Boasting Nvidia’s high-power Tegra 3 processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, the Optimus 4X HD has one gigabyte of RAM, 16 GB of storage (expandable via microSD slot located under the removable back) and an 8-Megapixel camera. So, pretty similar to the One X, at least when it comes to specs. It also contains an NFC chip, a dedicated app and a pack of three NFC tags which you can configure however you want. In the wireless connectivity department you naturally have Bluetooth (version 3.0) and Wi-Fi b/g/n.
But let’s not forget the 4.7-inch capacitive touchscreen, with its True HD (1280 x 720) IPS display. As we'll see later, the screen is actually based on a hybrid technology. And the 2150 mAh battery does justice to the rest of this theoretically powerful configuration.
The LG Optimus 4X HD is going for as low as £470 SIM-free, making it one of the least expensive smartphones of its kind.
Design & Handling
To be fair, style is always a question of taste. We have to say we weren’t particularly blown away with the look of the 4X. But objectively, LG succeeded in producing a handset with decent finishing that competently combines different materials and influences.
The back is covered with a soft-touch material that has been worked to give it a sort of rough plasticky feel, and the edges are adorned with an unpretentious double chrome line feature. Despite the bulky length and width brought about by the 4.7-inch screen, the 4X HD is compact (8.9 mm thin, just like the HTC One X). It will fit easily into most trouser pockets. The micro-USB connector and headphone jack are located on either end of the phone and the microSD slot can be accessed by removing the back. Conveniently, you don't have to take out the battery to get to the slot.
Visually, the Optimus 4X HD doesn’t really stand out from the crowd. It isn’t an extravagant-looking phone, but the judiciously sober design does give it a certain touch of class. Even with the large size it’s still easy to handle, and the screen can be unlocked with a slide of the thumb in any direction (practical for lefties).
Like Samsung on the Galaxy SIII, LG seems to insist on retaining those touch-sensitive buttons under the screen. That's a bit of a slap in the face to Android, which already has controls for these functions (back, home and menu). To get to the multi-tasking window you simply hold the centre touch-sensitive button for a couple seconds.
While its competitors have all gone with AMOLED screens, LG opted for IPS. After all, the company already makes them by the truckload. After taking a look with our microscope, we were surprised to see that it’s actually a sort of hybrid IPS-MVA panel. The best of both worlds? Perhaps...
The contrast is an entirely decent 870:1. This doesn’t enter the realm of infinite contrast that you find on the GS3’s AMOLED display, but it will certainly do—especially when combined with the absolutely monstrous brightness of... 533 cd/m²! To date, that is the highest brightness we have ever seen on a smartphone, making the 4X HD perfectly legible under sunlight.
The 4X’s IPS display has excellent colours. With an average Delta E (which measures the difference between the intended colours and the colours displayed onscreen) of 3.9 and almost the same deviation in each shade, the Optimus 4X HD gives a soft, unaggressive image that will please any type of user.
The 4X's average ghosting time is a fairly decent 13 ms. As for viewing angles, the contrast will take a violent plunge... if you turn the phone three-quarters of the way around. So unless you’re really nitpicking, the display is pretty much consistent in quality no matter how you look at it.
Interface & Navigation
Like its competitors, LG apparently decided it just couldn’t settle for the raw version of Android and added a substitute interface overlay. But unlike Samsung’s unrestrained TouchWiz and HTC’s near-obliteration of Android in its Sense overlay, LG went easy on the green robot, merely fine-tuning the work it had started on the Optimus 2X and Black.
The overlay isn’t so much a hostile takeover of Google’s OS as it is an attempt to add the “LG” flair to it, with (for the most part) nice-looking, new icons. In fact, the biggest software addition isn't the overlay, but a feature called QuickMemo.
To see the QuickMemo tab you pull open the quick access window by sliding your finger from the top to the bottom of the screen. This widget allows you to write notes on the fly, either on a page that’s already open or a new, blank page. When you confirm your note it turns into a screenshot, which you can then send to your correspondent. This is a simple and practical method, as long you don’t mind writing with your finger, because the keyboard doesn't work in this mode.
Other than QuickMemo, there's also a number of other exclusive LG apps. There's Social+, which aggregates your social networks into one app, which you can turn into a widget on any one of your Android screens. It makes it fast and easy to switch from one social network to another, and all the latest events, tweets, statuses and what-have-you load quickly. Smart Share is an app for sharing multimedia content on TVs or compatible channels wirelessly (via DLNA).
SmartWorld is LG's version of HTC Hub and Samsung Apps—a store for apps, utilities and wallpapers that are sometimes exclusive, always LG-approved. LG Movies is a VOD service that was unfortunately unavailable while we were testing the phone, and LG Tag+ is what allows you to create profiles for your NFC tags, à la Sony SmartTag.
Another neat feature is that every icon on the phone is customisable; you can choose any image you want to use for any app. Once you get a hang of it, it's quick and easy to do. You simply hold your finger on the icon for a second or two, then tap to bring up the paintbrush symbol, tap on it, then make your selection at the bottom of the screen and choose your photo.
The entire interface runs amazingly fast. We couldn't detect even the slightest hint of latency when scrolling through the menus, doing heavy multi-tasking, exiting processor-intensive games or charging the device. Let it be known: this phone is a powerhouse.
As for web browsing, we might as well just get straight to the point: the Optimus 4X HD is good. Very, very good. The browser loads pages quickly and zooms with precision; it may not be particularly extensive, but dadgummit, it gets the job done. Naturally, mobile web fanatics will probably turn to Chrome or Firefox, though, if only to keep their devices consistent.
The screen's high resolution (316 dpi is nothing to scoff at) makes the display easy to read. So easy, in fact, that it flies in the face of scores of recent large-screen smartphones with their qHD (960 x 540) and 800 x 480-pixel resolutions.
The 4X has pretty extensive multimedia playback options. It isn't quite what you'll find on a Samsung device, but if you're having compatibility problems you can always get what you need from a third party publisher. For compatible formats (WMV, H263, H264, MPEG4, DivX, E-AAC+, MP3, WMA and XviD with AVI, MKV and JPEG containers) and video playback, let's talk about Media Plex.
Media Plex is LG's own software that allows you to zoom in during movies (without latency), play in slow-mo, display thumbnails on the playback bar and view animated thumbnails of different files while watching a video (say, if you want to double-check that the movie you plan on watching next is the right one). All without a lag or hiccup. LG seems to have perfectly harnessed the 1.5 GHz Tegra 3's processing power.
As for the Tegra 3, it is a thunderbolt in the shape of a chip. Does that even need saying? Whether in a smartphone or tablet, Nvidia's processor consistently delivers optimal power and energy usage. And clocked at 1.5 GHz, that makes the Optimus 4X HD one meaty device!
Nvidia's TegraZone, which offers games optimised specifically for the Tegra 3, is a real advantage over Samsung's colossus of a processor. Princess Punt THD, Riptide GP, Shadowgun THD, Samurai II: Vengeance THD... Hard to count the number of games with truly sumptuous graphics (and more) to be found on Nvidia's dedicated platform. And with the 4X HD's beautifully crafted display, your eyes are in for a real treat. Not to mention that it suffers not the slightest technical difficulty during gameplay—we're talking zero lags, zero reboots. Seriously. The Optimus 4X HD delivers from start to finish.
The camera... is a slightly different story. The Optimus 4X HD's photo function has little to rival the brighter HTC One X (F/2, compared to F/2.4 here) and its shrewdly designed app. The flash washes out subjects that are too close and images tend to come out over-smoothed. The ISO gets pretty high (for a smartphone), with 800 ISO on shots with low lighting and 200/250 ISO in regular lighting under otherwise identical conditions. So if you don't like being disappointed, we suggest using the camera under optimal conditions only.
Videos shot in 1080p turn out better than the still images, with fairly fluid movements and acceptable audio rendering.
The 2150 mAh battery is just more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy S3's 2100 mAh battery. However, it manages its power much less effectively than the S3, despite the fairly energy-efficient Tegra 3.
At 6 hours and 43 minutes, the Optimus 4X HD's raw battery life just slightly outperforms the HTC One X, which has near-similar specs. We recorded this raw figure by giving it intensive and varied use, which under "normal" conditions means roughly a day's worth for the average tap-happy consumer. But to make it through the evening, you may want to charge the 4X back up just to be sure. Again, it all depends how much you use your phone.
Playing THD games from TegraZone will drop the battery life to under 5 hours. The amount of time you get out of a full 2-hour charge will gain a few precious minutes after you've charged it a few times, but we expected more out of the 2150 mAh battery.
To ConcludeThis phone knocked us off our seats. We weren't expecting such a flawless return from LG onto the high-end mobile scene. All that will shape the Optimus 4X HD's fate now is what LG decides to do with it. Will the company up the advertising ante on this capable product? Will it push it enough to enduringly restore the brand's name and prove that there's more to the market than just the Galaxy S3 and One X? A product like this one deserves its builder's support.
- Overall display quality, high brightness and resolution
- Powerful and responsive
- Well-designed LG overlay, not overkill
- Sober, elegant design
- Versatile and effective Media Plex player
- Glossy screen gives reflections
- Camera and photo app could be perfected
- Far lower battery life than the GS3
After what seems like years in the high-tech wilderness, LG is back with this powerful, well-finished, user-friendly and enjoyable quad-core smartphone. We haven't seen such a coherent mobile device from the brand in a long time. The Optimus 4X HD is a serious contender to the HTC One X and a pleasant summer surprise.