Quad core phones are the new benchmark in Android at the moment and LG have just launched the Optimus 4X HD. The specs are impressive,
Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, with 4.7” 1280 x 720 Screen
1.3-megapixel front-facing camera,
802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi,
16GB of storage,
2,150 mAh battery
I’ve been using one for the last few days and these are my thoughts.
The front of the phone is dominated by the 4.7 inch display. Above the screen is the 1.3 Megapixel front facing camera, the ambient light/proximity sensor, the speaker and a silver LG logo, which I personally would rather wasn’t there as I’m not a fan of branding on the front of a phone or tablet. Below the screen are thee capactive buttons, Back, Home and Menu. These can’t be seen at all unless they are backlit and I actually just turned the backlight off. All 4 sides of the phone have 2 silver strips that run around the edges of the phone, there is a groove in between the strips and on the left this where you’ll find the volume rocker, which blends in quite well but is still easily pressed. The back has the camera and flash in the top left. The speaker is in the bottom left and is almost impossible not to cover with your hand when you’re holding the phone. There is also another silver LG logo on the back also. The overall effect on the back looks like wood and whilst it still feels a little slippy it is grippier than the smooth plastic on some phones I’ve tested. Build quality is excellent, the phone feels sturdy and they are no creaks or loose parts.
The screen as mentioned, is 4.7 inches, so is inkeeping with the current trend on Android phones. It looks really good. It’s not as good as the HTC One X but its definitely up there with the best of them. Text is very crisp and textures are easily visible. If this was an Apple product it would be called “Retina” without hesitation. Colours aren’t as deep as they are on my Galaxy Nexus but I’ve always felt that AMOLED screens are too rich. Out of the 2 screens I’d prefer to have the LG.
I’ve had mixed feelings and equally mixed results with the camera and its software. Sometimes I’ve used it and it takes a brilliant picture other times its really poor. Whenever I take the phone out to snap a quick shot the camera is always out of focus, so much so that when I first got the phone I thought the lense was damaged. Re-focusing takes way longer than it should. If you take the time to compose your shot though, the camera can produce some excellent shots. The camera software is excellent. There’s plenty of options for focus, white balance, colour effects. The live effects introduced with ICS are intact as well. You can snap shots with zero shutter lag and the video recording is good quality. It is also possible to snap photo’s simulataneously whilst shooting video, something I first seen on the HTC One X and appreciated here too. Overall the camera was quite impressive although, as mentioned, the focus speed is a concern.
Lets make this clear straight away, you’re not getting stock ICS here. What you are getting is something reminiscent of Touchwiz 4 in terms of looks but with some really neat functionality. The lock screen has a selection of clocks available as well as 4 customizable shortcuts similar to HTC Sense. Unlike Sense these 4 shortcuts are independent from the main dock (or “hotseat” to use Googles parlance) thus meaning you can have 4 completely separate apps on the lock screen. I like this because I like a camera shortcut on my lock screen but I don’t have the camera in my dock. Unlock the screen is invoked by pressing your finger on an empty part of the screen and dragging it in any direction. When you do this a circle appears and when you move your finger the circle gets bigger and gives a growing view of the desktop underneath. It’s a neat visual effect I haven’t seen anywhere else so kudos to LG there. To use the aforementioned shortcuts, you use the same gesture but start on the apps icon. I should mention here that the notification blind is not accessible from the lock screen so you will have to unlock the phone. A badge icon does appear on LG’s stock apps such as Messaging and Phone though incidentally both of which offer the same features as the stock variants but in a different skin. The Messaging app for example is bubbles instead of boxes but that’s pretty much it, nothing on par with say Samsung’s new Nature UX.
The main homescreen is a 4×4 Grid, the Google search bar and a dock will hold upto 6 icons. The Search Bar is fixed and the right side has a + which when pressed allows you to widgets and shortcuts etc to the homescreen. When deleting something from the homescreen a delete button appears at the top, the animation is like a swing bin.
The Homescreen is also skinnable, there are 4 themes pre-installed that change the appearance of the stock icons. System Fonts can also be changed with three available.
There is a power setting mode in the settings which allows you to turn certain features off including connectivity like Wifi and also lower the brightness etc. These can be set depending on battery percentage levels.
The app drawer is similar to iOS and Touchwiz. There are lots of similarities for eg, when a new app is installed it adds itself to the last page, instead of alphabetically. When editing the layout an X appears in the corner. That’s not to say it isn’t capable, being able to reorder your most used apps to the first page is a boon.
The notification blind has customizable shortcuts available, allowing the user to quickly disable and enable features such as WiFi, Bluetooth etc.
The LG Keyboard is quite good. It has your standard QWERTY layout but you also have the option of using handwriting, shape writing and T9 predictive text if you fancy going old school. The QWERTY keyboard is responsive enough to get up a fair speed, my only gripe is the space bar is a touch on the small side but I am used to the stock Jelly Bean keyboard. The handwriting is pretty accurate. My handwriting is atrocious (truthfully, my seven 7 year old has neater writing) but it still picked up the majority of what I wrote. Whats strange is that there is no stylus included with the phone that would enable the handwriting to be used better. The T9 input is quite good, I turned it on, mainly for nostalgia and tried to use it but after a few hours I switched back to QWERTY as that’s what I prefer.
The phone has a number of Apps pre-installed, such as Backup: An app for backing up and restoring your phone. Finance: A basic stock tracking app, powered by Yahoo. Weather: A basic stock weather app, powered again by Yahoo. SmartShare: A DLNA Client, which worked quite well with my PS3. Remote Call: A service that allows an LG customer representative to remotely diagnose faults etc and SmartWorld, which is LG’s own source of Apps, Wallpapers, Ringtones etc.
The Optimus 4X continues the trend of manufacturers including NFC in their devices and LG goes a step further by including a re-writeable tag in the box. Scott wrote an excellent article on NFC here if you want to know more but in the case of the Optimus 4X you have a pre-installed app, LG TAG+, which lets you set custom rules for certain scenarios. So for eg, when you enter your car you could have the tag on your phone mount, the phone will detect the tag as soon and its near and, if programmed, could automatically switch on Bluetooth, start your music and bring up navigation. Or you could program it so when you lay the phone on your bedside table it silences all notifications, adjusts the brightness and starts the FM radio. NFC is not just for mobile payments and has a lot of potential. Kudos to LG for including a pack in that helps with that.
The Battery is 2150mah and I was expecting good performance and I wasn’t disappointed. The phone has yet to die on me in normal use and always made it from around 9am to 10pm with at least 25% battery to spare. My daily usage is 2 Gmail accounts, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+ Pocket and gTalk all set to push. For comparison, my Galaxy Nexus (running OTA Jelly Bean) never makes it past 5pm on those settings without me reaching for the charger.
The Headphones included with the phone are actually quite good. They are the in ear type with the rubber tips and produced good sound, a Microphone with button is also present and calls sounded clear and callers said I also sounded clear.
The phone feels fast and smooth throughout the OS. There was never a hint of lag when using it and it handled Dead Trigger, a fairly graphics heavy first person shoot-em-up with aplomb. Sound quality from the loudspeaker was about average for a mobile phone and calls made using the standard speaker were clear.
The LG Optimus 4X HD is a good phone. The screen is large but without making the overall device feel enormous, the camera is capable and the software has some nice additional touches. The hardware feels nice in the hand and I’d recommend this to anyone who wants a high end phone but doesn’t want to spend up to the level of the Samsung Galaxy SIII.
Photos of the device and screenshots are in the gallery below. Sample photo’s and videos will be posted in a separate post. If you have any questions about the device then feel free to ask in the comments below.
The LG Optimus 4X is now available from Expansys for £394.99
Links – Expansys