LG Optimus G Pro review

More and more manufacturers are starting to believe that which many of them, and at least some of us consumers, thought laughable – that people want massive phones. Phones with screens so big that we start wondering if they’re actually tablets, spawning words like Phablet (or the less grating Tablone).

LG aren’t ones to sit around and watch Samsung eat all the cake, and the Optimus G Pro is what they’re sending in to grab some of that chocolaty goodness. Does it stack up, or did it get turned around in the shuffle?

Design and build quality

To state the obvious, the Optimus G Pro is a big phone. Just seeing it in its box makes it plainly obvious that it’s not the usual. With that said, the Optimus G Pro is very much a black slab.

On the right side is the power button, with the volume rocker on the left. Just above the volume rocker is the handy “QButton” – a hardware button that you can customise to launch any app with a single press.

On the bottom is the microUSB port, while the 3.5mm jack sits at the top.

The back cover is removable plastic with a similar kind of 3D pixel pattern as on the Optimus G and Nexus 4. While it is probably durable enough, it feels slippery and cheap and not at all what you’d expect on this kind of device. To add insult, it’s a fingerprint magnet.

The rear camera sits in the top middle with the speaker to the left and LED flash to the right.

Up front, below the screen, are capacitive back, hard home, and capacitive menu buttons. We’ve ranted about the hardware buttons before, especially the menu button, so we’ll leave that as it stands. We found the back button to be a stretch for our fingers, though on a phone as big as the Optimus G Pro, everything was a stretch.

The biggest issue here is the plasticky feel of the Optimus G Pro – it’s decidedly less premium than what it should be.

LG Optimus G Pro rear
LG Optimus G Pro rear

Internals and performance

Inside the shell are some nice beefy internals.

At the core is a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU with an Adreno 320 GPU. Paired with that is a healthy 2GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB storage that’s expandable by up to another 64GB via microSD.

Keeping you connected is HSPA+ with up to 42.2Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up, WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and an infra-red blaster. The Optimus G Pro also boasts hardware support for Vodacom and Cell C’s LTE networks, though we weren’t able to put it to the test.

Worth noting at this point is that we experienced some jumpy Bluetooth performance, though this could just be related to the version of Android that the device ships with (4.1.2). Another possible problem area was the GPS, which frequently lost its lock after about an hour’s use, though it did regain it in about half a minute.

In normal daily use, we found the Optimus G Pro to be snappy. Animations were fast, transitions were fluid, and the device was generally a pleasure to use.

Benchmarks tell a similar story with AnTuTu giving it an average rating of 23359.4, placing it second only to the Samsung Galaxy S4 (with 27582.4), though the Optimus G Pro’s scores did fluctuate considerably more than the S4 did.

Screen and responsiveness

We’ve mentioned before that the Optimus G Pro is big, measuring 150.2mm x 76.1mm x 9.4mm. On the front, most of that real estate goes to the 5.5”, 1080p, IPS+ LCD display.

For those less familiar with the numbers, it’s a big, high resolution display. Simply put, it’s beautiful. It’s bright, displayed crisp text on it’s 401ppi panel along with rich, vivid colours. We loved browsing the web, playing games, and even reading longer articles that would usually warrant going to a PC or hauling out a tablet.

Typing on it was also a great experience, and going back to a 4.7-inch screen after experiencing the Optimus G Pro’s roomy, responsive screen was difficult to say the least.

The auto-brightness tended to be a little dim, which was a problem in direct sunlight. Cranking up the brightness manually easily solved that particular hurdle.

The only thing there is to complain about with the screen on the Optimus G Pro is that it’s very difficult to use one-handed, but that’s the price you have to pay when using a device in this size class.

Lg Optimus G Pro side
Lg Optimus G Pro side

Sound and call quality

Call quality was good – we found the earpiece to be loud and clear, and there weren’t any complaints from the other side either.

The rear speaker on the Optimus G Pro was tinny, but loud.

The bundled earphones were surprisingly good. Audiophiles would still bin them in about two seconds, but they’re good enough. Something we particularly liked was their design – they didn’t need constant adjustment to stay in and keep their seal, which is something that can’t be said of many bundled earphones.

Cameras

Not wanting to let any spec suffer on the Optimus G Pro, LG decided to equip it with 13 megapixel sensor capable of 4208 x 3120 still shots and 1080p video capture.

In our use it tended to generate quite a bit of noise even in well lit situations, and colours tended to be slightly oversaturated. In general, we also found that we needed to take multiple shots of a scene to get one that we were at least semi-happy with, tweaking the focus between shots.

On of the new features in the camera software is VR Panorama, which is exactly like Photospheres on Nexus devices but with a clunkier interface that requires you to try and closely match up a whole frame instead of just aiming the camera at a virtual blue dot.

The 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera is capable of 1080p capture and worked well in our test video calls.

LG Optimus G Pro top and bottom
LG Optimus G Pro top and bottom

Battery life

With such a big screen at such a high resolution, you’d expect the Optimus G Pro to suffer slightly in terms of uptime. However, we found that the Optimus G Pro actually made it through a day of very high use – browsing, chatting, and gaming (and by gaming we mean Ingress which sucks most batteries dry in 2 hours).

Scaling usage down a bit got the battery life up to multiple days – easily 2 or 3 days, with 4 in sight if you use all the power saving features. Clearing shoving in a 3140mAh battery wasn’t for nothing.

Software

The Optimus G Pro comes with Android 4.1.2. With 4.3 out, 4.1.2 does seem outdated, though there aren’t many obvious user-facing changes between the two. We can only hope that updates will be frequent and prompt.

On top of Android 4.1.2 is LG’s own skin, reminiscent of Samsung’s, though without the feature shotgun. Easily the most annoying of the skin is LG’s added cruft to the notification shade, which takes up half the real estate there and makes a very useful feature of Android much less so.

3rd-party apps are also all over the show.

  • LG Backup lets you backup your phone. Quick Translator translates a word, line, or block of text taken from a live camera view.
  • Memo and Notebook are similar, but slightly different, and are begging to be merged into a single app.
  • QuickRemote is a universal remote app that makes use of the aforementioned infra-red blaster.
  • RemoteCall Service lets you get remote support from LG.
  • Safety Care lets you set conditions to automatically send alerts to friends or family.
  • SmartShare lets you share content over DLNA.
  • Similar to Memo and Notebook, Video Editor and Video Wiz are both video editing apps, though with slight differences and should probably be merged into a single app.
  • Almost at the end, is Weather, which shows exactly what the name suggests and is easily the most useful of the lot.
  • As with the Optimus G, the G Pro includes QSlide apps – apps that float above the currently open app. This is, unfortunately, still limited to Internet, Memo, Calendar, Calculator, and Videos.
LG Optimus G Pro
LG Optimus G Pro

Conclusion

The Optimus G Pro is a good device. It’s got a gorgeous screen with some solid internals, and it performs well. However it has its share of issues that are more than just personal preference.

If you’re in the market for a massive phone, we’d say you should check out the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

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LG Optimus G Pro review