LG is on an upward trajectory in the world of consumer electronics and its increasingly popular smartphones are the main driving force behind this growth. But, while smartphones are very important, the Korean manufacturer just couldn’t ignore anymore the tremendous growth of the demand for tablets.
And so, following a two-year hiatus, LG launched a new tablet this fall, the G Pad 8.3, an aluminum-clad mid-sized device that LG hopes will stand out in a sea of competing offers.
Is the LG G Pad 8.3 worthy of a place on your shopping list this holiday season? What are the core strengths and weaknesses of LG’s shiny new device? We take a look at all the things that matter in our LG G Pad 8.3 review. Let’s dive in.
LG made a point of the G Pad’s dimensions, which, it claims, are the result of research into the average span of the human hand. The manufacturer wanted to maximize the size of the display, while still keeping the width of the device small enough so it can be held in one hand. And indeed, the G Pad is easy to handle, and we often found ourselves using it like an oversized smartphone.
The button layout is conventional: the power button and the volume rocker are located on the tablet’s right side, when used in portrait mode. We liked that the buttons are slightly protruding, and therefore easy to operate, which isn’t the case with other tablets of similar design.
The most striking design feature of the G Pad 8.3 is the aluminum backplate, which gives it a durable and premium feel. The metal contrasts nicely with the black/white plastic body, and the two-tone look is very attractive. On the front, it’s all plastic; the device has the asymmetrical bezels that manufactures currently favor, and the two wider bezels are just thick enough to give thumbs a nice resting place when you hold the tablet in landscape mode.
We’ve been spoiled with some great displays on tablets lately, but the G Pad doesn’t disappoint in this department. With a resolution of 1920 x 1200, the 8.3-inch IPS LCD panel is rated at 273 pixels per inch. Black levels are satisfactory, and the good sharpness is complemented by colors that are far from dull, but not very vibrant either.
Coming in at just the right size, the display of the G Pad 8.3 is great for gaming, reading, or watching movies. One small issue, if we can call it that way, is the thin black stripe around the rendered area of the display, which adds a bit of width to the overall size of the bezel. This is especially visible on the white version of the device.
The LG G Pad 8.3 is powered by a Snapdragon 600 processor, comprising of a quad-core CPU clocking in at 1.7GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU. This is the configuration that was considered top-end at the beginning of the year, but the Snapdragon 800 has superseded it in the recent months. Does that mean that the G Pad is underpowered? Not really.
Even with the growing number of processing-intensive features that LG baked into Optimus UI, we haven’t come across any true stutter or lag when perusing the G Pad, even when we tried out the Slide Aside multitasking feature. Gamers will be pleased to learn that demanding games like Dead Trigger 2 pose no trouble to the G Pad, which is fitted with the standard these days of 2GB of RAM.
There’s the usual assortment of bells and whistles on the G Pad 8.3, with the notable exception of NFC. You do get however, a microSD card slot (located on top, behind a plastic flap) and an infrared blaster that lets you control TVs and other electronics. The connectivity options include dual-band WiFi and LTE, but the latter is only available in some markets for now, primarily in Europe.
The stereo speakers located behind the aluminum back of the G Pad are very loud for a tablet, and that’s a good thing because, due to their positioning, they’ll often be muffled.
The battery on the G Pad is a 4600 mAh unit that LG claims should be good for about nine hours of usage. However, our own quick testing indicates that heavy usage will drain the battery of the device in about seven hours. Of course, your mileage may vary, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get some respectable battery life out your G Pad 8.3.
Unsurprisingly, the camera on the G Pad is nothing to write home about, as you can tell even from the specs – 5MP with no flash unit. But the G Pad 8.3’s camera fails the real test, that of image quality: colors are dull, sharpness is lacking, and images will have an amount of grain even in good lighting. The app is similar to that on the LG G2, but the few interesting software features don’t compensate for the core problem of image quality.
LG equipped the G Pad with many of the software features it implemented on the Optimus G and more recently in the G2. If you want to get yourself acquainted with them, the best way is to simply swipe down the notification shade, where you can find most of them.
If you’re unfamiliar with LG’s software additions, there are many so-called Q functions to learn – Q Slide, for instance, similar to Sony’s implementation of Small Apps, lets you open up app overlay for some quick multitasking. There’s a Memo app for taking notes, but you can also use for that the tool that lets you take a screenshot and edit it in a pinch.
Perhaps the most interesting software feature on the G Pad is Slide Aside, LG’s gesture based multitasking implementation. Swipe with three fingers to the left in any app to put it aside in the memory. Then swipe to the left to open the stack, which can hold several applications in standby, and put an app back into focus. It may be an intuitive way to deal with switching between apps, but we didn’t find it that fast.
Another notable feature in the G Pad’s arsenal is the ability to connect a smartphone to the tablet through a feature called QPair. This should work with any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, though, unsurprisingly, it works best with the G2. We liked that the pairing is as simple as tapping two buttons in apps running on both devices, and, from there, it’s straightforward to do other tasks, such as responding to texts, opening up an app that you have running on the other device, or even declining calls. There’s no option to answer calls on the tablet however. Q Pair is not an essential feature by any mean but many users may find it convenient.
The G Pad 8.3 is a middling offering and that reflects in its $350 price tag, which is somewhere between entry-level devices and high-end tablets with lots of extra features. That’s for the WiFi version; the cellular model will set you back a little more (it now sells for around €350 in Europe).
All things considered, we think that the G Pad 8.3 is a good comeback device for LG, and leaps and bounds better than its earlier efforts in the tablet space. The device doesn’t truly shine in any specific area, but its design, build quality, display, and some of the software features all make it worthy of your attention.
If you want a reasonably-powered, good looking tablet that you can use with one hand, the G Pad 8.3 is one of the best choices you can make right now. Be sure though that you’re okay with the software, lackluster camera, and aging processor before you hand over your credit card.