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LG Optimus G - A Quad-Core Flagship With Nexus Aspiration (Part 1)

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Optimus G is the mainstream device for the Korean manufacturer, especially in America, where Samsung rival is staying on top while the success of LG is obstructed by a series of forgettable products (hello Intuition) and the poor performance to some software updates. It’s so important that even LG had invited us to spend a while with Optimus G at the launching event in Seoul last month. In America, LG is cooperating with Sprint and AT&T and having clear evidence that the upcoming Nexus of Google will be based on Optimus G. so, how can the latest flagship of the company compare to the rival? How different is it between the American version and the Korean version? After all, has LG got a winning formula with Optimus G yet? Let’s find out.

LG Optimus G - A quad-core flagship with Nexus aspiration

LG Optimus G - A quad-core flagship with Nexus aspiration

Hardware

LG has provided us with 3 Optimus G reviewing units: an unlock white phone with 13MP camera for the Olleh LTE network of Korea, the almost-identical black version of Sprint and the model of AT&T with 8MP camera. Unlike the “inspired by nature” theme that looks like curved quartz of Samsung, Optimus G inherit the chiseled, angular, slab-like design language of LG. The designs are more precise with Optimus 4X HD – it’s not just a simple and elegant indicator for the former Chocolate and Prada phone. While the version of Sprint shares the similar appearance and size as the Korean model (refer if you want), the phone of AT&T is 2.8mm wider (0.11 inch) and 1mm shorter (0.04 inch). Thickness is identical at 8.45mm (0.33 inch) and weight is different from 145g (5.11 ounces) and 147g (5.19 ounces). Regardless of which Optimus G you deal with, the build quality are all excellent – it looks like holding a solid technology block. The phone of AT&T feels a little too wide but the other two models are extremely comfortable in hands, thanks to the slightly curved edges where the sides joint the back.

Optimus G is the mainstream device for the Korean manufacturer, especially in America

Optimus G is the mainstream device for the Korean manufacturer, especially in America

At the front, all the 3 devices have stunning 4.7-inch True HD IPS PLUS screen which is fitted under a slab of edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass 2. Earpiece is strengthened at 2 sides with the sensor on the right and a 1.3MP camera on the right. The Sprint and Korean versions also include a RGB notification light sitting next to earpiece (it’s moved to the power/lock key on the model of AT&T). You will find 3 capacitive buttons below the screen (Back, Home and Menu) which are only shown when back-lit. Interestingly, the bezels surrounding the screen have the black color even when it’s on the white Korean model.  There’s no brand on the front except for the silver logo of LG locating at the center of the top. Around the back, Optimus G is covered with a slab which seems like glass incorporating a pattern which is only evident at specific angles. This glossy surface, which LG calls “Crystal Reflection”, is actually a fingerprint magnet, especially on the black versions (Sprint and AT&T). It’s only interrupted by the camera lenses above the only LED flash on the top right corner and an incision which hides the mono speaker at the bottom right corner. The silver logo of LG comes back with the brand from the network provider, except for the model of Sprint which doesn’t have the network provider’s brand. There’s no way to remove the rear cover– the sealed 2,100mAh Li-polymer battery of Optimus G reaches 800 charging cycles (instead of the normal 400-600).

At the front, all the 3 devices have stunning 4.7-inch True HD IPS PLUS screen which is fitted under a slab of edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass 2.

At the front, all the 3 devices have stunning 4.7-inch True HD IPS PLUS screen which is fitted under a slab of edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass 2.

The clearest differences among the 3 phones are also our biggest designing complaint. Optimus G is available with the 8MP or 13MP camera option. Sprint follows the same formula as the Korean model with 13MP camera sensor mounted in bulged square case and the LED flash immersed at the back. It is reverse on the AT&T version: the 8MP module is placed below the glass surface and the flash LED intended in its position. The inconsistency is troublesome – it makes the phone of AT&T less attractive than the other 2. We understand that the 8MP and 13MP modules has different thickness, but LG should have used the same square case to accommodate 2 cameras and simplify the assembling process while maintaining a rally design all over the models.

Each device has the same controls and ports: a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and the second microphone on top; power/lock key on the right; a micro-USB/MHL connector; main microphone and 2 screws on the bottom; and volume rocker sitting on the left. While Optimus G of Sprint has no additional slot, the Korean version includes a micro-SIM tray under the volume rocker and the model of AT&T places a cover at the same location which covers the micro-SIM and microSD slots. Our Korean model also has an indented T-DMB antenna on the top right corner. Besides the larger body and lower-resolution camera, the phone of AT&T deviate more with a completely different design. While the Sprint and Korean version has the nearly flat edges with 2 stunning silver rings – one along the edge of the front glass slab and one at a 1/4 distance along the side – model of AT&T has curved edges with dark chrome surface on the left and the right along with the flat, rough sides on the top and the bottom. As mentioned before, the notification light on Optimus G of AT&T is arranged around the power/lock key (instead of sitting next to the front earpiece).

At this time, you’re definitely wondering how that 4.7inch True HD IPS PLUS compares to the rival. The Zerogap Touch tech of LG places the capacitive layer right in the PenTile-free screen, 1,280x768 pixels to have super thin design. Of course it’s the high-end screen – bright and cheerful, with deep black and abundant colors. However, it falls behind the splendid Super LCD 2 screen of HTC on One X, which delivers better viewing angles and is still the best screen on any phones we have used. The Korean phone also has yellow discolorations at the bottom of the screen – it’s mainly realizable with the white background and we have warned LG about the problem, which may leads to an initial screen-defective batch. The Sprint and AT&T phones have no fault.

The bottom is the place where Optimus G truly shines. Reading the technical specs will bring a smile to the most cross-grained tech journalist. It’s the first device which is built around the Fusion 3 chipset of Qualcomm, which combines 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC (APQ8064) with 2G/3G/LTE radio (MDM9615). Aside from quad-core Krait CPU and Adreno 320 GPU, you will find 2GB DDR RAM and 32GB of built-in flash storage (down to 16GB on model of AT&T, which also supports microSD and comes with a 16GB memory card). In terms of radio, the Korean version has 4-band GSM/GPRS (no EDGE), 2-band UMTS/HSPA+ (2,100/900MHz) and supports LTE (band 3, may be 1 and 5). Model Sprint runs on CDMA and LTE tech of the carrier in America but it may be able to roam on GSM/GPRS/EDGE network (4 bands) and UMTS/HSPA+ (2 bands 2,100/900MHz) overseas. The phone of AT&T supports 4-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, 3-band UMTS/HSPA+ (2,100/1,900/850MHz) and LTE (band 4 and 17). Other technical specs include 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 + LE, A-GPS, NFC and many sensors (surrounded lights, proximity, magnetometer, accelerometer and direction).

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