looks slick and is feature-rich too with support for FLAC amongst other formats. LG also features Dolby Mobile sound enhancement as well as the usual suite of equaliser presets. The audio quality is pretty good with a decent pair of IEMs. The bass is punchy and the midrange is well defined. Sadly, there’s no lock screen widget  for controlling your music. There’s 32GB of onboard storage, but unfortunately, you can’t expand it.

Good media options

Good media options

The video player is pretty robust as well and is on par with Samsung’s TouchWiz player. There’s support for DivX HD video format as well and MKV files are also supported. The video player can be used as a QSlide app as well so you can browse the web and watch a video at the same time. Full HD 1080p playback is handled without skipping a beat through the stock player.

Connectivity
The Optimus G is a quad-band GSM phone but only supports two bands for 3G. This is not a problem in India, but it might be if you travel around the globe a lot. You also have an option for LTE in the mobile settings, but we couldn’t test that given the lack of LTE here. Other features include dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DLNA, NFC and GLONASS for navigation. Google Chrome also comes pre-installed along with Google+, Cell broadcast, Messenger etc.

Good connectivity options

Good connectivity options

Misc. features
Some of the additional apps include an App Manager, Backup, Dictionary, FileShare, Memo, Notebook and Quick Translator. The SmartShare DLNA app lets you stream your content over to a compatible TV and other devices. You even get a video editor and video wizard, which essentially works a bit like iMovie on iOS.

Camera
The Optimus G packs in a 13MP BSI sensor along with a single LED flash. The sensor performs very well in low light conditions and with ample lighting, manages to capture good colours and detail. You get the usual suite of tweaking options like scene modes, HDR, continuous shot along with a couple of new ones like Time catch shot and Cheese shutter, of which the latter comes in really handy. The phone recognises a couple of phrases like “LG”, “Cheese” etc. and works very well, making group portraits super easy. We did have a major red-eye problem when using the flash and there’s nothing that can be done about this as there’s no red-eye correction option. Also, the focusing speed for a single shot could have been better as even a slight movement of the subject results in blurry image.

Cpatures good detail in daylight

Captures good detail in daylight

Video recording is also handled very well and the Optimus G records stable 1080p video with little to no jitter.

Battery life
The 2100 mAh battery managed to deliver about 6 hours and 40 minutes in our video drain test, which is just about average. Under normal usage, with 3G you can expect around 13-14 hours of heavy usage. Overall, the battery life is not very impressive on the Optimus G and LG could have done better in this department.

The glass covered back

The glass covered back

Verdict and price in India
The LG Optimus G is available for a street price of roughly Rs 31,000, which is quite competitive considering the Samsung Galaxy S III is priced similarly. The Optimus G is definitely one hell of a feature-packed smartphone and has the raw power to carry out any task with ease. Its new QuickMemo and QSlide apps are two standout features and the cheese shutter is the handiest feature we’ve yet seen in a smartphone camera. The phone also looks classy and doesn’t feel cheap, which is a big step up from LG’s previous offerings. On the other hand, the build quality of the chassis leaves a lot to be desired and we also found the battery life to be average. The S III may feel a bit plastiky but at least it won’t shatter after a few falls. Both these handsets offer really good value and very similar features at this price point and it ultimately boils down to which brand you prefer. If it were us, we’d go with the Galaxy S III just for the better battery life and a chassis that isn’t so fragile.

Publish date: March 12, 2013 11:48 am| Modified date: December 19, 2013 9:44 am

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