LG Optimus G Pro Review: More Brains Than Beauty

LG Optimus G Pro (Full)
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Android may be dominated by Samsung and HTC, but LG is making some noise in the arena as well. LG’s Nexus 4 sold out in less than 30 minutes, though their Optimus G was a flop in comparison to competitors like the Galaxy Note 2. With the Optimus G Pro LG takes another swing at creating a “phablet”. The Optimus G Pro is quite the powerhouse, but can all that power compensate for an incredibly boring design?

Big, Elegant and Boring

Big is the most obvious word that describes LG Optimus G Pro. Big and boring. It won’t turn any heads based on looks, though the slick finish gives it a fake air of subtle elegance. Overall, the Optimus G Pro looks downright boring until you glimpse its brilliant 5.5″ 1080p HD IPS display. The display changes everything about the way you’ll look at this phone.

 

A tiny ear speaker, 2.1MP HD camera and sensor for light and proximity sit above the display. A home button tricked out with a notification light ring sits between standard capacitive buttons below the display. Oddly centered on the left side of the phone is the volume rocker and, just above it, LG’s Quick button (more on this below). The power button is on the right and easy to reach with one hand. On the bottom is a micro-usb charging port and call mic while a 3.5mm headset jack, IR sensor and another mic for noise cancellation sit at the top of the phone.

Covering the back of the Optimus G Pro is a reflective pattern reminiscent of LG’s Nexus 4. Unfortunately, it the pattern doesn’t add any appeal to the phone and fingerprint smudges eventually spoil the design. The only breaks in the pattern are for the 13MP 1080p HD camera with flash and a speaker the size of a mole.

Power Performance and LG’s Android Skin

Powerhouse is another word you could use to describe LG Optimus G Pro. It runs on Android 4.1.2 (Jellybean) and is highly responsive and buttery smooth when switching homescreens or apps. Lagging issues? Not here thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 1.7Ghz Quad Core CPUs and 2GBS of RAM. That stands for fast ass hell! It kills my Samsung Galaxy Note II in performance metrics, scoring almost twice as high in benchmarking app Quadrant Standard (11639 to 6906). If only the Optimus G Pro had as much beauty as it has brains.

LG’s Android skin is as bland as the phone, with a touch of clutter. No other phone has a notification panel as cluttered as the Optimus G Pro. It has a row for your toggles, QSlide apps, a brightness adjuster, the date and then your notifications. Ain’t nobody got time for all of that!

notifications

LG managed to get the App Menu to look much better. It uses a tabbed design to navigate options just like the Settings app. There’s over 20 apps installed when you get the phone so the App Menu appears cluttered. Thankfully, you can adjust the size of icons or add a personal touch with a wallpaper.

Clear Views, Sounds, and Call Quality

One area the Optimus G Pro never lacks in is beauty, starting with a gorgeous 5.5″ 1080p display. Pictures and videos are shown in vivid clarity. Colors look vibrant but natural and noticeably less saturated than the Galaxy Note 2′s display. Like most phones, it’s hard to see the screen in direct sunlight. Expect to turn the brightness setting all the way up when using the Optimus G Pro in the summer.

The back speaker plays sounds with as much clarity as the display shows images. Unfortunately, when playing music via headphones as loud as I possibly can the volume isn’t loud enough.

Call quality and reception on AT&T’s network in Atlanta and NYC is great. There were a few areas in Harlem were reception was an issue, but otherwise four bars was a standard thing to see. Data speeds are phenomenal at 38Mbps for downloads and 11Mbps for uploads. Calls sound great in quiet places, but I had trouble hearing callers when walking the busy streets of New York City.

Color Cut Clarity Camera

Clarity is the best word to describe the stunning quality of photos and videos taken with the Optimus G Pro’s 13MP 1080p camera. Even photos taken with the camera’s zoom feature look crisp, clear and beautiful! Occasionally softer colors appeared in pictures of landscapes, but this was a minor problem and rare occurrence.

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There’s an interesting camera setting called time catch shot that captures images leading up to your actual shot. Video recordings can feature live effects or a dual recording. Live effects warps your video image or adds a live background to your recording (requires patience and stillness). Dual recording records video from the front and back cameras at the same time. When activated, a resizable box appears on the screen for the second camera recording which you can switch at any time.

Again, LG tries to bring a subtle elegance to the phone with these features. They aren’t overwhelming like Samsung’s camera settings, but they are ultimately boring.

Music and Video Player

LG’s music player is in line with the HOLO style of Android 4.1+ (Jellybean) and looks great – until you get to the Now Playing view. As soon as you play a song, the design of LG’s music player changes from HOLO to a throwback OS X with a brushed metal look. LG, what’s up with that?

At least it’s easy to navigate and features options to search for a song that’s playing via YouTube and edit ID3 tag information.

musicplayer1    musicplayer2

The video player on the Optimus G Pro is typical of any mobile video player (it plays videos), but comes with a few nice gestures. You can pinch-to-zoom into a video, drag your finger left or right to rewind and fast-forward or move up or down to adjust the video brightness. You can also adjust video playback speed or pop a video out (Qslide).

Cool Keyboard

The LG Optimus Pro has two keyboards: a stock android keyboard (AOSP) and a keyboard designed by LG. I love the LG keyboard for three reasons: autocorrect, word prediction and Path (swipe to type option). The keyboard supports handwriting and voice recognition to type as well. If that’s not enough, LG added four themes to its keyboard including a AOSP inspired theme. I hate to say it but, this keyboard does everything I wish Samsung’s keyboard would do.

Special Features

Smart screen 
Smart screen senses whether your eyes are still watching the screen to determine when to turn the display off.

qslideQslide
Available to select apps, Qslide allows you to open up to two pop-out windows on the screen. These pop-out apps can be readjusted or made transparent as a way of disabling the app as you work on something else. Qslide comes in handy when you need to do simple calculations or take a quick look at a calendar while on a call.

QuickRemote
QuickRemote is an app to control your TV, cable box and other accessories except for set-top boxes like Google TV, Roku or Boxee. You can save your favorite channels and fine-tune the remote to different rooms in your house or apartment.

Quick Memo (Quick Button)
Making use of the programmable Quick button, Quick Memo lets you take a screenshot, mark it up, add a note to and save it to your Gallery or a Notebook. While Quick Memo is dead simple to use thanks to the Quick Button, I prefer the flexibility of cropping what I want from the screen with my Galaxy Note 2′s Easy Clip feature.

Battery Life and Storage

Equipped with a 3140mAh battery, the Optimus G Pro easily gets you through a full day of heavy as long as the screen brightness is kept below 50%. When the battery is low, the phone automatically disables apps like the camera and video playback. This is becoming a weird standard for the latest crop of android phones and I don’t appreciate being told by a phone what I can waste the battery on.

BatteryUse   BatteryInfo

The Optimus G Pro packs 32GBs of internal memory with support for 64GBs more via microSD cards. In reality, only 24 of 32GBs can be used. That’s not bad, but it’s not 32GBs. It would help if the Optimus G Pro didn’t come with so much bloatware. Out of 10 AT&T apps pre-installed on the phone – yes I said 10 – I only use 2. Remove Google’s Play Movies & TV, Play Magazines, Talk and Local apps as well and sure another 1-2GBs of memory would become available!

Conclusion

You won’t fall in love with the LG Optimus G Pro for its looks nor all the bloatware it comes with. Once you use it, there’s no doubt that you’ll fall in love with its brilliant 5.5″ display, slick finish, stunning camera and stellar performance. At $200 with a new two-year contract with AT&T, the Optimus G Pro is made for those that want function over form.

Despite a better display and better performance than my Galaxy Note 2, the lack of a stylus with Optimus G Pro would make me hesitate to jump the gun. Say what you want about the stylus, but for devices this big it makes perfect sense to have one. My finger is not a stylus.

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