LG Optimus G Pro Review! (video)

March 25, 2013
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In a world where the line between smartphones and tablets is increasingly blurry, the LG Optimus G Pro stands out as a state-of-the-art device that combines a massive display with cutting edge specifications. The G Pro is truly a beast of a phone, in more than one way. But when it’s time to draw the line, is the 5.5-incher a great phone for everyone?

We attempt to answer this question in our LG Optimus G Pro review. We’ll look at all the things that matter, from the quality of the display, to the hardware that pushes all those pixels, and the battery that provides the power necessary to take you through the day.

Our master videographer Joshua Vergara has weighed in on the LG Optimus G Pro in his video review – check it out at the end of the post. Or, stick with us for a more thorough rundown of the Optimus G Pro.

Build and design

Let’s make it clear from the beginning – the LG Optimus G Pro is a phone made for two-hand operation. From the sheer physical size of the device (about 6-inch long) to the placement of the hardware buttons, you’ll often find yourself stretching your fingers to reach a certain UI element or to push the QButton when using it with one hand. Maneuverability is further hindered by the glossy, slippery finish of the back. Especially when trying more difficult maneuvers with one hand, such as bringing down the notification shade, you risk losing grip.

LG tried to mitigate some of the inconveniences that are inherent to a large form factor by introducing certain software tweaks. For instance, in portrait mode, you can set the keyboard to be more accessible with the right (or left) thumb. However, as you’d expect, there’s only so much that software tweaks can alleviate in terms of usability.

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The above lengthy disclaimer doesn’t mean that the Optimus G Pro isn’t a great device, once you accept that you’ll have to use both hands to operate it. Design-wise, the device features smooth, modern lines that reminisce a bit of the G Pro’s sworn rival, the Galaxy Note 2. Just like Samsung’s device, the G Pro features an oblong Home button flanked by two capacitive Menu and Back buttons. The two devices also have about the same thickness, and a similar “feel” in hand. Obviously, the Optimus G Pro lacks a stylus, which may or may not be a drawback, depending on what you plan to do with the device.

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The back cover of the Optimus G Pro features LG’s now-trademark reflective design, which we found quite appealing. Moreover, the cover is removable, exposing a removable battery a microSD card slot, both make-or-break features for many users.

The G Pro unit we reviewed came with a telescopic antenna, that is specific to East Asian markets, where watching TV on the phone is a time-honored tradition.

As a mini conclusion to this section, LG made quite a few good choices when designing the Optimus G Pro. However, it’s hard to get by the, well… biggest issue with LG’s new phone – the fact it could prove too big for many users. On the other hand, if you’re fine with the Note 2, or if you find yourself yearning for more display real estate when poking at your current phone, the G Pro could be ideal for you.

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Display

The Optimus G Pro’s massive footprint is needed to accommodate the wonderful 5.5-inch IPS LCD display. We think that bigger is better when it comes to displays, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a better device in that respect.

Like most new flagship phones, the LG Optimus G Pro is a True HD device. Because the panel is half an inch larger than devices like the Galaxy S4 or the Xperia Z, its pixel density won’t set any new records. Still, the 400ppi density ensures that pixels are invisible, like you can see in this close up of the panel.

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Being an LCD, the display doesn’t feature the deep blacks and oversaturated colors of the Note 2, but for many users who prefer a natural look, that’s a big selling point. The G Pro is a joy to gaze at, at pretty much any viewing angle. Of course, the applications that best showcase its prowess are video playback and gaming. If you do a lot of that, you’ll love the Optimus G Pro.

Hardware and performance

If you’re looking for the very best in mobile specifications, you’ll find it inside the LG Optimus G Pro. It’s not that LG has a lead in this area (similar specs are available in the HTC One and versions of the Galaxy S4), but the G Pro’s innards are the best you can get right now.

Come to think of it, LG needed a beefy processor to push all those pixels around, and the Snapdragon 600 certainly delivers. Coupling a quad-core processor running at 1.7GHz with a tried and tested Adreno 320 GPU, the S600 will handle anything you throw at it. Combined with the 2GB of RAM, the setup shines in benchmarks.

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Like bells and whistles? You’ll find plenty in the Optimus G Pro. All the sensors and connectivity options you’ve come to expect from a modern flagship are there, including a microSD card slot, for those hungry for media.

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Battery

Prying open the Optimus G Pro reveals a solid 3140mAh removable battery. Given the power consumption of the G Pro’s expansive screen, we were curious to see how the phone does in an improvised benchmark. Our unit powered through seven hours of looping video, and got us through a full day of use without problems.

We think LG has realized that the all the latest specs are meaningless if the phone is dead, and packed another nifty trick in the G Pro’s arsenal – a charging dock that stand the phone up and charges a spare battery inside, all thus effectively doubling the stamina of the device. Finally, power saving kicks in automatically when the battery level drops below a pre-programmed level.

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All around, we feel that the Optimus G Pro is a step in the right direction when it comes to battery life, at a time when many manufacturers seem to neglect the issue.

Camera

We found the 13MP main camera of the LG Optimus G Pro to be a great performer. Megapixels aren’t everything, as HTC is so keen to tell us, but the G Pro’s shooter delivers more than just big images. The f2.4 aperture ensures that plenty of light reaches the sensor, which is a boon for indoor shots. However, we did find the outdoors photos to be a little too intense, as the color can overcome the detail in some cases.

The camera software on the G Pro is quite good, with features like VR Panorama (an Android Photo Sphere lookalike) and Intelligent Auto (which picks the best settings depending on the context) making it easy to get the most of each scene.

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Overall, we loved the camera on the Optimus G Pro, and we have no trouble recommending it.

Software

LG has packed a slew of little features inside the Optimus G Pro, in an effort to make its software competitive against the Galaxy Note 2. While many users won’t find them particularly compelling, others might benefit from a productivity boost thanks to apps like QMemo or QSlide.

If you ever used the Optimus G, the still very new predecessor of the G Pro, you will be right at home on the latter, as the software is virtual identical on the two phones. We especially appreciated the flexibility of the Optimus UI, right out of the box. If the Android implementations of other manufacturers are more locked down, requiring you to scour the Play Store for customization apps, Optimus UI lets you easily change aspects such as the lock screen or the screen transition effects.

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Our general impression of the Optimus UI is that it looks and feels unitary. It may not have as many bells and whistles as the Galaxy phones, but it’s still a worthy contender.

Hands-on video

Final thoughts

The LG Optimus G Pro is a full-blown, unabashedly powerful Android flagship, no matter how you look at it. LG has done an excellent job at packing a multitude of features beneath that gorgeous 5.5-inch display and, for the most part, managed to integrate them into a coherent whole.

The big caveat is obviously the size of the phone, which affects every part of the user experience. As Josh says in the video review, if you don’t feel at home with a 5-inch device, the Optimus G Pro will feel clunky and burdensome. Big phones aren’t for everyone, and there’s no going around that. However, if you are willing to embrace the big phone experience, the Optimus G Pro is probably the best in class right now.

Let us know what you think of the LG Optimus G Pro.

Bogdan Petrovan contributed to this review.

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