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LG Optimus G Pro Review: Now THIS is a Phablet

The LG Optimus G Pro. It’s the latest full-force flagship Android smartphone from LG, a phone-maker that doesn’t normally get as much media mileage as an iPhone or a new Samsung Galaxy superphone or even an HTC.

But maybe this is the phone that will get them back into the mainstream consciousness. And one of the reasons would be its kick-ass huge display.

Here is the LG Optimus G Pro in its resting position:

Front and Back 01

Its reflective plastic back. The first time I held it, I hated it:

Front and Back 02

But after two weeks, I dreaded going back to my less than five inch main Android. Something about that vivid display wins you over as you lose sleep watching movies and enjoy catching up on chismis and Flipboarding until you hear a rooster cawing and the fluorescent light in your room is gradually displaced by real sunlight.

LG G PRO SPECS

This then is a review of one of the best phablets out on the market now. Yes, you heard that right. The LG Optimus G Pro is one of the best phablets out now.

Greats and Gripes 01

Greats and Gripes 02

Mind you not every Great and Gripe are listed. Just the main ones, the rest are in the details below.

Unboxing Shot 01

Greats

Comfortable dimensions. Despite the bigger size, the G Pro remains comfortable when held and when used. The width is not as unwieldy as I thought it would be, and the longer look of everything, when in portrait mode, actually reveals more items – great for reading.

<>5.5" screen of the LG Optimus G Pro on the left, the 4" screen of the LG Optimus L5 Series II on the right.

Size comparison: 5.5″ screen of the LG Optimus G Pro on the left, the 4″ screen of the LG Optimus L5 Series II on the right.

The slightly bigger width also means a wider portrait keyboard, so that even those with chubby thumbs will feel right at home. As a big phone, it’s not awkward to hold. My wife likes using it, and she has tiny hands.

Fonts can be customized and affects even the keyboard. Lookit that cute font.

Fonts can be customized and affects even the keyboard. Lookit that cute font.

Pocket cinema material. In landscape-mode video watching and gaming, the G Pro really shines.

Viewing Angles 01The just-right screen size, the killer crispness of the 400 ppi display, the great viewing angles, the natural and vibrant non-saturated colors, the good outdoor visibility, the loud and clear audio, the long battery life, the comfy feel of the G Pro in your hand, – all combine for something wonderful, plus a message: make me your main phone and media player slash gaming gear.

Smart ShareWith Smart Share (above), a feature that lets you access shared contents from other devices in the same network, you can watch movies you have in your PC. This is convenient when you are too lazy to move files into the G Pro’s storage. But if you still want to move files the hard way, the G Pro also takes in USB On The Go (below). But the cable is not included in box. Buy it separately.

USB on the go

Back Lid Removed 01 Sturdy build. Despite the all plastic body and easily removable back lid, the G Pro remains tough.

Back Lid Removed 02I have a habit of tapping the corner of review phones against the table, of knocking on it while inside my pants pocket, and tossing the phone in the air and catching it – just to see if I ever get afraid of dropping the unit. As with the LG Optimus G, which is a slab of tough glass, and which passed my test, so did the plastic G Pro. I’m sorry I can’t say that for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Note 8.0, which are begging for protective gear. The G Pro is plastic, done right.
More Space for Games 01
Big screen great for games. Landscape-mode graphically intensive games “feel” better on the bigger screen. That’s because such games often use part of the real estate as control points – directional pads and action buttons – which can block part of the visual action.

More Space for Games 02You now have more space with the G Pro. You can really show off with this phablet. Conversely, because of the good viewing angles and big display, everyone will also see how badly you’re playing.
Rear Camera, Reflective Back Cover Still a good rear camera, plus an acceptable front one. The rear camera remains a 13MP and is now flushed into the back, not slightly protruding, as was the case with the camera of the LG Optimus G.

Grocery shot.

Kalamansi shot.

The massive and crisp screen (no oversaturated nonsense) plus an already good camera – are plain wonderful.

Low light shot.

Low light shot.

The camera UI looks easier to use, as is switching between front and back cam and between stills and video and between normal and dual recording.

Camera UIThe front camera plus that gorgeous screen make for great selfies – a professional selfie girl explained this to me.

Beauty Shot 01The results are not just selfies that look good as thumbnails, but are good enough as serious self portraits – when lighting conditions are good (indoor evening selfies are best taken with the rear cam).

Model is Deni Villanueva, selfies taken by, well, herself, on the G Pro.

Model is Deni Villanueva, selfies taken by, well, herself, on the G Pro.

Also, a landscape mode selfie, on a big screen, means you can compose group shots better.

A physical home button. To think other manufacturers are moving away from that. Golly-gee.

A physical home button. To think other manufacturers are moving away from that. Golly-gee.

Expandable storage. The MicroSD card slot means no more excuses for the incredibly selfish among us who want to carry around their music collection and favorite feel-good movies. (I belong to the latter camp.)

Why, Grandma. What big screen you have.

Why, Grandma. What big screen you have.

Battery stamina is good, despite that big display eating up power. The user-replaceable battery, a massive 3,140mAh, extends all the good times you will have in the G Pro. 8-9 hours of heavy surfing, some games, and a movie. The more movies you watch and the more graphically intensive games you play, the closer you bring down that battery life to 5-6 hours.

Basic food group shot.

Basic food group shot.

The Quad Beat Audio Earphones are better constructed now. They still come with two extra eartips (of varying sizes), just like with the Optimus G, but the changes include a wiring material that’s softer (unlike the wiry hanger-like feel of the ones in the Optimus G).

See? The G Pro is not big. That, by the way, is Nikki Alfar's first collection of short stories: Now, Then, and Elsewhen.

See? The G Pro is not big. That, by the way, is Nikki Alfar’s first collection of short stories: Now, Then, and Elsewhen.

The scrubbing control in the default video player is great. With other video players, when you tap on a section, that section is played immediately. With the default video player (below), you are shown a thumbnail footage of the section you want to jump to.

Video ScrubbingKeyboard color theme and font can be changed. If you think this doesn’t matter, you should have seen the expression on the faces of women to whom I showed the keyboard theme below.

Pink Theme 01

Pink Theme 02 IR Remote is the best way to annoy people at the appliances section of department stores, and generally in places where you don’t know anyone. Stuck in a bus with a bad movie? Turn the TV off or switch to a local station. Is a tasteless jejemon love flick playing in the canteen? Change the channel. Take control. Live a better life.
Quick Remote 01

Quick Remote 02

In the background is the LG 55" Smart TV, review forthcoming.

In the background is the LG 55″ Smart TV, review forthcoming.

A bigger screen makes for a good emergency office and ebook reader. Like so.

Bluetooth Keyboard

That's my horror story, published in Philippine Fiction Volume 8 (2013), edited by Dean and Nikki Alfar.

That’s my horror story, published in Philippine Fiction Volume 8 (2013), edited by Dean and Nikki Alfar.

Pause and Resume Recording and Dual recording. Pause and resume recording means you can start recording, pause, and continue recording. That simple. If you’re crafty with your shoots, you could end up with fewer footage splicing. It also saves time. Instead of stopping a recording, because someone ruined the scene, and then waiting for the phone to process the file, and then waiting for the phone to get ready for you to record again, you simply pause, and then, when the scene hogger is gone, you resume recording.

Dual Recording, with a post it substituting for my face. I was holding that post it in front of the front facing camera. He he.

Dual Recording, with a Post-It substituting for my face. I was holding that Post-It in front of the front facing camera. He he.

Dual recording, wherein a small screen showing the front cam’s feed placed on top of the rear camera feed, seems fun. I had a last minute scenario for how this could be used well, but did not have time to set up the shoot and recording: you can commentate a basket ball game among friends, which will not only show how badly your friends are playing, but also your honest grimaces and eyerolls during the game. (O di ba?)

 

Gripes

When shooting close ups (macro), there’s a slight lag in auto-focusing as well as a slight loss in close up detail. But I doubt a non geek will notice that micro lag. So it’s not really a gripe. Move along now.

The 2.1 front camera could do better in low light, so you can take better selfies during parties, without needing to hunt for a rest room with white walls and even lighting. So, despite its having a beauty shot feature (an option to blur the image so your pimples and wrinkles and other facial don’t-wanna-sees are hidden), the resulting images still have a ‘softness’ about them, a loss of detail. But if you’ll only post them on Facebook and at a smaller size, they’re fine, as big thumbnails. Just to compare: the Huawei Ascend P6 (5MP front cam) and the HTC Windows Phone 8X (2MP wide angle lens), have better front cameras.

Over all design could benefit from avoiding the Samsung Galaxy Note look. The Optimus G, the former flagship, which had a body of nearly-all Gorilla glass, could never be mistaken, at a glance, for being a Sony Xperia, a Samung Galaxy one of, or an HTC One. Perhaps LG could risk a differentiating approach as was done with the Sony Xperia line? There is another take on this though: that LG wants people to buy the G Pro, notice how much it resembles the Note 2, and then let them experience how much a better job LG is doing – in aspects of material construction, tactile and UI feel, and natural color rendering.

There is no more Eco Mode, or a Quad Core setting that limits the processor use to only two cores, thereby prolonging battery life. This feature was present in the LG Optimus G. In the G Pro, it’s gone. One tandem feature I loved about the Optimus G is how Eco Mode and Power Saver features combine to extend battery life. in the G Pro, only Power Saver remained. Imagine how much more battery life you can gain had LG retained Eco Mode. But hey, the battery is adequate and is user replaceable. Still, it makes you think.

Audio Zoom needs work. Audio Zoom a video recording feature that lets you listen in on distant sounds by zooming into the shot, needs work, but is promising. What the G Pro does is tone down nearby sounds and jack up the sounds from farther away. It’s not up to spy gadget level yet.

Audio ZoomFor the G Pro’s introductory price tag, which is around P28K, you can get a bigger waterproof phablet, the 6.5” Sony Xperia Z Ultra. The trade offs are the size – the Z Ultra is massive and won’t easily fit in pockets like the G Pro will – and, if what I’ve read are accurate, the only okay Z Ultra camera. I stand by the G Pro’s camera, having used it as back up to my Fujifilm Finepix X10. This waterproof trait, by the way, is only highlighted because of the hellish rains, at the time of this review, where people I know accidentally dropped their phones into knee-deep floods, while helping their relatives evacuate to higher ground.

 

Verdict

If you have not yet invested in a good phablet (the Samsung Galaxy Mega does not count), and you don’t mind the introductory price (right now just below P30K, which is actually the expected range for the specs and goodness you get), then the LG Optimus G Pro is the phablet to get.

DSCF3382LG fixes the mishaps with the almost flawless Optimus G in the G Pro – improved battery stamina, better outdoor visibility – and throws in a display that improves taking pictures, online / eBook reading, video watching, and playing games, all by being bigger and sharper. The dimensions of the G Pro are so that a tiny hand, like my wife’s, feels comfy using it. The length is also not overbearing, unlike that of the HTC Butterfly. All the G Pro needs is a protective case.

Outdoor visibility. Not on par with AMOLED screens, but not bad.

Outdoor visibility. Not on par with AMOLED screens, but not bad.

The gripes listed at the beginning, given what you get, are not catastrophic deal breakers. What may give you pause are the waterproofness and the introductory price. Given that the LG Optimus G was introduced around the same price tag – 28k – and given how fast its price nose-dived (it now sells between 16k to 20k), I suggest waiting before buying the G Pro.

As mentioned, the current G Pro price tag can also get you a bigger phablet that’s waterproof. But not everyone will want a super phablet like that. It’s up to you. Another phablet to consider is the Huawei Ascend Mate which has a 6.1″ screen that’s not as crisp (at only 231 ppi) as that of the G Pro (which runs a whopping 400 ppi). What will make you consider it, despite the non-crisp display, are the introductory price (P17,190) and the bigger but non-removable battery (4,050mAh). That screen, and I’ve done a hands-on with the Ascend Mate, is nothing compared to the one on the G Pro. But then, seriously, that price.

Front and Back 01So if you really want a display this sharp and vivid, it really boils down to your G Pro price-drop-waiting patience.

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. He and his wife maintain www.storiesaboutph.com, where you can read the best short fiction in English, by Filipino authors, for free. Irwin's English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appears in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing full-time. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007).

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