LG Optimus G (AT&T)
Price Range: $99.99 - $589.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: AT&T's LG Optimus G has Qualcomm's lightning-quick quad-core processor, supports 4G LTE, and has a gorgeous display.
The bad: The Optimus G's camera flash is harsh and some of its photos fell flat, its battery life is short, and we found its speaker audio quality tinny.
The bottom line: With its speedy innards, LTE data speeds, and stunning screen, the LG Optimus G is one of LG's best handsets so far, but it can't escape its weak battery and camera.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
For the last several years, LG has struggled to create compelling, high-quality phones that outsell competing models. With the Optimus G, LG aims higher than ever before...and mostly nails it.
With its large, bright, and beautiful display; Android 4.0 operating system; LTE speeds; and Qualcomm's first, very fast, very impressive quad-core processor, AT&T's version of the Optimus G is one of LG's best phones ever. In addition, it will be available starting November 2 for $199.99.
Yet even though it reaches for the top, the Optimus G still fails to offer anything truly innovative or wowing, apart from the chipset. The Optimus G's design is pleasant and functional, but uninspired. Its 8-megapixel camera is weaker than those of the top-tier competition, and its battery life is insufficient given the demands of the phone's bright screen and performance. (Sprint's Optimus G version is arguably the better device, thanks to its crisper 13-megapixel camera.)
There's very little that's actually wrong with the device, but even with its bulging processing muscle, the Optimus G won't sweep aside the Samsung Galaxy S3 or iPhone 5, both of which received a higher raw score from us and an Editors' Choice. And we expect the upcoming HTC One X+ and Nokia Lumia 920 to put on the pressure too.
Design and build
The LG Optimus G, which comes in black and white, and has a familiar square slate design. The corners are ever so slightly rounded, and the left and right edges of the phone curve slightly outward. While pleasant-looking and functional, it certainly isn't pushing boundaries, defining your personality, or wowing you with standout machining. In fact, it reminds us of the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S II.
Standing 5.01 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide by 0.37 inch thick, the Optimus G is slightly wider and thinner than LG's international quad-core phone, the Optimus 4X HD, which measures 5.19 inches by 2.69 inches by 0.38 inch. Its 5.44-ounce heft makes it solid, but also on the heavy side. Still, it's a smidge lighter than the 4X HD as well.
Like other jumbo phones, the Optimus G can't be squeezed into smaller pockets, and this is not a device to use one-handed. However, tossing it into a bag or larger back pocket works just fine. We were able to tote it around in a stretchy back pocket. It didn't look very attractive protruding from the material, but ambulation was possible.
LG calls its 4.7-inch Optimus G's screen a True HD IPS+ display; that translates to a 1,280x768-pixel resolution (WXGA). The Optimus G's 15:9 aspect ratio is a little off the 16:9 standard, but that hasn't bothered us so far. Pixel density comes in at 320ppi. For reference, the Nokia Lumia 920 has 332ppi, the iPhone 5 has 326ppi, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a 306 pixel-per-inch density.
The absolute pixel density, by the way, only indicates clarity, but suffice it to say that this beautiful screen did not disappoint, giving bright and crisp edges and vivid, appealing color.
There's more to know about the dominating screen as well. LG boasts that its Touch Hybrid Display technology makes the screen 30 percent slimmer because it removes the air gaps separating the cover glass from the touch layers -- and light source -- below. LG isn't the only company to do this; the iPhone 5 and HTC One X advertise a similar process. In addition, the use of Corning's Gorilla Glass 2 on the front and back panels contributes to the weight, but could also lend strength. However, we didn't want to smash the phone on concrete to test durability against cracks.
Below the display are touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Home, and Menu. Press and hold Home to also open your list of recent apps. Do the same to the Menu button to pull up a Google search bar.
Above the screen, you'll find the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. The volume rocker hangs out on the left spine, along with a covered bay that holds the SIM and microSD card slots. The power button is on the right. (We not-so-secretly wish that a hardware camera button were here too, but its absence doesn't earn the phone any black marks.)
You'll charge the Optimus G through a Micro-USB charging port on the bottom of the phone, and you'll connect your headset through the 3.5mm jack up top. Nestled into the polarized (and patent-pending!) back panel are the 8-megapixel camera lens and LED flash.
Features and OS
The LG Optimus G runs on the Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Although we'd prefer to see Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on this device, we can't really fault LG for not being more current. With Ice Cream Sandwich, the Optimus G receives all of Google's services, like Chrome, Car Home, Gmail, Maps with Navigation, Search, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Magazines, Movies & TV, and Music are included as well.
AT&T also loaded some of its apps, such as a code scanner, a family member locator, a storage cloud, AT&T Ready2Go, which lets users set up their phones through their computers, a hot-spot manager, its own brand of navigation and messaging, a live TV portal with a weeklong trial, and an app through which you can check your AT&T account and data balance.
Other goodies include two file-sharing apps (SmartShare and FileShare), Amazon Kindle, Facebook, Polaris Office 4.0 mobile office suite, Twitter, a video editor, and the Yellow Pages. And of course, there are more basic apps, such as a native browser and e-mail client, music and movie players, a clock with alarm functions, an address book, a notepad, and voice command.
Furthermore, LG packed its flagship device with tons of interesting features. Some we've seen before, like the Optimus 3.0 user interface. We're internally divided over this UI. On one hand, LG has done a nice job of adding some functionality without imposing too much of its own personality on top of Ice Cream Sandwich. On the other hand, it's not as sleek and elegant as Google's vision of the OS, and certain widgets look dated. However, users can customize some app icons for completely new icon looks. Rest assured, at any rate, that the OS doesn't get in the way of using the phone.
LG's signature note-taking app, QuickMemo, comes packaged with Optimus 3.0. With this app you can use your finger or a stylus to jot down quick notes and sketches directly over screen images, which you can then save and share. You can also customize the color and style of your pen tip.
Another feature, Dual Screen Dual Play, lets you mirror screen images between the phone and another TV or monitor. And what's displayed doesn't necessarily have to be the same content. Other extras include pinch-zooming during recorded video playback; Wise Screen, which keeps the screen on when it detects someone's face staring at it; an aspect ratio corrector that corrects how downloaded apps display in case of screen distortion; a battery saver that helps to conserve power and battery reserves; LG motion gestures so users can control certain functions (like pausing video or turning off an alarm) through physical gestures; and an eco mode module that optimizes the Optimus G's quad-core performance.
The phone has the usual connections of Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth. There's also NFC support, but unfortunately, the AT&T version won't include LG Tag+ stickers, which enable users to activate customizable phone settings with NFC (the Sprint model, however, will). You'll be able to access system settings from the notifications pull-down, and pinching and zooming on the home screens gives you a bird's-eye view.
Camera and video
AT&T's version of the Optimus G comes with an 8-megapixel camera that sits flush with the phone backing. If you're looking for the version with the 13-megapixel camera, though, head on over to Sprint. You can check out the 13-megapixel camera quality here.
Back at AT&T, the Optimus G has all the same camera software as its Sprint counterpart. There are controls for choosing among seven scene modes, five white-balance modes, and four color effects. You can select resolution that goes from 8 megapixels down to 1 megapixel. Geotagging, brightness, and flash are other settings. You can also select your favorite of four shutter sounds, or turn it off.
For fancier shooting options, you can turn on HDR (high dynamic range) mode, or take a sweeping panorama shot. There's also continuous-shot mode, which takes a burst of six photos. There are some other fun things you can do with the camera: Time Catch Shot, for example, takes a series of six shots around an event, so you can choose the best single image to keep.
You can also set a voice trigger to take photos if you say one of five programmed words: "cheese," "smile," "whisky," "kimchi," or "LG." Just beware that you may snap unwanted shots when instructing people to say cheese.
Video controls are similar, but you do have a few different options. The first is whether to record a long video or a short one for MMS. Another feature, QSlide, makes it possible to use other apps while a video is playing in the background. The function is nestled in the video app, and is denoted on the top right corner by an icon of two rectangles layered on top of each other. When a video is playing, you can tap this icon and a transparent app drawer will spring up. Though QSlide isn't intuitive to find, it's easy to use and I can see it coming in handy when you don't want to stop watching a movie, but need to quickly attend to a text or e-mail.
You can add a live effect while shooting with the camera, which will "humorously" convert features into bug eyes, a huge grin, a small mouth, and so on. You can also choose backgrounds like sunset and disco. We say skip the tricks; if your hands so much as jiggle, the backgrounds immediately become choppy.
Now that we've walked you through the tools, it's time to tackle the image quality itself, starting with the camera. But first, a disclaimer. We took indoor and outdoor shots around San Diego (all in automatic mode), and peered at full-resolution images as well as photos that we resized on a laptop. We plan even more tests back in the Bay, including a photo shootout between this the 13-megapixel Sprint version. So for now, let's consider this camera quality evaluation preliminary.
Camera quality on outdoor shots was often very good, yielding great, balanced hues that really reflected what our eyes took in. There was some noticeable saturation with the colors, which made them pop, but for the most part, whites looked white, purples looked purple, and greens were green. Some images looked extremely crisp, with sharp edges and details that really stood out. However, other shots that should have looked fantastic came out a little soft, even when taken in optimal lighting.
We also noticed that indoor images suffered, despite a mixture of natural and artificial lighting and the Optimus G's powerful flash. Features didn't pop or look particularly defined, and the level of premium detail we expect from a high-end smartphone camera was hard to come by. Overall, we were most pleased with the outdoor shots, but there were trouble spots that couldn't be ignored as well.
Check out our smartphone photo gallery for more comparison shots from our studio still life.
The Optimus G's 1080p HD video quality was very good, in both indoor and outdoor sample videos. Outdoor shots were the best. Audio was high, the image was clear and strong, and we experienced no stuttering or jerkiness during playback, only smooth video.
One feature we couldn't find when shooting video was the option supported by Android 4.0 to easily snap a still photo while shooting video.
We have yet to take a flattering self-portrait with a front-facing camera, and the Optimus G's 1.3-megapixel shooter isn't going to break any records. However, LG has gone to lengths to make the process as painless as possible with two optional features. Beauty shot is a built-in airbrush algorithm that will render skin brighter and smoother using a sliding control. You can also save the photo flipped, so your self-portrait comes out oriented the way others see you, not as your mirror image.
We tested the LG Optimus G in San Francisco on AT&T's network. Signal quality was solid -- we didn't experience any dropped calls or audio clipping in and out. And while voices came in clearly as well, we did hear subtle static during calls. Turning down the volume helped somewhat, but we still heard a noticeable fuzziness during every word that was spoken. This doesn't render callers' voices completely inaudible, but we've heard crisper calls before, and with a phone of this caliber, we expected better.
Output speaker quality during calls came off harsh, especially on max volume. The sound only exits through one small slit in the back, so our friends sounded extremely tinny while speaking. The speaker also rendered music flatly. Its small opening takes away much of the depth and body, especially from songs that are instrumentally rich.
Listen now: AT&T's LG Optimus G call quality sample
The handset is powered by an impressively fast Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset; in fact, it's the first phone to feature Qualcomm's quad-core processor. When we played the graphics-heavy game Riptide GP, the app ran without any stalls or hiccups. Images were sharp and rendered smoothly. The game displayed a high frame rate with high-resolution graphics.
Simple tasks like swiping through the app drawer, launching the camera, and transitioning back to the home screen were executed in a snap, and on average, it took about 45 seconds for the device to power off and restart. We're still in the process of running lab tests for the handset's processor, so we'll update this review when we can report more times.
The handset runs on AT&T's 4G LTE network (850/900/1800/1900) and clocked impressive data speeds. On average, it loaded our CNET mobile site in 5 seconds and our full desktop site in 5 seconds. The New York Times mobile and desktop sites took 4 and 6 seconds to load, respectively. ESPN's mobile site downloaded in 5 seconds and it took 8 seconds to load the full site. It took about 19 seconds on average to download the 22MB game Temple Run. And the Ookla speed-test app showed me an average of 25.99Mbps down and 10.56Mbps up.
|Performance: LG Optimus G (AT&T)|
|Average LTE download speed||25.99Mpbs|
|Average LTE upload speed||10.56Mbps|
|App download (Temple Run)||22MB in 19 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||5 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||5 seconds|
|Boot time||45 seconds|
|Camera boot time||1.89 seconds|
During our battery drain tests for video playback, the device lasted 7.55 hours, which is noticeably shorter than its Sprint counterpart (which clocked in at 9.2 hours). Anecdotally the handset had disappointing battery life. True, the Optimus G has a 2,100mAh battery under its hood, but remember that that has to power four processor cores and a bright screen. After spending just a couple of hours with it watching TV, surfing the Web, and remaining on standby, we found the Optimus G had lost about a third of its reserves. Though we haven't yet tested how different battery life is with eco mode and CPU optimization turned on, it's clear you'll easily need a good charge or two during the day. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.67 watt/kg.
There is a lot to like about the Optimus G, but it's not without its nagging distractions. Its 8-megapixel camera can't compete with its rivals' cameras and the battery life on this quad-core handset didn't offer enough juice to get through the day. However, the phone performed exceedingly well in terms of its internal and data speeds, the display is beautiful, and we dig the extra goodies like QSlide and NFC.
For as much as it has to offer, the Optimus G won't blow all other flagship phones out of the water. As we said, the Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5 received a higher raw score from us, plus both devices got an Editor's Choice. And it will face a heavy threat from AT&T's upcoming models. But against older phones like the HTC One X and the Lumia 900, it easily holds its own.
In addition, AT&T announced that it's offering the Optimus G for $199.99, which is on par with other flagship phones. It's a price we'd gladly pay, however, because the Optimus G would finally be an LG to buy.
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 2
4 Star: 0
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 1
1 Star: 0
The Perfect LTE Android Phone
Rating: 5 / 5
on November 26, 2012
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Amazing Camera, Great Battery life, Beautiful Screen, expandable memory
Cons: Glass back means you will need a case.
Summary: Being a Samsung Galaxy S user for the past two years, I felt worried about choosing an LG phone when I'm so used to the comfort of knowing what to expect from a Samsung product. I spent more than an hour in the store using both the LG Optimus G and the Galaxy S3 in an attempt to make the perfect decision since I would probably carry this phone for the next two years. After spending a month with this phone I discovered that my choice has been perfect. The first thing you will notice about this phone is the incredible screen; a bright 4.7 inch display that is rich and deep with colors, which makes the galaxy S3 display look "fake" in a way due to the realistic colors of the LG screen. Thanks to 2GB of ram and a quad core CPU the phone is VERY fast, from gaming to web browsing you will not feel the phone lagging or slowing down at any point. You can open several webpages , play a game while answering a phone call and the phone will remain as smooth as the second you bought it. Battery life has been mind blowing, I have been getting a MINIMUM of 12 hours on days which I constantly use the phone. The look and feel of the phone are great thanks to the glass back and front which allow the phone to stand out and turn heads. Voice quality has been on par with what I expect from a modern phone and the data speed when it comes to LTE is amazing. This phone is a must buy for anyone who is interested in a smartphone that will remain strong and updated for the next two years.
I absolutely love this phone!!
Rating: 5 / 5
on May 17, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Cons: none, its a amazing phone
Summary: I picked this phone up after my HTC Inspire 4G had died, I can say for myself i made the right choice, its no slouch, its fast and runs smooth especially when i got 4.1.2
Piece of crap
Rating: 2 / 5
on December 14, 2012
0 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: great screen expendable memory
Cons: battery life some pictures terrible phone went dead
Summary: phone died on me when charging would not come back on took it back the next day it went dead would not come back on got a s3 no problems!!!!