LG Optimus G (Sprint)
Typical Price: $0.01
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: Sprint's LG Optimus G sports a 13-megapixel camera, a zippy quad-core CPU, and an attractively bright touch screen.
The bad: The Optimus G doesn't have a microSD card slot, its battery drained fairly quickly, and sounds from the audio speaker were harsh.
The bottom line: Despite its short battery life, Sprint's LG Optimus G is the best LG phone on the market due to its zippy processor, lovely display, and 13-megapixel camera.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
We're not big fans of superlatives, but for LG's flagship phone of the season, we'll make an exception. Sprint's LG Optimus G is the best phone from the company, which is saying a lot considering its string of ho-hum handsets that were good but not great.
Like its AT&T counterpart, Sprint's version still retains that powerful Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core CPU, has an impressive display, and NFC capabilities. In addition, while we don't get 4G LTE data connection in our San Francisco area, the device itself is 4G LTE-enabled.
But what sets this model apart is its 13-megapixel camera. Since both devices cost $199.99, the boost in megapixels comes at no extra cost, meriting a higher score from us compared to AT&T's 8-megapixel unit.
Though, even with the improved camera, it's important to keep in mind that when comparing it with other flagship phones, we still have the same reservations with this unit as the other Optimus G. Namely, its design is uninspiring and it has poor speaker quality.
Editors' note: Due to their similarities, sections of this review have been taken from our review of AT&T's LG Optimus G.
Design and build
At 5.2 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide by 0.33 inch thick, Sprint's Optimus G comes in slightly narrower, taller, and thinner than AT&T's model (which measures 5.01 inches by 2.8 inches by 0.37 inch). Its 5.12-ounce heft makes it solid, and also a tad lighter than AT&T's as well.
The handset comes in black and white, and has a familiar square slate design. The corners are ever so slightly rounded, but the edges of the phone face drop in steep, noticeable cliffs. The left and right spines then slope more gently into the back, creating a more comfortable handhold than if you grip the phone by its face. 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.
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 and 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.) Unfortunately, you can take a cue from the two screws securing the back panel in place and stop your search for expandable memory right here. Unlike the AT&T model, which has a microSD card slot, you won't find any beyond the 32GB internal storage in the Sprint version.
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 13-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, Shopper, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Magazines, Movies & TV, and Music are included as well.
Sprint also loaded Sprint ID, which allows you to customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you install. There are 59 available packs so far, and they cater to a number of interests including music (CMT and MTV have a Sprint ID pack), sports (ESPN, Fantasy Football), and even colleges like University of Notre Dame and UC Davis (go Aggies!). Note that deleting a Mobile ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded -- you'll have to remove those apps manually. The carrier also included Sprint Zone so you can check your phone and data information.
Other goodies include two file-sharing apps (SmartShare and FileShare), Polaris Office 4.0 mobile office suite, two video editors, and Qualcomm Enhanced Location Services, which lets you determine your location and conserve battery life simultaneously. 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 with four differently themed choices 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, which LG told us can be used in conjunction with packaged LG Tag+ stickers that can activate customizable phone settings. 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
A 13-megapixel camera, you say? We were skeptical when we first heard about it, too. Of the handful of very high-resolution smartphone cameras we've tested, few live up to expectations. Nokia's 808 PureView's 41-megapixel camera was one exception, but HTC's Titan II disappointed.
In many cases, Sprint's Optimus G's full-resolution images did pack in more information than AT&T's 8-megapixel Optimus G. The same photo take on Sprint's Optimus looked sharper and richer in many test photos; yet in others, AT&T's photos looked sharper too, and more alive. Some of that may have to do with the higher-contrast we saw from AT&T's camera module -- many images were noticeably more saturated, but also less natural compared to the real-world subject.
However, both phones have the same camera software. There are controls for choosing among seven scene modes, five white-balance modes, and four color effects. You can select resolution that goes from 13 megapixels down to 1 megapixel. Geotagging, brightness, and flash are other settings. While you can select your favorite of four shutter sounds, we weren't able to turn the sound off. LG gets a slight demerit there for the lack of a stealth mode.
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 be aware 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 and the Bay (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, including a photo shootout between this and the 8-megapixel AT&T version as well. So for now, let's consider this camera quality evaluation preliminary.
Camera quality on outdoor shots was often very good. But more often than not, several photos appeared washed out. Blue skies and light pink flowers turned almost white. Where the camera excelled were places with low lighting. Small details can be made out from even the darkest corner of a building, and when colors weren't washed out, they were truer to life than on the AT&T model, which had a tendency to oversaturate some of its hues. Images were extremely crisp and sharp edges in text stood out.
Indoor images fared better than the AT&T's version. Again, colors were true to life, and the higher megapixel count meant more information being captured. This translates into finer details, like the cracks in floors or the folds in fabric, being more noticeable and well defined. This was especially apparent when zooming into photos at the maximum level. Though images on both devices became fuzzier, lines showed a lot less aliasing and there was less pixelation with the Sprint unit.
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 there was no lag between our moving of the camera and the video we saw during feedback.
The indoor video required the full strength of the phone's flash to light up the subject (Lynn) in a dark room. She blinked her eyes and acquired a pained expression as soon as the flash turned on. Note, of course, that indoor videos take on the lighting of the surrounding environment, and your audio will always sound louder than your subject, who is farther from the microphone.
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 Sprint's network. Signal quality was solid -- we didn't experience any dropped calls or audio clipping in and out. Voice quality on our end sounded clearer than the AT&T model, as there was no subtle static like we heard previously. Our friends sounded clean, full, and lour. Strangely, however, we were told that our voices sounded less clearer on the Sprint unit and that we came off as "nasally."
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: Sprint'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 42 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 Sprint's 4G LTE network (850/900/1800/1900), however we were only able to clock in 3G speeds in our San Francisco area. On average, it loaded our CNET mobile site in 22 seconds and our full desktop site in 46 seconds. The New York Times mobile and desktop sites took 14 and 41 seconds to load, respectively. ESPN's mobile site downloaded in 20 seconds and it took 34 seconds to load the full site. It took a whopping a whopping 20 minutes and 22 seconds on average to download the 22MB game Temple Run. And the Ookla speed-test app showed me an average of 0.30Mbps down and 0.75Mbps up.
|Performance: LG Optimus G (Sprint)|
|Average 3G download speed||0.30Mpbs|
|Average 3G upload speed||0.75Mbps|
|App download (Temple Run)||22MB in 20 minutes and 22 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||22 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||46 seconds|
|Boot time||42 seconds|
|Camera boot time||1.78 seconds|
During our battery drain tests for video playback, the handset lasted 9.2 hours. Anecdotally, it 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 surfing the Web, taking pictures, and remaining on standby, we found the Optimus G had lost about a third of its reserves. However, we did notice that because our Sprint unit didn't connect to 4G LTE, the battery drained slightly slower than the AT&T's. 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 1.01watt/kg.
Though its not without its problems -- like a lack of a microSD card slot and a poor audio speaker -- we'd recommend this LG Optimus G if your area is covered by Sprint's 4G LTE network. It still maintains the speedy, quad-core guts of its counterpart and both have that gorgeous display. However, it's that 13-megapixel camera, which captures more true-to-life colors and details in low-lighting, that we dig. And better yet, the higher megapixel count won't come at a higher price tag.
However, as we mentioned previously in the AT&T review, in the context of flagship phones, the Optimus G falls slightly below the others. It still received a lower raw score than that of the iPhone 5 and the Samsung S3, and it will face stiff competition this fall from upcoming handsets. Don't get us wrong, though, this phone is definitely the best handset LG has to offer, and we're glad to see the company finally taking the kid gloves off in this competitive market with this powerhouse chipset.
|OS provided||Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 6
4 Star: 3
3 Star: 1
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
Best phone I have ever had. Replaced an Evo 3d.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on December 13, 2012
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: The phone is very fast, light and the screen is fantastic. There is no lag when pushing buttons or browsing the internet. Battery is actually pretty good, even playing around with it I get through the whole day no problem.
Cons: Some functions aren't in logical places, it took a while to figure out how to change the alerts.
Summary: I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering an android phone.
Amazing speed! Amazing Camera
Rating: 5 / 5
on April 12, 2013
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: -Picture Quality
-customize the app icon to whatever you like
-Speed of browsing internet and anything in general.
-weight and feel of the phone. (doesn't feel cheap in the hand)
-Dedicated camera shot button
Cons: -None so far!
Summary: By far one of my favorite devices in the hand. I love how customizable everything is and the battery is not an issue. If people have a problem you can just reduce the speed, which is also an amazing feature. The camera quality is spectacular, I've had the Droid DNA and Iphone 5, but this phone surpasses both. I personally do not like holding the S3, it feels very cheap in the hand. I like the weight on this phone it feels polished and very good in the hand.
Super fast and smooth.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on November 21, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: One of the fastest mobile Android devices with one of the best graphics cards.
Cons: The price could be lower but is still not bad when you look at other devices.
Summary: This amazing device offers one of the best performances in use seen from Android devices.
The only problem is it's not yet upgraded to Jellybean.
An alternative is the LG Nexus 4 which offers more or less the same hardware at a lower price.
Love my phone more than any smartphone I have ever had!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on November 8, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Great size and weight. Not too big, but big enough screen to watch videos! Pictures amazing! Fast, user friendly, and customizable. People are jealous of my phone and wish they had it! Love the font choices.
Cons: Sometimes if I'm receiving a text, I cannot send a text to anyone. I have to turn it off and turn it back on. Maybe my carrier Sprint. At first when I got the phone I could not send a text with less than 3 words. Since the update that has been fixed.
Summary: Overall, the best phone I ever owned. I hope when I get an upgrade through my provider that LG has a similar phone but updated. Again the size is perfect for me. I love that it isn't as big as the Samsung and isn't as small as the iphone. I also love it because people are always curious what kind of phone I have. They love the look the screen especially and when I snapchat, my fonts get sent to there people! I hope the company continues improving the phone. It is fast user friendly and stylish. If I ever lost it I would be devastated! I love that they fixed all the issues I was having with the phone, without me having to replace the whole phone. That is customer service. I feel LG is genuine in what they do.
beautiful screen, ultrafast processing.
Rating: 4 / 5
on July 11, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: beautiful screen, ultrafast processing.
Cons: battery drains 2 fast.
Summary: purchased this device 7 months ago and I still love it.