LG’s quad core giant: Optimus 4X HD review and hands-on video

June 13, 2012
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LG may not be the world’s best-known smartphone maker or the largest maker of smartphones in the world, like their co-nationals Samsung, but the Koreans are, nevertheless, a force to be reckoned with.

First off, the phone maker has passed through a long period of lackluster evolution, marked by mediocre products and a dwindling mindshare. But now, all signs indicate that LG is back with a vengeance. And for those in the know – LG has been making major waves in their display division, and is producing what many consider to be some of the finest displays available to date.

Over the past several months, LG has scored a number of important wins. It stole the limelight at MWC with its new phones, including the Optimus 4X HD that we are reviewing today. Then, some technically impressive devices were leaked, suggesting that LG is keen to push the technological envelope, more than any other Android OEM has thus far. Very importantly, the Koreans achieved a rare performance – they managed to pull themselves back to profitability, after many consecutive quarters of losses.

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LG’s renewed focus on technical excellence is slowly bringing the company back to the ultra competitive top tier smartphone battle royale. And this focus is visible in the LG Optimus 4X HD, a device that bears an arsenal of specs that will impress even the savviest of tech buyers. It’s clear that LG is ready to square off with Samsung, HTC, and even Apple. But will consumers agree? Read on.

LG Optimus 4X HD Specs

  • Size: 5.21 x 2.68 x 0.35-inch (132 x 68 x 8.89 mm), 0.35 pounds (158 grams)
  • Display: 4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS LCD, capacitive
  • Processor: Nvidia quad-core Tegra 3, 1.5 GHz
  • Memory: 1GB RAM DDR2
  • Storage: 16GB, microSD – up to 32GB
  • Radio: GSM, 3G, HSDPA
  • Connectivity: USB, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Camera: 8MP, autofocus, LED, touch focus, image stabilization
  • Video: 1080p, 30FPS
  • OS: Android 4.0.3

Design and Display

First off, the body of the LG Optimus 4X HD is very sleek. It feels like most of the phone’s weight is actually in the screen, making for a somewhat lightweight design. This does not mean the 4X lacks strength, as it feels extremely solid in the palm of my hand. The rear backing also sits firm on the 4X, which cannot be said about some other modern phone’s back plates.

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In front, the Optimus 4X HD is packing a beautiful 4.7″ true HD-IPS display. In Plane Switching (IPS) screens provide a different liquid crystal arrangement, for optimal side viewing. As you’d expect, the IPS arrangement makes for a beautiful viewing experience even at narrow angles.

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The display has a 720×1280 pixels resolution with an impressive 312 ppi density, and the pixels are pretty much invisible in normal viewing conditions. The LCD delivers beautiful colors, that lack the saturation of AMOLEDs, but display purists swear by the natural colors of LCD.

On top of that LCD IPS display, LG uses the now customary Corning Gorilla Glass for protection. The Optimus 4X HD comes with three capacitive buttons, the Back, Home, and Menu buttons; a long press on the Home button brings up the recent apps. The backlit capacitive buttons can be customized to stay on as long as the display does. The absence of physical buttons makes for a really smooth, minimalist appearance, although some might miss the tactile feedback provided by physical buttons.

Overall, while the LG Optimus 4X HD doesn’t get many points for originality, its design is refined and sleek, and, in my opinion, the phone really looks great!

Performance

The Optimus 4X HD houses a blazing fast Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz processor. In addition to the Tegra’s four main cores, there’s the fifth “companion” core, clocked at just 500MHZ, which kicks in when the phone doesn’t need a lot of processing power, in order to save battery.

Benchmark scores reveal that the LG Optimus 4X HD is a bit faster than the HTC One X, which is no easy task to accomplish.

To complement the Tegra 3’s speedy circuitry, the Optimus packs 1GB of RAM (pretty much standard fare these days), as well as 16GB of internal storage, and an additional micro-SD card slot.

The battery is a whopping 2150mAh, which exceeds both the Galaxy S3’s and the HTC One X’s battery capacity. Even with relatively heavy usage, I was still able to get through a full 24 hour usage cycle.

The Optimus 4X HD is a 3G phone, so no blazing-fast network speeds to be seen here.

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 Camera & Gallery

The phone features an 8 megapixel rear facing camera that captures 1080p HD video. It also has a front facing, 1.3 megapixel camera with facial recognition and smile detection.

The gallery comes with a pack of intuitive features that I enjoyed playing with. I spent a good amount of time playing with the “Silly Faces” effects, as well as the in-gallery green-screen utility. LG has also included a function that allows you to speed up or slow down videos as you are watching them. The settings are intuitive and useful, so you’ll have no trouble to, say, switch from an action shot to a close up in a jiffy.

All software functions aside, the camera is very functional. I was able to take many great shots with the Optimus 4X HD, in a variety of lighting conditions. Check out below a couple of samples shot with the LG Optimus 4X HD, and stay tuned for a full camera test that we will publish soon.

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Software

LG’s superphone runs on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, with LG’s Optimus 3.0 skin applied on top. I found the Optimus UI to be considerably better than Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense. Adding folders, apps, and widgets to the homescreen is a breeze, and navigating the interface is aesthetically pleasing.

The system toggles and menus are not too gaudy or overdone. There are also many nice screen transitions, as well as four different themes and three systems fonts to choose from. Overall, it’s very easy to customize the Optimus 4X HD.

LG didn’t bloat the phone as much as you would expect, as most of the preloaded apps are quite useful. LG has included many widgets for the 4X, including SmartWorld, Social+, and Today+, all useful for keeping up to date at a glance.

LG has also included an NFC tag writing application, so no need to install one from the Play Store. Near Field Communication allows users to interact with pre-programmed tags, and set the phone to execute certain actions when the tag is in range.

Also coming by default on the Optimus 4X HD is a very intuitive Quick Memo application, that lets the user doodle or draw on any part of the screen at any time. This feature just begs to be used with a stylus, so watch out Galaxy Note! The phone also comes preloaded with ShadowGun, Samurai II, and NVI, titles that make use of the gaming prowess of the Tegra 3 System on a Chip. Another potentially useful inclusion is the LG SmartWorld app, which is a tool that suggests apps based on your preferences.

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Overview                     

So how does the LG Optimus 4X HD stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X, the main contenders to the title of king of Android?

Well, it’s safe to say that the LG will most likely outperform the dual core variants of the GS3 and HTC One series. From a technical point of view, the Optimus 4X HD leaves little to be desired. The screen is beautiful, and generous in dimensions and resolution, and the IPS makes using it a pleasure. Beneath the screen, Nvidia’s Tegra 3 hums away, delivering buttery smooth performance across UI navigation, web browsing, and app utilization.

The software side is quite enjoyable as well, and, as I said, you might find that Optimus UI is a breath of fresh air, especially if you are growing tired of TouchWiz and Sense.

On the downside, some might find that the industrial design is a bit boring, but that’s really a matter of preference. There were some crashes and inconsistencies that marred a bit of the user experience, but no real deal-breakers fortunately.

Now for the big question – is the LG Optimus 4X HD better than the HTC One X or the local rivals’ Galaxy S3? I say that LG’s flagship is definitely a worthy competitor in the high-end smartphone competition, but the race is so close that it all comes down to personal preference.



You can watch our in-depth video review of the Optimus 4X HD below.

Video Review

Let us know your opinions in the comments section below. If you have any questions, fire them out, and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, check out the full image gallery below.

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