In a mobile world that has been dominated by Apple and Samsung, LG has been quietly making some noise. LG finally made a name for themselves last year with the Optimus G and the Nexus 4, but if you want to compete with the likes of Samsung, you better have something that competes with the Note as well. LG already tried this route with the Optimus Vu, which was a total flop. For whatever reason, they thought a 4:3 display would attract consumers, but all it did was detract them. After the success of the Optimus G, they won’t make that same mistake again. Using the “G” theme they designed a phone that has all the hardware and tools to go head to head with Samsung. Is it good enough? Hit the break to find out.
As you would expect, the Optimus G Pro is pretty large. It’s a niche product, so if you think a 5.5-inch display is too big, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this review. A phone like this isn’t for everyone. You have to want it and desire it, not to mention you probably should have big hands. The G Pro resembles the latest Galaxy Note II in so many ways, but it’s not a complete knock off. It’s a little shorter and narrower. Plus it weighs less. Add in the fact that the back is flatter, you have a phone that is more comfortable in the hand. The downside is that the back is a little slick, which is one of my biggest pet peeves with phones. The plus is that it doesn’t feature the all glass back that is found on the Optimus G and the Nexus 4. You still get the checkerboard feel, but it doesn’t look as cool without the glass. However, the G Pro is going to be more durable, which is probably more important. Samsung has made quite a few dollars making durable phones. Closing it all out is a faux metal trim that wraps all the way around the phone, but is much thinner at the sides.
The front has the Samsung-like home button that also features the notification light. You will also find capacitive buttons for both menu and back keys. The top sports the microphone jack along with the IR blaster. The bottom has the microUSB port. The left side has the QuickButton at the top left with the volume rocker below that. The right side has the power button towards the top right. The back is removable, and that is where you will find the micro SIM slot as well as the microSD slot.
The Optimus G Pro has a 5.5-inch 1080p True HD-IPS + LCD display at 401 PPI, 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600, Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, microSD slot for up to 64GB additional storage, 13MP rear camera with a f/2.4 aperture and a 1/3.06-inch BSI sensor, 2.1MP front camera, IR blaster, Bluetooth 4.0, Miracast, and a 3,140mAh battery
We have already had some experience with the Snapdragon 600, so it’s no shocker that the G Pro can handle anything you throw at it. I ran the AnTuTu benchmark and got 19,204, which is much lower than both the HTC One and the Galaxy S 4, 23,538 and 24,722 respectively. However, you should never buy a phone based on a benchmark because it’s not the be all end all. The bottomline is that whatever the Optimus G Pro is lacking when comparing it to the One and GS4, you will never notice it.
Over the last year, HTC has been killing it in the display department, but I think there is finally a contender. The G Pro has a lower PPI than the HTC One (401 vs 468), but you are going to have a hard time choosing one over the other. The lower PPI is only because of the difference in screen size. The G Pro has great viewing angles and fantastic color reproduction. The only issue is that it isn’t as good in sunlight. It is by far the best display that LG has released.
Battery life was decent. 3,140mAh is a rather large battery, but so is the screen. Pushing 1080p on a 5.5-inch will take its toll on any battery. I did my usual video rundown test in which I run continuous video while connected to 4G LTE. I also make sure that the GPS is turned on as well as WiFi and Bluetooth, but neither of those are connected. I was able to get about 7 hours and 45 minutes, which isn’t bad. I was only able to get a little over 7 hours with the same test on the HTC One. On the flip side, I was able to get 9 hours out of the Galaxy S 4. Real world use is still going to be the best indicator, and you can expect to get about 15 to 16 hours out of it with normal use.
LG renamed their UI to the Optimus UI, but it’s very similar to what we saw on the Optimus G. It’s built around Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and has a completely different look than LG’s main competitors. At the heart of the UI is their QSlide apps. These are apps that you can open more than one at a time, similar to Samsung Multi Window. You will find these apps in the notification tray and they consist of Videos, Note Pad, Calendar, and the Calculator. Unfortunately four apps isn’t enough and Samsung easily wins in this department. However Q slide is pretty slick in that you can easily move the apps around the screen and resize them as you wish. It’s one of those features that is more cool than useful.
You will also find a QuickButton at the top left side. By pressing this button, it will open any app that you choose. You just have to go into settings and choose what app you want associated with it. The default out of the box is QuickMemo. Speaking of QuickMemo it’s a way to add comments or drawings to any screen shot. We had a chance to see it in action on the Optimus G.
QRemote is new since the G Pro features an IR blaster. It’s very similar to what we have seen from Samsung and HTC. However, you can add more devices such as a TV, cable box, AV receiver, DVD player, Blu-ray player, Air-con, and projector. You can also set your devices individually for your living room, bedroom, kitchen, study, and office. Unfortunately you won’t find the Peel like interface that is found on both Samsung Watch and HTC TV, which allows you to see what’s on TV now and get recommendations.
LG and AT&T also made the Value Pack upgrade available this week. Two of the biggest features of this upgrade are similar to Samsung’s Smart Pause and Dual Camera features. Now when you watch a video and look away, it will pause. You can also take photos and videos using the front and rear cameras at the same time. Another cool new feature is the ability to pause when recording a video, but when you hit record again, it will still be one continuous video file.
Most of the overall user interface is very similar to what we saw on the Optimus G so checkout that review for more information.
The 13MP camera is top notch, but what I am really happy about is the fact that they fixed burst shooting. The Optimus G also had burst shooting, but each photo would only be about 1MP. This is something I never saw on any other device, so I was shocked. As soon as I got my hands on the G Pro, I tested it out, and I am happy to report that each photo in the burst is actually 13MP as it should be. Now with that aside, the camera on the G Pro is one of the best I’ve seen on a smartphone. It appears to be the same lens on the Optimus G, but LG might have tweaked the software a little. As far as the settings, it is very similar to the Optimus G, so check out that review.
Below are some example photos. Low light performance is extraordinary as you can see in my last photo, which was taken in a nearly pitch black setting.
When you consider the current price of $99 (on contract) for the Optimus G Pro, it’s an amazing deal. However, you have to want a larger phone. If you already decided that 5.5-inches isn’t too big, then the next thing you have to decide on is how important updates are to you. LG doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to Android updates. It is still only at Android 4.1.2, and I don’t expect the soon to be announced 4.3, to be on it anytime soon. Still, when you look at everything the Optimus G Pro offers, $99 is an absolute steal for those that are phablet crazy.