The LG Optimus G has a 4.7-inch HD display (an IPS panel with 1280 x 768 resolution for a pixel density of 318 dpi), a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm S4 Pro quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 2,100 mAh battery, 32 GB of non-expandable storage (26 GB of which are available for content and files), a 13-Megapixel camera that films in Full HD 1080p, and the Android Jelly Bean operating system with LG's Optimus UI 3.0 overlay on top.
Similar in countless ways to last year's LG-built Google Nexus 4—except for, maybe, the low price—this "new" smartphone from LG has very nice-looking specs, but they simply don't match up to the top Android dogs of today (Xperia Z, HTC One and the soon-to-be-released Galaxy S4).
When it was first launched last year, the Optimus G was a big deal. Now that it has finally made its way to Europe, can it compete?
DESIGN & HANDLING
Not everybody is a fan of plastic smartphone shells, so if you're one of these people you'll be delighted to see that the Optimus G has an all-glass body. Glass is often considered one of the nobler materials, and here it undeniably gives the phone a certain touch of class, making it simple and refined. This is a point that's further driven home by flawless manufacturing and a sense of solidity, durability. That said, the design is about as classic as they come. With perhaps the exception of the sort of 3D effect on the back, the Optimus G's body isn't exactly overflowing with originality.
The phone handles well and feels good in your hand.
The only annoying thing is that smudges are particularly noticeable and hard to get off the back and screen—something the Optimus G shares in common with the Xperia Z.
Based on our standard rating method, the 4.7-inch IPS display gets four stars out of five. The viewing angles are nice and wide and the colour accuracy is satisfactory (but with a Delta E of 5.7, there's definitely better).
The contrast may not equal what you get on an AMOLED screen, and it's lower than the Nexus 4's, but it's still a very good 1185:1. Same goes for the screen brightness, which doesn't rival some competing smartphones (including the Nexus 4), but it's still enough to make the screen legible outdoors in the sun. There's also a brightness sensor; when you turn on the automatic brightness the screen varies its brightness to fit the ambient lighting in the room.
LG has treated the Optimus G's display so as to prevent—or rather limit—scratching. After several days at the bottom of my bag (amidst keys, Playmobil soldiers and a scattering of Legos), the Optimus G didn't show any signs of scratching.
We couldn't talk about the Optimus G without mentioning Smart Screen. Smart Screen is an option you can choose in the settings that tracks your eyes to prevent the display from turning off while you're looking at it. It's a handy feature that means you don't have to constantly touch the screen while you're reading something to stop the display from going to sleep.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
Unlike the Google Nexus 4, which features Android in its purest form, LG added its own overlay on top of the Optimus G's 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Optimus UI 3.0 is practical, fun, full of options, aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.
In Optimus UI 3.0 the lock screen is customisable, allowing you to choose which apps and info you want direct access to. You can have up to seven home pages for your apps and widgets, and many of the settings are adjustable (such as: how long the touch-sensitive buttons stay lit, whether or not the phone tracks your eyes to keep the screen lit, transitions between the home pages, etc.). The settings menu is easy to use, the notification panel shows you tons of customisable information and you can set shortcuts to a number of the settings. LG's graphical user interface is simple and intuitive; it should be a crowd pleaser.
In addition to the GUI, LG has also included a whole slew of proprietary apps. One of these is QuickMemo, which you can find in the notification bar or by pressing the middle of the volume button (not a very practical method). QuickMemo allows you to take notes pretty much anytime you want. For example, you can annotate an article you're reading on a web page and then send the page to a friend or colleague. You can choose to leave the annotations open or have them close when you return to the home page or open another app.
Unlike the Galaxy Note or Optimus Vu, which both have the advantage of coming with a stylus, here you have to use your finger tips to write, with all the imprecision that that entails. But either way, QuickMemo is a welcome addition and even with less precision it's still a handy little extra.
QuickMemo and QuickSlide
QuickSlide lets you see two apps (the web browser, a video, the calculator...) simultaneously on one screen. You get to choose how big each one is on the screen and how transparent they appear. Nice. QuickTranslator translates words or phrases taken from photographs you snap.
With a user interface that's perfectly integrated into Android and a respectable chipset that's identical to the Nexus 4's (a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro with an Adreno 320 graphics chip), the Optimus G is fast and responsive no matter what the task. It runs smoothly and fluidly and executes whatever you ask it to do without showing any signs of strain. Why say anything else about the Optimus G's execution? It's perfect.
The headphone output delivers standard sound quality for this type of phone. The signal doesn't distort or saturate, but the volume could go a bit higher.
The built-in speaker, however, is poor quality. It has low volume and excessive saturation. The speaker is miles behind the HTC One's.
The media player decodes tons of file formats, which is naturally an advantage for a smartphone with a big screen with just the right dimensions for watching movies. For any other formats, you can always just download a third-party player like MX Player on Google Play.
When it comes to web browsing (via Chrome or the LG browser), everything runs perfectly. The online experience is responsive and fluid.
Sporting an in-house 13 Mpx camera sensor (the standard for high-end smartphones this year), the Optimus G's camera function is not bad at all. In fact, it's better than what we're used to from LG. The reproduction is consistent without much image noise and a surprisingly good amount of detail (especially toward the centre of the shot). It's better than the Xperia Z's camera; the colours are more natural than on the Xperia Z, whose images are a bit sharper, but overly treated. And compared to the Nexus 4 and its low detail, it's not even a question: even with the odd blurred imaged, the Optimus G wins.
Something you'll want to avoid using—more than usual—is the flash. It literally toasts your shots! Images come out a bit better in low lighting without the flash on, but not quite as well as on the Nokia Lumia 920 or the HTC One, which are better equipped for low light levels.
The Optimus G films in 1080p at 30 frames per second, which is perfectly good for a smartphone. Movies come out well-defined with fairly fluid images.
The battery is a 2,100 mAh, just like the Nexus 4.
We use Battery Benchmark to test the battery, which uses Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Internet, multimedia, varying levels of screen brightness and more to create a balanced stress test that generally matches the results we get in practice. And both in test and in practice, the Optimus G lasts just over 8 hours, which counts as four out of five stars in our rating system. In comparison, the HTC One gets 10 hours, the Xperia Z 11 hours and the Nexus 4 about 10 hours. All in all, the Optimus G pretty much lasts for a full day of intensive use.
But in addition to the energy saver, the Optimus G also has a neat mode that allows you to select specific tasks to shut down when the battery is low. Good idea.