LG's Optimus G Pro came out amid the battle for Android supremacy between the HTC One and the Galaxy S4. LG doesn't have as much mind share here in the states, so unsurprisingly this monster handset was somewhat eclipsed. In getting back to the LG, we've also had a number of other exciting releases like the Moto X and the Nokia Lumia 1020.
It took a little longer to get back to the LG, and it was a little harder to give it a fair shake, but on the whole, if you're looking to shop a larger screened handset, you'd be foolish to not at least consider the OGP.
LG's Phablet is in an interesting position. It's design is obviously "inspired" by the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, even including a few features like "Smart Watch" which keeps the screen on while the front facing camera can detect your eyes, a feature first seen built into TouchWiz on Samsung handsets. Of course, the specs are a step up from Samsung's second Note:
- 5.5" screen with 1080p resolution
- Quad-core Qualcomm 600 series Snapdragon processor
- 2GB of RAM / 32GB storage + MicroSD card expansion
- 13MP rear camera / 2.1MP front camera (both shoot 1080p video)
- 3140 mAh battery
- LTE / NFC / IR Port (for universal remote functions)
- Android Jellybean (4.1.2)
Spec for spec, everything here is an improvement on top of the Note 2. The experience is very polished. LG's skin on top of Android uses some fun 3D scrolling effects, and Qulacomm's chipset has proven to be a capable piece of silicon. Additional features, like a dedicated note taking hardware button and the ability to use small windowed apps help make use of the extra screen real estate.
Battery life is excellent, and it powers the combo of LTE + Large Screen comfortably. I easily had all day, and often well into the evening run time with my moderate use.
The inclusion of an IR port is becoming one of my favorite features of new handsets. Chances are you have a better idea of where your phone is at any given moment than your TV remote. The remote control app on the LG has become my favorite. A very simple and clean layout, which puts controls up front helped guarantee that even while reviewing other phones, I would often keep the LG around the living room simply for that feature alone.
The construction has been surprisingly durable. It's a very lightweight plastic build, again somewhat "inspired" by Samsung. During our test drive, the OGP has been dropped twice onto concrete from about waist height. While a fall looks horrible with the backplate popping off and the battery flying out, all that resulted was some scuffs to one corner. This is not to say the LG is a "rugged" device by any means. A slab of glass that large can be pretty easy to shatter, but it's at least as durable as any other phone we've used. Though on a personal note, after using matte polycarb phones like the Nokia Lumia 1020, I'm even less impressed with glossy plastic. It's smudgy and slippery if you have sweaty hands. I would very much appreciate a matte finish replacement back.
As a final comparison to Samsung's older Note 2, this is probably the first phone released where it was handily easy to see the advantages of a 1080p screen. There is a benefit on screens smaller than five inches, but it's a little harder to see unless you hold a 1080p screen right up next to a 720p screen. The extra surface area on a phablet, that resolution bump is literally clearer to discern.
Of course LG isn't facing the Note 2 anymore. It now stands against the updated Note 3, and in true tech fashion, the Note 3 steps up the processor game with the Qualcomm 800. Hardware to hardware the Note 3 will win or tie every fight against the OGP, and it'll include Samsung's fantastic S-Pen. So why would anyone still consider LG's phablet?
Here's the deal. Tech devalues quickly. The LG sports fantastic high end hardware, yet it's already months "old", and newer exciting phones have hit the market. You can now pick up the LG on AT&T for $100 on a two year contract. To put that in perspective, that's the same price you'd pay for an HTC One Mini which is decidedly mid-range.
If you're signing up a new two year agreement, you can get really close to Samsung's Note 3 experience (slower processor and the lack of a stylus) for about a third the price. You'll save almost $300 if you buy off contract.
And that's maybe where we should wrap up our time with the LG. If you're shopping for a smartphone bargain, and a larger screen is on your list, you should at least pick up the Optimus G Pro and check it out.