LG Optimus G

By Seán O'Sullivan - November 30th, 2012


We figured that for Sully’s review post we would only use photos taken with the Optimus G. For pictures of the phone itself you can check out our interview with the LG folks here.

The fundamentals of a good cellphone experience aren’t quite what they used to be. We want something that is small and light enough to carry around, powerful enough to run the most demanding apps, and designed well enough that we can get to what we want without much hassle. If you size up a new phone purchase along these lines, you’ll be glad to hear that the LG Optimus G pretty much nails these criteria.

This is a beast of a phone. Let me regurgitate the specs real quick: it sports a quad-core 1.5Ghz processor, an Adreno 320 GPU, and 2GB of RAM – the end result is a phone that’s more powerful than many entry level laptops.

Despite this muscle, the Optimus G is about as beautiful as a 4.7” black slab can be. The stunning IPS screen (which boasts 320PPI, pixel fans) is framed by an incredibly slight bezel, with three touch buttons below the screen, a volume rocker on the left side, a power button to the right, and a headphone jack on the top left of the device. The front and back of the phone are Gorilla Glass, which looks and feels splendid, and a silver trim reinforces the “premium” feeling that this product exudes. Don’t believe for a second that “Gorilla Glass” means “indestructible”, though – the rear glass on mine picked up a few deep scratches from keys I left in my pocket, and a single tumble to my hardwood floor was enough to put a tiny crack in the top-right corner.

The 8MP camera takes decent shots, depending on the conditions. Daytime shots fare best, naturally, but if you have stationary subjects in dark scenes, the powerful flash won’t let you down, but any attempt to take candid pictures in low lighting resulted in much blurring, regardless of whether the flash was used or not. The front facing 1.3MP camera works great for video chat, but if you’re using it for self-shots, expect the results to be pretty bleary.

Not too shabby in odd lighting.

Despite the amount of tech jammed into it, the phone is only 8mm thick, which makes it incredibly pocket-able, and the shallow profile and flat-back facilitates one-handed use (granted, my mitts are bigger than average). Unsurprisingly, all the raw power packed into this device makes for a really fast user experience. The touch-screen is hands down the best I have ever used – some spiffy new manufacturing process has eliminated the gap between the touch sensor and the LCD panel, which makes for a great experience when coupled with the screen size and snappy response.

After weeks of use, it’s still a marvel to be able to turn on the screen, unlock, swipe through a few home-screens, pull up the task-switcher, and pick up where I left off on an app with nary a hitch. The Optimus G renders media-dense web pages with ease, and if you scroll through in a hurry, it won’t leave you looking at blank sections or checkerboard patterns for longer than a heartbeat.

The Optimus G features a custom skin running over Android 4.0, but LG have made a few neat additions to the core Android experience that I suspect I’ll miss once I go back to stock Android. There’s plenty of inoffensive tweaks to the home-screen and app launcher that can be undone or ignored without much effort; but a few features are worth using. QuickMemo is my favourite: accessible by depressing both volume keys – this takes a screen-grab, and provides basic tools for scratching out notes (which can be overlaid over the screen – handy if you scribbled down a number that you want to dial).

The Android app store has matured to a level where concerns about competing with Apple’s ecosystem should be laid to rest; but there are a few user interface quirks that will confuse those who move over from iOS. When apps crash, you’ll often get a prompt to kill it or wait, and every now and again, when you try to boost the brightness the phone will refuse, citing a “high temperature”. Android errs on the side of TMI, which suits users like me just fine.

I left my heart in San Francisco – but not my phone.

Testing on Bell’s LTE networks around downtown Toronto consistently delivered good coverage and high speed internet. While on calls, the earpiece was generally serviceable enough during all but the loudest environments; and while the noise-cancellation is good enough for walking and talking while going by heavy traffic, any kind of high-wind is going to make life difficult for the person on the receiving end of the call.

Your mileage will vary, but the battery just about saw me through to the end of an average day of use, which I would consider heavier than usual (lots of mobile web and twitter use). On days where I installed a lot of apps or ran intensive 3D apps, I had to charge to see me through until bedtime, but this has been true of every smartphone I have owned.

So that’s the LG Optimus G. The most powerful LTE-equipped smartphone available in Canada at this point. If you’re willing to commit to a three-year contract, Telus are offering it for $129, but it’s also available unlocked for $600. If you’re an Android fan that insists on having the absolute best hardware, you’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative.

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